I’M NOT that much of an offshore angler; chasing longtail tuna and mackerel in the bay or snapper around Mud Island usually keeps me happy on the open water. And I’m a bit of a cynic when it comes to offshore fishing around Brisbane. Sure – there are some good fish out there, but, as they say, they’re not as good as they used to be.
So when I boarded Reel Easy charters with the crew from Daiwa Australia and some prominent tackle retailers from the south-east of the state, my expectations weren’t high. I knew that it’d be a good day – these guys know how to have a good time – but I thought that fish may be a little thin on the ground. The weather forecast didn’t inspire, either. Twenty-plus knots from the south-east and showers made for a day that you’d usually stay in bed!
But the goal of the day was to learn the art of deepwater jigging from the experts, and Daiwa chief Yoshi Motoi and Japanese tour operator Yasu Kanazono were there with a full range of the exceptionally engineered Saltiga jigging systems, and the expertise to use it. Until you see these guys in action, it’s hard to appreciate what deepwater jigging is all about. If you think it’s about dropping a lead slug to the bottom and yo-yoing the rod tip, you’re as mistaken as I was.
After a trial-run in 40 metres of water off Cape Moreton, we arrived at some reef in 140 metres of water to the north-east of the Cape and Yasu started the lesson.
Upon arriving at the ‘wide’ spot, the captain shouted from the flybridge the depth of water and the depth of the bait schools. In this instance, the water was 140 metres deep with bait between 100 metres and the bottom.
“Make sure you work your lure through the bait schools,” Yasu explained as he showed us the graduations in the 40lb braided line the reels were spooled with. Every ten metres the braid changed colour, allowing us to ‘count down’ the lures to the appropriate depth quite easily.
We dropped the lures to the bottom and worked the jigs through the bottom 40 metres of water – four colours of line.
“There are two ways to jig,” Yasu continued, “short strokes and long strokes.”
While retrieving line, you either give the rod a series of short, sharp jabs or, alternatively, a long, upward sweep of the rod to move the lure through the water column. Every ten metres, you pause the retrieve for a second or two and then continue. Lots of times the hits came on the pause. It’s a retrieve that you put a lot into, but you get a lot out of it as well, as we were soon to find.
The technique was fairly new to most of us, but it wasn’t long until several of us were testing the Saltiga gear to the limit with locked drags and a variety of hard-pulling species like amberjack, yellowtail kingfish, mack tuna and striped tuna from some fairly hard-fished reefs. Simply showing the fish something new was resulting in one of the best kingfish bites I’ve ever seen, with school-sized fish in the 3-7kg class coming in every drift.
After drifting off the reef, the captain would fire up the engines and position the boat again at the top of the drift. Soon after hitting the bottom, up to three of us at a time would be jolted to reality mid-retrieve.
One tackle store proprietor who really seemed to have the technique sussed was Neil Griffiths from Jones’s Tackle at Lutwyche. Neil’s been an advocate of this style of fishing for a while and probably has the largest range of this type of tackle in Australia. I asked why this type of fishing is becoming popular and what tips he could offer to anglers who wanted to try it.
“All of the reefs that you target snapper on have healthy populations of kingies and amberjacks that will usually refuse a dead bait, so there’s no shortage of places to try this sort of fishing from the Gold Coast through to the Sunshine Coast,” Neil explained.
“Lots of new converts to deepwater jigging are game fishermen who used to sit there during winter and twiddle their thumbs waiting for the warm water to arrive again. This way, they can get stuck into some excellent fishing right through the year.”
“Having the right gear is important,” Neil continued, “because if you try to do this with your heavy offshore rods, you’ll be tired after a couple of retrieves. The best tackle is light in the hand, but strong enough to fish the 40 and 50lb braided lines that this technique demands.
“Braid is a must, otherwise you won’t get the action on the lure that gets the fish biting, and it’s also important to tie the best knots. These fish hit the lure hard and substandard knots will see you waving goodbye to more expensive jigs than you’d like to.”
The lures and the rigs differ greatly from the usual fare on tackle store shelves. Ranging from 150g to well over 300g, the jigs look superficially like an ultra-large metal slug, but the rigging technique is all important. You store the jigs unrigged and add one or two single, chemically sharpened hooks via a braided line loop.
“It mightn’t look the most efficient, but having any hooks rigged at the top of the jig is definitely the best way to do it,” Neil said. “It’s a combination of keeping the hook in the fish’s mouth and giving the jig the best action on the retrieve. Interestingly, you rarely get bitten on the drop while jigging. 90% of the hits come on the erratic retrieve.”
A long leader – usually three rod lengths of 80 to 100lb mono – serves a couple of functions. It gives you something to grab on to while landing the fish, it helps stop them rubbing you off on rough ground and it also alerts you to the fact that your retrieve is over and to stop winding. Belting yourself in the scone with a 300g jig is no fun for anyone!
A question that all anglers ask is how much the jigs cost.
“You can buy a cheap Chinese made jig for $10 to $12, but the quality jigs that really do catch you more fish can cost anywhere up to $50 or $60 each,” Neil said. “It’s better to relate it to your collection of marlin lures than snapper leads. Most anglers have no problems paying this much for a skirted lure like a Hexhead or Pakula that really does the job, and these lures will catch you a swag of quality fish in the right hands. Once you’re competent, you’ll find yourself buying quality jigs in preference to the cheaper models.”
Personally, I was impressed that we could have so much fun offshore from Brisbane on well-hammered reef grounds, and will definitely be lining up with a kit of jigs next time an offshore trip comes up.
THE SALTIGA SYSTEM
The Japanese are fanatical deepwater jiggers, so it’s natural that they’ve developed some of the best tackle in the world for these applications. Daiwa’s Saltiga system encompasses both overhead and threadline outfits, with reels made with ultra-fine tolerances and rods designed to load to the limit and keep these deepwater nasties from their homes.
The best way to understand the system is to drop in and see it for yourself. You can check out the gear at Jones’s Tackle (Lutwyche), Gold Coast Tackle (Southport), Doug Burt’s Fishing Tackle World (Labrador) and The Tackle Warehouse (Coorparoo).
Trade enquiries about Daiwa jigging tackle can be directed to John Wood on 0413 751 784.
1) Neil Griffiths displays a 50lb amberjack from 70 metres of water that scoffed a foot-long jig.
2) The lures look strange rigged this way, but everyone agrees that it’s the most effective.
3) Saltiga threadlines and overheads are purpose-built for this sort of fishing.
4) Braided line that changes colour every 10 metres is integral to the jigging system.
5) ‘Mr Daiwa’, Yoshi Motoi, hooked up to a rampaging fish that eventually won the battle.