Lingcod Fishing Tips

Lingcod Fishing Tips

Lingcod fishing

Lingcod are far more desirable than your average little rock cod. Pound for pound they are incredible fighters that will reward you with heftier, better-tasting fillets. So how do we land bigger lings? Let me personally walk you through monster lingcod fishing tips I stand by to put bigger fish in the boat so you can stock your freezer at home much faster.

The Proper Lingcod Gear

As long as your conventional or open-faced reel is able to hold an ample amount of 25lb monofilament, you should be perfectly fine. Even about 100-150 yards of 25lb mono is enough for almost every rock cod and lingcod fishing situation.

What’s on My Boat

  1. Penn Jigmaster 500L (Spooled w/ 25lb Trilene Big Game)
  2. Shimano Tekota 500 (Spooled w/ 25lb Trilene Big Game)
  3. Daiwa V.I.P 865H

No Live Bait? No Problem!

Many anglers including myself here in the Bay Area have a hard time getting our hands on fresh live bait compared to other regions such as Southern California, but that doesn’t keep us from catching big lings! Most of my trophy lingcod have been landed on the jigs and swimbaits listed below.

How To Fish Lingcod Jigs & Swimbaits

Before you look into jigs, it’s very important to understand how to fish them. Lingcod dwell in rocky reefs, which means you are very prone to snagging and losing many lures if you don’t know what you’re doing.

  1. Free-spool your jig or swimbait until you contact bottom. You will know you’ve hit bottom by either feeling a single thump or seeing your line go slack.
  2. Reel up about one or two cranks after reaching bottom. This does not take you away from the strike zone, but instead keeps your lure just above the structure to reduce snags.
  3. It’s better if you hold onto your rod at all times unless you are dealing with multiple setups. Holding your rod gives you the best feel and allows you to make minor adjustments to depth on the fly, giving yourself the highest chance of avoiding snags and hooking fish.

Lingcod Octopus JigOctopus Jigs

I have noticed that lingcod often regurgitate fresh octopus after they are landed. With that being said, I absolutely had to give octopus jigs a try the moment I saw them. I ended up immediately buying 6 and have had nothing but success with these lures. An advantage with the octopus jig is the loosely-attached hook, which allows me to free myself from most snags when contacting rocky structure and sharp reefs.

Lingcod SwimbaitPaddle Tail Swimbaits

Swimbaits are a fantastic way to target the larger lings while weeding out the undersized catch. I always use at least a 6-8oz. lead head, simply because it allows me to get my lure down to the bottom as fast as possible. The heavier weight also keeps the swimbait on the bottom, helping me stay in the strike zone longer.

I typically choose swimbaits that are in the 8-10” range as they are far more attractive to the bigger lings dwelling below. Any natural baitfish colors (anchovy, smelt, etc.) as well as bright colors (orange, red, chartreuse) always work well.

Lingcod Secret JigThe “Secret Ling Slayer”

This incredible lure is a secret that comes from a little bit of lure tweaking. I learned it from a friend and it has absolutely blown my mind with the quality of lings it produces.


  • 2oz. Lead Head
  • 4oz. Iron Jig
  • 6-8” Root Beer Colored Scampi

Putting it Together

  1. Remove the treble hook from the split ring at the bottom of your iron jig.
  2. Once the hook is removed, attach the lead head where the hook would be.

This 6oz. custom lure is an ideal size for lingcod being targeted anywhere in Northern California waters, though I’m sure they’d eat it in other regions as well. The erratic shaking action of the iron combined with the movement of the scampi tails gives this lure more flash and water displacement than any individual iron or scampi could ever accomplish on their own. The result? Huge lingcod!

Catching Live Bait

I did say that live bait was hard to acquire, however, I didn’t say that it was impossible to get your hands on it. Head out a bit earlier and spend some time catching live mackerel, anchovies, or sardines!

Bait Fishing Setup

Any medium-light spinning or casting setup will work just fine. You don’t need to go too high-end since there’s barely any wear-and-tear on your setup with the exception of saltwater itself.

  1. Shimano TLD Star 1530S
  2. Ugly Stik Tiger Rod 7’ Medium-Heavy

The Sabiki Rig

Honestly any Sabiki Rig works. The fish are never too picky about it and most of the rigs are of decent quality and fairly cheap.

  1. P-Line Sabiki Rigs

Assembling a 3-Way Drift Rig for Live Bait

You will need a drift rig in order to fish live bait. This rig keeps your bait just off the bottom to avoid snags and abrasion.

Drift Rig Components

Terminal Tackle

  1. 3-Way Swivel
  2. Size 1/0-3/0 Snap Swivel
  3. 6-8oz. Torpedo Weight
  4. Size 2-4 Treble Hook
  5. Size 1 Owner Octopus Hook

Monofilament Line

  1. 20-25lb Trilene Big Game (leader line for lead weight)
  2. 25-30lb Trilene Big Game (leader line for hooks)

Drifting Techniques for Live Bait

  1. Drop your rig straight down from the boat until you hit bottom.
  2. Crank the reel a few times immediately after hitting bottom – this keeps your barely off the floor to avoid snags.
  3. When you see a bite, pick up your rod but do not set hook right away until you feel the fish really load up on your line.
  4. Get the fish off the bottom as fast as you can while keeping your line strength in mind. If given a chance the lings will bury themselves back in the rocks and snap you off.

Now’s your chance to get out and experience monster lings firsthand. Please comment any questions or suggestions you may have. Tight lines, everyone!



  1. That “Secret Ling Slayer” jig is crazy… Definitely have to try that on my next trip. Thanks for the tips, Marcus! This article was extremely helpful.

  2. On my most recent outing, I found that you need 80lb mono for leader line. And 16+ oz weights if you are fishing with live bait for 15+lb lings. (:

  3. It’s blue! Why is that lingcod blue? Great lingcod fishing tips by the way. I went to Half Moon Bay but had no luck because the tides were too low…note to self, always check the tides. I ended up losing my hat because there were 20 mph winds.

    • We gotta get you out on Marcus’ boat! After a bunch of weeks I still haven’t had the chance to go on a little rock/ling trip with him… hopefully my schedule frees up soon.

  4. I’ve see the live bait rig you mention on a party boat I was one. Thanks for the terminal tackle list, but how do you tie the hooks to the leader that is attached to the three way swivel. The ones I saw it seemed like the octopus hook was able to be adjusted up and down the leader and the according to the length of the live bait, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how to tie my own.

    • Hey Tom, glad you found the terminal tackle list helpful. Here’s how you accomplish the sliding stinger setup.

      1. Tie a 2-3ft leader to the 3-way swivel.
      2. Using a Snell or Palomar Knot, tie the Stinger treble hook to the end.
      3. Cut another foot of line and use a Snell Knot, BUT when wrapping the line 6 times around the shank make sure you wrap BOTH your hook AND leader line at the same time.
      4. Bring the tag end back through the loop as usual and tighten the knot.
      5. Cut BOTH ends of the line on your octopus hook and now you have a free-sliding stinger hook!

      Please comment back if any of this confused you and I’ll clarify further. Good luck!

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