Report: Micro jigging at Melville

PLENTY has so far been written about the advent of “micro jigging”. So far most of the articles and reports have centred on southern species such as kings and snapper.

Having investigated the latest tackle and jigs from companies like Storm, Maria and Black Hole, and having used some of this gear myself, I became interested in using the techniques and gear on northern reef species.

A plan to do just that came together when Mike Baxter, of Tiwi Adventures fame, kindly invited myself, my son Jack and Rapala’s Aku Valta, for a quick trip to Melville Island Lodge. As it turned out, Mike unfortunately couldn’t make the trip but he urged us to go regardless. How could we refuse?


Both Aku and I were keen to use some of the latest Storm Gomoku rods together with Storm and Williamson lures. I also had a Korean-made Black Hole Magic Eye mini-jig rod given to me to test by Bryan Todd of Sydney-based EJ Todd, local distributors of both Black Hole and Maria products.

I contacted my mate Wazza Smith, head guide at Melville, and worded him up on our jigging plans. He was keen to see the tackle in action. Before we knew it we were in a small plane landing at the airstrip near the Lodge. The first morning saw us heading east from the Lodge to “trevally alley”, a reef system about 8 miles off the coast. The sounder showed decent fish on the bottom but the first few drops with 80 gram jigs didn’t produce. A downsize to 25 and 40 gram jigs saw some good hook ups with a procession of golden trevally, tricky snapper, cod and Spanish flag coming aboard.

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Rapala’s Aku Valta with a “Gomokued” coral trout (top) and queenfish.

We then started hooking up on much bigger fish, most of which were unstoppable. I’m
not sure if they were really big trevally or maybe XOS golden snapper – in any case these fish powered along the rubbly bottom and smashed us up bigtime. A few fish turned into giant cod and/or sharks as well. Jig losses started to mount up, especially when the Spanish macks moved in and bit us off. We ended up with a respectable tally of fish, including a couple of quality coral trout, a nice golden snapper for jack and a decent GT for Aku.

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Jim Harnwell with a mack jigged up on a lure made from a 303 rifle shell.

That arvo we fished the famous Goose Creek for barra and jacks before heading back to the Lodge for a few welcome beers and a typically amazing meal.

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Jack Harnwell (top) and Aku Valta with Melville Island barra.

Today (Sunday) we headed west to “Mack Mountain”, an expansive reef system about 15 miles from the Lodge. The water down here was much bluer and after a slow start the area began to live up to its name. I’ve enjoyed some cracker mackerel sessions off Melville and this one rates up there as one of the best. We had schools of macks constantly cruising under the boat, along with sharks and batfish.

Jigs (again the smaller models proved most effective), diving minnows, slugs and soft plastics all proved effective. Catching the 4-8kg macks on the light jig sticks was amazing fun – these rods are so responsive, light and easy to use. We had a great few hours almost constantly hooked up on mackerel, along with a few tuna.

The ocean was blue, calm and full of life. Bait was showering in all directions, birds dove in amid schools of feeding tuna and macks exploded sporadically through the mirror surface.

Towards midday we decided to pull the pin and head east for about an hour towards Shark Bay. We cruised in over a flat blue sea at 30 knots and headed for a rock bar Waz thought might produce a barra or two. The tide was in the final stage of the run out. A quick session resulted in a good blue salmon for Aku, a heap of catfish for me and some nice little golden snapper for Jack.

I was hoping for a black jew but apart from one big hook up for Aku on one of his new Storm soft vibration lures we missed out. Waz, however, had one more trick up his sleeve before we had to bail for the ramp. A quick troll and casting session in a nearby side creek resulted in three barra – two 80cm models for Aku and a smaller one for me – plus a nice golden snapper for Jack.

This was a great finish to a typically epic day in what has to be one of Australia’s premier sportfishing destinations.


We have one more day at Melville before heading to Darwin for a day out with jigging maestro – and Fisho NT correspondent – Peter “NB” Zeroni before catching the redeye flight back to the “real world”.

Stay tuned for how we go in the final days on what has so far been a fantastic trip. The micro jigging gear has proven great fun and very effective – I just wish I’d brought more smaller jigs and incorporated wire in our rigs sooner …


For more info on the outstanding sportfishing offered by Melville Island Lodge, go to:

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