CQ Reef Beasts – Dean Smith – Jan 16

Bobbing around in 30 metres of water, north of Rosslyn Bay Harbour, John, Luke and myself watched with dismay, as each passing minute saw the moon slowly, but surely descend towards the horizon and like it’s descent, we believed our prime bite period would inevitably be finished as well… boy, were we wrong!

By the time we decided to point the nose of John’s Cruise Craft back towards the harbour, we had our fill of a session that included enormous black Jew, hard fighting Trevally, scintillating mackerel, outstanding coral trout and a number of epic fights with piscatorial residents of the deep that we never had a chance to see. Before I get into the action, however, allow me to set the scene for what was one of my most memorable days jigging for monsters in sight of the Capricorn Coast.

My brother Luke and I received a phone call from our good mate and fellow Hell’s Angler, John Boon, who was eager to get his boat out on the water and test his brand new sounder, a Furuno FCV588. The plan was formulated that we were going to target some wrecks and bottom structure in about 30-40 metres of water with large soft plastics and vibes. I was genuinely excited at the prospect of this idea, as I had previously only used soft plastics in our local estuary systems and this experience had me rather ill prepared for what was to come.

We met at Boony’s house around 1am in the morning, at which point the lures that I had brought were inspected and subsequently left behind. Turns out jig heads under 1oz were not going to be of any use with the large tides that we would be contending with. Once the gear was sorted, we hooked the boat up and began our journey into the darkness. The forecast was for relatively calm conditions early in the morning with the standard Northerly winds picking up in the afternoon, perfect conditions. Unfortunately, the wind had not completely dropped off from the night before and we found ourselves contending with 1.5 metre north easterly swells. While the journey to our first mark was a lot slower than we had hoped, John’s expertise at the helm of his Cruise Craft ensured we arrived a couple hours after low tide, ready to fish the building 4.3 metre high that was scheduled to arrive at around about 7:30am.

Our initial pass across mark number one had the Furuno lit up with masses of bait and some more sinister looking arches holding closer to the rubbly bottom in about 30 metres of water. This was enough to get us all excited and eager to get our large soft plastics to the bottom and hopefully pull some amazing fish over the side. Luke was jigging a large Orange Tiger coloured Squid Vicious across the bottom, lifting his rod with slow rises and allowing the imitation legs to attract the attention of our targets as it drifted slowly back toward the bottom. John was using a combination of a large jerkshad and a hard bodied vibe in tandem, while I was using the trusty nuclear chicken Gulp Nemesis. Between the three of us we varied our retrieves between the slow ‘lift and drift’, to the quick burn across the bottom and quick sharp lifts of our rod tips to make our lures ‘jump’ off the bottom and into the water column. It was the slow ‘lift and drift’ retrieval that tempted the first strike of the early morning, after a solid two minutes of being hooked up, we were left disappointed as Luke wound in what was left of his leader after being rubbed off. Encouraged by this sign of piscatorial action we renewed our efforts with vigour and John hooked up just as light was touching the horizon, unfortunately, we were met with the same result as previous and were once again disappointed. After two hours and countless numbers of drifts across this mark we were bobbing in the water with naught to show for our efforts bar a couple minutes of screaming drags. The decision was made to move on further north toward another wreck that we knew about and see if the dawn bite leading up to the high tide could provide us with the action that we had been starved of so far on this trip.

Our second GPS mark for the day was a submerged wreck, once again in about 30-35 metres of water and it was absolutely alive with activity on the surface and underneath. We could see birds circling in the sky above us as schools of small Mack tuna smashed into bait. John’s Furuno was showing us the big dark arches on the bottom that told us the monsters that we were looking for were home. A drift line was set and once again we began jigging, Luke continued with his Squid Vicious, alternating it with a Gulp Jerkshad, I also continued with the Gulp Nemesis, while John changed things up a bit and tied on a Zerek Live imitation prawn with a 2oz Jig Head. We drifted and we jigged and we drifted and jigged some more for no return. We began to question our planning for this trip and other alternatives were spoken about, “shoulda’ gone to the port” John quipped to Luke as we went back around for another drift. By this time we were on top of the tide and there wasn’t much run, watching the sounder I noticed some larger arches moving into the middle of the water column, a sure sign of the arrival of some larger pelagics. I quickly cut the Nemesis off my line and retied on an old metal jig that I had floating around in my tackle bag for many years but never used. The 80g Psyko jig went down into the water and within two cranks of the reel I had hooked up to the first small school mackerel for the trip, not our target and a long way off of a monster, but as the old saying goes, ‘action breeds action.

The next drift saw me hook up to something a little bit more serious than a just legal school mackerel, my 30lb braid was screaming off my reel and I could feel some powerful surges. We called it early in the fight for a trevally and were proved correct when a solid specimen was pulled on board. Some high fives and a quick photo opportunity saw the trevally released to fight another day. By this stage there was some serious talk on board about everyone switching to metal jigs and turning what had so far seen to be a slack day into some pelagic fun. Luke and John persisted, however, with their soft plastic approach, “Eat Me! Eat Me! EAT ME!” came the plead from Boony as he jerked his Zerek Prawn through the water column, Luke and I didn’t have a chance to finish laughing at these antics as John’s rod buckled forward with a solid fish attached to it. Eager to see what we hoped was our first decent table fish come over the side we waited with anticipation, until John exclaimed, “TROUT! TROUT! NET! GET THE NET”. To the excitement of all an impressive coral trout was brought on board. It appeared after some further drifts that this wreck had shut down on us so we once again decided to head off in search of another wreck just to the north of our current position.

First drop on our third mark and my metal jig was engulfed on the bottom before I had a chance to begin the retrieve. Foolishly I had this fish called for another trevally, albeit larger then my previous catch. I was too encapsulated with the aggressiveness of the fight that I failed to notice the fish was fighting straight up and down in the water column and not sideways or in the circles that are typically attributed to a trevally. The large powerful runs back toward the bottom had me excited to see the quality of this beast that I had hooked up to. Both Luke and I were completely surprised when a hulking Black Jew came over the side, hooked neatly by the trailing treble in the corner of its mouth.  Weighing in at 14 kilos, this was my new personal best jew and definitely a capture that I will remember for many years to come. Celebrations were short lived however and we motored back around to reposition for another drift. I noticed that my 60lb fluorocarbon leader was frayed after the fight, so I quickly retied a new leader on using a double uni knot so I could get back into the action quickly. John noticed my knot and remarked that I should be tying the FG knot, “Never had a double uni fail on me” I confidently said back. As I dropped my Psyko metal jig back down, everyone was confident, this was going to be the drift we would all get a fish back into the boat. We started off well, with a three way hook up, Luke’s fish deciding to head out and away from the boat, while mine was fighting straight up and down again. Boony, on the other side of the boat seemed to be having little trouble with his as he pulled in a legal coral trout. A few minutes in and Luke and I were still going with our separate battles, until I felt that unmistakable ‘pop’ and then nothing but slack line. With disgust I noticed that my line had snapped off on my ‘good old faithful’ double uni knot. My attention returned quickly to Luke as we began to chase his fish in the boat, 7 minutes in and after this fish being called for everything under the ocean, Luke’s line busted and we were all left disappointed, except for John, who rather sheepishly held up his trout that was forgotten amongst the mayhem. A quick re rig for Luke and I and we went back for a final drift before we needed to get moving, I hooked up to a solid Spanish mackerel and Luke once again was in the fight of his life as he assumed ‘the prayer’ position toward the back of the boat. At least ten minutes later groans of disappointment were heard as for the fifth time this day, Luke was busted off from, what would have easily been the fish of the day.

A quick move to a well-known local spot called The Pinnacles, saw us all hook up and have some fun on a variety of pelagic species including Spanish, spotty and school mackerel. John’s new Furuno was displaying amazing clarity and we could tell all we were going to get was more pelagics, so we made the call to head back to the second mark that we had fished that day, in the hope that we would get onto possibly some fingermark or more trout. After numerous bust offs, Luke was out of his favoured lure, the Squid Vicious, so he moved onto the Zman SwimmerZ in the opening night colour. We had four of this particular colour and in the first three drifts, Luke was connected to massive fish once again, but could not stop them from getting back into the wreck and was busted off. Being an experienced trout angler, Luke had called all three for Coral Trout and was keen to try one more time before we needed to leave to beat the afternoon northerly wind home. Once again, Luke hooked up and did not waste any time, locking his drag up and heaving his fish high into the water column, ensured that finally, after so many bust offs, he pulled his first Coral Trout caught on soft plastics over the side of the boat. Relieved, tired and satisfied with a mind boggling day on the water that defied all logic, we left the fish biting and turned for home before the conditions became too unsettled for us.

Upon reflection on this day, I have realised that you can have the perfect plan with the perfect technique that worked perfectly for you previously and still be absolutely flummoxed by the denizens of the deep. Through persistence and changing things up at times, we were able to adjust and turn, what seemed like it was going to be a horrendous day, into one that will stick in my mind for years and years. Don’t limit yourself to what has always worked for you in the past, but be flexible and willing to try different things and you might just find that when the going gets tough, the smart get fishing. For some awesome footage of this trip, follow this link http://www.fishandboattube.com.au/media-gallery/684-offshore-with-extreme-fishing-solutions, while you are there, why not sign up to Fish and Boat Tube and post your own fishing videos for your chance to win some great monthly prizes!