Jigging for success
  |  First Published: August 2004

THE GBRMPA closures are now in place around the Great Barrier Reef, and local anglers are finding the reduction in fishing areas very restrictive. With more people fishing in confined areas the impact on fish populations will be harsh. I doubt whether the safe fish habitat in the green zones will compensate for this.

We have to stay positive though, and I plan to widen the range of the ways I fish. My charters will still be predominately bottom fishing but I will be bringing in many alternatives to bottom fishing with baits. These new approaches will incorporate more sportfishing techniques including jigging, trolling and lure tossing. I find these styles of fishing to be much more rewarding.


Bundaberg residents are fortunate to have access to many fish species and many types of habitat, ranging from natural reef, artificial reef, wreck sites and the continental shelf. This lends itself to one very productive form of fishing, called ‘jigging’.

Many anglers have given this a try but their jigs have ended up just as more tackle box jewellery. To make it work for you, find a good show of fish on the sounder and drop a jig straight down through the school and retrieve. Most people find they don’t catch fish straight away and they quit, but I’m sure if you persist you’ll be won over like I was.

You don’t need much to start with – just a simple high-speed or high-ratio threadline reel and a light 8-15kg stick. Your local tackle store will be able to help. I use a Penn 9500ss with 50lb braid and a basic Ugly Stik. This works great for most applications using River2Sea jigs, Raiders and numerous other silver slugs and bars. I also use a Shimano TS4 to toss silver slugs and Raiders for tuna.

This kind of gear is OK for reefs and wrecks, but out on the shelf it’s a different story. A friend of mine, Damon Olsen from Nomad Sports Fishing Charters, has broken everything out on the shelf north of Fraser Island jigging for amberjack and tossing large poppers for big trevally. This is the extreme end of jigging, with Damon getting his rods designed and built by Precision Rods and using top-of-the-range Shimano Stella and Daiwa Saltiga reels loaded with 70-90lb PE Japanese braid. Damon has tested his rods to free lift 20kg and he almost gets pulled out of the boat with the giants from the shelf.

When fishing some reefs recently in 20-40m, we had a ball nailing trevally and mackerel from 6-10kg. The technique is to sink the jig as fast as possible and then retrieve quickly from the bottom in a series of fast lifts and winds, working the bottom 10-20m of water, then redropping the jig. You can work the jig to the surface, as sometimes you’ll have fish follow it right to the boat. In the deeper water, however, it’s better to work the bottom 20m. I use my Shimano TSS4 for these as they have a fast retrieve rate. This has accounted for all types of pelagic and reef species.


There have been good catches of snapper lately. Fish of up to 75cm have been caught in the last month, and the August should see much of the same.

Reef fish like sweetlip and red emperor are still frequently caught, along with some huge parrotfish. Most of these reef fish varieties are readily caught all year, and you can expect to catch plenty of them this month.

Big black king (cobia) have been haunting the reefs and wrecks and some fish of up to 35kg have caught. Most of the big ones have come from the new wreck of the Karma and the northern gutter.

Longtom and rainbow runners are around on the wrecks, with large schools of big yellowtail.

Leading up to August is the gun time to catch sailfish and marlin on the inshore reefs. I have included a photo of a sailfish we caught last August just to fire you up!

My mate Kevin Charteris and his wife Margaret have been catching some great fish on the reefs – good size snapper, reds, parrot, sweeties and cod. The pair did well in the Bundaberg Family Fishing Classic, and if you catch a fish in Bundaberg with a tag in it there’s a good chance Kevin was the one who tagged it.


Gary Leather, a gun angler from Salty’s tackle store, has been nailing plenty of bream in the river, and he’s favourite for taking out the bream comp in Bundaberg. At the recent Blue Water Classic there were plenty of big flatties, bream, flounder or sole, and trevally caught.

I’m expecting a lot of great fishing to come in the month ahead, so if you’re in Bundaberg give us a call at Bundaberg Fishing Charters on 0427 590 995.

1) The reefs and wrecks have been yielding big cobia lately, like this one caught by Charlie Constable.

2 Rick McGovern with a snapper. August should deliver plenty more of these.

3 Ian Cossart with a red emperor. Most reefies are available all year round.

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