Jig­ging: Hard work pays off

New Zealand Fishing World - - (Techique) - Im­ages cour­tesy of Dun­can O’Co nnell and Aaron Le­vien

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.

AThe plan

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.

In close

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.

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