High Speed Spinning for Mackerel

The bail arm of the high speed Daiwa Catalina spin reel is opened allowing the braid to flow freely off the spool into the deep blue depths below. A glimpse at the sounder shows a mid water maelstrom of bait and fish and as the metal jig connected to the line slips through them the anticipation of a hook up weighs heavily on the anglers mind before the jig touches down on the ocean floor.

spin9Taking in a quick breath and securing the jig rod in the gimble the angler readies themselves for the 15 seconds of extreme effort in simultaneously winding and pumping that metal jig as fast as possible vertically through the water column in an attempt to imitate a wounded bait fish and more importantly draw a strike from one of the greatest sports fish that swim the seas- the Spanish mackerel. Grabbing the large jigging knob of the reel, the angler begins the retrieve in flurry, dragging the jig at extreme pace through the water. As it reaches the spot where the sounder shows the mixture of bait and fish a short jab registers through down the rod, an unsuccessful hook up, but before there is a chance for the angler to despair, the jig rod bends over and braid begins to peel off the spool at a rapid rate as the hooked Spanish mackerel below finds the pointed trebles and begins to run for its life.

Fast And The Furious

Fast & Furious: A Spanish mackerel ...

Fast & Furious: A Spanish mackerel …

There is little in the world of fishing which is faster, more furious and high impact than high speed spinning for Spanish mackerel. If you could look for an extreme version of fishing than high speed jigging is certainly right up there as it is all about maximum energy over the shortest amount of time for big fish results. Like most forms of fishing, high speed spinning for Spanish mackerel requires specialised tactics and even more specialised gear to get the job done properly. The first aspect to consider is around where to practice your high speed spinning. 
To be successful in the game of high speed spinning for Spanish mackerel you really need to find locations where Spanish mackerel become quite condensed. Fortunately, Spanish mackerel are one of the most wide spread pelagic species along the east coast of Australia in both tropical and temperate waters and if you know your seasons, finding a hot spot where these fish congregate is not that difficult.

When things warm up a little

A monster mackerel.

A monster mackerel – great sport but getting to big to eat.

In the warmer months these fish tend to congregate in big numbers in the southern part of the state, whilst in the northern months winter and spring seem to bring in the better fish. Furthermore Spanish mackerel can school in areas just offshore which means they can be easily targeted in small trailer boats and even kayaks. In fact high speed spinning out a kayak is very much a viable option and is quickly becoming a favourite pass time for many non boaters.

Find the Bait, Find the Fish

Having a quality sounder and knowing how to use it will dramatically help when it comes to successful fish in for mackerel.

Having a quality sounder and knowing how to use it will dramatically help when it comes to successful fish in for mackerel.

When looking at where to jig the secret is to find where the bait is congregating. Certain runs of the tide will push bait schools into tight balls which will signal to the Spanish mackerel to feed. Drawing them in together and condensing the fish into tighter balls as opposed to small groups cruising the area increases the odds of your jig moving through a fish’s strike zone and drawing a strike. This is where a quality sounder is really helpful as being able to drop over the top of a school of fish and bait will significantly increase your chances of hooking up to a fish. Spots like jetty’s, shoals and pinnacles are an excellent place to start looking and it pays to head down to your local tackle store to find out when the Spanish mackerel run the hardest.

Ins and outs of jig rods

This mackerel fell to a Bumper Bar jig.

This mackerel fell to a Bumper Bar jig.

Once you have a fair idea where the Spanish may be hiding it’s now time to get your gear in order. Jig rods are usually quite short in length often less than 6 feet and have extended bottom lengths which allow the rod to bend right through from the tip to the butt. The shorter rod length and higher than usual top hand position, allows for a faster retrieve and for the angler to impart more action on the high speed retrieve. Personally my favourite jig rod is the NS Black Hole Explorer due to its specific rod build which allows me to jig faster and with better technique without having to do a lot of extra work. Whilst you can make some allowances with a rod, the speed of your reel cannot be compromised. If you are going to be in with a chance you really need to be using a spin reel with a retrieve of 6:1 or more and a large spool is also essential. When purchasing a high speed spin reel look for the models such as from Daiwa which include the letter. This usually indicates a high speed retrieve and is absolutely fundamental to your jigging success- more on this later. The next vital piece of kit is gimble or rod bucket. Having somewhere to position the rod butt during the high speed retrieve is incredibly helpful as it centralises the rod and keeps it in position which allows you to concentrate on getting that jig back as fast as possible without losing control of the rod. 
When it comes down to line selection, anglers have a choice between braid and mono lines. Braid on one hand will allow your jig to sink fast and retrieve quicker however the lack of stretch can sometimes mean pulled hooks or less hooks ups on the strike. Mono on the other hand will come in slower but tends to lead to less pulled hooks as the stretch often cushions the high impact strike.

It’s all in the braid


This is what you want your jig to impersonate. Find the bait and you will find the fish.

Personally I prefer to use Sunline Jigging braid as the 8 strand build of the braid allows for some cushioning with super strong strength whilst at the same time the colouration of the line allows me to see when my jig is at certain depths. This is vital because the sounder may show fish feeding at 20 feet off the bottom which means when I see the colouration of the braid which shows this depth I can ready myself for the strike. 
Leader choice is also extremely important.

Flourocarbon a Must


Tuna are a common by catch when jigging for Spanish mackerel especially when using smaller jigs.

You really need to be using a fluorocarbon leader to not only enhance the stealth and presentation of the jig but also to add extra cushion to the strike when using braid. Running a good length (1.2 metres) of leader will help soften the intense impact strike and reduce pulling the hooks. Extra long leader also helps to reduce the fish rubbing you off as Spanish mackerel can be extremely long fish and love to use their sharp tail flukes to rub against the line during the fight.

Wire Or Not?

Next comes the all important decision of whether to use wire. I personally prefer not to use wire as this will improve your strike rate 100%. However you do run the risk of getting bitten off as Spanish mackerel have extremely sharp teeth which can chew threw mono in a nano second. Many jiggers will start with wire and if the fish are biting they will stick with it but if the fish are finicky than taking the risk and going no wire is sometimes needed. To compensate for this scenario you can utilise longer jigs which keep the fishes mouth away from the leader.

Jig Selection

This is where jig selection can be important. There are many types of jigs available to high speed spinners and the more common two are knife jigs and bent jigs. Knife jigs are characterised by their long skinny shape and often utilise assist hooks. These jigs require the angler to impart the action through the mechanical jigging process imparted through short lifts of the rod during a fast retrieve. Bent jigs on the other hand such as bumpa bar jigs have an angled body which create an automatic action when retrieved at speed through the water. The advantage of these jigs id they require little effort from the angler to impart the wounded bait fish imitation.

Getting the bite

When high speed jigging the key to getting the bite is speed so bent jigs often produce better results due to their automatic action.
Whilst having the right gear is essential, jigging technique is also vital. First you need to find the fish and make sure you are dropping your jig right over the top of a condensed school. Allow the jig to go right to the bottom but make sure you carefully feather it through your fingers on the drop as sometimes the fish will strike on the way down. This way you can quickly get the bait arm over and get connected to the fish and sink that hook. Once on the bottom, take the time to set yourself and the rod for a high speed retrieve.
A solid spotty mackerel, always a welcome by catch.

A solid spotty mackerel, always a welcome by catch.

Once you are ready begin cranking the jig as fast as possible. The biggest rule with jigging is to not stop especially when you feel a strike or even a hook up. Keep cranking until you feel solid weight as often the initial hook up doesn’t set the hook. To really set the hook, give the rod two or three real rips on a heavy drag to make sure that hook point drives deep into the fishes mouth. This is where setting a strong drag is essential and once you feel well connected you can loosen it back and enjoy the fight. 
When jigging for Spanish mackerel you do get plenty of by catch as there are many other species which share the same feeding habits as these toothy speedsters. Tuna are probably the most prolific by catch as they tend to feed above the schools of bait and pick up the crumbs of what is left over after a Spanish Mack attack.

Big goldy alert!

Big golden trevally are always a possibility when you're spinning for mackerel

Big golden trevally are always a possibility when you’re spinning for mackerel

Another common by catch is trevally both Giant and Golden as they love to both and cruise and feed with packs of Spanish mackerel. The other common by catch are smaller mackerel species such as the spotted or grey mackerel. To reduce your chances of by catch try upping the size of your jigs to around the 100mm length. 
High speed Spanish mackerel jigging is fast paced, furious action and intense fishing.
It can be a hard slog but when your jig gets hammered half way through the water the feeling is one of the best you will experience in the sport of fishing. 

Dan Kaggelis

About Dan Kaggelis

Born in Tully, North Queensland, Dan cut his fishing teeth in the region’s freshwater rivers chasing the tropical triumvirate of sooty grunter, jungle perch and barramundi. With fishing running thick in the Kaggelis family, Dan was fortunate to experience many extended trips to the Western Cape and Gulf of Carpentaria from a young age. This instilled a deep affection for the sport. Living so close to Great Barrier Reef, offshore fishing was also very much included in recreational activities as was free diving and spearfishing.

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