Bucktail and the beast

By JD Filmalter

Bucktail jigs are the shit. I love them for many reasons. You can make them yourself and customise them to suit your every desire – much like a fly – changing weight, colour, hook size and so on. You can play with them until you feel you’re on the money.

Also, everything eats them. It’s weird, but I feel less attached to them than store bought lures. I guess it is because I know if I loose one, I can just make another. I think this outlook helps when fishing them, as you are happy to risk them on a rocky ledge or around some foul structure on the bottom, ultimately getting you into places where you might not tread with a more prized possession.

I really enjoy fishing them for kob. They get down quick, often defeating the forces of wind or current.

Recently, conditions lined up nicely. Fishing a rocky edge, I felt that unmistakable slack and hesitant tap when my jig was still a good metre from the bottom. A kob bite is always the same. Small fish or big, its not wild, its not hard and its not heavy. You have to wait until after the set to feel the weight and head shakes before you have an idea of your opponent’s proportions.

This case was no different. Striking wildly and winding like mad as it swam towards me during the eat, I thought, cool, a fun little schooly. But then I realised I was wrong, very wrong. The train left the station and ran up current, 100 m in no time, showing absolute disregard for my drag. I had to chase it with the boat.

Head shakes were solid, stirringly solid. After 20 minutes when I thought it should be nicely subdued, I realised that my 30 lb setup might not actually have the backbone to budge it from the bottom. At times it felt like I may as well have been connected directly to the bottom. I lifted, pulling as hard as I dared, the string just peeled right off. This is futile I thought to myself.  But then it started running me in circles. Dancing around and around the boat. Weird, I thought, never had this before. Maybe its foul hooked. Maybe that’s why I can’t lift it. But then after much patience, and many tours of my vessel, it started to give.

Thirty minutes after hook-up I got a glimpse. All I could see was a silver slab. One kick of the tail left a boil on the surface that could have been credited to a juvenile cetacean, and there went my progress. Ten minutes after that I was pretty much done. A Calcutta 200 and a 6ft baitcaster are not weapons for prolonged battles with the spool thumbed heavily for much of the duration. But just as I was really starting to doubt, I felt the pressure release as the fish gave in. Somehow I managed to guide it into the landing sling. Sling in one trembling hand, leader in the other. Fortunately my neighbour, who had been spectating since the hook up, jumped across onto my boat and helped me lift fish and sling aboard and into the waiting cradle full of water.  Measuring 172 cm this fish was probably close to double my age. Holy shit. I’d guess about 55 kg?

What an impressive animal. Only after watching it kick away strongly did I notice the new shape of my 7/0 jig hook. It has earned it’s retirement.

Feathers and Fluoro note: JD Filmalter is a local fisheries scientist with a PhD in ichthyology and he is currently working on a dusky kob project in the southern Cape area; he has a passion for saltwater fish and fishing. Catching and tagging kob is part of his current job description. He must be one of the luckiest scientists in South Africa.

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