When the Ling Cod are feeding aggressively they will hit BadDonkey jigs and Big Hammers with equal enthusiasm but when the Lings are sluggish and tight lipped I go to a 6.5" Big Hammer swimbait in Deep Purple or Mackeral color. If we are fishing less than 200 feet I use a 6 ounce Mulita and for deeper water I prefer a 9 ounce Trident to get deep fast. At depths over 100 feet visible light penetration is theoretically minimal even with clear, calm water conditions but we have observed days when a particular color seems to produce very well while another is only mediocre. Perhaps subtleties in technique you might think, but when the other guys switch over to the productive color they start putting more fish in the boat. Perhaps it has to do with UV light signature? Sounds like a good theory to test out! Regardless of color, I like to use the big 6.5" Big Hammer swimbaits for "deep water" fishing because they have a greater tail arc and displace a lot of water which means that they make a lot of noise down there in the cold, dark depths. I also like to use a scented gel or paste and I apply it to the shoulder of the head where it meets the swimbait and I reapply often. I use sardine or anchovy scent and I have no doubts that using a scent makes a big difference when fishing the Big Hammers; particularly in deep or stained water or in post front conditions. I used to be skeptical about using scents but after researching how different species of fish detect prey and then putting the scents to the test, I am a true believer! On a side note, it seems odd to me that no one makes a mackerel scent; this would seem to be a staple for us west coast fishermen.... ?? As for technique, this depends on the conditions that you are fishing. If the fish are turned on and aggressive, there really isn't much technique. If the fish are in the area, they will usually grab the lure on the drop and the fishing is fast and furious; you just drop your jig or swimbait down to the bottom and wait for the sudden thump or slack in the line and set the hook and its GAME ON. During periods of weather instability, slack tide, bait saturation, or warm water I have found that even Ling Cod in deep water get sluggish. In this case, the fish don't want a rapidly moving bait and prefer the bait slowly reeled up from the bottom or even just hanging with only the motion of the boat and tide to give them action. Instead of jarring strikes you feel a dull weight attach to your line that doesn't seem to move. This phenomenon is strikingly similar to fishing largemouth bass in fresh water during post cold-front conditions. This is another situation where the braided line makes a big difference as it is easy to detect subtle strikes and "hang-ons" with the braid that would be difficult to detect with straight mono.
In addition to figuring out the correct presentation, you also have to find the ling cod. Ling cod run in schools so once you catch one of them there are likely to be more in the vicinity. There have been times where we have caught limits of lings on a single rock on consecutive drifts over the same line. On a recent trip to San Quintin we found the ling cod stacked up on the inland side of one of the high spots between 130 and 140 feet. We were using 6.5” Big Hammers on 6 ounce Mulitas in Black/ Purple and Mackeral colors and over a half dozen drifts we boated 18 ling cod in 2 hours keeping only those fish that were over 24 inches. We left the fish biting when we limited out on the lingasaurs and went off in search of different species. If you don’t find the lings where you expect them, either work a little deeper or move onto the next high spot. It is sometimes surprising to find one rock completely barren of fish only to find limit style fishing less than a half mile away on the next rock.
That first product was the 7 and 9 ounce BadDonkey jigs. Initially I put split rings on the front and back of the baits and used a 2/0 treble to maximize action of the jig. The Lings and Yellows definitely liked them, but we were losing about half the fish that we hooked. One day we were fishing with San Quintin's awesome Capitan Hilo and after I had lost my second or third fish in a row he looked at me and shook his head and said: " You need to use bigger hooks". I took Hilo's advice and stepped up to a 4/0 VMC 4X-strong treble and our days of losing fish were soon OVER. At some point we also started experimenting with braided line and short 10' to 15' leaders of mono or flouro which provided greatly enhanced sensitivity and immediate hook sets. It was easy to detect the moment the jigs hit the bottom which greatly reduced the number of bottom snags and lost jigs. We started experimenting with different techniques and color combinations and ALL OF A SUDDEN we were able to put limits of lings in the boat reliably and in short order. At least, that is the case when the lings are agressiven and in the mood to eat: and when they are not? That is when the Mulitas and Big Hammer swimbaits shine.
Ling Cod used to be difficult fish for me to catch. Live bait was the only sure way to get them to bite and it was an exciting but frustrating proposition. Many times a ling cod would be right under the boat and you could see it open its gaping, white mouth and out would come the mangled Mackeral as the Ling Cod turned slowly and slipped back into the depths. More often, you could feel the weight of the fish on the line, give him several seconds or even minutes to get the bait deep in his mouth, set the hook with brute strength and then reel up 10 or 15 turns only to feel the line suddenly go slack. I started tying treble hooks on 6" heavy leaders and hooking the trebles into the back of the Mackerals which doubled my catch to farm ratio but this method had it's own set of issues with tangles and hooking the baits and one or the other of the hooks coming out of the bait as it flailed around desperately trying to get back into the water. It was like the beginning of one of those cheesy infomercials:
"Tired fo struggling with flailing hooks? OUCH!
Slippery Mackeral? EWWWWWW!
BAIT SPITTING COD?? DOH!!
Well...... HAVE WE GOT A PRODUCT FOR YOU!