Gear Up! Bottomfishing

I don’t eat a lot of fish, but most of the fish I eat is caught bottomfishing off the Oregon Coast. Lingcod and Cabezon are my absolute favorite fish to eat, though Canary Rockfish is the best of the rockfishes I’ve tried. This gear will work for rockfish and flatfish, as well, so long as we’re not talking about 300-pound Pacific Halibut.

Canary Rockfish can grow quite large. This one was about a pound shy of the world record.

Gear for Bottomfish
RODS
Bottomfishing is done primarily from a boat, but there are lots of ways to catch bottomfish, and I’ve planned accordingly.

Jigging from a boat or kayak?
My First Choice: Shimano Trevala TVSS63MH.
Value Pick: Ugly Stik Elite.

Jigging or throwing lures from shore?
My First Choice: G. Loomis GL2.
Value Pick: Ugly Stik GX2.

Bait fishing from shore with small baits?
My First Choice: G. Loomis GL2.
Value Pick: Ugly Stik GX2.

Bait fishing from shore with large baits?
My First Choice: Shimano Tiralejo 11′
Value Pick: Ugly Stik Bigwater 10′

REELS
One of the only times I’ll ever use a baitcaster is when bottomfishing from a boat, but I still prefer spinning gear.

Fishing from a boat or kayak?
My First Choice: Shimano Stradic C3000HG
Value Pick: Pflueger Supreme 35.

Fishing from shore?
My First Choice: Shimano Stradic HG w/Power Handle.
Value Pick: Pflueger Supreme 35.

LINES
Jigging from a boat or kayak?
Use Power Pro Super Slick – 50 lb.
Optional Leader is P-Line Fluoroclear – 30 lb.

Other fishing from a boat or kayak?
Use Power Pro Super Slick – 30 lb.
Optional Leader is P-Line Fluoroclear – 20 lb.

Bait fishing or jigging from shore?
Use Power Pro Super Slick – 50 lb.
For leader P-Line Fluoroclear – 30 lb.

Other lures from shore?
Use P-Line CXX – 12 or 15 lb

NETS
You can easily lip or boat flip rockfish, but for Cabezon and Lings, you’ll want a net or gaff. Only use a gaff if you plan to keep a fish and can positively identify it as a retainable species.

The net?
Use an Ego S2 Slider 22-Inch.

The gaff?
Use a Telescoping Gaff.

DESCENDING DEVICE
It is now mandatory in most states and provinces when bottomfishing from a boat to use a descending device. I once bought a Laker Saver, a device that basically makes you stab the fish in the mouth with a giant spike and then jerk it free at depth, but I never used that. It was trash.

Instead, use a real descending device to release unwanted bottomfish you bring up from depths of more than 50 feet to ensure the survival of this amazing fishery.

Rockfish can live upwards of 80 years, but only if they’re not “released” with barotrauma to be pecked to death by gulls because someone got lazy. Don’t be that guy.
Bottomfishing w/Bait
HOOKS
Fishing Minnows?
Use Owner 1/0 Circle.

Fishing cutbait?
Use Owner 3/0 Circle.

SWIVELS
First of all, get out of the habit of using snap swivels to quickly change lures. They mess up the action of most lures, create another place to tangle or gather weeds, and they’re not as strong as the split rings that come attached to your lures in most cases. If you insist on fishing less effectively, though, I still have recommendations.

Snaps for big lures?
Use No. 4 Barrel Snaps.

Connections, leaders, etc.?
Use No. 4 Barrel Swivels.

WEIGHTS
Bait fishing from shore?
Use 2-Ounce Pyramid Sinkers.

Bait fishing from a boat or kayak? 
Use 3-Ounce Cannonball Sinkers.

Bottomfishing w/Lures
JIGS
Most of the bottomfish you’ll catch will be on jigs. There’s a lot of room for personal preference, but I like 6-8″ grubs the best. You should always have one or two shrimp flies above your jig just as bonus incentive for bites. My best Cabezon to-date hit a shrimp fly above my jig.

Color matters at depth.

This handy chart shows how far down the various colors of visible light will penetrate the water column. If the water is murky, this is drastically reduced. The guy telling you color matters past 200′ is just plain incorrect. Source: https://www.fix.com/blog/view-from-below-lures-underwater/.

Fishing from a boat or kayak?
Grubs
Shallow (<30′) use 2-Ounce Bullet Jigs.
Mid-depth (30-100′) use 3-Ounce Bullet Jigs.
Deep (>100′) use 4-Ounce Bullet Jigs.

Tip jigheads with 6″ Curlytail Grubs.

Metal Jigs
These are more expensive, but they’re more effective for Lingcod and Cabezon that curlytail jigs, especially in high-pressure fisheries. Vary the size depending on depth and ocean conditions, but I like the 3-Ounce size the best.

Use Shimano Butterfly Flat Fall Jigs.

Fishing from shore?
Grubs
For a stout rod, use 2-Ounce Bullet Jigs.
Otherwise, use 1/2-Ounce Bullet Jigs.

Tip jigheads with 6″ Curlytail Grubs.

Metal Jigs
You’ll snag on shore too often to use expensive jigs. Instead, use the cheaper stuff and buy 3x as much of it because jigging from shore is not a gear-friendly fishing method.

Use 1-Ounce Wivily Jigging Irons.

OTHER LURES
Literally anything that will work for trout and bass will work for bottomfish, but keep in mind that only Blue, Black, and Yellowtail Rockfish can be found in truly shallow water on a regular basis. For that reason, I like these lures the best:

Fishing from a boat or kayak?
Use 10XD Crankbaits.
Use 3/4-Ounce Rat-L-Traps.
Use Size 4/6 Wild Eye Swim Shad.

Fishing from shore during the day?
Use 3/4-Ounce Rat-L-Traps.
Use Size 4/6 Wild Eye Swim Shad.

Fishing from shore at night?
Use a larger Zara Super Spook.
Use 3/4-Ounce Rat-L-Traps.

Read more about Bottom Fishing or continue the Gear Up! process generally, or in detail for each species and style of fishing:

Gear Up! Trout
Gear Up! Bass

#CaughtOvgard