By Gene Kira, January 26, 2004, as orginally published in Western Outdoor News:
About a year ago, Ivan Villarino of Vonny's Fleet, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, began talking about “lightweight aluminum jigs” being especially good on Ensenada yellowtail at the tip of Punta Banda.
As the seasonal bites came and went, Ivan kept mentioning these jigs over and over again, and last week I got to see them for the first time. I also got a slam dunk demonstration on how well they work.
Conditions were lousy at Ensenada on Wednesday when I fished with Ivan’s top guide, Capt. Beto Zamora, and Vonny Fleet regular, Jay Johnson.
We launched our panga over the beach into scattered rain showers and five knots of northeast wind at the family’s Villarino Campground at the southwest corner of the bay, and a couple of minutes later, we passed by Fred Hoctor’s house.
Four miles after that, we dropped squid, anchovies and rubber down between the boiler rocks at the tip of the point, but as the showers closed in and the wind picked up to 10 knots, it became obvious we weren’t going to have a stellar day.
With nothing happening in the boat, Jay--the eternal fishing student--got out his GPS, and we had fun teasing Capt. Beto about how accurately he could locate his many fishing spots, around the point and out toward Isla Todos Santos in the middle of the bay. Using experience, visual bearings hampered by the low clouds, and I don’t know what else, Beto put on a show, again and again hitting his spots within about one or maybe two panga lengths. These friggin’ pangueros are just amazing.
But the fishing was slow, in rough 58-degree water. Despite Beto’s best efforts, we managed only about three-fourths of an ice chest, of six species, including four nice salmon grouper, and a very nice sandbass that Jay hooked on the way in. With yellowtail not even a remote possibility, the aluminum jigs never got used.
Early Thursday morning, I packed up my stuff in the Vonny’s Fleet cabaña, and I was standing in the yard, saying “adios” to Ivan, when his cell phone went off. It was Beto in the Vonny I, with clients out at the point, and he had a hot yellowtail bite going on, just inside the boiler rocks.
Ivan gave me the look.
I spent the next hour driving up to the microwave tower at the top of Punta Banda for some spectacular photos of the Ensenada area I’ve always wanted to take, and when I got back to Vonny’s Fleet, Beto was already there with his clients, who had that unmistakable “I-just-had-my-butt-kicked-by-yellowtail” look to them.
As they struggled to hoist their 20 pounders up for photos, Beto confirmed that all six yellowtail were caught on the surface with the aluminum jigs and nothing else. According to Beto, a lifetime Ensenada panguero, these jigs are the best he’s ever seen for this kind of work.
These lightweight aluminum jigs are tapered at both ends, basically like a Salas, but with a deeper, rounder cross-section that is almost a semicircle. There are two basic models, “big” and “small.” The big model has a body 5.5 inches long and weighs about 3 ounces. The small model body is 4.5 inches long and weighs about 1.5 ounces.
These unmarked jigs are beautifully handmade by an elderly Ensenada craftsman. They are all slightly different, with subtle, artisanal variations. They are not painted, but have a slightly uneven, brushed aluminum finish, with the brush lines going across the body of the jig, not lengthwise. I’m guessing that in addition to their action, this handmade finish might be a factor in the jig’s effectiveness.
I don’t know where else these jigs are available. Production is very limited, but Ivan keeps a few on the rack at his Vonny’s Fleet tackle shop, eight miles out on the “La Bufadora” road to Punta Banda (011-52-646-154-2046, and don’t ask; he doesn’t ship). Either size is five bucks. I’ve got two. Ho, ho, ho.
(Related Ensenada articles and reports may be found at Mexfish.com's main Ensenada information page. See weekly fishing news, photos, and reports from the major sportfishing vacation areas of Mexico including the Ensenada area in "Mexico Fishing News.")