Last month we looked at a cross section of snapper lures that covered the full size range of fish, from pan-sized to monsters, and across a variety of scenarios from river mouths to bay reefs and headlands.
This month we’ll look at some alternative rigging methods for soft jerkbaits for mulloway, snapper, kingfish, Aussie salmon and shallow reefies.
The photo shows the different profiles such as fish shape, stick profile, length, width and density (including salted) of a selection of soft plastic jerkbaits from my tackle box that I’d use in the bays and harbours all over Australia for everything from snapper to kingfish to salmon. North to south, east to west, each one has their place. From left to right they are:
• Gambler straight/fork-tailed shad – jighead rigged
• Lunker City Sluggo
• Assassin 6” Twitch (a short piece has been snipped off the nose to take a jighead, but this isn’t essential)
• Assassin 6” Twitch, uncut
• Assassin 4.5” Twitch (notice the profile difference between the 6” and 4.5” Twitches)
• Assassin 7” Charm (so skinny it’s almost a worm rather then a jerkbait – the thinness is great for finesse bites)
• Gene Larew 6” Slugger, salted (fatter and heavier than a Twitch for more casting distance)
• Gene Larew 4” Slugger, salted
Most snapper anglers prefer darker colours. During the daytime use watermelon, baby bass, rainbow trout or when it’s dark use watermelon or green pumpkin varieties. If you’re fishing during the changeover light periods use Red Gold Glitter and try glow in dirty water.
Kingfish and salmon anglers prefer lighter colours like crystal shad, salt and pepper, or whites/pearls/alewife.
The top lure is a Gene Larew 6” Slugger on a 3/8oz jighead and the bottom one is a 6” Twitch on 1/16oz jighead.
Different lures are suited to different conditions. Choosing the right lure at the right time can make things go more smoothly. It might even mean an extra fish or two.
Let’s say it’s winter in Moreton Bay and you know from experience that the snapper might be near the surface. You reach for a big soft plastic of low density, not necessarily floating because you still want the lure to be able to sink a little bit.
Or it might be summer and you have a hunch that the snapper are hugging the bottom, feeding on the molluscs off the rubble and reef bed. In this case, as you sit in your lounge room rigging your tackle the night before the big trip, you opt for a dense, faster sinking, longer casting plastic that is heavily salted for more weight.
From the selection in the accompanying photograph, I would give the slower sinking 6” Assassin Twitch or Lunker City Slug-go the first try in winter. If it were summer I’d opt for the Gene Larew 6” Slugger, which gets to the bottom more quickly.
The Slugger has little extras built in that can be useful when fine-tuning is required. This salt-laden plastic sinks quickly, casts like a bullet due to its high density and darts when twitched. Its internal hollow pocket creates a hinge, and hinge points are one of the new initiatives of soft plastic designs. It also has two hook pockets so you have the option of adding a ganged hook.
My slowest sinking jighead is rigged onto the lighter lures (e.g. the 6” Twitch), whereas my 3/8oz jigheads are rigged with the heavy salt-laden lures.
I’ve gravitated to taking a small selection of lures that I’ve pre-rigged on each fishing trip. When a fishing buddy or myself go searching for a lure in the tackle bag it’s simple to pull out the pre-rigged box and they’re ready to tie on and fish. It’s far more efficient than digging out the plastic tail and then fossicking around trying to find the jigheads.
A Twitch 6” rigged on 4/0 Mustad Mega-Bite Hook and a Slugger 6” rigged on 5/0 Mustad Mega-Bite Hook.
When rigged Texas unweighted on purpose-designed hooks, these plastics are great for targeting schooling surface fish such as tuna up north around Weipa, tailor or kingfish in the Southport Seaway or even snapper from Moreton Bay to Shark Bay. If you need long casts you’d go for the Slugger. You don’t want to add weight with a jighead because you want to skip the lure across the surface, even though there might be many pauses in your retrieve where you’ll let it flutter down a few centimetres before recommencing the stop-start retrieve.
If you are using a very slow retrieve or lots of pauses, go with a lighter lure, such as the 6” Twitch, to stay on top.
A Texas (Brass ‘n Glass) rigged 7” Charm and a 4” Slider flat tail.
There’s a technique that I use with these lures which I like to call Texas Fold ’em. When the pan sized squire are hitting big plastics but not hooking up (as detailed in Finesse Reds in QFM a few months ago) I switch from the fatter plastics (like straight tailed shads and twitches) to very skinny lures like the 7” Charm.
Because it’s skinny, the Charm is best rigged Texas style. The Texas rig in this photo incorporates a bullet weight, running faceted glass bead, and an extra wide gape worm hook. The brass and glass click together for more noise. Texas rigging is great when you want the free-running weight to sink at the normal rate but the soft plastic trails along behind and sinks at a slower rate. Thus you get casting distance but a slower sink rate. Pretty nifty!
The 6” versions and their little brothers, the 6” and 4.5” Twitch above with the 6” Slugger and 4” Slugger below. I use the bigger lures first because I like the extra casting distance that they afford. But if the bite has slowed down and I think it’s because the fish are starting to spook from the bigger lure, I’ll downsize to the smaller finesse offering. I do this with most species including snapper, salmon and kings.
Each of these lures pictured provides a different size and weight option and they are rigged on different hooks relative to their size. Too small a hook will choke the hook’s gape and too big a hook can affect the plastic’s action, especially on the freefall.
The 6” Twitch is rigged on a 4/0 Mega-Bite and the 4.5” Twitch is rigged on a 2/0 Mega-Bite. The 6” Slugger is rigged on a 5/0 Mega-Bite (the 5/0 is the standard hook size for all big stick baits), and the 4” Slugger is rigged on a 3/0 Mega-Bite.
6. A yellowtail kingfish taken on an unweighted Assassin Twitch.Reads: 3321