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Mick Horn

As the title states this has been exactly what it's been for me. The ZMan 4" SwimmerZ has elevated itself to number one status, when it comes to confidence lures this year and has recorded some ridiculous numbers and also some epic captures throughout the year for me.

Over the many years of targeting mangrove jack I've caught them using so many methods, from surface, to extra deep diving lures and I'm always refining my approach and looking for an advantage to outsmart the fish. This year I put all my captures down to these ridiculously life-like lures and a technique I stumbled across while trying different things during those tougher bites on the water. It's turned bad days into epic ones.

When you hear the words 'reaction bait', you normally refer to hard body lures, with sound and a big action, that call fish from afar. You never really think of soft plastic lures in this sense, but when you add weight and speed, it turns these things into just that. Adding these two factors doesn't give the fish a lot of time to consider the presentation, so the bite is usually vicious. When a lure swims and acts like a fleeing bait fish a predator like a jack wants to do nothing more than kill it and this retrieve achieves just that. Burning and swimming the lure close to cover, or having it falling quickly to escape, seems to turn on that predatory nature of these fish. The trigger goes off and either your drag is peeling or you're standing there with no leader, left wondering what went on... and that's just as exciting!

The Jighead

Throughout my experience and successes with this technique I have used TT Lures Head Hunter Extreme range of jigheads in the 3/0XH size and mainly in the 1/2oz weight. This weight suits this reaction technique on the structure I mainly fish, that includes pontoons bridges, walls and oyster leases. Not only does the weight aid in casting and accuracy, it also aids in varying the depth and speeds to cover a lot of water quickly. The other reason I like the Head Hunter Extreme range is that it has a brutally strong hook that has a shorter shank with a wider gape, placing the hook closer to the head of the SwimmerZ. I find most jacks will hit the head first so this jighead is perfectly suited for this.

The ZMan 4" SwimmerZ

This lure has elevated itself to be my number one confidence bait when it comes to rigging my rods before a session on the water targeting Mangrove Jack. It is must have in your jack arsenal. The ElaZtech material is super-soft and this makes the lure so lifelike in the water, whilst also folding away easily for great hook penetration when the jacks crunch them. When it comes to colour choice I have three main confidence colours, but they are just the lures I throw a lot of the time, hence the captures. All the colours work and everyone's preference is the one they catch fish on, but as a general rule of thumb, most lure colour choices relate to suiting the water colour and water clarity, as well as the bait patterns in the water. As I fish a lot of cleaner water, I prefer the natural baitfish colours with a dark back, Pearl and green colours. I then vary them throughout the system. Like when using any soft plastic, take that little bit extra time to rig and they lure will swim true and look more lifelike for a big red dog to crunch and get the adrenalin pumping! A drop of super glue is ideal for locking the plastic onto the grub keeper.

The Arsenal

The tackle I recommend for this technique is more on the heavier scale and preferably baitcast tackle, with 20 to 30lb main line and 20 to 40lb leader. The reason I use baitcast gear is for the shorter, punchier rod, especially when casting around structure, whilst also maintaining power. The low profile baitcast reel allows for better drag and also for thumbing of the reel when you are required to stop and turn the fish. My main outfit consists of a Dobyns 664 Savy Series rod and a Daiwa Lexus 300 reel, loaded with 30lb Sunline Castaway and 30lb Sunline FC Rock leader.

The Technique

The technique I stumbled across one afternoon of a really slow bite where things weren't going well. It was windy and cold, raining and I'd actually switched off a few times with crappy casting and if it hadn't been for one of these casts I wouldn't have got the bite that I was waiting for all day. I put a few casts in a row on top of a long pontoon and by the third bad cast I lost it and burned the lure back in disgust. I got drilled but pulled the hooks! I quickly fired a cast back down the pontoon, burned it back and hooked a cracker! I landed it and turned the day around... the turning point was this technique and a year of ridiculous numbers followed. Although I've refined it and I alter the speeds and depths, it's been the reaction retrieve with the SwimmerZ that definitely has the results to prove its worth.

The Structure

Where I live here on the Gold Coast is a massive body of water filled with canal systems and a few main rivers where there is an abundance of manmade structure. So, a lot of my fishing and this technique has been used on these types of structure and I've also been experimenting on some natural structure in the upper reaches with good results. As with any form of structure, being manmade or natural, the biggest thing to look for and target are pressure points or eddies, where the jacks can sit freely and come out and destroy your SwimmerZ. Pepper these areas with multiple casts and vary your speed and depths to annoy one of these angry fish into striking.

I usually swim the lure with the current, as if gives you more solid contact with your lure and the fish doesn't have advantage of current to blow you away. As stated you need to have constant pressure between you and the fish, with no slack line, as you want every millisecond on your side with these fish. They are really quick to turn straight back to cover, so you need to strike and stun, or turn the fish straight away!

My first preference is to cast to where the water flow meets the structure, in search of those active fish. I then spray casts in all other likely looking zones deep around the structure, in an effort to turn on those not so active fish. Be prepared to apply pressure at the first turn on these fish as they have the advantage of being deep in the cover.


Of the fish I've landed this year, 90 percent of them have been landed using this technique... so get down to your local, buy yourself some ZMan 4" SwimmerZ in a range of colours to suit the water clarity where you fish, some TT jigheads to suit and experience the thrill and excitement of these awesome fish! 

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