Summertime Savages. By James Falkenberg

With summer in full swing and the weather gods holding the magnifying glass and focusing the sun firmly on North Queensland, now is the time to enjoy a nice cold Callipo ice-block and sit back whilst observing the cricket. For those that fancy taking on the heat and getting on the water, you can be rewarded with some intense fishing sessions as the water heats up and the storms start to build.

Mangrove jack are placed firmly in the crosshairs for me as they love the warmer water and hot and humid weather which comes in turn with these summer months. One of my favourite ways to target these sultans of the snags is on surface lures. The strikes are ferocious and are often unexpected no matter how much you think you are ready for them. In this article, I will give you guys and gals a rundown on the gear I use, and the tips and techniques used to make your next jack mission a successful one.


The Gear – I like to use spin gear as that is just my preference. The risk of an ill-timed overrun whilst using a bait caster and an instantaneous strike from a big jack is a recipe for disaster, so that’s why I stick to spin. Any reel that is of 2500-4000 size is perfect for this type of fishing, and I load them with braid, there is no room for stretch when it comes to chasing mangrove jacks as every inch can determine if the battle is won or lost. I use 4lb and 10lb and my smaller reels and 20lb on the larger ones. Yes! That’s right, 4lb braid for targeting jacks. As a lot of you would know I fish 4lb braid a lot and have written many articles on this and I think many would be surprised with the capabilities of 4lb line plus, who doesn’t like a challenge? When it comes to rods, I like to use ones around the 6’6” mark and around 8lb-12lb. I find this length perfect for long casts up over the flats and drains whilst also short enough for pitching plastics under overhanging trees and structure. I like something with a medium to fast action also as this helps pull these fish from their timber lairs.


When it comes to leaders, well that is entirely dependent on your line class as in its very difficult to join 50lb leader to 4lb braid. On the light stuff I run about 4 feet of 20lb fluorocarbon as this is very abrasion resistant and let’s face it, we are gonna need all the help we can get. I then attach roughly 1 foot of 30lb fluorocarbon leader as a “bite” leader. This comes in handy if the fish (like barra) swallow your lure and gives you a fighting chance for success.

Lures – now this is entirely up to the angler but what I can do is suggest some lures that have given me results in the past. I will break it down into 2 sections – Surface and Sub Surface. Surface – I prefer to use soft plastics rigged weedless as you can cast them a mile into the snags with relative ease and the risk of hooking a snag is minimal. Lures like pop frogs and pop shads and even mouse imitations all work great and are already rigged weedless or can be with ease. Small poppers and stick baits also work a treat, and the strike is always explosive which definitely gets the heart racing. Although they can’t be sent in behind the timber with as much ease, the hookup rate can be somewhat better as most of these lures have trebles attached. There is just something about a big jack crunching a surface hard body that gets the adrenalin pumping.


Sub Surface – when it comes to hard bodies you can’t go past “shad” style lures or herring shaped divers in my opinion as they just have a tighter action which these fish just seem to love. It’s also important to check the strength of the trebles too when purchasing and thankfully most lures these days are ready to go straight out of the packet. There is nothing worse than losing a fish only to find the trebles weren’t strong enough and have been straightened. When it comes to soft plastics, it depends on the area being fished as to whether you rig them weedless or with the hook exposed. For example, heavily timbered areas or areas with a lot of structure and snag points I would be rigging them weedless and areas like drains and creek mouths or even submerged rock bars where the risk of snagging is minimal, then I would expose the hook point. Plastics, like prawn imitations, work wonders for these fish and can be rigged both weedless or hook exposed. Small paddle tail and curl tails also produce great results in heavily timbered areas, and I like to use as little weight as possible. Often plastics rigged on weedless worm hooks don’t need much weight at all, and there is nothing better than seeing a big hungry red dog engulf your lure just under the surface.

Time and Tides– I find the start of the flooding or run in a great time to target jacks as they seem to love a bit of current as this brings the food straight to them, remember, these are ambush predators and prefer eating as close to home as possible. If this coincides with sunrise or even better, a sunset when the humidity is at its peak then be ready for a jack attack! That being said, the last hour or so of the run-out tide can also fish well as the bait really has nowhere to hide as the water drains out of the snags and structure. Look for places where current is getting disrupted or diverted as these are great ambushing points for hungry predators and a well-placed lure can often result in an instantaneous strike and if you aren’t on the ball it can all be over quicker than the Mundine vs Horn fight!

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So if targeting these timber terrorists, these sultans of the snags, these summertime savages is on your to-do list this summer then all I can say to you is be prepared – you will get snagged at some point, be accurate – if your lure is not well placed, the jack won’t be interested and of course, be ready – these fish hit hard, and they hit fast, and they will exploit any weakness in your gear in a matter of seconds. Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel for more fishing action and in particular my video “How To Catch Mangrove Jack On Surface Lures” so you guys can see firsthand the gear used and the areas fished, and there is plenty of surface lure action to get you pumped for chasing the mighty mangrove jack! Ya gotta love that!