The idea is to get a different lure to the fish as quickly as possible while it is still in an aggressive mood.
The sun had just stuck its head over the horizon as we pointed the cat’s bows south-east and shot out over the Tweed River bar.
We had planned on jigging on the 45-fathom reefs and then heading out to the Tweed Canyons for a troll. The weather was absolutely beautiful so we were going to make the most of it and try to do everything at once.
The jigging didn’t go as planned, with two rat kings being released and two good kings being sharked – luckily, we got our jigs back. We then made the run out to the canyons and spent about three hours trolling. There was no sign of bait at all and the only sign of life was a pod of dolphins that came over for a peak before heading off to the south.
The day wasn’t shaping up to be one of the best. Could the weather be too good?
We decided to head back to the shallower grounds where my mate Kevin had been during the week and had had some good action around midday with big kings on poppers.
We headed in to Fidos and the area immediately looked a bit fishier. There were a few birds wheeling about and the odd bait on the sounder. The water was a beautiful colour so we stopped and broke out the longer casting rods.
I had listened to Kev’s description of the fish that he had seen during the week and had taken particular note of the part where he said that some of them had followed the lure right to the boat.
I had sat the previous night and set up myself a ‘stinger rod’ with these fish in mind. I had taken my Live Fibre spin rod loaded with 14lb braid and put a 6” Atomic Jerk Minnow on it. The rod was definitely looking a bit light but nothing ventured, nothing gained. I rigged the jerk minnow on a 1/2oz jig head and stuck the rod in the rocket launcher ready for a quick grab.
There wasn’t much current and we were drifting very slowly. We had been firing casts in all directions for about 10 minutes when Kevin shouted for me to look at his plug. There was a big wake behind it and as the lure got close we could see the fish turn away.
We were looking at each other and realised that we had both been holding our breaths – the fish was between 15kg and 20kg. So they were here.
On Kev’s next cast there was a huge boil around his plug but the fish didn’t connect. The water behind his lure came alive and as it got closer to the boat we could see about 10 fish in the school following closely behind.
I grabbed my spin rod but had second thoughts when I saw the size of the fish, but I still fired the Jerk Minnow just ahead of them. I let it sink for a few seconds and then tweaked the lure once.
As I took up the slack line to tweak the lure again, I saw the line flick and I immediately reared back. It felt like hooking into a snag.
The fish gave two big headshakes and I had to make a decision very quickly. Do I hang on or go the softly, softly route? Fishing with 14lb, hanging on was definitely a no-go so I scrambled the drag loose as the fish took off on a powerful run.
I let it go with almost no drag and it took about 100m and then started to slog it out in mid-water. The fish was in only eight metres of water over a rocky bottom so I was expecting to get busted up at any moment.
I continued to put minimal pressure on the fish, letting it have his head. I started to give him a bit of curry after about 10 minutes, pulling as hard as I thought the 14lb could go.
Forty minutes of back-breaking work later, Kev lifted the kingie into the boat. It weighed 14,9kg and we both let out a whoop.
When these fish are caught on heavy jigging tackle you don’t fully appreciate why they are called kings. But when you hook one on light gear and it just doesn’t want to give up...
The day had been transformed into a memorable experience by that fish, caught using a technique I call the ‘one-two punch of soft plastic fishing’.
The one-two is a technique I learnt fishing for largemouth black bass in South Africa. Basically, it means always having a rod rigged up with a soft plastic jerkbait that you can cast to a fish that has missed your other lure.
I used to make the mistake of casting the same lure back to the fish. On the odd occasion it would work and I would catch the fish but more often than not, the second time around the lure would be refused.
If a fish strikes a lure short, it normally means that it has simply missed the lure or, more importantly, that something about the lure turned it off at the last second.
The idea here is to get a different lure to the fish as quickly as possible while it is still in an aggressive mood.
When I fished the bass comps I would always have a rod with a soft jerkbait lying on my casting deck ready. If I had a fish short-strike my lure I would whip the other lure in (you were allowed only one rod in the water at a time), drop the rod on the deck and fire the softie into the same spot.
I would allow the lure to sink for a second or two and give it a small twitch. If the fish didn’t take the lure on the drop it would normally hit after the first bit of movement.
Sometimes this would not work and as a last resort I would try a fast, erratic action back to the boat. If the fish had been watching the lure it would think that its meal was now getting away and would attack.
I would rig most of these soft jerkbaits on Gamakatsu Wide Gap worm hooks and because of this, once the fish had taken the lure, I would hesitate with the strike for a second to give the fish a chance to turn with the soft plastic for a better hook-up.
This method is not only limited to a fish that misses a surface lure. I have used it on fish that bumped spinnerbaits and hardbodies.
At the time of writing the water in the creeks was just starting to warm up and I was starting to chase jacks. They were still a bit lethargic and unfortunately I am a lure addict when it comes to these fish, so live bait was not an option.
I was on my second trip and had just two bumps trolling hardbodies to show for my efforts. After inspecting the puncture marks on the lures it was pretty obvious that they had been jacks.
I decided to rig up a stinger rod and put it next to me on the rear casting deck. I carried on trolling the rock bar and as I rounded one of the hot spots, I had another knock without hooking up.
I immediately cranked the minnow in and cast the plastic out to where I thought the fish had hit. The first cast yielded nothing and I made the second cast a bit longer.
I let the soft plastic sink right to the bottom and started working it ultra-slowly back to the boat. I had tweaked it only twice when it was hammered.
I managed to wrestle the 53cm jack over the rocks and stuck the net under it a few moments later. I think that it is well worth mentioning that this took place at 8pm with no street lights nearby. So don’t be afraid to try this method at any time, the day or night.
Two very important things to remember when fishing this way are speed and accuracy. You must have the rod ready so that you can just grab it and cast. If you cannot make an accurate cast then it will not work at all.
You basically want your lure to land right on top of or as close as possible to the swirl or area where the fish hit.
Depth is also a consideration. If you are fishing in 60cm of water, the weight of the hook will be enough to get the plastic into the strike zone but if you are fishing in three metres or deeper, go as heavy as a 1/20z jig to get the plastic down to where the fish hit before it moves off in search of another easy meal.
Once you start using this technique often you will quickly work out when and how to use it to its full potential.
It is an excellent way to convert a missed fish into a caught fish so next time you are on the water give it a go.
This 53cm mangrove jack hit and missed a trolled lure in the dark but the soft plastic follow-up was too good to refuse.
This of the 14.9kg kingie was one of a pack too shy to do anything but follow a hard lure but succumbed to a 6: Atomic Jerk Minnow and 14lb braid
This Tweed bass boiled on a popper and was then caught on a soft jerkbait.
Left row, from top: Atomic 4” Shad, Squidgy 4” Shad, Gambler 4” Flappin Shad. Right row: Atomic 6” Jerk Minnow, Zoom 6” Fluke, Atomic 3” Jerk Minnow, Tsunami 3” Split Tail Minnow. These are all good follow-up soft plastics although the author prefer the straight tails because they have more of a finesse presentation that can fool wary fish.
After trolling a rock bar for mangrove jacks with no success, the soft plastic follow-up delivered first cast.
While this mahi mahi was caught using conventional methods, this species is another which can often become wary of hard lures and then it’s time to try a soft plastic.