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NORTH BRISBANE JACKS

Keith Stratford

The mangrove jack season is in full swing now and with the days getting longer and hotter the action will only increase. Plenty of big jacks, over 50cm, have turned up already, along with some really impressive bust offs. I left them alone for a few weeks, spending all of my fishing time chasing flathead for the Flathead Classic, but I've got the bug back now. The fight of a big jack is nothing like any other fish encountered in an estuary around south east Queensland. No other fish requires the reflexes and locked up drag to pull them up on that initial run like a big jack. The first few seconds are crucial in a fight with a big jack and it's important not to go soft on them, even in more open water, because if there's a tree under the water nearby, they'll know about it and take you straight into it.

No matter where you fish for mangrove jack, they all have one thing in common and that's structure. These brutes love to hang out in all types of structure, including bridge pylons, fallen trees, rock walls, underwater rock bars and undercut ledges, just to name a few. Jacks also love current, so if you can find these areas with a decent tidal flow then your chances of hooking a jack will increase. Bait fish also like to hang out around structure, as it makes a break in the current known as an eddy. They like to sit in these eddies to escape the strong current and conserve energy... but the jacks know this as well.

Jacks aren't too fussy when it comes to choosing a feed. Mullet and prawns are right at the top of their list, but whiting, herring, biddies, gar and even bream and small moses perch won't be turned down by a hungry jack. Most of the structure I find myself fishing for jacks has a healthy population of mullet close by, so I like to choose a lure that imitates these. The ZMan 4" SwimmerZ are a perfect replica of a mullet and for this reason are my go to plastic for jacks. I've also been using the ZMan 3" MinnowZ this season and they've accounted for most of the bigger jacks I've landed so far. They both have a really good action and rig perfectly on the TT Lures Snake Head weedless jighead range. The Snake Heads are an awesome jighead as they give you the ability to confidently cast right in tight to structure like fallen trees and be able to work them back out. I prefer to start on the outer edge of a snag and work my way closer to the crusty parts until I get a bite. Sometimes the fish will be on the end of the tree and by hooking it away from the bulk of the snag your chances of getting it out are a lot better.

I like to mix my retrieves up a bit, but I find the most consistent one is a double flick. Cast the plastic in tight to the snag and let it sink to the bottom then give it two sharp flicks before letting it sink back down. If bites are hard to come by I'll try a burn and kill retrieve, which is a few quick cranks then a complete stop. I started trying this retrieve after getting quite a few hits while cranking my lure back in after working a snag over. Since then I've tried a few stops while retrieving in open water and a few different speeds and this has produced a couple of really nice jacks. A heavier Snake Head is needed to keep the ZMan under the water when doing this though. I like to use heavier heads of 1/4oz and 3/8oz anyway when snag bashing for jacks, as most of the water I fish is fairly deep. The lighter models are excellent for shallower work in less current, but they struggle to get right down in deeper snags.

The holidays will be upon us soon, so there will be plenty of people out chasing the elusive estuary thugs. Grab a couple of packs of 3" MinnowZ and 4" SwimmerZ and some Snake Heads to match and get down to your local river for some snag bashing. Remember to lock those drags and don't give them an inch! Cheers. 

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FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2017