Tropical micro jigging – Does it work?

AS regular readers already know, I recently headed north to magnificent Melville Island Lodge to drop mini metals in search of reef-dwelling predators.

This trip, on which I was accompanied by my 18-year-old son Jack and great mate Aku Valta (the MD of Rapala), was something of an experiment: to my knowledge, the “micro jigging” craze which is so successful on southern species such as kings and snapper hasn’t been featured much in Top End waters. Would it work? Perhaps more importantly, could the ultra-light jig tackle handle ferocious northern sportfish?

The answer to the first question is an unequivocal yes. A host of fish including mackerel, golden snapper, coral trout, cod, various lutjanids, tuna and even sharks attacked our mini metals.

The second question requires a slightly more complex response. There was no problem dealing with the target fish. The jig gear we used (a Storm Gomoku Kaiten rod with an Okuma RTX 30 loaded with 18lb Sufix 832 braid together with a Black Hole Magic Eye Torque TJ-582S jig stick teamed with a Daiwa Certate 2500 and 30lb Sunline PE braid) proved effective at hooking and fighting fish ranging from greedy little cod to respectable Spaniards and trevally.

The problems eventuated when the hooked fish got eaten by either giant cod (there’s a resident cod known as “The General” which weighs around 300 kilos at one of the reefs off the Lodge) or sharks. Once your hooked fish got snaffled (usually by a whopper cod) you had no hope. That said, you’d have little chance of landing these monsters on anything but the heaviest tackle. Poor old Aku got dragged around the boat for about 30 minutes after The General scoffed one of his trevally … Eventually the big old cod got sick of playing around and comprehensively smashed Aku in the reef!


Rapala’s Aku Valta (foreground) and top NT guide Wazza Smith with a couple of jigged up macks.

As far as I’m concerned, the positives of micro jigging far outweigh the negatives. The great thing about this light jig tackle is how easy it is to use. Balanced lightweight combos make active fishing all the more enjoyable, especially in the heat of the tropics. I found it a pleasure to jig and spin with this gear and experienced no fatigue at all. The gear was also very versatile. Although we mainly jigged a variety of Storm, Maria, Halco and Williamson jigs, we also threw plastics and cast metals – I even used my top-of-the-line Black Hole outfit to fish baits offshore and cast lures at snags for barra!

The other benefit was that the relatively light tackle allowed maximum enjoyment of the fish. Even relatively small fish put up a good fight on this responsive tackle. Hook something decent and it’s surprising how much power these diminutive rods have. My Certate boasts seven kilos of drag and on a few of the bigger macks and reef fish I hooked I had it cranked up pretty hard. Under as much drag as I dared, the Magic Eye just loaded up – and up – and up. It was truly quite incredible how much pressure the rod took. The Gomoku rod, albeit a lighter stick, was much the same – it was scary to see how hard you could pull on these crazy little rods!

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Young jack Harnwell had a ball catching goldies with his Storm Gomoku outfit. This rod is the Kaiten model, the heaviest in the range.

The other interesting aspect of this trip related to the lures used. I took an assortment of jigs ranging from 25 to 160 grams. We were mainly fishing water in the 20 to 30m range and I had a preconception that jigs in the 80 to 120 gram range would produce the goods on trout, golden snapper, trevally and even jewfish. While we caught enough reef fish to keep us busy, the predominant species we encountered were Spanish mackerel. Interestingly, both the macks and the reefies spurned the larger jigs in favour of 25-40 gram models. The reason why became clear after a few fish spewed up masses of tiny bait. All the fish, even 8-10kg Spaniards, were gorging on 5cm baits.

I don’t recall getting a hit on a jig over 80 grams in weight. This was pretty surprising – and frustrating as our supply of small jigs soon diminished after a seemingly endless – and expensive! – series of bite offs and bust-ups due to marauding cod/sharks …

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Although a fairly light rod, the Gomoku is plenty strong!

The fish shied away from jigs rigged with wire, which made things even harder. A compromise was to use wire-rigged assist hooks (kindly supplied to me by Fisho writer Pete Zeroni, who’s well known as an NT jig specialist).

All up, this exploratory tropical micro jigging expedition ranks up there as one of the more interesting Top End trips I’ve done. We enjoyed spectacular weather, flat calm seas and consistent – and occasionally spectacular – action. Of course, fishing with legendary guide Warren “Wazza” Smith and staying at the luxurious Melville Island Lodge didn’t hurt either …

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Golden trevally were one of the more common catches on the small jigs.

Stay tuned for an in-depth article on tropical micro jigging in the March 2014 issue of Fisho. For info on the fishing options at Melville, see Heading there early or late in the season is probably the ideal option as you’ll get the best chance at the calm conditions needed for tropical bluewater sportfishing.

If you’re interested in finding out more about micro jigging tackle, go to for details on the Storm Gomoku gear and for the Black Hole rods and Maria jigs.

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