A lot has been written lately about slow-jigs and how effective they are under work-ups, but this is not the only way to fish these great lures.
This article deals with using madai jigs (Lucanus, Bay Rubber, Rubber Monster, Power Jig, Crazy Charlie, Octo Anglers, Bottomships etc.) in situations when the fish are not aggressively feeding under birds, but sitting on the bottom around changes in depth – river-mouth drop-offs, steep shelves and the like. In these situations snapper are not always willing to come up from the bottom to intercept a lightly-weighted soft-bait, so madai-type jigs offer a good alternative for lure fishermen wanting to exploit this type of terrain. Often the fish are there, but not particularly active.
This is largely dependent on the wind direction and the sea floor’s characteristics in the area being fished. If the wind is blowing in any direction other than exactly along the contour, then drifts should be kept short, as not many fish will be found very far from the slope in either direction. A sea anchor can be handy to keep your lure in the strike zone for a bit longer, although I find drifting too slowly seems to make the lures less effective, so only use that sea anchor if you must.
By using this short-drift approach and starting from a different point each time, you can cover a good length of shelf in a few hours of fishing.
Using the lure
If the bottom is rocky and snaggy, it is best not to let the lure stay there for too long. These lures are not cheap, so a small lift of the rod or half a turn of the reel as soon as the lure touches down is the best way to remain in the productive area without unnecessarily risking your jig. After that, simply wind about six turns of the reel handle as slowly as possible. If no bite occurs, the lure should be dropped down again. When a bite does occur, it is often in the form of a few plucks as the fish mouths the skirt. When this happens, simply keep winding at the same speed and the fish will usually ‘climb up’ the lure’s skirt until it is hooked. No need to strike; in fact, it is detrimental to do so with the small hooks fitted to these lures.
If, on the other hand, the bottom is clean sand, just let the lure lift on its own before starting winding as before.
Different drift speeds can change things slightly. If the drift is quite fast, there is no need to wind in at all. Simply drop the jig to the bottom and put the reel in gear. Then the boat will drag the lure along and up. Just let this happen, and if no take has occurred by the time your line is at 45 degrees or so out from the stern, wind in and drop again.
Tackle for the job
Soft rods (I am currently using a 3-5kg Ugly Stik), small overhead reels, and either nylon line or braid with a long nylon trace (at least three metres) are best for this type of fishing, because you want some stretch/shock-absorption qualities. In addition to being great fun to use, this gear also helps to preserve the sometimes-tenuous hook holds attained by the small hooks fitted to these jigs.
I like to use a Genie Clip to attach the lure, as it makes changing jig weight or colour really quick and easy. As for the best jig colour, trial and error is the only way, while jig weight is determined by the conditions and speed of drift on the day. The idea is to keep the jig close to the bottom while still slowly rising.
I may be biased (because my boat is small), but in this situation I think a smaller boat has advantages over a larger one, especially in the shallow water often encountered when fishing slopes. This is because the boat has always passed over the fish before the lure gets to them. This is different to soft-baits fished ahead of the drift, when the snapper/gurnard/trevally obviously see the lure first. So for madai fishing, a small boat and less disturbance has to be better.
I think the reason that these lures are so effective for inactive fish around depth changes is due to their ability to stay in the right depth for longer, therefore remaining effective for longer periods of the drift. This can sometimes change what may have been a dour day into a good one.
This article is reproduced with express permission of
NZ Fishing News
written by Mike Gusterson - 2011
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited
Originally published in New Zealand Fishing News