The broad-bodied fish let out a series of grunting noises as it lay on the boat deck. Black vertical bars alternating between broad and narrow line the entire length of the fish. It’s hard to imagine this docile-looking fish could have dished out such good resistance just minutes ago!
Mustafa had a light tap barely seconds after the jig touched bottom. The bail arm was instinctively opened to drop to the jig back a metre or so. Re-engaging the bail resulted in the line tightening followed by the furious spinning of the spool. The fish dug deep under the boat, forcing Mustafa to lean precariously over the side with the rod bent towards the hull. After a few minutes in such an awkward position, Mustafa desperately pleaded for the skipper to reorient the boat so he could stand upright again for the remainder of the fight. It wasn’t a non-stop, line-ripping run typical of Ebek but one that gave sudden bursts of speed followed by some persistent head shakes. The visible black bars and unmistakable yellow tail emerging from the depths confirmed the identity of the suspect – Golden Trevally.
The Golden Trevally (Gnathanodon speciosus) belongs to the Carangidae family and is widely distributed across South East Asia’s coastal shores. They can be found dwelling around coral and sandy reefs, preferring clear water to turbid water. Juveniles are gregarious, hunting in schools while adults usually form much smaller groups, if not solitary. Perhaps the most distinctive physical characteristic of the Golden Trevally is the set of black bars covering its body, which gradually become lighter as they grow larger.
Jigging is an exciting way to catch these reef ‘tigers’. They are very often a bycatch when jigging for Ebek rather than a specific target, since their feeding habits and hangouts are very similar. The Golden Trevally has rather thick lips and an extendable mouth that protracts downwards, which suggests this species primarily feeds at the bottom, sifting through the sand and reef to suck out crabs, prawns or mantis shrimp in hiding. With this understanding, it’s a good idea to present a jig to the movement of a fleeing crustacean or squid near the bottom. The sink rate and flutter of a slow-style jig is therefore crucial, as you wouldn’t want to have a jig that drops to the seabed in an abrupt and unnatural manner.
It is certainly possible to catch them on a high-speed, jerk jigging stroke as they do hunt fleeing fish but a slow-jerk or slow-style technique keeping the jig close to the seabed generally increases the likelihood of an encounter. A basic slow-jigging style adopted by anglers fishing off the East Coast of Malaysia involves sweeping the rod with three to four short, casual jerks followed by a pause before repeating the process. The short, sudden movements of the jig are intended to imitate a prawn or squid darting away from imminent danger.
Strokes and rhythms may vary between individuals but it’s a good basic technique to start off with and gradually tweak until you find one that is most productive for you. There’s no need to work the jig through the entire water column, as the strike zone is usually the first 10 to 12 metres off the bottom. Simply drop the jig back to the seabed and work your way up the strike zone.
TYPES OF JIGS
The choice of jig, pattern and weight should ideally correspond to the prey. Like Ebek, slow-style jigs are ideal for Golden Trevally as they are designed to sink attractively on the pause. The fluttering and shimmering motion of these jigs on the drop enable them to stay within the strike zone longer, maximizing the chances of getting the attention of a foraging Golden Trevally. We’ve been fishing a fair bit with Storm Koika slow-style jigs and the results have been pretty impressive. Speed jigs jigged at high speed can catch them too but are usually not as consistent unless they are in an aggressive mood or if there are a school of Golden Trevally competing for food.
Recommended jigging tackle can be very subjective as different anglers may have different preferences depending on experience, size of fishes usually encountered and fishing conditions (e.g. presence of reef or hazards such as fish traps, or whether drift-jigging or jigging from an anchored boat). Here are some suggestions:
Leader: 20-30lb Fluorocarbon Leader, approximately 2-3 metres
Main Line: PE2 or 20lb Braided Line (approx. 0.23mm diameter)
Rod: PE0.8-2 rating
Reel: 3000 size (Daiwa equivalent)
Jig Weights: 20g-40g slow-style jigs
Leader: 20lb Fluorocarbon Leader, 2-3metres
Main Line: PE1 or 10lb Braided Line (approx. 0.20mm diameter)
Rod: PE0.6-1.5 rating
Reel: 2000-2500 size (Daiwa equivalent)
Jig Weights: 20g-30g slow-style jigs
Extreme Light Game / Micro Jigger:
Leader: 15lb Fluorocarbon 2-3m
Main line: 6lb braided (approx. 0.14mm)
Reel: 1500-2000 size (Daiwa equivalent)
Jig Weights: 10g-15g slow-style jigs
The East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia from Kelantan to Johor are proven Golden Trevally hotspots for jigging enthusiasts. Pekan and Rompin are popular destinations given the number of professional boat charter services and local amenities available. The West Coast and Southern Islands off Singapore are also great locations for targeting Golden Trevally on micro jig in shallow waters. That said, there are large specimens that roam Singapore’s waters too!