How to catch jewies on vibes
OK, I get it, it’s not a new concept. The jew on vibe phenomenon has been going now for quite some time and seems to be gathering even more momentum, if that’s at all possible. The number of anglers I see flicking these types of lures to catch what once had the moniker of an enigmatic fish, has been turned into an expected occurrence.
I say that with a hint of embellishment. There are many anglers out there still wanting to pop their cherry on jewies and I don’t want to marginalise the accomplishment. Flicking up one of these prized sports fish is still one of the premier feats you can achieve as an angler within Australian waters.
What I won’t retract from is that vibes have made it easier than any other lure to achieve this milestone.
I see vibes as the entry level lure to get you on the scoreboard. Once the confidence builds then you can move to more sophisticated techniques like soft plastic jerk minnows or big paddletails, then onto the holy grail technique, jointed swimbaits. But you have to start somewhere and vibes have definitely filled this niche. The reason – they’re easy to use for newcomers and deadly on catching fish, which is a great combination.
In addition, the class of jewies that seem to fall victim to a vibe lure is not in the same class as big soft plastics. I haven’t figured out why yet. I haven’t cracked that massive fish on vibes to give me the confidence to say they're a big fish attractor. That said, fish up to 6 kg are regularly caught and are still of an excellent size to warrant the effort.
For those looking to break their duck or have more consistent success, read on, I’m certain you’ll have the blueprint to go out and bag yourself a few silver slabs.
For those who still haven’t heard of a vibe lure, the name says it all. It is a lure that vibrates as it's being worked. In the vibe stable there are three basic materials that vibes are manufactured in that categorise the genre: soft vibes, hard vibes and metal vibes.
Those who’ve been in the game long enough would know hard vibes, normally referred to as lipless crankbaits like the Cotton Cordell Rattlin Spot, have been around for years. Then came the metal vibe or blade trend, which is still in full swing in bream circles. Then the soft vibe revolution has come, and it has changed the game big time.
Many anglers have heard of the infamous Jackall Transam. That lure brought popularity to the genre more so than any other soft vibe. Soft vibes weren’t anything new as lures like the Jackall Mask Vibe had been in circulation for years. What the Transam did particularly well was replicate a baitfish profile better than its predecessors. Mask Vibes worked, Mira Vibes worked, but they were always too small and didn’t have a tail to effectively complete the profile of the lure to be bona fide jewfish catchers. The Transam at 90 mm long and 20 g in weight could be fished deep, fished in current, fished fast to cover water and cast a mile to cover distance. These are all the ingredients needed to catch jewies consistently and 90mm was big enough for a fish to make an effort to eat it.
However, I don’t use Transams anymore for a few very good reasons. Notwithstanding the cost, which at $30 is pretty steep, they don’t stand up to the rigours of jew fishing as they should. The rubber material melts in the sun, they melt into each other in the tackle tray, the eyes pop out too easily and the terminals are a bit weak. Putting all that aside, they’re brilliant at catching fish and probably the best flathead lure on the market, but that’s another article!
These days heaps of tackle companies have mimicked the Transam design and while most of them don’t stack up and are not worth buying, a few have surpassed the potency of the original design in my opinion.
The Samaki Vibelicious is now my go-to soft vibe of choice. It’s for all the reasons I regressed from the Transam, too. The material is more resistant to warping from heat, they don’t melt when stacked together in the trays and the eyes stay in. That’s not being pedantic either. I find the bites drop off if the eyes come out. Sounds silly but that’s what we are experiencing.
The other major reason I’ve moved across to using Samakis is the size range. Samakis come in 70 mm, 100 mm and 125 mm and all sizes catch jewies. However, I pretty much stick to the 125 mm version. The way I see it is the lure needs to be large enough to tempt a big predator to make an effort and 125mm is getting up to the size of plastics I normally have excellent success on. Also they’re 30 g in weight, which means I can fish in both deep water and heavy current, two major features I look for when hunting daytime jewies.
Samakis come with two tail configurations: a traditional fork tail or a large paddle tail they call the Thumper! It might be personal preference but I’m not a fan of the Thumper tail. At times the additional pulsing of the tail working with the vibration could work perhaps in low light situations or real murky water, but I haven’t seen it produce better than the standard fork tail.
Lately in a quest to prove that vibes catch big jewies consistently I’ve started using the 150 mm Quick Catch lures. At 70 g they’re a behemoth to throw around and while more “agricultural” in finish than the Samakis, they have all the elements I feel they need to work well. Unfortunately I’ve only caught undersize jewies on them to date so my theory of big lure, big fish is under pressure a little!
So why has the soft vibe lure taken over? Apart from the reasons I’ve mentioned such as lifelike appearance and bigger sizes, the real drawcard is the muted vibration they emit compared to their metal siblings. It’s commonly understood that vibes are deadly due to fish picking up the vibration on their lateral line. It’s something that stirs the fish up and calls them in. However, there’s a school of thought to suggest that the strong vibration from a metal vibe can have the opposite effect and shut down the fish completely if they are not in a feeding or active mood. The subtler vibe from soft material may be the right frequency to work in more situations. Which makes perfect sense. The time fish are inactive is greater than when they are active; fish don’t feed all day, so using a lure that can tempt an inactive fish is a smart move.
Of the traditional metal vibes available I find the best lures come out of the Shads Lures stable. The 100 mm Jig N Vibe is a great lure and at 50 g opens up a lot of options, again with deep water and heavy current in mind. Due to the weight of the lure and the wide body the vibration isn’t as intense as it is with thin metal blades, which gives you the same type of muted vibe that works so well with Samakis.
If the fish are on the job or jewies are hunting smaller food items, blades work particularly well. Due to their thin design and relatively light weight emit an intense vibration they can call in fish from long distances. Due to the thinner profile they also vibrate at slower speeds so you can slow down the whole process. Of the blade variety, a few have been designed with jewies in mind and work well. My favourites are Duo Lures Tide Vib Score 78, TT Switchblades or the Evergreen Little Max.
The issue I have with metal vibes is they don’t have a tail like the soft vibes and if the fish are shut down or you're fishing clear water, I believe this is a deterrent for fish.
This is probably the vibe I fish for jewies with the least, for no other reason than the other lures mentioned above are too deadly to worry about investing the time. Hard vibes do catch fish, especially yellowbelly and bass, but they sit in the middle ground a little for jew. I find they’re either not big enough, not heavy enough, not a perfect fish profile but they do have their days. My favourites are the appropriately named Shads Lures Jewcandy Hard Vibe, Shads Lures Jewie Jellies and Megabass Vibration Xs.
One of the biggest advancements we’ve made on the vibe front has been the experimentation with hooks. It only took a few dropped big jewies to realise the standard trebles these lures come rigged with are not up to the task on better quality fish. We’ve tried a few configurations in the process. I upgraded the trebles as the standard ones open up on good fish but found the extra weight they carry affected the action. Then we went to inline singles. These were better at holding onto the fish once hooked but the hook up rate was poorer than trebles.
We’ve ended up with an opposing inline singles system and found it’s the best medium between hook-up rate and hold-on rate. The system does add a little extra cost to the lure as a packet of inline singles will cost you $6 for six hooks and you're running four hooks per lure, but they are pretty snag resistant with inlines and do come out fairly easily if snagged. My favourites for the 125 mm Samakis are the 2/0 Gamakatsu Single Lure Hook 320412. I use the 1/0 for the 100mm Samakis and No.4 for the 70 mm, although these are starting to get a bit small and the trebles do as good a job.
On 150 mm Quick Catch vibes I’m running 3/0 Decoy Sergeant 'N' Inline Jigging Singles. Unfortunately these are more geared towards metal jigs and are thick gauge suited for big kingfish but the thinner gauge Gamakatsus stop at 2/0 which is a shame.
We’ve also started to trial assist hooks on the vibes. It’s not a new innovation as the gurus fishing for yellowbelly retrofit Transams with assist hooks, mainly to avoid fouling up on weed, but they are great for hold-on too. I haven’t found the right length and hook sizes yet and more work needs to be done in this area.
The key takeout though is don’t trust the hardware on your lures just because they come standard. Every fish is different and requires a different approach.
Techniques and gear
As I said in the opening, the vibe is really the "training wheels" lure for jewies. It only needs to be hopped back to the boat to work successfully. While the experts have some good subtle variations in the retrieve, for the most part, the best retrieve is one long draw. From a position of the lure resting on the bottom, simply raise the rod tip to about 11 o’clock and feel the vibration of the lure do the work as it gets lifted.
One key thing though is it’s about response time on the strike. That’s why I stop at 11 o’clock to give myself room to strike if it gets hit on the upstroke. However, at the end of the upstroke, I leave my rod tip high and let the lure sink back on taut line. This has two advantages. One, there’s minimal slack line in the process and striking to set the hook is more direct, which helps with hook up rate. Two, you want the vibe to glide back down upright. If you free spool a vibe you’ll see they tip over on the sink so keeping the line slightly taut will have it sinking back down looking very natural. With this technique we are seeing most hits come on the drop, as is common with most lures.
In regards to gear, the most important component is the rod. For this type of fishing, the weight of the lures being used and the long-draw technique, you really need a fast action rod with a bit of tip stiffness. Personally I prefer extra fast action rods which allows me to keep the rod class down but still have the stiffness in the tip to fire off long casts.
If you’ve got the means, the 7'4" G-Loomis NRX 15-40 lb is awesome for 100 mm and 125 mm Samakis. For some of the heavier lures mentioned like the 50g Jig N Vibe or the 70g Quick Catch I went to a custom rod. I just couldn’t find anything that could do what the NRX was doing and the NRX was too light. So I copied the NRX recipe on a bigger St Croix blank and at 7'4" is an absolute killer. Probably too much rod for a poor old jewie but it’s about effectively using the lure, not stopping the fish.
In terms of line class it's personal preference. Again, I go pretty light and use 10 lb Power Pro Bite Motion with 16 lb Ocea leader for the Samakis and 15 lb Bite Motion with 20lb leader for the bigger stuff, all on 3000 and 4000 sized reels.
So there you have it, the basics needed to go out and score yourself your first jewie on lures. It’s not a hard technique and if you put the lure where the jewies are holding you can almost guarantee a fish. Go get 'em!