At this time of year we see the larger pelagics quieten down for a month or so, but come summer we’ll be back into some great sportfishing.
The best time to plan your trip to Bundaberg is November, as this is when the water warms up for the summer onslaught. Onshore tradewinds can be a problem, but not always; on previous years we have done really well in November fishing offshore three weeks out of four. And if this doesn’t work out for you, you can always chase barramundi, mangrove jack and many other estuary and impoundment species.
So what is there to do at the moment? I recommend that you try jigging, as it’s one of the most productive styles of bottom fishing you can do. Jigging in Bundaberg can be really simple – you can fish in 20m of water on some of the inshore wreck sites with small Raider-style lures, or you can go to the shelf and get into some huge amberjack, snapper, coral trout, GTs and pearl perch.
You’ll need serious equipment – something that will maintain 20kg of drag – to stop big fish in deep water. If you don’t want to spend the money on the gear, that’s fine – just don’t expect to spend all day at the shelf or you’ll blow up your reels and snap your rods. You can always opt to stay back on the closer reefs catching small trevally and suchlike, but I guarantee that once you get the bug you’ll want to take on the big ones!
This style of fishing has made a revival in the last couple of years. The Japanese are big fans of jigging and, as always, have been at the forefront of technology by improving the jigs, hooks, split rings, rods and reels. The jigs you use today sink faster than the lumps of steel we used to throw over the side 20 years ago, and the hooks and rigging are much stronger as well.
In its simplest form, jigging involves dropping a fast-sinking metal jig to the ocean floor and retrieving it quickly and erratically back to the surface. A quick pump-and-wind technique is deadly on yellowtail kingfish, amberjacks and samsonfish. If you want to target snapper, pearl perch and trout, a slower retrieve usually gets better results.
Your rod must be able to handle the intense stress that’s put on it when it’s fished in this vertical fashion. Ideally the rod should be 5-6 feet long with plenty of grunt. The idea is to keep the jig moving at all times without high-sticking the rod (because it will break) and not having the tip of the rod moving without the jig moving through the water or going backwards. The poorer the quality of the rod, the quicker it will give out on you.
But the most critical piece of equipment is the reel, for two reasons: spool speed and drag. The fastest reel you can get will mean less work for you, and the best drag may just be enough to get the fish of a lifetime to the surface. Modern reels are capable of handling the stresses of deepwater jigging, and you can use either a spinning reel or overhead, depending on your personal preference. Instant anti-reverse is a bonus as it makes the retrieval quicker and easier.
You’ll find that 15-20kg of drag is needed to stop these fish, and not many reels can withstand the sudden shock of a fish strike, or a shark taking a hooked fish, at this drag strength. If the drag can’t handle it, it will blow up in your face. It makes sense to fork out for one good reel rather than purchase two or three cheaper reels. Some good reels available for this style of fishing are the Accurate Daiwa Saltiga and the Shimano Stella series.
Braid is essential and you should look at breaking strains between 50lb to 100lb. Leaders between 150lb and 200lb mono are just perfect for the general wear and tear of deepwater jigging.
Now let’s look at the jigs.
First of all, the faster the jig sinks, the better. The Japanese have really nailed this with some of the best jigs available.
The weight of the jig is also critical, with 200-400g being the most popular size range for deepwater jigging. These jigs are available in many different colours and styles and they aren’t cheap at around $50 each. For this kind of money you don’t want to just buy the first ones you see. Talk to the people who fish regularly in your area to see which jigs work the best.
The final quality to look for in a jig is the hook, as it will have to withstand enormous shock loads. There is no point in going to all this trouble and having the hook straighten on you. Specially designed hooks for the task are available and they work very well, but they can cost you up to $5 each. You can purchase cheaper HD Gamakatsu livebait hooks by the box and save money.
I use 500lb Dyneema to connect the hook to the jig, but this may be hard to source in more regional areas. I connect the hook to a heavy-duty split ring with the Dyneema, and then connect this to the top end of the jig.
Most jigs are weighted in a tapered fashion so one end is heavier than the other, with the lighter end at the top. Be sure to get the best advice you can from tackle shops in the know. Unfortunately, regional tackle shops often don’t stock top-class jigs. I have to buy my gear from Brisbane at tackle stores like Jones’ Tackle, who import the best equipment from Japan. You can also get quality gear via the internet, if you don’t live near a city.
One last tackle tip: wear a pair of gloves so you won’t have your expensive rig pulled out of your hands and over the side.
It’s been good to hear some reports of fish being caught here during the middle of the day when the water warms up. We rarely catch good size barra here during the warmer months but this place is going to be dynamite this year for their annual comp. By the time you read this, Paul from Fish N Cruise fishing charters and I will have visited Monduran to see if we can catch our first big barra of the season.
Gary Leather has had a great month with his bass fishing, coming in third in the recent Bass Electric comp held at the Isis impoundment. He came in behind fellow Bundaberg bass fisherman Dave Robinson, and both qualified for the grand final of the Bass Electric to be held later in the year.
Gary has developed a great technique of using soft plastics to catch bass on the weed edges while other popular techniques are using spinner baits across the top of the weed. Talking with Gary recently he showed me his fishing technique and his favourite gear to use. Gary uses a 6ft8in Rack Raider rod from the Shimano Ian Miller range; he uses a Stradic reel loaded with 4kg Torture braid. He prefers to use a 14lb fluorocarbon leader with an Squidgy 65mm silver fox and a 6gram Squidgy head. Gary works at our local tackle store Salty’s and is always available to give you some up to date tips catching bass.
The fishing in the river has been hot and cold this winter with water temperatures being warmer than last year. Some monster flathead have come out of the system with fish being measured up to a metre long. Paul McKay has been chartering on the river catching some nice bream and flathead. He also tells me Baffle Creek has been fishing well for whiting, and the odd queenfish is still around.
It seems everyone is catching snapper at the moment, with some great catches coming off the artificial reef and the inshore reefs and wreck sites. Rodger Cowl has been catching 70cm specimens at the artificial, and that’s a good size snapper in anyone’s book.
With the warmer water temperatures through winter, plenty of good coral trout are being caught on the reefs. Fishing throughout winter has been very consistent for all reef species, in contrast to last year at this time when parrotfish were about the only species you could catch. Big schools of yellowtail have moved in on the reefs and they usually make the reef fishing a little hard during the cooler months, picking your bait to pieces and keeping the big reef fish well fed. Triggerfish are still a dominant pest, and if someone can come up for a recipe for these fish I would love to hear about it.
Trevally have also been on the reefs in big numbers and are great fun to jig with small Raiders.
Deepwater jigging has produced some big snapper, amberjack and pearl perch off the shelf. We managed to hook up on one small billfish at the Althea only to lose the fish at the side of the boat. I have heard reports of some sailfish still around and some small blacks on the bait schools.
The Hervey Bay Game Tournament will be on in November, and it’s one comp that’s not to be missed. I’ve had many calls from interested parties, and I have promised to send you some information, but our club sectary has been taken ill and this has slowed our correspondence. If you’re interested in competing you can still ring me to find out some of the details.
1) A nice cod caught while jigging.
2) Mathew Magner with a whiting he caught with his dad. Baffle Creek has been fishing well for these fish of late.
3) Dennis Wong with a sweetlip from the Warregos. A variety of reefies have been caught throughout the cooler months, in contrast to last year when parrotfish dominated catches.
4) Alex Zorgati with a sailfish tagged and released on Watch-Tower. Some of these fish are still around off the shelf.Reads: 1013