Slow Pitch Jigging the Bahamas
Slow Pitch Jigging in the Bahamas is an incredible experience. Well let’s face it, any kind of fishing in the Bahamas is incredible! For us Floridians it is within an arm’s reach. Don’t get me wrong, it will put your planning and boating skills to the test. But, what an accomplishment to take a personal ride over and explore this fishery and make it back home safely. This blog and video series will highlight my most recent trip over.
The plan was to leave out of Jensen Beach, Florida and cross the Atlantic Gulf Stream some 80 miles to drop slow pitch jigs and troll in one of the best fishing spots in the Bahamas, Grand Cay. Everything was on the table – or at this point, still in the ocean. I started packing a week in advance for this one.
The morning of departure, I met up with Matt, Chris, and Joe from Southern Fortune Fishing Tournament as well as a father son duo Darrel and Trevor. We launched from Jenson Beach Boat Ramp at 3:45 a.m. The SFFT team prepared most of the essentials like ice, food, and drinks as well as all the safety gear like an emergency life raft, two e-pirbs and the latest and greatest electronics. My mind always starts ticking about the possibilities of what could go wrong on a trip like this especially traveling into another country. It gives you a sense of comfort knowing that contingency plans are in place just in case.
Going into this trip Matt informed me that we will be fishing from 30'-1000'. For a guy who likes to drop slow pitch jigs this means I have to bring everything and by that I mean jigs from 20-800 grams my whole line of rod sizes and all my reels including back ups as well. The tricky part about this gear endeavor is that we are six people on a 28.5 Blue Water center console boat and space is limited. So my final lineup was a Daiwa XX heavy Saltiga rod for the deep drop and power one, two, and three JohnnyJigs Pro Jigger Plus slow pitch jigging rods for areas under 600'. For reels I brought a Maxel Rage 90 and a Daiwa Seaborg 300j both packed with Berkley x9 20 lb. test for tapping bottom in deep water. As for the shallower depths I brought my Daiwa Saltiga 35JH, Daiwa Saltiga LD 15H, and finally an Accurate Valiant 500N SPJ. All spooled with J-braid X8 30 lb. test. Lastly, I jammed my two jig bags filled to the top with JohnnyJigs slow pitch jigs. The trick to preserve space was to consolidate all my rods together using JJ Jig Wraps and place all my reels into my tackle bag and pull them out as needed. I tied a couple dozen sets of tandem and single assist hooks, charged my camera gear and before I knew it we were flying at 40 kts across “Lake Atlantic” as we call it on calm days. We are headed to the Bahamas!
I tried to sleep in my bean bag chair on the way, but my adrenalin was pumping with anticipation and the two hour ride flew by. A tiny island became visible in the distance and all around were jagged rocks and unclear waterways. Capt. Joe had tracks on the Garmin screen from previous trips helping navigate our way safely through the channels and into the harbor. We were welcomed by our Bahamian connection Gary. He is local born and raised. A big part of the islanders income is from anglers visiting. Cash is king and a couple hundred bucks can definitely help make sure you get well taken care of. He was our key to the castle. Gary helped us check in with customs, get our personal gear situated in our home for the weekend and gave us the thumbs up to hit the water.
In a matter of minutes we were in 990' of water. The drop off in this area is incredible even in comparison to my home waters of Pompano Beach. This was our first fishing spot and the sun had just come up. We couldn't have timed it better. I had to take a few things into consideration before selecting my first jig. One being the wind was 5 kts at best. Two, our drift speed or SOG was .5 knots. Three, our depth was 990' and current was minimal. This was perfect conditions for slow pitch jigging. I tightened my Maxel Rage 90 onto my Saltiga rod and placed a single 5/0 assist hook on top and bottom of a 600 gram KP Pink and Blue Torpedo Slow pitch jig and dropped to the bottom. After a long wait for my jig to tap the ocean floor I gave it a few nice short pitches and I was tight to a fish. Everyone got excited knowing that we were on a good spot and the fish were chewing. Up came about a 6-8 pound Queen Snapper. At this point I realized I could easily scale my jig size down to 400 grams but, I decided not to waste any time getting back down and stayed with my 600 gram Torpedo. When it comes to jig selection in slow pitch jigging it really comes down to this fact, if you can feel bottom you have a chance. Ideally you drop down to the lightest jig possible for the simple reason of stamina and staying at the gunnel. The longer I am moving that jig in the area the fish are the better chance I’ll have of hooking up. My second drop was another Queen snapped slightly bigger. Matt, Chris, and Darrel were all dropping down chicken rigs with squid and electric reels. Shortly after my second Queen Snapper Matt pulled up a Yelloweye Snapper and Snowy Grouper on the same rig. We drifted that spot one more time and decided to make a change.
Reports from friends back home that visited the Bahamas recently said that the wahoo bite has been incredible. Our morning deep drop was short lived because we knew as soon as the tide switched our next target was a wahoo and that tide change was happening right about now. We sent out a Blue Yo-Zuri Bonita and a silver, orange, and white dart head. Our target speed was 18 knots and we began to put our two Shimano Tiagra 50w’s to work. Honestly this is the kind of trolling experience that you hope for but don’t always get. We were tight on our first fish in a matter of minutes. First up was Trevor on the reel and I took the opportunity to break out my camera and film the action for our YouTube Channel JohnnyJigsTV. Joe eased back on the throttles slightly and Trevor went to work. As the fish approached the boat Chris got into position to land a gaff shot and Trevor picked up the reel and made his way towards the bow. Matt hand lined the remaining balance of line to get the fish in gaff range and our favorite Jersey boy Chris stuck that wahoo like a boss. For the next hour we rotated positions and repeated this process three more times catching a total of 4 wahoo’s. The old saying is never leave fish to find fish but, we had enough wahoo for all of us to take home and Joe mentioned some great deep drop spots nearby.
Conditions remained perfect for deep dropping and I selected a 400 gram Watermelon Torpedo Slow Pitch Jig from my jig bag. Our depth was just shy of 1000’ and Capt. Joe announced the sonar screen was lit up with fish on the bottom. Dropping a jig down to these depths can take 2-4 minutes pending on the jig size. If you are targeting a small spot in deep water I would recommend going much heavier on your jig selection in order to get down faster. In the case of where we were slow pitch jigging currently in the Bahamas the area was large giving us a long drift and a lot of time to drop. Matt and Chris announced on the stern that they were getting bites on the squid and they hooked up soon after. Matt pulled up about an eight pound queen snapper and at the same moment on the stern of the boat I had a solid hook set into a fish that was tight to the bottom. If your jig is 1000’ down then there is a good chance of you having a substantial amount of scope in your line. You have to react quickly at these depths. By that I mean reel the scope out super fast and set that hook with the rod hard. That is exactly what I did. You can see this clip on our TikTok and Instagram reels. Once I knew the fish was far away from any structure I backed off my drag so if he decided to take any runs it would pull drag and not the hook. Soon up popped a Misty Grouper or what some may call a convict fish because stripes going vertically on the fish. This is a fish I am familiar with but have never caught personally. So for me it was the icing on the cake for an already amazing day.
We headed back into Grand Cay and met up with Gary. If you don’t have an island connection like Gary there is a chance you will miss out on things like the best cracked conch I ever tasted in my life and bags full of stone crab claws for half the price we get them for in the states. So what was once our fishing machine turned into a relaxed party and feast on the days catch. One more important thing you need to have when you cross over to the Bahamas is a place to stay. Matt put together a nice two bedroom two bath house with a full kitchen and living room to relax in. It was perfect for our crew of six. We all got to take a hot shower and turn in for the night.
At dawn we congregated on the second floor balcony. The island came to life early in the morning. Fishermen were getting their gear ready, workers were leaving by small boats to larger islands, and we were one cup of coffee away from hitting the water ourselves. After packing up our personal belongings and loading the boat we made a quick stop across the harbor for fuel and blasted offshore.
The wind had picked up substantially and was going to get worse as the day progressed. Our first spot was about a twenty mile run in 980’ and known for Yellow Eye Snapper. Darrel and Chris baited up their hooks with pieces of Barracuda caught from the day before. Matt put out a squid on a chicken rig and Trevor and I dropped down 600g Torpedo slow pitch jigs. Trevor was the first to hook up quickly followed by Chris and then me. Unfortunately I was tangled with a bait line on the way up and my fish popped off but, Trevor and Chris landed a nice Yelloweye Snapper.
The bite shut down on that spot after our first drift so we made one more move before going home. The spot was in approximately the same depth as the last and I was really hoping to catch one more fish before the calling it a day. I tapped bottom using my Maxel Rage and Saltiga slow pitch rod. I gave the jig a few pitches and got absolutely crushed by what could definitely be the biggest bottom fish of the trip. My drag was pealing line out and I started working this fish hard to keep him from rocking me up. Once I was sure the fish was off the bottom I backed off the drag and reeled up slow and steady. About halfway up I could feel the fish starting to float and that was a tell tail sign of a grouper. Up popped a giant Snowy Grouper weighing in at 22 pounds. This fish was definitely a highlight of my trip and can be seen at the end of our YouTube video.
Lines up and it was time to go home. The surf had picked up and the ride home was going to be a bit rougher than we planned. The wettest spot on the boat was definitely co-captain and unfortunately that was my final task for the trip. I popped on my rain gear and took buckets of water to the face for the next two hours. For me this crazy ride home just taps into an inner part of myself that yearns for adventure and pushing the limits. We made it back safely split our spoils and went home just absolutely satisfied. You can watch the full YouTube video in the link below.
By Johnny Steadham