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HIJINKS@HINCHINBROOK

Robbie Wells

Two days, 1600kms and 800 roadwork's later, towing a 6m tinnie and white line fever had definitely set in... but anticipation was high as finally we reached the Lucinda turnoff. I started relishing in the thought of finally getting to Hinchinbrook Island... thoughts of chasing winter barra and particularly fishing the jetty and surrounding Islands.

After four years of trying to tick off one of my bucket list locations and chasing XOS GTs and queenfish, could this be the year. It seems that every time we arrive a 20-25 knot south-easterly will kick in and destroy all dreams of fishing the jetty. The Hinchinbrook Island area is one of those magical places in the north with the Palm Island group starting a mere 20kms offshore and the Great Barrier Reef approximately 42kms out. Then there's the island itself, with high jagged peaks, rocky headlands, white sandy beaches and the endless myriad of creeks, inlets and swamps, which just happen to be an excellent recruitment area for juvenile fish and especially the barramundi. Then there's the sugar loading jetty, the ultimate in structure and a FAD for both bait and large toothy predatory species.

With the planets aligning we woke up the next day to perfect weather with 10-15 knot winds predicted for the week we bee-lined it straight for a jetty session.

Armed with an assortment of the usual weapons that queenfish and giant trevally love to munch, and with a 10 knot southeaster blowing, I positioned the boat perfectly, 15m away, for a quick drift past the southern pylons. I threw my first adrenalin filled cast out way short and quickly shot another cast out, landing a 150mm bell popper 30cm from the row of pylons. On the second or third bloop I had a nice queenfish hooked and after the initial blistering run it proceeded with their normal aerial antics.

How goods this! Half an hour and a hundred casts later and we couldn't get a follow or raise a scale. Another drift past and the Humminbird had nice shows of isolated schools of quality fish hanging a few metres off the bottom. I dropped down a ZMan 8" Streakz XL in Pearl colour, rigged on a 1oz TT Tournament Series XHD jighead, jigged it twice aggressively off the bottom with a mega fast retrieve, then paused it briefly halfway up and got nailed by a solid fish. As it took off toward the danger zone of the pylons my wife Sue used some trick boat skills to get me into clear water for decent chance of landing a solid queenfish.

The next hour was some of the most insane plastics fishing we had ever experienced, with spooled reels and multiple brickings around the death pylons from XOS giant trevally. Apparently 50lb braid and 60-80lb leader, combined with ridiculously tight drags isn't enough to stop the resident trevally population as they succeeded in hosing us cast after cast.

At one stage Sue had been smoked by a 25-30kg GT as it hit a 1oz TT Head Hunter Extreme jighead and Pearl 8" StreakZ XL combo. It tore across the surface from the shadow line and smashed her five metres from the boat, while at the same time I had five or six crazy queenfish fighting over my 8" Bubble Gum StreakZ XL rigged on a 1oz TT Rev Head HD, insane! I didn't know where to look first. After Sue lost hers we boated my queenie and then Sue dropped down a Pearl ZMan 5" Grass KickerZ. First jig, zzzzzzzzzz... ting! GT and Jetty 2, Sue nil.

The initial hit and run, with arm stretching rod pulse, is something to experience from the absolute pit bulls of the ocean. Sue dropped another  two ZMan 8" Bubble Gum StreakZ down almost sacrificially and I couldn't help but start laughing as another small car engulfed the plastic and continued on its way to the pylons of madness... giant trevally 4, Sue nil.

The sun was now high and the tide slowing down significantly, the madness seemed to have moved on so we started drifting along the the main conveyor line, flicking the pylons and picking up some small trevally and fingermark on the 5" Grass KickerZ in Opening Night colour rigged on 1/2oz TT jigheads. With no real big rattles at all we swapped jetty sides and started flicking the shadow line instead of the pylons, retrieving the plastic as if a popper across the surface. The result was instant action with Sue hooking up to an XOS queenie and after 15 minutes it surfaced... a 1.5m plus cracking queenie shimmering on the surface trying it's best for a last chance of freedom! After a few pics we swam the big queenie until it gave us that tail kick and away it went. This was a great effort on a 6-8kg Dropshot / 3000 Shimano Stradic setup.

Next cast I blasted out through the pylons quickly retrieving my plastic past the shadow line. A bow wave resembling a torpedo started to zero in on my poor ZMan.  Five metres from the boat the GT turned, smashed the ZMan and headed into open water. Silly GT I thought as line screamed through my loaded runners, buckling my rod in half and I hoped I had double checked all my knots. After a few minutes of violent head shakes and crazy runs we started a bit of a tug-o-war battle and then all went slack. I quickly retrieved but still no tension and I was thinking the worst when up pops my jig head and ZMan. On a positive note at least it wasn't my knot, it just pulled the hook, s#@t. Will I ever land one of these things... not today as things switched off and the sun was slowly sinking behind the mountains, so we called it a day and a cracker day it was!

That night I rang my mate Jeff Wilton from Lucinda, filled him in on the day's mayhem and we sketched a plan for a jetty session, followed by a wreck session around 20kms to the north east.

Always have a plan B! As we got to the jetty zone there was a lot more activity at the end, not the piscatorial type either, cranes and workers everywhere. A small tinny approached and lets us know the scaffolding team was setting up the final stage of the jetty reconstruction after the devastation of cyclone Yasi. This meant there was a 100m exclusion zone for the next few months, talk about unlucky.

After a quick regrouping it was a convoy straight to the wreck, a quick 40 minute run. The wreck has a main structure, then isolated bits where it broke up. As we approached there was a good show of bait midway and a few scattered smaller schools near the bottom. In the 35m water column a 5-10 SE breeze enabled a nice drift for dropping a few ZMans. After Jeff put us on the mark we hopped a few off the bottom. I started with an Opening Night coloured ZMan 5" StreakZ and Sue with a Pearl 5" Grass KickerZ, both on 1/2oz TT jigheads and we started hopping them over the wreck.

Sue rattled a few trevors and stripies, but not too much excitement. I glanced at the sounder and we had a really nice bait ball under us about halfway down. Dropping to the bottom I commenced a jig up fast and retrieve technique. Bang; a solid hook up with nice head shakes and a really impressive first run. After ten minutes of tormenting me with more runs we saw a long silver hue rising towards the surface. Soon after a nice Spanish mackerel somehow eluded our landing net and had a final run for freedom. We eventually boated the Spanairdo and while taking a few pics I grabbed the leader... it broke about 2' from the jighead, lucky as!

Another few Spanish and spotty mackerel were boated the same way, the bait dispersed and of course so did the fun. Man I can't wait to get down the channel.

Standout plastics for these couple of days on the water were the ZMan 8" StreakZ XL in Bubble Gum and Pearl, 5" Grass KickerZ in Pearl on 1/2oz TT Head Hunter XH jigheads and 5"StreakZ in Opening Night. The TT Rev Heads were also deadly, that extra bling while jigging or fast retrieving is fish candy. I can't wait to experiment with them more when I get home. Since the trip the team at TT Lures have added the HeadlockZ HD jigheads to the range, featuring a unique grub keeper to lock the ZMan plastics on the jighead, so check these out.

And high-speed jigging / hopping plastics through the water column, so underutilized! A lot of times you will find a good show of bait and fish, start hopping a few plastics off the bottom and won't get a touch. Start mixing it up with your retrieve and jighead size to identify what's down there and fish to suit, you'll be very surprised!

Stay tuned for the second part of our Hinchinbrook adventure.

Cheers, Robbie & Sue
www.sun2seauvprotection.com.au

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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2017