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January 05, 2010

North Carolina Cold-Weather Blackfin Tuna

Hefty off-season tuna take the dead out of winter off Hatteras.

Cape Hatteras, North Carolina

Vertical jigging is an aerobic exercise, so tackle should be light and comfortable. Look for a rod with an ergonomic foregrip and a split butt. Padding under the arm will reduce bruising, while a bare blank between the butt and reel seat will allow the rod to move freely against clothes or foul-weather gear. Speed jiggers prefer shorter rods, under 6 feet, with a stiffer tip to work the heavy jig as quickly as possible. Reels should be high-capacity and high-speed, capable of holding 400 yards of 80-pound braided line and retrieving at least 46 inches with every crank of the handle. Speaking of the handle, conventional speed-jigging reels have an offset handle that keeps the grip closer to the spool in order to reduce wobble. Some jiggers prefer high-speed spinning reels with larger arbors and powerful drags. These outfits can be more user-friendly for anglers new to vertical jigging, and spinning rods are easier to cast and use for working a jig across the surface. According to Warren, the most important factor is the colored line, which allows the angler to drop the jig precisely to where the captain is marking the fish. "The tackle all comes together to make this work," he says.

Rods: Medium-heavy to heavy 5-foot-6-inch to 5-foot-8-inch vetical jigging rods.

Reels: 40- to 50-pound-class lever-drag reels. Conventional or spinning with a retrieve ratio of 6:1 or better and capable of producing 35 pounds of drag.

Lines: 80-pound-test color-coded braided line.

Leaders: 6 feet of 100-pound-test fluorocarbon.

Jigs: 7-ounce Williamson jig with twin assist hooks. Favorite colors are pink, purple, blue, silver and chartreuse.