Many people can’t wait to catch their first jack, and one of the best ways to do that is to fish with heavy tackle and live baits! From the snag-strewn tropical mangrove creeks to the city canals illuminated by urban lights, jack will respond to a well-presented live bait.
Depending on the state you live in, there are numerous ways to gather a few live baits. Cast nets, bait traps, and bait jigs are just a few ways to find a few jack lollies, but make sure you adhere to local regulations. Poddy mullet, whiting, herring and garfish are among the best livies for jacks anywhere, and should stay kicking on the end of your line long enough to attract a jack from its lair.
It goes without saying that heavy gear is essential when live baiting for jacks, and whether you’re using mono or braided mainline, it’s important to have a tough trace of at least 40lb, and preferably heavier. Black Magic Tough Trace and Jinkai Leader are two great trace materials for this caper.
Popular rigs are a simple running ball sinker rig, unweighted rig, and float rig. With any of these, it’s important to try and keep the bait off the bottom, and if not using a float, the current can be helpful in drifting the bait back and keeping it off the bottom. Gamakatsu Live Bait Hooks, Mustad Hoodlum Live Bait Hooks and VMC Heavy Duty Live Bait Hooks 9260 are excellent, and sizes of 2/0-4/0 should have just about any jack situation covered.
Fishing in the early morning or late afternoon into the night will put you in with the best chance. Whenever you do it, make sure you drift your baits in close to structure but not too close! You need to give yourself a chance of extracting the beast, and if you give them an inch, they will take a mile!
Once a bite is detected, it’s not the time to start feeding them line - you want to strike and hold on! The early part of the fight is critical to turning them and getting them to the boat. If you allow them time to run in the first moments of the fight they may just bust you off on nearby structure, as jacks are known to do.
Live baiting for jacks is a great way to get the monkey off the back, and also a great way to find larger models in our estuaries. This bare-knuckled knock-’em-down style of fishing appeals to those who like a challenge, and shouldn’t be passed off as just ‘boring bait fishing’!
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