FISHING FOR AMBERJACK WITH ARTIFICIAL BAITS
Amberjacks become the catch of choice as soon as December rolls around. The fishos in the Sunshine Coast grab their tackle and head for the reefs to make the most of the warm weather Amberjack run. These fish can get pretty agro, this makes soft plastics and artificial baits ideal for getting them biting.
WHAT TO USE
When going after Amberjack, I like to use a 7-foot spin rod with a tough reel and dependable 40lb sinking braid. A lot of fishos like to use 30lb, but for me, using 40lb is more out of habit than anything else. A strong 30-45lb fluorocarbon leader is essential as Amberjack get pretty riled up and will chomp through something lighter.
This should be enough to get most of the mid-sized AJs. If you are really looking to land yourself a goliath, you will need a heavier outfit, suitable for throwing metal jigs, with 80lb braid (or even heavier) to avoid getting broken off.
As with most offshore applications, it is worth getting a rod and reel that are built to work together. Offshore applications quickly expose sub-par gear, and a well-matched rod and reel will make the whole process far simpler, like two components working in unison.
I will go ahead and pop a 1/2oz weight on in deeper water and deep drop-offs, if you are fishing structure in shallower waters, a 3/8oz will do the trick. Either a size 4/0 or 5/0 hook will do the job nicely. Now you are ready to chase some Amberjack.
DEEPWATER JIGS AND SOFT PLASTICS
If I am using a stand-alone lure, the best thing to do is find a decent drop-off, or an offshore reef structure, and dropping a shiny deepwater jig straight down. Go for a colour which shimmers like a baitfish to generate some interest.
Alternatively, soft plastics are also great. Their movement can better mimic baitfish than hard-bodies lures. Personally, if I am using soft plastics, I will throw some chum (usually sardines) into a school and get them biting, then drop a soft plastic lure into the middle and retrieve it at pace. This is usually enough to get some action on the end of my rod.
Your choice of soft plastic lure is important. Choose something that is durable and will stay on the hook during the fast retrieve, but that is supple enough to move on the hook and mimic a baitfish’s movement.
USING TOPWATER LURES AND FLIES
Amberjack are a deepwater species, why on earth would any fisho use a topwater lure on them? Actually, AJs will sometimes take topwater lures. They will often drive schools of baitfish to the surface. Once trapped there, they hit them hard, breaking the surface in places. If you have a school of baitfish on the surface and some AJs feeding, throw some topwater lures out for some real excitement. I never start the day planning to use them, but always have a couple in my tackle bag to have some fun with later in the day if the situation is right.
Some fishos also like to use flies on AJs. I see the appeal, and you will get some action on shiny flies, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The only reason being is I don’t like opening my wallet, and if you are going to take Amberjack on flies, you need a thick wallet, because you are going to lose a lot of flies. They hit them hard and don’t leave much behind.
Whatever lure you use, they aren’t going to last long. For that reason, I wouldn’t recommend using expensive hard-bodies. Inexpensive lures and soft plastics are fine, Amberjack aren’t picky and using more expensive tackle is spending money on nothing. Keep your retrieves fast, hit the structure and the drop-offs, and if they are feeding on the surface, bust out the topwater lures for the real fun.
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