As the blood trickles down the rock we scrabbled to find some semblance of grip. The harsh landscape would make even the hardiest of mountain goats think twice and is testing the grip of our footwear and the toughness of our skin to their limits. Jagged, knife-sharp rocks pierce upwards at awkward angles. Bleached by the sun and salt with serrated edges they appear honed almost by design to catch the unwary lure angler’s limbs and make them pay for their passage across the narrow ribbon of land with blood. But it’s a fee more than worth paying.
What makes for a treacherous fishing platform above delivers the perfect environment for our target species below. At the line where the cool, clear saltwater laps against them, the rocks deliver sanctuary to a myriad of species – including what we’re after today, the ballan wrasse.
Hopping from rock to rock in front of us and armed to the teeth with wrasse gear is species guru Danny Parkins. Danny has a passion for these wild, stunningly coloured creatures, and today he’s going to be revealing a special rig he keeps in his arsenal for catching them.
The jika rig (pronounced zikha in Japan, where the technique originated) is a specific presentation of soft plastic lures that on the right day can have the fish crawling up your braid. The thinking behind it is simple and all about how the weight on the rig interacts with the lure.
Strong split rings are a must; you can’t afford to build in any weak spots with wrasse so go for the toughest you can find. Key to building an effective jika, you’ll need to make sure that the ring actually fits through the eye of the hook as this gives the rig movement, while also giving enough space for the lead and the hook to move independently.
Go for a minimum size of a 2/0 when it comes to the hook for wrasse, Danny favours the Gamakatsu G-Lock offset worm hook as it offers a super-strong gauge (although we still had fish that bent us out on this feature – that’s how powerful these fish are for their size) and a slightly turned in hook profile that makes them great for weedless rigging.
When jika fishing, take a variety of lead sizes with you. Danny carries 5, 7 and 10g pear leads for his fishing with each one heavy enough to give a good ‘donk’ on the rocks when worked under the waves. He also prefers the leads with an inbuilt swivel as the movement of this also creates added audible attraction for curious wrasse.
Effectively it’s a free-moving weight that’s directly mounted to the hook. The weight isn’t fixed to the hook like with a jighead, it’s not free to run up the line as with a Texas rig and it’s not remote from the lure as with a Carolina or drop-shot arrangement. What it delivers, though, is a mix of the best bits of other presentations; a jighead (the weight having a direct and positive effect on the hook at all times), a Texas rig (massive articulation of the lure) and drop-shot arrangement (with the weight effectively under the hook the lure can be presented very slowly while still delivering action to get hits.
Key for Danny is that the jika can take his lure down deep and still give him good contact. This is because he can use a heavy weight to drop the rig down, but that weight does not effect the action of the lure as, once it’s on the bottom, the hook is free to move and pivot of its own accord. That’s the theory, now for the practice.
Danny’s Top 4 JIKA RIG lures for wrasse
No.1 SAVAGE GEAR MANIC SHRIMP
No.2 ZMAN scented SHRIMPZ
No.3 SAVAGE GEAR 3d crayfish
No.4 SAVAGE GEAR PRO GRUB
In position on our first mark Danny’s ready to get cracking. The Jika flies – under the guidance of a baitcaster reel, more on that later – with the 20lb Finezze HD4 braid it’s attached to showing a steady descent through the salt before the rig touches down.
In position on the bottom and mounted on a super-strong Gamakatsu G-Lock worm hook – Danny takes no chances with wrasse – is a Savage Gear Pro Grub lure. Rigged weedlessly, Danny’s a big fan of the vibrations the tails on these soft plastics kick out.
With his rod up and a steady wind of his Okuma Komodo 273 reel Danny incrementally works the jika back. Under the water the lure is shaking and vibrating through a steep-sided gulley, the 10g lead clunking down on the hard, rocky bottom. This is key to the jika’s appeal for wrasse, which are a highly curious fish when it comes to both sound and vision. Danny makes the most of the species’ attuned senses and on the third cast his rod tip shakes at the attention his lure is getting below.
Although there are fish, the feedback doesn’t deliver any concrete, strikable action. Putting this down to small wrasse we move on.
Navigating the fierce rocks, balance is everything. Because of this Danny wears a lure vest, centralising his weight and giving him better balance – whereas the poor old cameraman is all over the place with bags everywhere…
Moving round the headland Danny stops in front of a narrow channel formed by a spine of rocks in the open water. An underhand flick sees the jika called on again. Wrasse love cover and calm water, so Danny isn’t casting to the horizon, again another reason for the baitcaster, which gives direct feedback and control both on the cast and when playing fish as there’s no angle for the braid to go through, as with a fixed spool.
Again the rig is left to fall to the bottom with Danny lifting the rod tip and gently lifting and skipping the jika along the rocks back to him. There’s another gulley here and it’s all about the deepest central channel. As soon as the lure is a third back toward him the tip jabs and shakes. Keeping calm Danny carries on the retrieve before, BANG, something smashes the grub.
These fish go like trains. Clutch tightened right down, Danny hits and holds, his Savage Gear Finezze rod straining at the force of the unseen lure guzzler. Within 30 seconds the fight is over, Danny plucking his prize from the water’s edge as a stunning, orangy red wrasse lies defeated on a glistening blue backdrop. Although only relatively small at around 3lb, it’s an incredible creature and quickly unhooked and returned.
Wrasse are territorial fish and Danny stresses the importance of returning them to the same spot as they are caught. This also means that once you’ve caught one it’s often a good idea to move on. Time for more rock climbing.
Our next port of call is a stunning section of rocks creating a maze of gulleys, underwater caves and corners for fish to hide in. From experience Danny knows the best spots are out over the sharp stuff, so we climb and descend, scrambling for the best spot. The fish are on us within seconds, and they’re fierce.
Four casts and Danny loses four lures. But this isn’t on rocks or weed snags. The wrasse are biting them in two, chomping down hard with teeth designed for removing limpets from rocks – proper dental wear.
It’s obvious that the fish are either small or hitting the grub out of anger, rather than a feeding instinct. Time for a change. Next in Danny’s go-to lures for wrasse is the Z-Man Crabz. These rubber lures are a great imitation of a key food source for wrasse and mounted sideways on the jika rig to imitate their scuttle across the rocks.
At this time of year as the water warms the crabs become more active and wrasse love them. Danny’s seen them power through shallow water to catch these crustaceans and he’s hoping for the same reaction with his lure.
Cast out and worked back in exactly the same manner as with the curly tail, using the weight to create audible attraction first and then the lure to deliver the visual killer blow, the noticeable thing straightaway is that the small plunks and bangs have gone. It must have been small fish on the previous lure, with the crab designed for something more substantial.
Fully focused for every turn of the handle Danny is straight onto the fish when it hits. And what a hit. At 7 to 25g in casting weight the rod has some backbone as it loads up under the pressure, but Danny needs every bit of its 6ft 8in length to control the frantic beast on the other end of the line. The trouble with wrasse is that if you give them an inch and allow them to turn you’re likely done for.
Watching Danny and the concentration on his face you can tell this is a good fish. The braid jumps as the fish makes for the rocks, the 20lb fluoro leader taking the rough ride it’s designed for. Then slack. As fast as it hit the fish is gone. Hands in the air Danny smiles. That’s wrasse fishing.
He persists, but no more bigger fish come to the crab and a switch back to the Pro Grub produces another stunner but smaller than the first. Battered, bleeding, sun baked but buzzing we head for home. We will be back.
Like what you see?
Or buy a single issue