Adapting a Tairaba (Madai jig) into a Tenya Jig

Japanese Tairaba jigs are probably the only artificial lure that a bait fisherman is familiar with. Commonly nicknamed “Madai”, it took the Singapore fishing scene by storm sometime back in the early 2000s, and is worked as a slow jig. At that time, the only brand available was Duel’s Salty Rubber. Mention “Madai” on any boat in Malaysia and Singapore, and people will think of this Tai Rubber jig instead of the Japanese Red Seabream that this jig was designed to catch. Its rubber “necktie” and hula skirt gently swaying in the warm sea current was deadly to local snappers, groupers and bottom feeders.

Very quickly however, fish had come to become hook-shy of this style of lure, and so the jig had to be supplemented with some kind of bait — usually a live prawn, and earned it’s local nickname Ma-prawn.

Blackspot Tuskfish took a liking to the prawn presented on this Shimano Engetsu Tenya.

Of late, the fishing community here has picked up interest in another traditional Japanese jig for snappers called a Tenya. In essence, a Tenya is a piece of shaped lead attached to a long shank hook, quite similar in concept to the Hong Kong hook used by handline anglers in the old days. The difference between a Tenya and our Hong Kong Hook is that the former has a shaped lead head that cause it to flutter on it’s way down, and it has an assist hook. By contrast, a Hong Kong Hook doesn’t have much action on its own unless imparted by the angler/live prawn. In practice, the Tenya, has the least tendency to snag the bottom compared to Hong Kong Hook and Tairaba because it is designed to land with its hook pointing upwards, away from the bottom, and keeping the bait pointing upwards for fish to notice.

Blacktip Grouper on Yozuri size 8 Tenya

I have a heavy box of old Duel Salty Rubber Tairaba “Madai” jigs collecting dust because after some use, the rubber gets bitten off and the jig loses it’s potency. I decided to take one out to see how I can modify it to behave like a Tenya. I noticed that the Tairaba “madai” jig tends to land with it’s hooks hanging down to the bottom. This will not do as the prawn should be pushed upwards to be displayed jutting out prominently from the sea bed by a Tenya.

Whip a length of 40lb Stainless steel fishing wire to the shank of Mustad 4/0 size Khale hook using dental floss.

I found that I could get a size 4/0 Mustad Khale wide gape hook to serve this purpose of heeping the prawn aloft. The eye on the Mustad Khale fits the gauge of wire on the Owner Salty Rubber perfectly. To hold the prawn in place, I whipped on a piece of 40lb stainless steel fishing mono wire with dental floss, then covered over the whipping with some old 10lb fireline. This serves as the bait keeper.

Why don’t I just whip it entirely with Fireline? Simply because, Kevlar and PE lines do not stretch. If I whipped it entirely with non-stretch line, the whipping will not be tight enough, and likely to drop off unless it’s glued in place. This is the same situation faced by people who try to whip their assist hooks using entirely kevlar or PE thread to the assist chord. You use a lot of tension, and yet, there is a tendency for the hook to come off. That’s because the lack of stretch in the whipping thread, so it is not able to hold the hook on securely. A far stronger way will be to whip using fly-tying thread or dental floss, then cover over with some Kevlar thread for bite resistance.

Before I attach the Khale hook, I cut off one strand of the twin hooks on the Salty Rubber “Madai” jig, slipped the eye of this assist hook through a rubber hose, pushed the shank of the Khale hook through this rubber tube, attached both assist hook and Khale onto the “Madai” jig with it’s gape facing upwards, then slipped the rubber tube over the attachment to secure.

Initially, I used the original rubber tube from the lure and found the Khale hook to be somewhat loose. I cut a longer length of tubing from some airline I have lying around at home and voila! It looks like it will work! Here’s what the finished piece looks like.

Tenya does not have the rubber skirt and necktie. But I don’t see any harm in leaving them on as an additional attractant.

So Tie a few pieces of these Mustad Khale hooks and keep them in your tackle box. Next time the “Necktie” on your “Madai” gets bitten off or the rubber hula skirt gets close cropped till it becomes a miniskirt, discard the rubber, slip on your Khale hook, hook on a piece of Berkeley Gulp! or fresh prawn or any soft plastic and you can continue reuse of the Tairaba “Madai” jig now as a tenya.

Happy fishing and do drop a comment below to say if it worked for you or not.

Text and Images © Lawrence Lee
All Rights Reserved
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