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MANGROVE JACK BASICS

Keith Stratford

The mangrove jack season around south east Queensland has been a cracker so far. Good numbers of 50cm+ fish have been hooked in most systems, with the odd 60cm fish turning up as well. Most anglers that have put in a fair amount of time chasing the red thugs this season have plenty of tales of bust ups and successes.

Mangrove jack are a snag dwelling species that like to sit deep in structure waiting for baitfish to swim within range, before attacking with lightning speed. A lot of anglers are under the impression that jacks will only bite during the low light periods, like early morning, late afternoon and during the night. This couldn't be much further from the truth. Jacks definitely move out of their snaggy homes during the night and patrol rock walls, gravel bars, deep holes, bridge pylons and mangrove edges, but during the daylight hours they prefer to sit in the comfort of their snaggy homes in deeper water.

Some of the mangrove jacks favourite hang outs include fallen trees, undercut ledges, rock walls and pontoons. The key to catching jacks during the day is to get your lure right in tight to their faces so they can't refuse it. Whether the fish is after a feed or just wants to kill the fish for invading its territory it doesn't matter. Once you get the jarring hit of a big jack, it's time to pull like hell and try to get it out before it turns it head and stitches you up.

Snags are a common part of jack fishing and this is where the TT Lures Snake Head jigheads come into their own. The Snake Heads are built on strong worm hooks with a free rolling lead weight attached to the eye of the hook. They are designed to suit any brand of soft plastics and suit the ZMan range perfectly.

I've found the range of ZMan 4" SwimmerZ and the ZMan 3" MinnowZ to be a perfect imitations of a poddy mullet and lures that a jack can't resist. When rigged on the Snake Head jigheads, these plastics can be worked deep into the structure where the fish like to hold during the day. I like to fish them on fairly light gear by jack hunting standards with 10lb braid fished on a quality spin reel matched to 6 foot spin rod.

Instead of the 40 and 50lb leaders normally associated with jack fishing, I've found that sticking to a leader of around 20lb gets the best action out of the Snake Heads and also attracts more bites. Bust offs are all part of jack fishing and a big jack hooked tight into structure doesn't give you much of a chance, especially on light gear. Getting stuck into the fish as soon as it hits the lure can be enough to shock the fish and will often turn its head in the right direction. Don't give the fish any slack during the fight on light gear, especially around heavy structure as they will bury you in the blink of an eye.

The 4" ZMan SwimmerZ and 3" MinnowZ are available in a great range of colours, with all of them producing fish for me so far. The Snake Heads are designed to suit all conditions and are available in a light weight 1/6oz for shallow areas, a 1/4oz for intermediate depths, right through to a 3/8oz for working the deeper snags or areas with stronger current flow. They come in 2/0, 4/0, 6/0 and 8/0, with the 4/0 hook being perfect for the ZMan 4" SwimmerZ and the 6/0 fit the ZMan 6" SwimmerZ perfectly if you're after a big bite. Get out there and get amongst one of the best jack seasons we've seen in years.

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FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2017