Small boats, inflatables and kayaks are great fishing platforms for inshore anglers. They offer incredible convenience on a number of fronts and, as they are highly mobile, they are able to be launched at virtually any shoreline access point.
You won't spend much on gas, moorings, or maintenance and usually can be out and back within a couple of hours with a great catch. There's still time to do the lawns, hedges and household chores and avoid the cold shoulder from your dearest other half.
Even if you are lucky enough to own a 'real' boat, a mini-me version can be a great addition to the toy department and provides an excellent introduction to fishing for kids and teenagers. Not to mention, they are just great fun and, more often than not, will out-fish ocean-going dream boats.
There is a bit of a compromise, however. Workup fishing and deep water exploration are pretty much out of the question, which means some of the greatest fun to be had with modern jigs and lure designs is out of range.
However, all is not lost as these lures can be equally effective if used correctly inshore and, in many cases, will do better than bait. The key is in how they are fished and the selection of style and size can be adjusted down to suit shallower water.
With the exception of soft baits, these designs all owe their origins to Japan and are arguably responsible for virtually reinventing the sport of inshore fishing. Using these lures in bays or fishing grounds without a bird or dolphin in sight can be incredibly productive.
Put in the hard yards
The real key to using modern techniques and gear for the first time is easily summed up in three words - commitment, commitment, commitment.
A common mistake when new gear trialing, is to revert to type if the results are slow in coming, or your mate is doing better with other methods. Dedicate yourself to using the gear from the get-go. Don't wait until the hot bite has gone.
The best way to truly commit is to leave yourself no other option. Take only the gear you intend to master and nothing else, and you will soon learn how it rolls. Don't worry too much about unwanted visitors, they are only interested in your catch!
Bling Option Number 1
Soft baits with 10 - 18 gram (1/4 - 5/8 oz) jig heads are absolutely dynamite in water around 5 - 30 metres. Available in a virtually endless array of colours and sizes, they very rarely fail to work well if fished correctly on the right gear.
Fish these from a drifting boat using a cast and slow retrieve action and try to keep the lure on the bottom for as long as possible. You will not be gone for long before you see your nice straight rod significantly bent out of shape.
A good spinning rod with 6 - 10lb braid and a fluorocarbon leader is perfect for soft baiting, but can also be used just as effectively to fish micro jigs in a virtually identical manner.
Check the video for more detail and apply the same methods from small craft...
Bling Option Number 2
Micro jigs are now very popular, with a great range available from Daiwa, Braid, Catch, and most other significant lure manufacturers.
They are essentially a small version of a slow pitch jig, ranging from a tiny 7 grams to about 35 grams. Usually a flat baitfish shape with a single tiny, but strong assist rig, these lures are akin to a trout fly and will handle very big snapper quite happily.
Micro jigs can be cast away from the boat using the same gear and method as you would for soft baits. The difference is the timing of engaging the bail arm. These jigs flutter furiously on descent, so when they hit the water, let them fall freely. Watch the line and, as soon as it stops pulling through the water, engage and take in a few quick winds. This tightens up the connection and pulls the jig back up off the seafloor. Retreive it back to the boat using a wind, drop, wind, drop action, keeping the lure near the bottom all the way.
Micro jigs also work well dropped straight to the bottom using a light overhead reel and slow pitch rod.
Bling Option Number 3
Slow pitch jigs
Slow pitch jigs are generally a 35 - 350 gram leaf-shaped lure sporting a single or pair of assist hooks. Fishing these off a small boat in shallow water can sometimes seem like overkill, however the heavier jigs are often more effective as they sink faster and dart around more aggressively, giving off flash and imitating a wounded baitfish. Even small fish will happily impale themselves on these jigs and big snapper and kingfish just love them to bits.
The fishing method requires a bit of investment to get going, as the ideal rod is designed specifically to impart the required action to these lures. The rods are surprisingly light and flex pretty evenly all the way through to the butt, which is why you will notice minimal handle and grip specified. The ideal reels are small, overhead units fitted with braid and a two-metre fluorocarbon leader.
Attach the leader to the split ring at the end of the jig that also anchors the assist hooks.
The action to fish these in shallow water is exactly the same as you would out deep. Drop the lure to the bottom and watch the rod tip behave as if you already have a fish on, as erratic-actioned jig slides and shimmers off to do its job.
Point the rod at the water while this is going on, and as soon as the jig hits bottom engage and flick the rod tip up to just above horizontal. Pause half a second then immediately drop the tip back down allowing the jig to flutter. Repeat until the jig is several metres up the water column and then drop it back down all the way again.
Fishing in this way from a drifting boat covers good ground and remains effective even in windier conditions.
When fish strike, the small, but very strong assist hooks take hold all by themselves, so striking is not necessary. The rod appears to bend like wet spaghetti. Most of the pressure is applied with the reel and butt section working a fish slowly to the surface.
Again check the video for a lot more detail
Bling Option Number 4
Popular for some time now, Inchiku style jigs are an unlikely-looking lure. A hard jig body with an assist rig sporting a squid skirt attached at some point.
Inchiku jigs also have a dedicated rod design requirement in much the same style as the slow pitch jig rods. This gives anglers even more reason to buy a slow pitch rod which will multi-task and allow further purchase of lures to be rationalised.
Absolutely merciless on fish when used under a workup (simply drop it to the bottom, slowly wind and then hang on) these can also be fished very well in shallow water.
There is a trick, and that is to downsize. Less is more and jigs around 20-40 grams are best.
A particularly effective Inchiku, the Daiwa Pirates jig, is usually fished by attaching the leader to the tail-end anchor point. For shallower waters, there is an alternative mounting option on the top side of the lure, designed to give a flatter, more darting action and more flutter on descent, as well as a wobbling action on retrieve, keeping the lure a little more horizontal.
Cast and retrieve like a soft bait, or simply lower the jig to the bottom and slowly wind up a few metres, before dropping back down again.
Bling Option Number 5
Kabura style jigs
The Kabura jig works anywhere, and is perhaps the easiest of all to fish once rigged correctly. Newer versions of the lure such as Catch Kaburas will have a sliding head that runs up the main line and slides down to a wafting rubber skirt hiding tiny assist hooks.
Using your new slow pitch jig rod or a softer overhead rig, attach a three metre leader of 15 - 20lb fluorocarbon and tie the end to the skirt loop.
The beauty of the Kabura is that the action of the current or water movement alone will produce enough subtle action to catch fish. A Kabura is simply dropped to the bottom and retrieved super slowly up and down off the seabed.
This is a lure that works really well with the rod simply left in the holder.
A typical productive day using soft baits from a kayak
For inshore waters, a little 20 gram head can be all you need, with bigger weights employed to counter current
A good rule of thumb selecting weight is the rule of double 40 metres = 80 gram head, 50 metres = 100 gram head etc.
Remember, the key to using all of these lures is to be in a drifting boat. A good sea anchor will be required if you are to fish in any sort of wind.
Light boats require only the slightest of winds to move them too quickly, so a good parachute anchor set off the bow puts the wind at your back.
Smaller boats are usually open and don't offer the comfort of a cabin, so this makes fishing much more enjoyable, as well as allowing a lot of ground to be covered.
Specialist gear and braided lines are a real advantage when using these lures as they are intended.
To fish them simply lower the jig to the seafloor and then SLOWLY wind up a few metres. Lower and SLOWLY wind and strikes will come. Be sure NOT to strike. The tiny but very strong hooks will set themselves so just let the weight of the fish come on and start playing the fish smooth and easy.
Setting up the boat
Although gear has an initial cost, the quality from most of the mainstream brands is excellent. In smaller boats the water tends to end up in the boat, so getting the best quality you can afford pays off in the end, as quality seals and materials give much greater longevity and performance.
If you want to catch more fish inshore and enjoy fishing actively without having to carry smelly bait on board a small boat, get out there and fling the bling.