Hot hot hot was the best way to describe the fishing over late December and early January.
I’ve had some great mangrove jack sessions of late, averaging 6-10 jacks a trip all on lures and all released.
Prawnstars have caught plenty of fish so far this season, including a 50cm fish from the Baffle that gave me some scary moments on my 6kg Ultragraph spin rod. That fish was on a pink Junior model and was caught using both leads and sinking it down the rock bars near the boat ramp at the ferry crossing. I was also humbled on my heavier gear on the big natural coloured Prawnstar in the same place.
This season, thanks to past experiences fishing with tournament anglers Tim Morgan and Jason Ehrlich, I have been experimenting with many techniques. Tim and Jason like to try varying techniques until a fish-catching pattern emerges. They then refine the pattern for that scenario to improve its effectiveness.
So I decided to try it on my local jacks. I started by having up to five rods rigged and ready at hand for the different scenarios I was to encounter. I had one with a heavily-rigged soft plastic, a medium sized diving minnow, a surface lure, a Prawnstar Junior and an Original Prawnstar or large bibbed minnow.
The idea is to have an offering on hand that suits the ever-changing scenarios encountered in tidal estuaries. Then it’s up to you to decide when and where each lure should get a shot. I’ve found that working two or more types of lures along a bank or in a snag has been very successful.
It’s also handy having this gear on hand when conditions change. Recently on a trip I was fishing the last of the run-out tide and caught a couple of fish on the Prawnstar, then the tide really slowed. This gives the fish plenty of time to look at your lure and decide whether they want to eat it. I usually persist and fish a lot slower, leaving the lure to sit on the bottom, and I have caught fish that way before. This time, because the water wasn’t really clear, I decided to fish a very noisy bibbed lure. I thought the fish might respond to a fast, erratic retrieve and maybe trigger an aggressive response.
Well, it worked a treat, even though the water was barely moving. I ripped that lure around snags and rocks and smacked four angry jacks.
On another occasion, fishing a spot I hadn’t been to for years, I noticed a few schools of popeye mullet swimming around. These little creatures look like a normal mullet but with a stretched neck, and they spend a fair bit of time with their heads above the surface.
The first lure I tried was a surface popper. I cast it close to the snags and then gave it a very wounded erratic retrieve, imitating what I thought would be a sick popeye mullet. I had guessed the fish in that area would be accustomed to feeding on these mullet on the surface, and I was right.
This session was awesome, with six jacks landed on the poppers and a couple more that bricked me in the timber. I also had a small jack nail my popper in a snag, and when I got it to the boat I saw that a larger jack had followed, trying to steal the little fellow’s meal. I lowered the rod tip, allowing the little jack a swim, and the big guy smacked him and stole the lure right from the little guy’s mouth. That jack went a little over 47cm.
We also caught some bream, and even the catfish were getting in on the surface action. It was a great session.
So keep your eyes and ears open when you’re fishing, and you should be able to tell a lot about what’s going on in the area.
Hard bodies: Lucky Craft Bevvy Shads, Killalure Flatz Ratz, Rebel Jointed Minnow
Surface lures: Rapala Skitterpops, Smilin’ Jacks Surface Bug
Soft plastics: Berkley 4’’ Bass Minnows, Ecogear Grass Minnows, Prawnstar Juniors
This is the quality of the jacks being caught around Bundy at the moment.