Jigging: Hard work pays off
Graeme Paterson took a trip down to the Bay of Plenty to test some new rods and do battle with crazy kingies in challenging conditions.
fter a layoff from the water, I recently broke the drought and took some time out to go jigging with friends from the Synit fieldtesting team. I had Synit’s Australian field tester and agent Duncan O’Connell from Fish Head on Queensland’s Gold Coast, Duncan runs the biggest online tackle store in Aussie and is a double asset to our team.As he is an Aussie and a top bloke I felt it would be a great opportunity for him to tick off a few things in his bucket list.
Duncan last fished in New Zealand as a teenager some 26 years ago and a Kiwi kingfish still eluded him. Home base for the weekend would be courtesy of the Levine family beach house in Whangamata and from there we planned to head out and target some of Aaron Levine and Kelly Whibley’s kingfish hot spots and weather permitting would also include Mayor Island. Even though we were hoping for that 40kg horse of a kingfish we knew the area around Whangamata was more likely to produce the 12-25kg models with the possibility of a 30 keger.
There was nothing wrong with a 1225kg kingfish as they fight extra hard at this time of year and with this in mind our reels would be spooled with some of the best braided line to reduce the risk of breakage but we would keep it as light as possible and PE5 line w ould be the maximum.
The forecast for the two days wasn’t looking too flash but we were prepared to make the best of the conditions and safely fish them if possible and if not we would kick back at the beach house and drink cider and tell stories. As with any fishing trip safety is paramount as no fish is worth the life of an angler.
A plan was hatched for day one to take advantage of the conditions in the morning prior to 2pm when the wind was predicted to blow 25-30 knots from the southwest. This would pose several issues even for a big trailer boat.
As we headed out the sign on the surface was going off with acres of kahawai feeding on krill and masses of small sea birds skimming along in pursuit. We weren’t about to just blast past them without taking a closer look so we made a few slow circular wide passes around the bigger workups to view what was happening on the sounder.
Lighting up Making a slow approach from the west we could see the sounder slowly light up with sign and some healthy marks hanging around the edges of the baitfish.
This was what we had come for – kingfish targeting schools of bait around structure. The conditions were still very workable but building so we made the best of what time we had. The depth was less than 65m so the lighter rods and jigs were deployed and Duncan hooked up immediately and I closely followed.
The first few runs were good ones, which told the fish were solid but we weren’t going to see either of them as mine reefed me, then Duncan’s spat the hook… still a very promising start.
The second drift was only minutes from the first but holding the boat in the building wind conditions was proving to be difficult.
Still Duncan hooked into a fish and this time it stuck, not a big model but still his first New Zealand kingfish at around 9kg.
We tried to do another drift but in the few minutes it took to land, photograph and release Duncan’s kingfish the wind conditions had made holding the boat impossible. Aaron called it and day one ended as fast as it began. The call was
the right one as from the lea of the land we could look back to see the conditions worsen out at sea.
We came in close for a bit of topwater casting and inchiku slowjigging but even though the sea was calmer, the wind made it impossible to slow the boat whether the sea drogue was out or not.
There was a sheltered inlet I had spied a little way back up the coast that had me keen to throw a few softbaits into the wash on the exposed side and a few little subsurface stickbaits on the sheltered side. Duncan was a light topwater expert and he flicked a few casts into some very fishy looking areas.
Kingfish take two
The plan was to head to Mayor Island and make full use of the predicted improving conditions. This should favour a jig around a few marks Aaron has hit in the past and a possible topwater session on the front side of the island if the wind drops out enough.
Even though our gear hadn’t really been tested from the previous day, all our knots were retied.
This is a point of practice all good anglers should follow if you want to decrease the risk of a connection point letting go.
We got a nice start to the day weatherwise and with hammer down the trip from Whangamata to Mayor Island should be a short one but once again, as we exited the lea of the coastline the conditions immediately started to worsen which would prove to be testing.
Weapons of choice
With weapons of choice at the ready Aaron put the boat on to some nice sign and we deployed an array of jig shapes and colours to gauge what was going to get the most attention.
Kelly’s little Razar 225 SP loaded up on a good string-pulling fish.
Kingfish punch above their weight and this fish was proving to be a handful as it did run after run and simply wouldn’t give in. After about the fifth or sixth run Kelly said something felt wrong with the way the fish was fighting verses its weight, the two simply didn’t match and she suspected it was foul hooked.
Duncan, by this time using a slower jig style, was next to load up and we had a double hookup buzzing around the cockpit with lines going every which way.
A good start
Kelly’s fish was first in and true to her predictions the kingfish was foul hooked just behind the pectoral fin and a nice start for her at around 11kg.
Duncan’s fish came in a slightly bigger model at around 13k, which put up a fight of a 20kg fish, and I was about to learn my first lesson of the day.
The method used for the jigs Duncan had chosen was to slow the rhythm right down with a higher lift and fast drop of the rod tip, the rig however consisted of a double assist hook.
There is nothing wrong in using a double assist hook on smaller manageable fish like snapper but on agro kingfish like these a double assist can prove dangerous for the deckie unless it has been set along with the other hook.
In this case we had a free hook flying around and luckily when I went to
As we headed out the sign on the surface was going off with acres of kahawai feeding on krill and masses of
small sea birds skimming along in pursuit.
release his fish I wore it in the glove and not my hand or arm. A simple snip and his rig became deckie friendly.
We don’t keep many kingfish and we have an unwritten catch and release policy to help protect our fishery.
Today though we would keep just one kingfish around 13kg to make a special raw fish dish. We were having a ball on these fish and as the morning progressed so was our learning. As with all fishing, you have to mix it up and when we were joined by two other boats drifting the same pin the action immediately slowed up.
Less is more By now the pin was under pressure from three boats and 12 anglers all using jigs, the kingfish were still there but had become wary.
A change in jig shape and style proved to change the game in favour of our boat as they started hitting a slow pitch jig moving in a slowed style.
To further enhance this Duncan put a new FCL Labo slow pitch jig on and used a higher lift with a faster drop. I could see the jig was designed for an erratic sideways and tumbling action with this slower style as the line would belly noticeably on the drop as the jig held up in the water column. The lesson here was the less effort, the more jig action.
I liked the thought of that given my age was starting to restrict how long I could keep up with these younger guys.
Again we all started having better hits with this style jig and method and although the fish remained in the 13-15kg size we were having a blast.
Aaron was getting into some fish that provided to be some of the best action of the morning with good string pulling and rod bending.
We even had a triple hook up late in the session and Aaron and I scored two nice solid fish from it.
Topwater tricks We decided to switch to a little topwater action and mix it up. The method would be to try and tease a few fish up by trolling subsurface stickbaits towards a few shallow reef marks then wind them in and cast the lure around the edges of the reef structure.
It was a great method because as we approached the reef Kelly removed her rod from the holder, gave the lure one short sweep and a hole opened up on the surface as the lure was hit.
A nice fish came in and it was looking good for a late morning session.
Never fillet your fish before you catch them is the saying, as cast after cast never produced as much as a follow.
Kelly’s kingfish must have been the only one on the reef so once again we moved to the next part of the day’s plan and made a move to what proved the windy side of the island.
Once at the area we wanted to target we could look back at Whangamata to see the conditions were once again going to dictate the end of the day for us.
They were so bad we made the call to head for home hoping to avoid those late afternoon 35 knot winds.
Kelly whibley puts the hurt on another kingfish.