Depending on your latitude, trolling a mojo rig is either the hottest new tactic or the oldest trick in the book.
Captains below the Mason Dixon line have been using these super-sized leadheads, skirts, and shads to catch trophy rockfish for decades, but it’s just in the last few years that the lures have caught on in New Jersey and New York, and they are almost unheard of in New England waters.
The appeal of trolling mojos? Their simplicity. No wire line or leadcore, no specialized rods, no worries about finding the right depth or tuning them to swim right; just clip the rig on a heavy conventional outfit and let it swim just above the bottom.
A large conventional reel with a lower gear ratio to crank in the heavy jigs and the fish is a must for trolling mojos. Keeping the rod steady when fighting a fish (rather than pumping and winding) will result in fewer lost fish on mojo rigs. A reel should also have a smooth drag and enough line capacity to hold 300-plus yards of 65-pound test.
- 350 yards of 65-pound-test braid
- 375 yards of 65-pound-test braid
- 380 yards of 65-pound-test braid
A medium-heavy conventional setup is perfect for trolling mojos. Though the rigs are heavy, they don’t have as much water resistance as an umbrella rig or even a deep-diving plug, which means you can use slightly lighter tackle.
- 7’ / Medium-Heavy / 40- to 65-pound test (braid) / $210
- 7’ / 20- to 50-pound test / $59.95
- 7’6” / 20- to 40-pound test / $350
A mojo is basically a big jig with a swinging hook and a 12 – to 32-ounce leadhead designed to keep the lure deep while trolling. The leadhead is dressed with a skirt and the hook threaded with a large paddle-tail shad. This combination gives the mojo a big bait profile and a pulsing, tail-kicking action. Chartreuse and white are the most popular colors, but mojos are available in a wide range of patterns, including some that are a close match to local baitfish.
Many captains troll two mojos (one heavier and one lighter) off a three-way swivel, with a 4- to 5-foot length 100-pound test leader to the heavier mojo, and a 6- to 10-foot length of 100-pound-test leader to the lighter mojo. Often, it’s the smaller mojo that draws the bite, as stripers attack the bait that is lagging behind.
These long leaders can make landing fish a challenge, forcing fishermen to grab the leader and handline the bass within landing range. Recently, Nonpareil Fishing Equipment released a “wind-on” mojo rig, called the Y-Knot. This rig the two lengths of leader spliced together in hollow-core braided line, which is attached to the rod via a loop-to-loop connection.
With the boat in gear and trolling at a speed of 3 to 4 knots, drop the mojo until you feel it hit bottom, engage the reel, and after a second or two, drop back until it hits bottom again. The idea is to keep the lure just off the bottom. Watch the rod tip to make sure the lure isn’t dragging; if it is, reel up a couple cranks. Occasionally bouncing bottom is fine and can trigger strikes, as long as you’re trolling over sandy bottom.
Adjust the size of your mojo to the depth and current speed. Rigs of 12 to 20 ounces work well in depths of 25 to 50 feet, while mojos as heavy as 32 ounces can be used in water from 40 to 60-plus feet.
Mojos will draw strikes without any additional input from anglers, but occasionally pulling the boat out of gear to let the rigs sink can also trigger strikes. After a missed hit, some fishermen “jig” the mojo by making a few sweeps of their rods to entice strikes from a following fish. This is also a good way to turn a single hook-up into a double-header. After a rod goes down, without taking the boat out of gear, grab another one and give the mojo some extra action.
Mojos work best in waters deeper than 20 feet that have sandy, snag-free bottoms. With rigs costing as much as $50, you want to limit how many mojos you lose to the rocks.