The use of artificial soft bait lures and modern braid line technology has certainly changed the face of New Zealand sport fishing, and with good reason
The classic target species we love to chase; snapper, kingfish, trevally and even bottom feeders such as blue cod, John dory and gurnard, are all suckers for these colourful rubbery baitfish imitations. Not only is this method of fishing extraordinarily effective, it keeps you constantly active, and can offer the saltwater angler a hint of the fly fisherman’s thrill when a fish grabs a nicely presented lure.
Where once comparatively heavy rods and reels were used, soft bait rigs are scaled right down to be lightweight but still incredibly powerful. The typical soft bait outfit is a spinning or ‘eggbeater’ style combo, spooled with 3 – 10kg braid line and a 2 metre fluorocarbon leader.
Attach the trace to the braid with an Albright knot (see breakout) and the end of the trace to the jig head with a loop to allow the lure free action. The Rapala loop is most common but the perfection loop will work well too.
The Jig head must be threaded onto the line and fed through the main loop when completing the knot. This allows the jig head to swing freely and perform with a natural action in the water. Jig heads will usually be 10 – 20 grams with 1/0 – 3/0 hook sizes.
NZFW sotbait expert Scott Mcdonnell prefers using Gulp in a 5” jerk shad. These are available in a vast array of colours, many of which defy any resemblance to a living organism, but they sure work nonetheless. Scott favours using natural colours, but great results are often self-perpetuating. Use your favourite all the time and it will naturally reap greater rewards!
In close With this style of softbaiting, using stealth like a ninja
As with all softbait fishing, your softbait needs to be on or near the bottom to consistently produce snapper
is your key weapon and you need to actively work the boat along the coast in close to the rocks. It is also one of the most exciting methods as often a big snapper smashes your softbait and screams off into the weed, trying to bust you off.
HOT TIP Once you cast, don’t let the softbait sink to the bottom in the shallow water. As soon as the lure hits the water, flip the bail arm and start retrieving the line at a medium pace.
This will help prevent it snagging in the shallows until you get several metres out into deeper water and you can slow the retrieve, which allows the softbait to sink.
Open water method As with all softbait fishing, your softbait needs to be on or near the bottom to consistently produce snapper. As you fish with them drifting in the boat you always need to cast ahead of the boat as it moves along. This will ensure the jighead reaches the bottom and you then work the lure along the seabed until the boat catches up and you drift over it. You can let more line out as you move past to keep in touch with the bottom but when there is too much line angle with the lure out the back you need to retrieve and cast out again.
With any kind of fishing style, time on the water simply can’t be beaten and you need to get out there to regularly fish to see what works for you. Make sure you take different sizes, colours and styles and you will build a sound knowledge on what works best.