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EP.3 - Northern Barra & JPs

After two days on the bluewater we headed back to Townsville to catch up with Tackle Tactics Pro Angler Vinnie Versfeld and hit the water for an early morning start in search of a barramundi. You can't head north without having a crack at a barra!

Vinnie's call was an early topwater bite and I was armed with an Okuma spin combo for casting a ZMan 4" Hard Leg FrogZ, while Vinnie opted for the Okuma baitcast gear and was mixing it up between a weddless rigged ZMan 6" SwimmerZ and a Fish Inc. Lures 80mm Fly Half Popper.

I was amazed that there was good barra water so close to civilisation and if I wasn't fishing with someone as experienced as Vinnie I probably would have doubted our chances. Instead I cast to good looking water and buzzed the ZMan FrogZ, listening to that magical bubbling sound the feet make when it's moving at just the right speed.

A couple of casts in and BOOF! The tranquillity of an early morning, with the sun breaking through the trees, was shattered by the call of fish on and a 'fun-size' barra breaking the surface. It was my first shot targeting a barra for a while, so it could have been 30cm long and I still would have been pumped.

We landed the pocket rocket and I took some time to admire this beautiful, dark coloured fish as I wasn't sure when I may get the chance to head north again to target barra. The ChinlockZ SWS jighead had done its job and pinned the fish perfectly in the corner of the jaw as they so often do, making it a pretty safe landing with minimal chance of losing the fish. I love throwing ZMan FrogZ as it fires up all of the senses as you hear, see and feel the FrogZ buzzing and then watch and hear it get eaten in a watery explosion. I have had some epic sessions throwing FrogZ in Awoonga for barra and this bought back loads of cool memories. I will be digging out the 2.75" Finesse FrogZ now to get that same buzz from the local bass.

When the fish was released we cast to a couple more edges and then BOOF! I turned to see the head and shoulders of a big fish come out of the water. Vinnie had been working a Fish Inc. Lures 80mm Fly Half popper, a heavy duty popper with a keeled belly that allows it to be retrieved with a 'walk the dog' retrieve, popped subtly, blooped more aggressively or Vinnie's retrieve which consists of short punches of the rod tip that see the Fly Half Popper create a disturbance while almost turning back on itself. This allowed Vinnie to work the Fly Half almost on the spot to wake up any barra holding in the area.

Once in the net we both admired the big barra... the bulk of it, the size of its tail wrist and that big gob... a mullet's worst nightmare! It was cool to swim the barra beside the boat, recount the take and the fight and then watch it glide away to put a bend in someone else's rod. The little Fly Half had again done the job for Vinnie, a popper that had also served him well on the trevally as well as the barramundi.

We continued casting for a while and then talk turned to jungle perch and the fact that I had not had the opportunity to target one. That was enough talk for Vinnie, he made the call to wrap up the barra fishing, grab the vehicle and head in search of a jungle perch. We weren't flying out until the evening so Vinnie was pretty confident we had time to make the drive and trek to have a shot at a JP.

This is a species I had read a lot about and even to walk the crystal clear, rainforest and boulder streams that they call home would have been enough for me. When I made that first cast though and a jungle perch tracked my plastic and then nailed it, I was hooked. Jungle Perch are solid fish that fight well for their size and the Okuma 6' 1-3kg LRF rod and 20 size Okuma Epixor XT spinning reel loaded with light braid was just about perfect for these long casts in tight country. Stealth and long casts are the order of the day, so as not to spook these fish in the shallow, crystal clear streams.

My first JP didn't even make the cut when it came to editing episode three of Tackle Tactics TV and I think it's because I was lost for words. For a couple of decades I have been waiting for the opportunity to land a JP and here it was in my hand, a chunky, beautifully marked fish that I quickly returned to the water. I had fished a ZMan 3" MinnowZ in Midnight Oil colour on a TT Lures 3/0 ChinlockZ jighead, as suggested by Vinnie and all thoughts of it being too big were now dismissed.

The next pool produced a double hook up and I was lucky enough to land a solid jungle perch that left me smiling for the rest of the session... even when slipping over in the water and sliding down a steep bank on my butt. I joked to Vinnie that it was like the antelope and the rhino going fishing. He had the agility and the speed and apparently I was lacking a little in the stealth department. It was a fun trek, with plenty of sledging, fish caught and the odd compliment for a long pinpoint cast.

We continued to work our way from pool to pool and regularly landed fish. A few highlights included Vinnie tea bagging a ZMan 2.5" TRD CrawZ over a branch, in and out of the water as a JP tried to eat it and finally found its mark, along with a couple of double hook ups from larger pools and Vinnie pulling a solid fish from a log in a small backwater on our trek back. Andrew the cameraman even had a couple of casts and landed his first jungle perch while Vinnie was operating the camera and reckons he was doing a pretty good job capturing the action. Fun times.

All fish were handled with care and released in good condition to continue hunting their pristine pools and guarding their favourite snags. For the southern bass anglers that fish skinny water, you will know where to put your lures. Targeting those shady pockets, lay down timber, overhanging vegetation, snag piles and deeper pockets all produced fish and we fished a few different ZMan plastics, including the 3" MinnowZ, 3.5" Trick ShotZ, 2.5" TRD CrawZ and 2.5" GrubZ, all rigged weedless on TT ChinlockZ and ChinlockZ SWS jigheads to minimise snagging. In some of the more open pools we also fished a TT Lures Jig Spinner on a HeadlockZ or DemonZ jighead, adding some flash and vibration to the presentation.

If you get the opportunity to target a jungle perch they are well worth the effort. If heading into more remote areas don't forget a basic first aid kit, bug spray, sunscreen, a snack and water, while also ensuring you let someone know where you are headed and when you expect to be back. Make sure your phone is fully charged and in a waterproof container, remembering that you may not have phone service in all areas. I would also suggest fishing with at least one other person when trekking more remote water.

It was time to call a wrap on what had been an awesome few days in north Queensland, including a couple of morning sessions on the bluewater and a day in the fresh. Make sure you stay tuned for our next few episodes of Tackle Tactics TV as we head south to Victoria to hit a variety of environments in search of some of Australia's favourite target species.

All the best with the fishing.
Justin Willmer


Okuma Cerros 701H 7' 5-12kg Spin Rod and Helios SX 40 Spinning Reel
Okuma Cerros 661H 6'6" 5-8kg Baitcast Rod and Okuma Cerros / Ceymar Baitcast Reel
ZMan 4" Hard Leg FrogZ on a TT Lures 1/8oz 6/0 ChinlockZ SWS jighead.
ZMan 6" SwimmerZ on a TT Lures 3/8oz or 1/2oz 6/0 SnakelockZ jighead
Fish Inc. Lures 80mm Fly Half Popper

Okuma 602L 6' 1-3kg LRF Spin Rod and Helios SX 20 Spinning Reel
Okuma 602L 6' 1-3kg LRF Spin Rod and Epixor XT 20 Spinning Reel
ZMan 3" MinnowZ / 3.5" Trick ShotZ / 2.5" TRD CrawZ / 2.5" GrubZ
TT Lures ChinlockZ / ChinlockZ SWS / ChinlockZ Finesse jigheads
TT Lures Jig Spinners attached to TT HeadlockZ / DemonZ jigheads