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A guide to softbaiting through the colder months

By Scott MacDonnellNZ Fishing World
A guide to softbaiting through the colder months

It’s a common misconception that softbaits don’t work in winter and the colder months of early spring. However as you’ll soon find out, just a few subtle changes to your softbaiting technique means you can leave the bait and berley at home this winter.

Watch the video version of  this article now

Perhaps it is true that fishing does slow down over winter, but in my experience if fish can be caught on bait, then they can absolutely be caught on a softbaits.

In fact, softbait fishing in winter can actually produce better results than softbaiting in summer. The fish that you do catch tend to be bigger, resident snapper that have decided for some unknown reason, that they have no need to head out to deeper parts with all their mates.

Winter softbaiting

One happy fisherman, and one happy to be released fish.

Another benefit of fishing the colder months is that most fishing grounds are experiencing a lot less traffic than through summer. This means inshore sessions can be a bit quieter and big wary snapper in particular, can be tempted to bite.

Change of light

Softbaits tend to be most successful when fished in shallower inshore water, and in winter this means venturing  even shallower than normal. Focus on structure and areas where predators might be cruising around looking for crabs, shellfish or smaller fish. 

Winter softbaiting

Fishing the change of light becomes much more important, as the shelter of darkness seems to have an even greater effect on fish feeding. Dawn and dusk are the best times to fish, particularly when targeting fish in close. The upside of this of course being that, in the shorter days of winter, fishing these times means not having to get up too early if targeting sunrise. Accordingly, fishing at dusk can mean being home in time with fillets ready for dinner by the end of the 6.00pm news.

Winter softbaiting

Winter and early spring can really turn on some stunning days.

Slow it down and go big

In winter a fishes metabolism slows down, and fish are looking for a big  and efficient feed.  Anything offering a substantial mouthful that takes the least energy to catch will be hard to resist, so you can really take advantage of this with softbait and jig head choice.

Go for a bigger softbait body, at least 5” – 6”.  Paddle tails and jerk shads are good, natural colours liks browns, golds and greens work best.

Choose a jig head as light as you can go, even right down to ¼ oz with 3/0 shorter shanked hook.  Using shorter hooks allow greater movement and the lighter weight means you have more time to control a slower sink rate around rocks and weed. 

Technique

Cast away from the boat in the direction you’re drifting, and fish slowly back towards you. Those familiar with softbaiting in summer will find this technique familiar.

Your fishing action needs to be as slow as you can get away with, just easily work the lure around, you can even try leaving it motionless on the bottom with the odd twitch.

Since you will be drifting, a drogue or drift chute will be needed to slow you to the right speed just as per any other time you fish softies.

Up-size your gear

Since you will be targeting larger snapper in shallow water around structure, it makes smart sense to use heavier gear. This mean having a rod that is able to withstand plenty of damage, and trace material that can withstand running up against the odd bit of weed and rock.

The perfect winter snapper! This beauty was released to take someone else's softbait in the future.

For these reasons choose a strong outfit, with atleast 15 – 20lb trace. Consider changing fluorocarbon leader to a tougher 30lb mono trace, this makes your leader a little longer and keeps your braid out of trouble.  Under pressure, braid has almost zero resistance to abrasion so that extra arm length might mean the difference between landing or losing that big winter snapper.

Soft baits in winter are a proven and effective option, so fish with confidence and a positive attitude and you are always in the hunt.

Other tricks

  • One way to increase your odds is by thowing down a little berley. This might not be typical behaviour for a true softbaiter, but one thing for sure is that it can’t hurt your chances. A good choice is a bag of pillies broken up, occasionally fed over the side if the drift is not too quick.

The taxman works both the summer and winter months

  • A rising tide coinciding with a change of light seems to often produce good results around northern regions of the Coromandel and Hauraki gulf.  Always check your forecasts just before heading out if possible, as the weather can be more changeable in these months. 

TrueKit Inflatables

You may have noticed the nifty looking inflatables we're fishing from in this article; small crafts like these are perfect for winter inshore fishing. The big snapper that we featured being released in the video, was one of two that will have been very close to the 9kg (20lb) mark.  Both were caught right on dusk in the Coromandel.  Due to the portable nature of these boats we were able to choose a launch spot from wherever we liked and were fishing within minutes of firing up the little 4 strokes.

These boats were provided to us by Motayak, a company that has recently rebranded to Truekit. 

The smaller Motayak Sport 365 is a very versatile way to get fishing, as it packs down into a relatively compact bag and weighs a manageable 30kgs or so.  See review Motayak Sport ‘Blowing Up around Kawau’ January 2016.

The bigger boat featured in the video is a 4m TrueKit Tactician prototype, sporting a 5hp Honda outboard.  You could actually win this very boat, plus a very tasty accessory package, by winning the Burnsco Fishing Legends competition.

Now, under the new banner of TrueKit, these boats have gone from being a product directly imported from China to a New Zealand designed brand, brainchild of Americas Cup Yachtie, Rod Dawson.

Determined to increase the longevity and quality of the product, TrueKit redesigned the boats sourcing more durable German PVC fabric and specifying full welded seams, rather than the glued option previously specified on Motayaks.  So confident in the product TrueKit offer a 5 years guarantee. 

The TrueKit boats feature useful Railblaza fittings, improved seating design and certainly feel much more solid in the flesh than the Motayak predecessors.

A supply partnership with Honda outboards give buyers an option to get a very sporty rig together that can be stored and transported easily, and get you to some great inshore fishing locations comfortably.

For more information, and to check out the entire TrueKit range here: www.truekit.nz/

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