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Wayne Harvey

One of the biggest kicks I get, and I'm sure many of us do, is getting out on the water and fishing the creeks and estuaries. There are many different species to target in our waterways, but it's hard to go past the intensity and excitement of extracting mangrove jack out of their snaggy lairs. As we all know the times are changing and gone are the days of only being able to catch jacks on hard bodied lures. In fact, I can honestly say that when targeting these hard hitting animals, one of the best soft plastics on the market today and one of my personal favourites is the ZMan 4" SwimmerZ. These plastics are constructed from ElaZtech and are 10X tougher than other soft plastics, which makes them almost indestructible to jacks! Match the 4" SwimmerZ up with TT Jigheads, TT Snake Head or the TT Snagless Weight System (SWS) and you have yourself one deadly weapon!

When fishing for jacks I prefer a creek or estuary that has at least one rocky outcrop or rock bar in it. A majority of boaties will swear and curse at rock bars and usually can't wait to push past them so they can go on about their business and fish their traditional gutter or gravel patch, but have they ever asked themselves... "I wonder what lives in and around these rocks?" It's something that is overlooked far too often. Rock bars can be located anywhere in a system; at the mouth of a river, on a deep bend in a creek or as far as your boat will take you up a tributary. They nearly always hold a good supply of food and provide excellent shelter.

When fishing rocky outcrops and bars, I generally prefer the last two hours of the run out and first two hours of the run in. I find that in this window the fish have moved back out of the mangroves and off the flats and will hold around these bars until the next tide. This is the optimum time to sink and "hop" 4" ZMan SwimmerZ down the face of the structure and slow roll them back out. When fishing your plastics, use the current or flow to assist your lure into the strike zone. For example when the tide is pushing onto a rock bar position your boat up-current and flick your plastics back down into the pressure point created by the water pushing against the rocks, usually if there are any bigger, more dominant fish around, this is where they will be holding.

Using the different weights in your selection of TT jigheads and Snake Heads, you will be able to determine how heavy or light you need to go to get your SwimmerZ hopping down the face of the rocks, keeping it in the strike zone for longer. Once your plastic makes it to the bottom, give your rod a short sharp twitch to get your SwimmerZ just off the bottom and "roll" them out with the slowest possible retrieve. This is deadly for jacks! They just can't help themselves when a 4" ZMan SwimmerZ is rolled slowly past their nose.

Another advantage to using ZMan SwimmerZ is that they are super realistic and even on the slowest retrieves they are constantly working. When using this technique I prefer to use the TT jigheads in the 1/4oz #5/0H and if the tide has lost its run then lighten your jighead to a 1/8oz #5/0H. Likewise if the structure is a little heavier, the TT Snake Head jigheads in 1/4oz or 1/6oz #4/0 are dynamite!

Another situation you may find yourself in when fishing rock bars for jacks is terrain changing from classic, almost boulder type, rocks to a rubble or gravel like bottom. This is where the game begins to get a little harder to play, especially if the conditions are right for oysters and barnacles to flourish. This is a perfect opportunity to fish the 4" SwimmerZ on the TT Lures Snagless Weight System (SWS). Fishing the SWS (or ChinlockZ SWS with the new 'chin lock' to hold the ZMan in place) can be one of the smartest decisions you could make when fishing tough country. Not only will it save you time and money, but most importantly it will land you more fish. I like to match the 4" SwimmerZ up with the #4/0 SWS. Work out how much current you will be fishing and match the weight to suit.

When it comes to main line and leader I like to keep it fairly light to get the maximum performance out of the SwimmerZ. I usually run 10lb main line and around 20lb leader. As far as colours go, this is a personal choice, but I find matching colours to water clarity works well for me. If fishing dirty, silted water stick to your darker colours. I apply the same rule of thumb for night fishing. For broad daylight and clear water, the lighter colours all produce.

So next time you decide to target mangrove jack in a creek or estuary, whether it be in a boat or land based, grab yourself a few packets of 4" ZMan SwimmerZ and some TT jigheads. Seek out a nice rocky outcrop or rock bar and have a crack at these brilliant fish. You never know, you might just be pleasantly surprised!

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