Jigging Up Some History!
  |  First Published: February 2003

I’VE BEEN having a few chuckles lately reading about the newest fishing technique to reach our shores. The whispers speak of an exciting ‘new’ technique to plumb the depths, coming from Japan. The gurus are already starting to get excited!

Switched-on fishos in the middle of their soft plastic learning curve will be wondering how to divide their time to master another cutting-edge development when they’re still trying to suss out the subtle vagaries of fishing worms and shads. And the tackle shops will be hoping that they won’t have to rearrange their lure display now that they’ve finally managed to get all those tails and jig heads on the wall!

I don’t want to throw cold water on the ardour of anglers keen to master a new technique – after all, fishing is all about learning as much as possible about how to catch fish. But I’d like to contribute a bit of background to this ‘cutting edge’ development. Perhaps some of us who are a little greyer around the gills might be able to offer some extra advice based on personal experience.

The subject: deepwater jigging! Some of my Japanese clients have kept me abreast of the latest developments in this ‘new’ technique. It has become so popular in Japan over the past couple of years that entire magazines are devoted to the latest tackle and developments. There are a couple in my magazine pile.

Thumbing through these magazines brought back many memories of a fishing craze which happened over a quarter of a century ago! How about we take a cast from the past with a mouldy oldie?


I clearly remember my first capture on a deepwater jig. Fishing wide of Caloundra in 1974, I put my 35kg handline aside and dropped a big lead head on a newly-built Butterworth MT996H and Mitchell 499 reel. Fish were showing in mid-water on my ‘el smecko’ Furuno paper sounder, and I was rewarded with a crashing strike on my second retrieve.

A couple of smoking runs and a bucketful of adrenaline later, a 14kg Spanish mackerel came to boat, followed by a cobia of similar proportions a couple of drops later. After mentioning my success to Len and the boys at Mossops, a parcel arrived in the mail containing samples of the new Iron range of metal jigs.

The Irons landed a couple more Spaniards, plenty of longtails and even a big Maori cod, but the next episode happened in 90 metres on the outer edge of the Barwon Banks off Mooloolaba. A 7oz Henchman, the heaviest of the Iron stable, after sinking for five minutes, was monstered in 48 fathoms by a freight train that had smoke coming from my Penn Jigmaster before it unceremoniously cut the 15kg mono on an underwater pinnacle.

The second of only two samples departed in exactly the same fashion. Big amberjack or samson fish? I never had the opportunity to fish that area again.

Those were the days of the jigging ‘revolution’, a technique that became synonymous with names such as Joe Gospel, Ron Calcutt, Wayne Hanstedt and Tom Nairn, and magazines like The Australian Angler. The method was deadly on the big kingfish that were prolific off the southern NSW coast in those days, but also proved to be effective on more northern species such as cobia, mackerel, and trevally.

The Deadly Taipan

When I moved to Yeppoon and opened a small tackle shop there in 1976, I quickly became acquainted with the healthy population of big Spanish mackerel that patrolled the waters east of the Keppel Islands. Memories of that first jigged Spaniard got me thinking.

After trying the various Irons and some ABU heavyweights (like the Ergon Perks) with limited success, I decided that speed was the answer to increasing my strike rate. I started looking for jigs that could be retrieved off the bottom with minimal resistance but which still looked good in the water, and this led me to an Aussie-made offering called the Maverick Taipan. When retrieved flat out off the bottom on a Mitchell 499 or Seascape 621, this lure soon had any Spaniard in the area crawling all over it. Our first five outings using Taipans produced 36 big mackerel, including 15 beauties to 17kg in our best three-hour session at Barren Island.

There’s nothing quite like the strike of a big Spaniard when you’re winding a lure flat out. Sometimes the hit is so violent that, when using a big Mitchell, your arm gets jolted in the opposite direction, with the momentum unscrewing the handle of the reel. On one occasion my mate had a reel stem break off and the Mitchell was dragged up the rod, taking a couple of runners with it before the line snapped.

I’ve sold thousands of Taipans over the years, with some anglers buying a hundred at a time. The lighter of the two Iron Henchman models also works very well on occasions, often getting ‘bit on the drop’ – the ultimate jigging experience.

Memorable Catches

Most Central Queensland anglers fishing offshore carried an outfit rigged for jigging as a matter of course, usually a Butterworth Jig King or custom-built MT996H fitted with a Mitchell 499, 15kg line and a Taipan lure. These outfits accounted for cobia, tuna, trevally, coral trout, and cod as well as schoolies, grey and Spanish mackerel. We also landed dolphinfish, big wahoo and lost some monster yellowfin on a couple of wider trips.

On one occasion while fishing the Douglas Shoals, some 100km east of Yeppoon, we could clearly see big Spaniards swimming in the crystal clear water over the coral 15 metres under the boat. We landed about half a dozen on Taipans before putting our rods away to concentrate on handlining coral trout and sweetlip.

Suddenly, a big school of yellowtail king swam below the boat – a very rare occasion in waters so far north. I put a Taipan right through the school and a Spaniard shot from left field and engulfed the lure before the kings had a chance. Next cast, I slowed my retrieve and a big kingie was happy to become one of the handful of this species I landed in that area.

History Repeating

In Weipa, 15 years later, jigging with lead heads and metal slices has become an integral part of the tropical lure techniques I use on an almost daily basis. There’s still a stack of ‘old’ Taipans hidden away in my lure cabinet, and one day on the wider reefs I managed to land 10 species, including fingermark and large mouth nannygai, on an individual that found its way into the depths of my tackle box.

Fishing’s greatest attraction is that there’s always something new to learn, another challenge to pursue, and another place to visit. Speculation is an integral part of the process, and analysing the ‘what if?’ of past experiences is a useful thing to do. Maybe somebody would like to drop one of the ‘new’ offerings on the outer ledge of the Barwon’s and see what comes up!

1) Jigging accounts for all manner of species. This giant herring came off the bottom in 12 metres of water.

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