• Posted by Nick Honachefsky
  • On April 26, 2017
  • Comments
  •  2

Blues have arrived for Jersey anglers in a big way. Once again, Jersey has been graced with the initial run of gator blues ranging from 5 to 15 pounds in the backwater bays of Ludlam’s Bay, Barnegat Bay, the Manasquan River and Absecon Bay.

I’m going to go into some boat fishing tactics here, and its all about knowing how to pop them up to maximize your catch. First of all, morning and evening hours seem to be producing best, from 7 AM to about 10 AM then again at 5 PM to about 8 PM, but if you have a day to spend in the backwaters, I’m sure you can find them chomping anytime. Topwater popping is probably the most exciting method to tangle with blues when they are in solid and strong.

Start with a rod that has some muscle, somewhere in between from a light set up and heavy set up, enough of a happy medium to make the fight about 3 to 5 minutes long to battle the fish to boatside, but not underwhelm it and burn the fish out. I usually use a 7 foot Penn Torque TT2050S70 rod rated for 20 to 50-pound, matched with a Penn Slammer 760 reel. Spool with 50-pound Power Pro, then create your leader with heavier duty, 24-inch piece of 60-pound test Seaguar Blue Label Fluorocarbon leader, to which a 125-pound Tactical Anglers clip is tied onto via Palomar knot.

Poppers can run the gamut of types, but you really need a hardcore model able to withstand a couple beatings, such as a Tactical Anglers 2 to 3-ounce Bomb Popper or Creek Chub Knucklehead popper. I recommend removing any treble hooks and replacing them with size 3/0 Siwash hooks, and you only really need them on the back end of the popper as bluefish tend to hit the tail to disable any bait in effort to chop the motor off the fish. Too many trebles will usually result in a hook in the hand or an incorrigible tangle in the net. (see picture)

Work the sodbanks in south Jersey, or simply find a ledge, dial in the bluefish harassing bunker schools inside Barnegat Bay, or blindcast without a method to any madness to find bluefish. Work the popper to churn and splash, but keep it moving at a moderate pace, too fast and you’ll get short strikes, too slow and it doesn’t look like a realistically fleeting bunker. When the hit comes, set back hard and enjoy the biggest battle you will find in the back bays. The bay bluefish run should last well into the third week of May, prepare to be shocked!

Suggested Gear

Tactical Anglers

BombPOPPER Smart Lures

Tactical Anglers BombPOPPER SMART LURES have undergone extensive testing to ensure maximum durability and functionality.


Creek Chub


The Creek Chub Knuckle-Head is 5 inches long and weighs 1 1/2 ounces. It is made of a solid, hardened foam with a through wire construction that connects the pull point, to the saltwater stout belly swivel and the rear feather dressed hook.


Tactical Anglers

Power Clips 125lbs 25pk

Tactical Anglers Power / Fast Clips are strong fishing clips that allow for fast and easy changing of lures. Made from a single thick stainless steel wire to provide maximum strength and durability, TA Power Clips have a slip-proof design.



Open Eye 9171PS 3/0

VMC Hooks 9171 Siwash Open Eye is a premium hook ideal for spoons and crankbaits that do not use split rings.



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