This may come as a shock, but in the days before jigs, fishermen would use bait. Not highly sophisticated but still effective were ledger and strayline rigs adorned with pilchards
The business end
Lures have made a huge impact on the angling scene and have demonstrated numerous advantages over bait. Lures don't have to be refrigerated, aren't messy to use, are re-useable many times over and while bait can be bought in a few different types and cut to size, lures come in a hundred different choices.
This can be a costly problem though when trying to keep up with the latest lure revolution.
Here is a run down on different styles of lures that can be employed to target work ups, but will also work on the drift when work up activity is not immediately visible.
Madai Slow Jigs - These are a style of lure that generally imitate squid or octopus.
They are fished slowly with an exaggerated action of the rod lifting and dropping and often get hit either as soon as they hit the bottom or when they are first lifted off.
Madai style slow jigs with their bulbous lead head and rubber skirts have faded in popularity a little since other styles have arrived, they still catch fish.
Free Style Kabura Slow Jigs - Similar to the Madai style jigs, Kabura lures have a round lead head with tentacles to imitate a squid or octopus, however the head is able to slide on a short braid leader that attaches to the tentacle and hook section.
The free style motion of the head is designed to impart action to the tentacles.
One thing to watch for when fishing either Madai or Kabura lures is that the tangling of the skirt or a hook lodged in one of the flat rubber tentacles can detract from their hooking ability.
Inchiku Jigs - Inchikus are often lumped into the slow jig family although it could be argued they are technically not a slow jig because traditionally they aren't fished as slowly as a slow jig.
There are arguments around the metal slug section adding extra flash and vibration which helps attract the fish. The squid part may trigger the final bite once a fish gets close and inspects its potential prey.
Inchiku lures generally fish best when they are in a straight up and down position however when the boat has drifted far away from the lure's position, the up and down action becomes more horizontal and the squid part of the lure works a little less effectively.
Slow Pitch Jigs - These are a fairly new style in NZ and like many styles of jigging, originated in Japan.
They are often asymmetrically shaped (from one end to the other) and fall so that either end imparts action to the lure, not just the rear section.
Action and vibration attract fish to strike and the style of rod and action employed to work the lure is a little different to working other styles of jig.
Butterfly Jigs - There are at least two styles of jig branded as Butterfly Jigs (Power Jig and Shimano).
The Shimano Butterfly jigs have a flat fall action and whilst they have similarities to slow pitch jigs they have a different shape and are fished differently.
Butterfly jigs are effective at drawing strikes as they fall through the water column with their fluttering action.
Simply dropping them through the column in a straight up and down direction and keeping your eye on the line for hesitation is an effective way to fish them.
Micro Jigs - Small metal fish imitations have been around for a long time however the differences now are that micro jigs are generally 28grms in weight or less, with some manufacturers classifying 40gram lures in the micro section.
Previously, treble hooks were placed at the far end whilst most micro jigs today usually locate their single hook at the head with a kevlar attachment. This helps impart a little more action to the lure.
These lures never stopped being effective, however they have drawbacks when fishing locations that have fierce current and or wind drift and the strike zone is deeper than say 20m.
On a calm day, deeper is possible but there may be a smaller window of opportunity in the strike zone.
Fish sometimes get fussy and smaller patterns of jig are all that are accepted, so itís worth putting a few in your tackle box.
Softbaits - Softbaits certainly made a big splash when they re-entered the saltwater scene.
Softbaits get closer to the naturals that the fish are feeding on, which can give them the x-factor if the work up action is not intense enough to trigger a full blown feeding frenzy.
On the days the drift is ferocious due to current and wind, going heavier with a lead head and detached hook section (ie Texas worm rig) is the way to go.
Softbaits however rank at the lower end of the durability scale and need to be replaced more often than squid skirts or other styles of jig.
If you have a jig that has had all the paint bitten off, don't be afraid to keep using it. You will be surprised at how effective old, beaten up lures can be. Just remember to check the hooks and make sure they haven't corroded past their use by date and that the skirt still has plenty of action in the water.
White-fronted tern - also known as kahawai birds
The White-fronted tern is the most common of a number of terns varieties found in New Zealand, which are very similar in appearance.
It is usually associated with some sort of fish action, often traveling with kahawai schools that can have snapper associated nearby.
That said, it is worth getting excited when you see White-fronted terns working a known piece structure.
It is also worth noting when White-fronted terns are seen heading up a harbor, as it’s a sure sign things are hotting up in the shallows.
Plenty of well-respected fishos refer to the Buller’s shearwater as a bullsh*t bird, because nothing particularly productive ever happens around them.
To be honest, while this species isn’t our pick of snapper signpost birds, on the quiet days it can pay to give the area around them a good look because fish are usually there; just maybe not as active as they are near a massive gannet work-up.
A gamefisher with sharp eyes can use these birds to find small schools of rapidly travelling yellowfin tuna. Look for a single line of shearwaters travelling at speed out in the deep blue. Get in front in you can and brace yourself for action.
The rock-star species of the work-up world.
Pattern recognition is the key to success on the days when their action is more sporadic. The ability to spot the indicators of a work-up before it has formed is a very useful tool.
I think most fishermen would recognize that an area of water boasting plenty of gannets, even if they are scattered on the water and inactive, is a good place to be.
As a rule we find it more productive to sit and fish on the drift, rather than chase random gannets diving occasionally.