Casting For Spanish Mackerel

If you haven't noticed by now, i have an addiction. An addiction to fishing for Spanish Mackerel. These toothy speedsters are my number one target when i am fishing in the East Coast of Malaysia. From Desaru to Rompin and Pekan. Known locally as Tenggiri, they are a priority for me when i am fishing in these locations. Why you may ask? Because, aside from the ferocious strikes and speedy runs, they taste great! (I am highly motivated when it comes to indulging my belly) The thought of having freshly caught Tenggiri cooked for dinner is reason enough for me to get on the water and chase after these toothy critters.

There are several ways to catch Spanish Mackerel. The most common ways are to use a wire rig with live bait or to troll for them. Another way is to jig for them using long thin profiled jigs at a high tempo. (You can catch them on jigs with wider profiles, but the fluttering action on the drop often means getting cut off as the jig is falling.) My favorite method is to cast for them with heavy sinking minnows.

I often hear from people who visit Catchbay (Surecatch World's Retail Store) about how casting minnows are a waste of time because they often yield poor results. As they go on, it becomes clear that most of these guys are not familiar with how to work these lures. They usually use their jigging tackle to cast the lures out and simply just crank them back.

Spanish Mackerel can be found in all parts of the water column and go where the bait fish are. So ripping your minnow back at high speed across a diagonal plane, (from bottom to top) over a longer distance will give you better coverage of the water column and a higher chance of encountering them. The average depth in the East Coast is between 30-60 meters. The ideal lure weight for this depth should be in the 40 gram range.

Distance plays an important role when casting for Tenggiri. To achieve good distance, you need a proper casting rod. Something in the 7-8 feet range. This will allow you to cast further than your jigging rod which is probably in the 6 feet range. I use a thin diameter casting line with an approximate rating of about 20lb and a little more over a meter of 40-50lb Flourocarbon leader. This reduces resistance from both wind and water. A 6000 sized HG (High Gear) reel will help with the fast retrieval as it takes in more line per crank. ( Ideally, 100cm or more/crank) I connect my lure to a barrel swivel tied to the leader with a split ring. You can also use a solid ring instead of a swivel. I avoid snaps and barrel swivels with snaps. I do not use a wire leader as it affects the swim action.

Here is a summary of what you need. I will get to the tackle recommendation at the end of the post.

Rod: 7-8 feet Medium Action Rod (PE2-3)
Reel: 6000 Sized HG reel (Based on Shimano Size)
Line: 20lb Thin Diameter Line 
Leader: 40-50lb Flourocarbon Leader
Lure: 40g Sinking Minnow
Barrel Swivel: #2
Split Ring: #4
Treble Hooks: #2

The application is pretty straight forward. Cast out your minnow. Reel in the slack line. This will prevent the lure from tangling with the line. Once the line is taut, open the bail arm and let out line. Control the line with your cranking hand. This will enable you to detect any bites as the lure is sinking. If you do get a hit, Close the bail arm and reel in the slack before you strike. Otherwise allow the lure to sink as deep as it can go. A word of caution, when fishing in areas with coral at the bottom stop at a meter or two above. The average sinking rate is about a meter per second in slow/dead current. The lure will sink slower in stronger currents so adapt accordingly. If in doubt check with the boatman on the depth and the structure at the bottom.

Next keep your rod tip down and crank. (Leaving the rod upright will bring the lure up to the surface quicker.) No need to twitch as this often leads to the lure being cut off. If you are not using a high gear reel, you need to crank faster. It can be tiring to use a HG reel in strong currents, but a minnow that tracks true will be able to cut through the water with relative ease making it manageable. If you get a hit. Strike. Reel in the slack and strike again. This should be sufficient for a proper hook set as Spanish Mackerel do not have very bony jaws that are hard to penetrate.

Refrain from adjusting the drag on the first run. They do not run for structure and have very soft flesh so you do not need a strong drag to start with. Instead focus on maintaining tension on the line as Tenggiri are notorious for swimming back towards the boat. (This is where the HG reel give you an advantage as you are able to reel in the slack line quickly.) Once the fish is below the boat, lower your rod and maintain the tension as you tire out the fish. Get the gaff ready as the fish surfaces. (do not try to lift the fish by the leader. If the leader line crosses the jaw it will get cut.) Once gaffed, knock the fish out before you take pictures. This will prevent any unnecessary accidents on the boat. (They thrash around for a bit if you don't knock them out) To retain the freshness of the fish, bleed it and get it into the cooler quickly.

Now for tackle recommendations. 

Rods: Zerek Temptress, Major Craft Off Blow, Evergreen Ocean Hunter
Reels: (Daiwa) 4000 to 6000 (Shimano) Sized HG reels with a minimum of 100cm/crank ratio
Lures: Zerek Cavalla, Jackson PinTail (Lure Haven has an in depth write up on this product here.)

I am currently using the Zerek Temptress paired with a Shimano Twinpower SW 6000HG loaded with 20lb Mustad Wish Braid. Leader is 50lb Surecatch Flouromax. For terminal tackle, I use Shout solid and split rings and Sasame barrel swivels. For trebles i use owner ST66. If you have any questions, leave a comment and i will answer the best i can. Cheers!


  1. Hi there,
    Enjoyed reading your article. What color minnows do you recommend for the East Coast Msia?

    1. Hi Bob as replied on Facebook. I use the Zerek Cavalla exclusively. Colours will be BNT, PS, CP, BP and KMB

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