How to

Cast Lon, Wind Fast

If full-on surface explosions involving crazed mackerel snapping at a lure as you frantically wind as fast as you can gets your blood racing, then do what MARK WILLIAMS did and head to the famed ledges at WA’s Quobba Station.

SPEED is one of those things that is craved throughout society, especially by those who lack it. Some people lust for fast cars, fast bikes or fast planes. For footballers  or athletes, speed is the vital attribute that separates the elite from the also rans. It’s the same in the world of rock spinning. Speed is the essential ingredient that consistently incites hard fighting gamefish such as tuna and mackerel to slam lures. Sure, there have been brief dalliances with slow actioned lures over the years, but having had the benefit of some longevity in this game I’ve seen them all come and go. The faithful always return to cranking their lead or metal baitfish profiles, surface poppers or bibless minnows as fast as their reels will permit. 

The importance of speed was hammered home to me on a recent trip to the famed WA rock ledges at Quobba Station near Carnarvon, WA. I’ve wanted to visit these fabled ledges all my life and when the opportunity came through my good mate and Quobba veteran Miles Leahy I jumped at it. It really was the chance of a lifetime to fish the renowned shark mackerel run – a time honoured sandgroper LBG tradition – with gun WA anglers such as Miles, Kim Seinor and Alan Barker. Miles and Alan have about 70 years of combined experience fishing Quobba’s many rock spots so I couldn’t have been in better hands, especially considering the area’s reputation for dangerous king waves. As it turned out, Miles and Kim had timed the trip perfectly for the start of the mackerel run and we hit the first wave of the biggest, most lure hungry sharkies. The only way I could describe the excellent fishing we experienced would be to compare it to the rock spinning we enjoyed back on the east coast when I started out in the early 1980s. Basically, it reminded me of the hottest east coast bonito spin sessions I’ve ever been involved with except that the speedy shark mackerel were up around the 8-9kg mark, while our bonnies averaged  a couple of kilos at best. The other very noticeable difference was the fact that virtually all the sharkie bites were explosive, surface strikes whereas east coast bonito spinning is generally dominated by blind strikes when you’re racing a lure up from the depths. It was exhilarating, visual fishing where you knew that if a wave of sharkies came through it was just a matter of cranking that reel as fast as you could and the strikes would just keep coming till one stayed permanently connected – just like tuna spinning east coast style, but better. The following is a rundown of what worked and what didn’t for any anglers who like me have dreamed of fishing this extraordinary stretch of coastline for hard fighting mackerel. 

Sharkie Tackle  

Speed rules on the west coast LBG ledges when mackerel spinning, so I felt right  at home. Fortunately my tackle was perfectly suited to the locations we fished and conditions we experienced. My workhorse outfit for the trip was a Penn Torque 200 overhead reel combined with a beautiful custom Composite Developments Graphcast 4 overhead  spin rod built my mate Eugene Partridge – the best specialist rock spin rod builder in the country, in my opinion. The Torque was a dream to use in the often windy conditions as I’d installed a magnetic cast control prior to the trip which worked perfectly. The lightning fast  6.3:1 gear ratio of the Torque ensured I was cranking my jigs in at the optimum speed to ensure the sharkie strikes would be forthcoming when the next wave came through. The Graphcast spin rod was perfectly suited to the 40 to 60 gram jigs we were throwing at the sharkies and the 9-foot length was handy around a few of the more awkward ledges we fished.

One point I would stress is that if you aren’t 100 per cent confident in using overhead casting reels in onshore wind conditions then stick with a threadline outfit as Quobba is probably the windiest LBG location I’ve ever fished. The threadline outfit used by Miles Leahy of a super smooth Ryobi Metaroyal Safari 5000 and Graphcast 4 spin rod was perfect for the windy conditions and calibre of fish encountered on the trip. If I was going back I’d probably take a threadline outfit like Mile’s Ryobi/Graphcast combo as back up for my overhead gear. 

Lure Lessons 

Whenever you fish a new location there’s always some trepidation over whether you’ve taken the right lures and if you’ve got enough of them. I thought I had it pretty right for this trip after plenty of emails back and forth with Miles about what to take. Basically, I was going to pack plenty of chromed jigs such as Spanyid Raiders and Snipers, plus some bibbed and bibless minnows such as the Halco Max and a few soft plastics. Well, I could have saved myself a lot of baggage weight on my flights by leaving most  of the chromed jigs at home as they  were ineffective in the strong winds we endured each day. I caught my first shark mackerel on a 50 gram Spanyid Sniper and then used Miles Leahy’s white lead head jigs for the rest of the trip. It was a revelation how ideally suited the lead head jigs were to the western rock spinning scene. The fish loved them,  they cast really well even in strong winds and the single hook configuration allowed for easy, safe releases of unwanted fish. However, the key factor in the jigs’ success for me was their ability to stay in the water in strong cross winds. The harder you cranked the lead head jigs, the better they hung in, whereas the chromed jigs were constantly blowing out of the water, resulting in a massive belly in your line during the retrieve which contributed to plenty of missed hook ups. 

The 55 gram white lead head jigs proved to be the most effective lures in windy conditions, although I did use a lighter jig when conditions were more favourable. The slightly reduced hook up rate of the single hook jigs when compared to treble armed lures wasn’t a factor when chasing schooling pelagics such as shark mackerel because they basically continued to pack assault  the lure till a solid hook up occurred. Other species landed on the lead head jigs included gold spot trevally and Rankin cod.

The tried and true 85 gram Spanyid Raiders accounted for the couple of Spanish mackerel we landed. Smaller soft plastics also provided plenty of action for Miles and Kim on some big dart in the washes on light tackle.  Miles also had a number of broad bar mackerel strikes on bibbed minnows  and suggested that it’s always worth carrying a few in the backpack.

Sharkie Tactics

Tactics for pursuing shark mackerel took me back to the halcyon days of the east coast high speed spin boom. The main objective is to have a lure in the water constantly, so when things are quiet it pays to have at least one guy continually spinning so you know when the next wave of sharkies comes through. Once a strike or hook up occurs the remaining anglers scramble to the water’s edge to get a cast out. If you’re attentive and have your outfit rigged and ready to go and can get a lure into the water quickly a hook up will usually occur. Once again, speed is of the essence.

As far as lines goes I used 20lb Rovex 10X and 19lb Sufix Tritanium monofilament exclusively throughout the trip. I found these lines gave me good castability with enough pulling power to get the shark mackerel in relatively quickly; we only lost a couple of fish to sharks. Short single strand wire leaders were mandatory too as the sharkie’s regularly took the jigs surprisingly deeply. I saw the hooks pulled on a number of mackerel during the trip by anglers using GSP braided lines so I’m still not sure if that’s the way to go with hard mouthed species such as mackerel. I think if I were to go again I’d probably take an overhead outfit spooled up with monofilament and a heavy duty threadline outfit loaded with GSP braid as a back up.

For an east coast rock spin fanatic, the opportunity to fish the famed LBG ledges at Quobba was akin to being invited to Mecca. I spent my youth reading articles written by the early east coast anglers to make the western LBG pilgrimage such as Simon Cassettari and Sam Bugeja. There’s a lot to like about shark mackerel and I can see why they’re held in such high regard as they fight hard, slam lures with gusto and continue to do so in an almost suicidal manner till a hook  up is achieved. It really is a style of fishing that rewards those that cast long and wind fast.

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