I have been using ‘madai’ and ‘inchiku’ lures for the past two years.
Most Kiwi anglers seem to dump them into the same basket and call the lot ‘slow jigs’, however, I have discovered they are different and should be treated and fished differently. Consequently, I will write about madai jigs in this issue, while in the next I plan to deal with inchiku jigs.
I initially stumbled across these various jigs while searching the Internet on how to catch snapper in Japan, and also helped to cement my belief that the technology coming out of Japan pretty much leads the world when it comes to catching snapper and kingfish on lures.
While we’re very lucky to have such a good fishery in this country and not many anglers (by overseas standards), the much more intense fishing pressure in Japan seems to have led to particularly efficient fish-catching methods being developed.) However, although some of these lures and techniques have been around for many years, they are only just reaching our shores now.
While researching the catching of snapper in Japan, two words in particular kept popping up: ‘madai’ and ‘inchiku’. At the time, only a few madai jigs had shown up in New Zealand tackle stores (along with a few more via overseas Internet sites), but, being a new lure junkie, I just had to have all the gear.
My first import consisted of a bunch of madai jigs – or ‘slow jigs’ as we call them here – in addition to a rod specifically designed to fish them. The rod was a very well-known USA brand, long in length with a super-fast action. I fitted a baitcaster filled with 4.5kg braid and a rod-length of leader to this rod, and then tied a slow jig on the end. This made me as happy as a pig in ‘you know what’ – after all, I had the latest gear from the States and a bunch of very good looking Japanese lures that not many other anglers owned. I was peaking to get out and try them, and after studying videos on You Tube showing how to do it, I was off.
It seemed my enthusiasm was justified, as first drop of the new kit and I was hooked up. The fight was a good one – especially as the rod was longer than I was used to – but upon getting my fish to the surface I was quite disappointed by its size. So I dropped again, hooked up straight away, and once again struggled with this rod’s length, as the leverage it exerted against me was huge. What a disappointment – my latest, greatest rod was, in fact, a lemon. Not only was the leverage used against me big time, I also soon discovered that the extra length made it hard to finely manipulate the lures being used. As a result, that rod went on Trade Me the next day.
But that didn’t stop me worrying why the lures could work so well yet feel all wrong on the recommended gear. Then, on a hunch, I found myself a short, very light jigging rod with a parabolic action and tried that instead.
From the very first hooked fish I could tell that this was a much better rod for the task. Being parabolic and short equated to less leverage exerted on the angler, and as it also possessed a forgiving action, it suited fishing the slow-jigs better and was less likely to rip or bend the small hooks out.
I have been fishing madai-type jigs for the past two years now, both on the charter boats I run as well as while fishing personally. The most important thing I have discovered about fishing for our local snapper with slow-jigs is that you need to fish them slowly – in fact, it’s almost a case of the less movement the better.
The technique that’s been working best for me involves lowering the jig to the bottom and then letting it hover over the ocean floor. Sometimes I lift it up very slowly a few metres before dropping it down again slowly.
I studied the action of the lure by dropping the lure in the water next to the boat and watching. I found that when you keep the lure still in the water, all the plastic tentacles keep wafting around, making the lure look alive. As soon as you move it through the water too fast, these plastic tentacles tuck in behind the lure and lose their look-alive action. So fish them really slowly – as if you’re in slow motion – and try to keep them still. Deadly.
As with most lure fishing, specific colour combinations can play a big part in catching success. One day it’s one colour scheme and the next day it’s another, so don’t get too set in your ways, especially if the fishing seems tough.
Using the correct weight is also very important. Use enough to get a good hover happening above the sea floor; just enough so your line stays at less than 45-degrees for at least two minutes as the boat drifts. Too little weight and you will be constantly letting out line to stay near the bottom.
The hook and skirt configurations vary, depending on the lure brand. However, in nearly all cases the hooks available so far are not strong enough for our fish and can bend, so get a few spare packs and be prepared to change them regularly. The skirts are also a consumable, and it can be harder to change some brands’ skirts than others. So consider this when choosing your madai jig, as believe me, trying to push the rubber skirts over their fittings in winter time using your fingernails can be frustrating. (I’ve found that heating the rubber ring on the skirts with hot water or steam helps a great deal – and it’s also a good idea to remove the hooks first when adding a new skirt.)
To summarise: in my opinion, short rods work much better than long rods for the fish we catch here in New Zealand. Although spin-type outfits are able to do the job, I prefer using a small overhead/baitcaster type outfit instead, loaded with 4.5-7kg (10-16lb) braid and a rod-length of leader on the end. Use lures with the strongest hooks you can find, and practice replacing the hooks and skirts before going fishing. Change lure colours until you find what’s working, and ensure the correct amount of weight is used. Slowing your technique right down is possibly the most important aspect, and hover the lure over the seabed so the rubber tentacles waft around and make the lure look alive.
This style of fishing seems to work particularly well on slow days when the fish are not that keen to bite, so madai-type lures are great to use over the winter months when the fish are in go-slow mode.
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by Paul Senior - 2011
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Originally published in New Zealand Fishing News