One Hit Wonder – Luke Galea June 2013

Jacks! Enough said. The word alone is enough to make any angler a little weak at the knee’s, give that itchy trigger finger a real work out and increase the saliva in the mouth to the point of it resembling a 1 in 100 year flood.

Yes sir, anyone who has caught these tackle-destroying brutes will vouch for their sheer power over short distances and their ability to wrap you round a half dozen mangrove roots before you can even blink. Their notoriety has allowed them to earn the reputation of a complete thug, bruiser and hooligan (bloody Alf Stewart) and with that, our respect. These facets of their repertoire keep anglers addicted to their fight and forever envisioning the next battle with these estuarine predators.

Since locating to Mackay around six years ago, I have been fortunate enough to be exposed to my fair share of mangrove jack, and have been lucky enough to land the vast majority of them. This has not always been the case, as spectacular bust-offs every now and then are to be expected when targeting these crimson devils, especially on such light gear. But not as often as you may think….

To be absolutely honest with you fine folk, I was not even targeting mangrove jack on this occasion and nor was I even expecting to tangle with one. It was a couple of months after barra open season and having not caught a salty barra since last season – these bucket mouth chromies were what I really wanted to encounter this time round, but alas, it wasn’t to be. I’m not really in a position to be complaining about its substitute though.

Many people would not go out chasing barra (or jacks for that matter) with 6lb braid and 10lb leader but this type of gear is my mainstay and my absolute favourite gear to use. I have been able to hook, do battle with and most importantly land some awesome fish on this gear. In fact, whilst working at Nashys Compleat Angler and mentioning to customers that I use such light gear to catch such ruthless and hard fighting fish, I am pretty sure many don’t believe me and the small portion of people that do believe me would think that I have rocks in my head for using it. It is true that using this type of gear in certain applications would be absolute suicide, but by picking your mark and selecting the locations and structure you apply this method to, you can really apply the “going light to get the bite” philosophy and gain the upper hand.

Gamakatsu Worm hooks also play an extremely important role in these captures as well. They have proven the difference from simply hooking the fish, or, hooking and landing these fish whilst utilising light line. Firstly, Worm hooks give an angler the ability to rig a plastic weedless, which is a huge advantage when casting around heavy structure (I will actually be doing a demonstration on this at the annual Mackay Tinnie and Tackle Show later this month), however, this is not the main reason why they improve the percentages of fish landed. The reason for this is that the unique shape of the hook has an uncanny ability to hook the fish in the jaw hinge on the vast majority of occasions. This enables the angler to use lighter leaders as they do not come in contact with the raspy jaws of a barramundi or salmon or the canine teeth of a large mangrove jack. Gamakatsu Worm hooks have saved me on many occasions.

I rigged up my every faithful 3 inch Atomic Prong (carolina pumpkin holograph colour) on my 3/0 Worm hook and sent it out among the fast ebbing water. It was a very large tide on this particular occasion and I knew I only had a couple of hours before I would need to retreat to higher ground.

I usually get stacks of bites at this location, but for some reason, the fish were not obliging on this particular occasion. It took around two hours before I had my first inquiry… but what an inquiry it was. Six pound braid was almost melting off my Shimano Stradic 2500Ci4 as this big fish took its first run. When I finally slowed it down, I could just feel immense weight. I knew it was a descent fish, but at this stage, I had no idea what I had on the end of my line. When I saw the crimson flanks of this fish, I knew it could not be anything other than a jack, and a big one at that.

When it comes to fish milestones, in my opinion, a 50cm jack is up there with a metre barra or thousand pound marlin. It is that magical number that we strive for and try to achieve, and it is only when that goal is reached, that we are truly happy. This fish came painstakingly close to that magical number. I have only ever caught one 50cm jack, with the second biggest coming in at around the 47cm mark. The fish that I had just landed came oh-so-close to 50cm, only to fall short by 1cm. In saying that though, this fish will always be remembered and held in higher regards than my 50cm jack.

The reason for this is that the 50cm jack was caught on 20lb braid and 40lb leader whereas this 49cm fish was landed on 6lb braid and 10lb leader which is a great capture for this pedigree of fish. The photos may give the impression that this fish was caught from a beach with no structure, and that is why I was able to land it on this light gear. If that were the case, there would not have been the need to rig weedless and how often do you see mangrove jacks just chilling out on the sand and away from some form of structure? Not too many times I would imagine.

Despite not having dense mangroves or large rocks bars at this location, there are definitely still some significant, scattered rocks here, hence the reason why barra and jacks are ever-present. So those people who think that landing descent fish on light gear and in structure is impossible – I say, give it a go and you may be pleasantly surprised as to the calibre of fish that are absolutely attainable using silly string and a light rod and reel. You only have to look at the quality of fish that the “4lb Club” are able to subdue, to become a firm believer (check them out on facebook).

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Tight lines.