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Popping for Monsters: The Jack Crevalle

Updated: Feb 5

By David Graham (feat. David Rocca)



Have you ever run across one of those insane videos of guys throwing super-sized plugs and poppers at marauding giant trevallies? The shore based popping expeditions from sand and rocks for blitzing GT's... it's the stuff dreams are made of. Casting outfits geared to the max for a legendary sport species that has seemingly no equal rival in its tenacious top-water assaults. But what if I were to tell you there's a species right here in the US that can give nearly the same experience!?


The GT is part of the Carangidae family of fishes that include popular sport species like permit, amberjacks, and bluefin trevally. But one close cousin of the GT that shares some of its most prized attributes is a species many American anglers cast by the wayside as undesirable or, dare I say, trash fish... the jack crevalle.


The jack crevalle is an extremely aggressive and efficient predator that can be found along the Atlantic and Gulf coast of the US. Like many other 'less desired' species, it may simply be scorned out of its sheer abundance. Often moving in organized schools, a pack of jack crevalles is an unstoppable force that few fish can compete with... as such, they often become the blame of bait thievery, or running other species out. They can be found anywhere from inshore estuaries to off shore over depths of 1000 feet.


Still - this is a species that looks very similar to the highly sought after giant trevally... in terms of size, shape, temperament, and angling approaches - its nearly the same experience on perhaps a scaled down level. Nevertheless, a 30-40lb jack crevalle is a nearly unstoppable monster on rod and reel... and the same approaches often used by shore based anglers popping for GT's from rocky outcroppings and reef edges can be deployed on jack crevalle.


 

Enter David Rocca.



GT fishing with poppers

Now here's a dude who has somehow managed to forge a path and pioneer a style of fishing for jack crevalle that no one else seemed willing to commit to. A complete mystery, and a curious case. But, Rocca has tapped into the next level of jack fishing. Something that goes far beyond casual lure casting for blitzing schoolies in the inlets and rivers. There are populations of truly enormous jack crevalle on the Atlantic coast of Florida that no one seems to want any part of!


Rocca utilizes heavy spin casting tackle and an extreme approach to reach monster sized jack crevalle from land in one of the most bad ass fishing exploits i've ever seen. In one of the most pressured fishing systems in the country, he somehow stands mostly alone chasing these powerful saltwater brawlers from shore. I reached out to David Rocca on insight in how anglers can chase this GT alternative on their own.


 

Where Do You Find Them?


Giant jacks are highly intelligent fish. Put aside the notion that they will eat anything in their path... big fish don't get big by being stupid.

"At the trophy size, big jacks will look to minimize the effort they have to put in, and seize upon the maximum opportunity with minimal resistance. Larger specimens operate in patterns - and they have a mental map of beach structure, rocks, currents, and where the baitfish tend to hang out. Your job as an angler is to figure out these patterns." - Rocca


Some areas of the beach have structures which produce draining currents to deeper areas - these draining pools on the downside of the current create the proverbial funnel that the savvy jack will use to their advantage. Areas like rock piles and jetty lines have systems of crevasses and shelter that house baitfish like croakers. Jacks will also travel along deeper troughs, utilizing these as feeding channels and points to corral schools of baitfish.

"as an angler, you should be keying in on 'abnormal' structures on the beach, whether man made or natural and consistently fish them during all tide cycles to affectively key in on the patterns and windows in which the big jacks are hunting them. You need to be throwing an assortment of lures and plugs, staying aware and taking mental notes on consistent patterns of behavior from the fish" - Rocca
 

What Is The Best Time?


Because jack crevalles can be highly migratory, covering thousands of miles in movement seasonally... they're constantly on the move. Their highly patterned movements even day to day mean anglers seeking to catch a truly monster jack should consider when to chase them throughout the year. The jack crevalle is a highly acute predator with advanced sensory organs. They become especially sensitive in the detection of pressure, weather, and winds... and these factors will heavily dictate how they behave.


January-May

"Jacks will be slowly coming out of inshore estuaries and bay areas as they prepare to start their yearly migration to deeper ocean for spawn. During this season, fish may be feeding heavily in preparation for their extensive travel and the toll the spawn will take on them physically". - Rocca


June- August

"Between June and August big jacks will start to reappear along the Atlantic coast of Florida and begin to move back inshore for the remainder of summer. During this time they will pattern their movements to coincide with various bait migrations and movements that offer the best feeding opportunity." - Rocca


September- December

"In the fall and early winter months monster jacks will be running the beaches and inshore waters specifically looking for mullet. The jacks will follow the annual mullet migration where large mullet will become their primary food source for the fall months. " - Rocca


But what is the best time to catch a monster jack? According to David Rocca, the best opportunity to catch a full-grown jack crevalle on the East coast of Florida from land is in the month of March.

David rocca jack crevalle

"At the end of January jacks begin to group up in large schools into the hundreds as they begin to start their migration to the East coast of Florida. In January, we have relatively calm and cold weather and bright moons. These are optimal conditions to catch jacks at night because they are moving in mass groups through inlets and channels like super fish highways" - Rocca

January and February generally have calm, cold and clear water. This means the fish have a better chance at successfully hunting for food in the dark compared to clear water conditions with high sunlight. They use the darkness to their advantage where baitfish will be less likely to see them coming. This timeframe also coincides with the beginning of the spawn season for food source species like ballyhoo, horse mullet, bluefish, mackerel, and pompano. These contribute to a large percentage of the food intake for large jack crevalles.


" I have utilized drones to observe the behavior pattern of massive schools of jacks hanging just out of casting distance from the beach. In February we will watch them slowly migrating south. They meander at slow rate, seemingly in a resting state until they stop to feed. It has been our observation that these feeding times are often triggered by major weather events such as the strong winds we often have during the month of March." - David Rocca

Large schools of jacks will move down the beach and as wind and pressure churns up the surf into breakers as high as 6', it creates confusion and panic among forage species... at this time, large schools of jacks splinter off into smaller hunting packs and they wipe down the whole beach seizing upon the bewildered prey species.



 

Tackle Rundown


David Rocca may have lead the charge in the recent boom of shore based popping for giant jacks with extremely heavy tackle.


"I became fixated and clear on my intentions for the size of fish I wanted to catch and from time to time I was humbled by big fish and reminded why it was so necessary to use such heavy tackle. Our tackle consists of surf casting rods, big spinning reels, and heavy braided line with heavy monofilament leaders." - Rocca
Saltiga fishing reels

ODM rods

For Casting On Beaches With Structure


For Casting On Open Beach

.

 

Lures Baits Etc


Jacks will eat a wide variety of baitfish, but Rocca has narrowed it down to 5 primaries: bluefish, mackerel, pompano, ladyfish, and mullet.


"Although many people say color doesn't matter, there have been many instances where I have been able to out-fish others simply because I'm using the lure with the right color, shades, and size. While sometimes the fish are blitzing and eating indiscriminately, these are not the feeding patterns I am looking for when targeting a record sized fish". - David Rocca

To maximize the odds of catching isolated giants in solo feeding situations, becoming intimately aware of outside elements like wind, tides, and location becomes extremely important. David Rocca doesn't waste time catching 'trained' fish at private marinas, or following schools of 1,000 fish from a boat... rather, he hunts down the solo monsters that stand apart. The wisest and oldest of the bunch.


"I would recommend surface lures like poppers, pencil poppers, and stick-baits somewhere in the range of 6.5-9 inches" - Rocca

Lure Specs


NOTE: "These lures are lined up exactly how I use them throughout the day. You would

want to fish as big as possible; these bigger fish want to eat one big meal a day and then

rest for a long period of time. That’s how they grow so big." - Rocca


 

Other Gear Must-Haves'




 

Myth Busting


Sometimes it isn't about the fish you catch, but the way you catch it... and the nature of it's pursuit. To tap into the next level of jack crevalle often takes anglers way out of their comfort zone... into the harshest surf condition at odd hours. These are the windows of time that unlock memories of the catch of a lifetime.



The jack has fallen victim to the idea that a fishes worth is dictated by its table-fare. Generally they are considered a gamey fish with an oily taste. Their meat runs red because of their highly migratory nature that is constantly forcing blood into their muscle tissue in need of oxygenation. Their body is a hard machine that constantly needs to move and feed - therefore making them susceptible to being caught and considered 'easy' to draw bites from.


The jack crevalle is a voracious predator with a seemingly insatiable appetite when younger... and during this time they are the frequent culprit behind stolen baits and busted up lures. This leads them to garner a poor reputation that doesn't recede entirely as they grow older, wiser, and more cunning.


"There is no pursuit or passion in doing something average. When I go about catching a jack with massive tackle consisting of 100 lb braid, 200 lb leaders, 8” lures and reels over 30 lb of drag. Which is alternatively backed by years of time in the water exploring and making the best decision to solemnly focus on catching the biggest jack of all times, and Yet, the fish still gets away sometimes… It’s a test of your character, decision making, dedication, and passion and some luck. These are not trash fish, they are true game fish." - David Rocca

There are some fish that represent a 'testing grounds' of an angler's resolve. The kind of fish that can drive you crazy, force perception changes, and generate heated debate. The hotly contested jack crevalle may be a lot of things, but a trash fish is not among them. This is a marauding brawler - a fish that becomes progressively more challenging with time. In its prime state at trophy size the jack crevalle is a cunning and difficult to pattern fish worthy of pursuit. A truly giant jack crevalle will test an anglers physicality and mental state at the highest level,



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Guest
Feb 09
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

best article on jack crevalle fishing i've read

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Guest
Feb 06
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Great article, very informative

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Guest
Feb 05
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Great informative article.

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Guest
Feb 05
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Both enjoyed and  appreciate the post David. Fishing for the monster bull reds of the Delta we often catch a number of Jacks. Sometimes Giant Jacks. Most of my Reds buddies hate the Jacks because a giant Jack takes so l9ng to bring to Boga and that reduces their potential hook up time with the Reds, especially when in a school of Reds. Myself, I’ve always liked the power and fight of the Jacks. A couple of the Giant Jacks on a slow Reds day “saves the day!”

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An extremely well written playbook for targeting the biggest and baddest fish from the surf

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