Tony Bygrave Fishing Profile

Tony Bygrave

Tropical Lure Fishing Identity

Tony is an Airlie Beach based angler who has been fishing “lure-only” for fifteen years. Tony loves his GT and reef flats fishing but is also one of a handful of dedicated anglers who are making inroads into fishing for red emperor on lures. In this episode Tony explains his deep water jigging strategies for putting reds in the boat.

Tony’s Top Tips For Red Emperor Jigging

  • A big part of jigging red emperor is finding the fish. Tony reckons you want a quality sounder with a powerful through hull transducer that will allow you to mark fish and structure at speed in depths of 50-80m. Once found, reds are aggressive and usually aren’t too hard to tempt with a well presented jig.
  • A good place to start fishing for reds is the “fern grounds”, which are relatively flat areas between Airlie and the reef where there are gravelly and sandy patches with occasional small bumps in about 50m of water.
  • Selection of the right size jig is critical, it needs to reach the bottom at a given depth, wind and current and be worked vertically.
  • Persistence, backing yourself and relying heavily on your electronics are all part of the red emperor jigging equation.
  • It’s important to accumulate a bunch of marks over a period of time. Red emperor seem to move between isolated lumps on the bottom in otherwise relatively featureless bottom, so move between your marks until you find where they’re holding.
  • Best fishing tends to be in the days leading up to the new moon, especially if a tide change coincides with the low light periods around dawn and dusk. Light winds are important not just for angler comfort and safety but for ensuring the boat isn’t drifting too quickly.
  • Red emperor jigging is a year-round option in the Whitsundays, but during the winter the better quality fish seem to come in closer to shore in the areas between the reef and the shore.

Tony’s Red Emperor Jigging Tackle

  • Shimano Ocea Jigger 1500 baitcast reel on Zenaq Fokeeto 645 jigging rod with YGK PE4 braid and YGK 60-70lb fluorocarbon leader.

Tony’s Best Red Emperor Lures

  • Xesta slow flap jig 100-150g. Free spool it to the bottom, thumbing the spool as it drops. Watch for signs of the lure being taken on the fall and be prepared to set the hook several times to penetrate the hard mouth of the red emperor. Work the lure up with small lifts to around 5-10m off the bottom and drop it down again. Once the drift is such that the lure is no longer vertical, crank it back to the rod tip and drop again for another run.
  • Lamble Bait half pitch jig is fished in the same way as the Xesta, but can be worked a little more aggressively.
  • A large Zerek Cherabin on a 2oz jig head is deadly on red emperor, but as with all soft plastics in deep water can only really be fished effectively during the tide changes on glassed out days. Other times the weight required to get this lure to the fish is too great and spoils the lure action.


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  1. Dave M

    Thanks for a great podcast Tony and Greg. Any recommendations for snap swivels that work well with vertical jigging and cast and retrieve metal fishing? I generally fish with lighter metals myself but interested to get your thoughts.

    • Tony

      Glad you liked it Dave I never use snap swivels they’re bulky and can fail costing you that trophy fish what I do is tie a sml solid ring onto your leader and use a split ring (80-100lb) to attach to your jig this is also where I attach my assist hooks , get yourself a good pair of split ring pliers too mate hope this helps

      • Dave M

        Cheers for the info Tony, much appreciated!

  2. Franklin

    Awesome stuff guys. Really enjoyed the content. I am looking at a Daiwa Catalina Bay Jigging (overhead model) with a Shimano Trevala 30-40lb rod. The rod is really thin and has a ‘light’ power yet is PE 3-4. The rod is 6 feet, 3 inch with a 16.8 inch butt (so a long butt). Do you reckon I would be able to pull up huge reef fish with this outfit or would just get smoked too many times? Thanks mate

    • Tony Bygrave

      Thanks mate appreciate that yeah definitely high end jig rods are designed that way they need a whippy responsive tip to give the jig the action , it’s probably a touch on the light side I normally use pe4-5 rods for jigging for red fish but still very capable I’ve caught GTs to 30kg reds to 12kg ect on pe 4 rods no problem at all 👍

      • Franklin Hodge

        Thanks. I went to the tackle store and looked at that particular rod. It is way to light and I would get smoked. Have to shop around.

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