Fishing Swimbaits for Rockfish

Vermillion RockfishVermillion Rockfish Caught With Swimbait

You have all the swimbait gear you need, the rod and reel are rigged up and ready to fish. You find a nice rocky area to start fishing for Ling Cod and Rockfish, but what is the most effective way to target these fish? Check out our OPS Pro tips and tricks below to help you get the most out of your fishing day.

Fishing from a Boat

The Setup

Swimbaits are very simple to fish, it just takes a few drops to get familiar with the drift of the boat and the depth you are fishing. The most important thing with swimbait fishing for rockfish is choosing the correctly weighted setup. Rockfish and Ling Cod live on the bottom.

If you aren’t close to the bottom you aren’t getting bit, plain and simple.

Find that happy medium of where you can feel your bait hitting the bottom occasionally but not so much that you are constantly getting snagged.

Pay attention to details like depth, wind and current. If the boat is drifting quickly and you are in 150ft of water, you will need to use heavier heads than you would if you are fishing shallower or with a slow drift.

Have a few jigheads in varying sizes ready to go so you can quickly adjust to find the perfect weight for your drift.

Time to Fish

Now we get to talk about the fun part. For slow drifts, drop your bait down to the bottom. For faster drifts, doing short casts in the direction of the drift can help offset the movement of the boat and will help the bait be fished effectively for a little longer.

Once on bottom, raise and lower the rod tip to jig the swimbait. The combination of the large tail kicking and the thud of the jighead hitting the bottom entices fish from all over. Letting the line get too much of an angle and pendulum away from the boat typically results in a higher chance of snagging on the bottom or tangling with other angler’s lines.

Always remember, the fish are on the bottom and that is where your bait needs to be. Periodically let more line out until you feel the bait hit the bottom and your line slacks out. The more often you are on the bottom the higher the chance of you getting bit. Oftentimes fish will bite as the swimbait is falling back to the bottom, so make sure to remain aware of the rod tip and the feel of the lure while in the strike zone.

Most times when fish bite they hit hard enough where you will feel the tug right away. However sometimes with Ling Cod the bite can be more subtle. If you go to drop your bait to check that you are on the bottom and the bait isn’t dropping, pull up ever so slightly to feel if there is a heavy weight or pressure to the line. If you feel that reel in the slack and set the hook. Crank hard until you can get the fish off the bottom.

Rockfishing from the Shore

Ling Cod and Rockfish aren’t just for boat anglers, some of the biggest fish every year are caught in less than 20ft of water. Swimbaits are an excellent way to cover water quickly, especially from the bank.

Rock jetties are a perfect spot to target all sorts of inshore species with swimbaits. Casting down the jetty parallel to the bank and bringing the swimbait up over the rocks can be a deadly effective way to target fish which may be in the rocks ready to ambush prey as it passes by. Making a long cast and barely ticking the swimbait over the tops of the rocks is a great strategy to trigger bites up and down the coast.

If fishing along the rocks is not successful, try slowing down and strategically pitching your swimbait into the holes and caves along the rocks. When the fish bites it can easily become snagged in the rocks, so reel quickly to get the fish out of the hole and into more open water. A stout rod is preferred to turn the fish in the direction you want as well as to flip the fish out of the water and onto land.