Slow Jigging Fiesta

By: Isaiah Peter, September 2, 2016 | 0 COMMENTS

ATC Team Pulau Jarak Field Test

 

The ATC Team made a trip to Sitiawan, Perak, for a 3 day fishing expedition with the renowned Captain Cong of Tuna 3, for the purpose of testing some ATC products which were still in the R&D stage. The range included slow fall (PE 1.5,2.5,3.5) and long fall rods (PE 0.8,1,2,3), an overhead jigging real (1000size), slow fall jigs (180g-300g) and assist hooks.

The team consisted of Eddie, the chief rod builder and GM of our Penang factory, who designed and built the prototype rods; CW, our product development manager, who is responsible for the design of the new reel, jigs and hooks and me, the trip coordinator, representing the marketing team. We were joined by Felman and Steven, two slow jigging enthusiasts who frequently fish these waters ad have been assisting in field testing the new range.

DAY 1

After breakfast at 6.15am, we met Captain Cong and he gave us some insights on fishing these waters and some updates on the weather, current and catches over the past few days. We would be fishing in depths of 60-100 meters and our target would be bottom dwelling reef species. The journey to the first location would take an hour. We set up our hear and shared our experiences from recent fishing trips to kill time. The weather was great and an air of excitement was emanating throughout the boat.

Flying Kites

Once our boat was positioned at our first fishing spot with the captain giving the greenlight, the jigs were down immediately, but they fluttered for the first few meters before being caught by the strong under-current. Those that had the lighter 180g jigs had no choice but to make the long tiring crank to retrieve their jigs which were dancing like kites in the wind and unable to hit bottom.

There were a few bites but they turned out to be some large over eager lizard fish.

We were hooking up some table sized groupers too but it was truly challenging as even 300g jigs were unable to stay vertical once they were on the bottom. We had to improvise. We pitched about 3-4 times with half cranks and let the jigs fall. This was the only way we could cover ground and keep the jigs close to the bottom and not let them get carried away by the current. The captain moved spots frequently but as luck would have it, the current was just as strong at every spot.

Slowing it down is the key to consistency

The current began to slow down as the day wore on and we were getting more hits. Plenty of lizard fish and table sized groupers. Steven had a very consistent hook up rate and it was his technique that gave him an edge. His understanding of the jig’s action allowed him to modify his rhythm and repertoire. The wider profile of the prototype jig makes it fall slower as it sinks. By slowing down the oscillation of the handle between the pitches he was able to get the best out of the jig’s falling action rousing the curiosity of the fish and getting their reactive bites.

The biggest Grouper of the day however, belonged to Felman. He hooked onto a whopper that gave him a tough time on his PE0.8 setup. He managed to subdue it and brought it up. At 6kg, it was still considered average by the Captain’s standards but Felman was happy and that’s all that mattered at that moment.

Steven hooked on to a big fish at the last spot of the day as the jig was taken on the drop. The fish had him scrambling round the boat and the Captain issued the order to bring up all our lines to give Steven the space he needed to land this fish.

Our curiosity was put to rest by Felman when he indicated that this

location was known for big cobia. Round and round it went. Diving under the boat at the last seconds as it was about to be gaffed twice, the fish put up a fierce struggle to break free.

Finally, after what seemed like eternity for the rest of us, Steven brought the fish boat side and the Captain did not miss with the gaff. Once on board the fish thrashed about wildly as the Captain worked quickly to put it out of its misery. We resumed fishing and Eddie, CW and I contributed a couple of groupers to the day’s total tally before we called it a day.

Day 2

Today, the Captain pre-empted us to expect conditions to be similar to yesterday during our one hour and a half journey. He had observed that CW and I had brought along a popping outfit each and told us that we would try some popping if the current was too strong at the location we were headed to

We arrived without much incident and as predicted by Captain Cong, the current was too strong. We adjourned to an F.A.D (Fish Aggregating Device) to try some popping.

Topwater Action

The Captain positioned the boat about 30 meters away and told us to cast. On my first cast I had a hit as soon as my stickbait hit the water. However the fish missed the hook. As I continued working my stickbait back, the fish were hitting and missing it. CW cast his popper behind my lure and hooked up an absolute beast of a cobia. It was subdued quickly due to our tackle but weighed in at a hefty 25kg. We didn’t get any more top water action there as the school of cobia went under. As CW and I took a breather, the rest began jigging as the Captain drifted around the F.A.D. Steven hooked up on his second drop mid water. It was a good sized cobia similar in length to CW’s.

However, the fish was dropped during an attempt to gaff it. The bite went cold after that so we moved on to another location. The Captain told CW and me to standby with the popping gear as we would try to get some GTs while waiting for the current to slow down. We spent the next hour or so casting but the GTs were nowhere to be found.

Golden harvest

Once the current slowed down, we began jigging again. After a bunch of lizard fish, I felt something heavy at the end of the line. After a couple minutes of cranking, I saw that I had hooked on a cuttlefish. It managed to free itself before the Captain got the net. Felman hooked up a nice arrow head squid next and we kept it for dinner.

We hit a school of Golden Snappers as CW hooked up the first, followed by Steven. But Steven’s fish zoomed off as soon as he set the hook. While he was battling his finned adversary, CW and Felman both landed table sized fish. Steven finally got his fish to the surface and it was the biggest Golden Snapper I have seen landed on any jigging trip I had been on in Malaysia. It was in the 5-6kg range and had truly given Steven and his tackle a work out. The Captain repositioned the boat to target them again. I took my place along with the rest to try to get one checked off my species landed on jig list. I hooked up as soon as the jig hit the bottom, as did CW who was next to me. As we cranked the fish up, we teased each other about who was going to get the bigger lizard fish. Turns out we were both wrong as a trio of table sized groupers broke the surface, with two fishes hooked on CW’s jig! No time for photos as we sent the jigs down again. We hooked up once again, much to the bemusement of Eddie. It’s triple hook-up this time as Felman, CW and I hooked up similar sized fish again.

Imaginary Fight

The Captain repositioned the boat and we let down our jigs again. A couple of pitches later, I had a massive take. Instinctively I thumbed the spool and set the hook. A strong, downward pull followed as I tried to turn the fish’s head.

I could feel my leader rubbing against some structure as the fish inched back into its hole. My aching back was giving me trouble as I was hunching over the boat trying to gain the upper hand on this fish.

It was definitely a ‘Gas Tong’ (Big Grouper) as the locals called it. But alas I could not maintain the pressure on the fish in that position and he sneaked in and puffed out his gill plates making it nearly impossible to get him out of the hole. I was truly disappointed and tried everything possible to coax him out but he just would not budge. Finally the leader snapped from the abrasion, and I was teased for having an imaginary fight with a snag!

Day 3

Our first spot today was nearly two and a half hours away and we were told to expect bad weather. Mid-way through the journey we were greeted by a storm. The Captain slowed down as visibility was poor. We were soaking wet when we arrived at the location. It’s jigging time again.

The current wasn’t very strong. I had a take as the jig was descending and I thumbed the spool and set the hook. It was a small cobia that was landed without any trouble. The others hooked up shortly after and we landed a couple more cobia.

We moved to another place and Felman caught a nice grunter. It is not an easy species to get on jig. Lucky guy!

Cobia Mania

The rain slowed down and we were fishing in overcast conditions. Drifting along, we occasionally hooked up lizard fish and small groupers. Then, as I was pitching close to the bottom I had a take but the line went limp before I could strike. My heart sank as I could not feel the weight of my jig afterwards. I let out a warning that the Spanish Mackerel were around but my companions brushed it off as a one off incident. As I put on a new jig, one by one they got cut off. I could not help but chuckle at their misfortune as I had tried to warn them earlier.

Steven was determined to land one so he tied on another jig and tried again. He hooked up after a couple of cranks. He had to crank at double speed at certain times to maintain the tension on the line. The fish emerged shortly and it was an estimated 7-8kg.

As Steven brought the fish boat side, Captain Cong was ready with the gaff. It was tricky as the fish was hooked by the lower set of hooks while the hooks on top were embedded onto the fish below the eyes leaving the leader in a vulnerable position, should the fish change directions. Despite Steven’s best efforts, the inevitable happened and the fish was lost due to a cut leader.

Quintuple Hook-up

We drifted on and hit more cobia. Double hook up! Triple hook up!! Quadruple hook up!!! Quintuple hook up!!!! It was chaos on board as we tried to steer our fish away to avoid tangling lines.

The Captain quickly gaffed up the smaller ones as they were cranked up to the surface. Felman and I were hooked onto larger ones. Felman’s fish fought deep below the boat while mine was further out on the surface circling the boat. I backed off my drag and maintained tension on my line while Felman tried to pump his up to the surface. After a few nervy minutes, Felman got his fish up and the Captain told everyone to watch their feet as he gaffed it into the boat.

Despite having gone on an initial run, my fish was still very green as it had only been drifting with the current with minimal resistance. It stubbornly dived below the boat a couple of times as I tried to bring it in. Slowly I made progress, and soon the fish was boat side. The Captain gaffed the fish and it’s Hi-5s all around. We had successfully landed all five fishes! We posed for a couple of pictures and the Captain told us to break for lunch and let the school of Cobia calm down as they had dispersed in the commotion.

Cobia on Soft Plastic

The Captain was very fascinated by the 9” Zerek Flat Shad that we had in our tackle box and asked if he could try them out. He got a couple of hits but was unable to set the hook as the fish took the lure on the way down and often bit the tail end where the hook was not present. He modified the lure with the addition of two assist hooks and managed to hook up on the next cast. It was a good sized fish which was landed without any trouble. This got CW excited. He spent the remaining part of the day trying to hook a cobia up on the soft plastic.

After we landed a few more fishes, we called it a day when the Captain cautioned that the weather would soon be worsening.

Fun & Productive

As we headed back, we evaluated the new range and discussed on how some minor adjustments can further improve the products, to perform better over a prolonged period of use. We arrived back at the Capt Cong’s floating fish farm, where the workers packed our fish into the coolers before we headed to Meranti Fishing Pond and Restaurant for a well-deserved seafood dinner.

The highlight of the dinner was Felman’s Grunter steamed in soya sauce. We ended the night with handshakes and hugs as we said our goodbyes.

It was a fun trip with some amazing people who share the same passion. I am looking forward to my next trip with Captain Cong in the near future to hopefully get that “Gas Tong” off my slow jigging list.

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