Targeting Hapuka, bluenose, bass, gemfish and other deep water species traditionally means plunging a big dropper rig loaded, with various lumps of squid or bait fillets, into anywhere from 100 to 500 metres attempting to hit sign identified on the trusty sounder. More often than not these days, with an electric reel (see powered winch) of some sort. It’s a reasonably effective way to fish, with good results common to those that know what they are doing.
There is also another way, and it can be a lot easier and way more fun if you enjoy a bit more sport in your fishing.
Jigging for these species with lures is actually very effective. They are aggressive down there, and will readily jump on jigs if presented with the right one.
Pro angler Edward Uhai Lee jigs up a very respectable puka on the Catch Giant Squidwings in only 190 metres
Let’s start with the gear
Getting down to the common depth of 150 – 300 metres where the Hapuka and co will be, means you immediately need a reel capable of holding at least this much braid. Bigger kingfish jig rods with PE 5 -to PE 8 line do the job very nicely, and it’s a good way to get a bit more use out of these outfits, and maximise your investment when the kings are not biting or you feel like a change of scene.
Braid line is critical to avoid any line stretch. You’ll need this to actually work the lure properly (or even move it at all), reduce the drag of current on such a lot of line out, and to feel what’s going on down at the business end.
It’s amazing how sensitive this line is even down 300 metres, you can feel every touch and knock on the lure.
Even a PE 5 kingfish rig like this can get down 250 metres and pull up some good fish
Attach your braid with a PR or FG knot to a heavy mono tough-trace or fluorocarbon leader around 130 lb. The fish you’re likely to hook can be toothy, with very rough gill plates, and the bottom can also contain a bit of structure that can snag you up. Heavy, abrasion resistant trace is an advantage, and down that deep the fish aren’t too sensitive to the visual appearance of line naturally.
Compared to some deep bottom fishing combos this is still comparatively light gear, and needs to be as you still need to jig and work a lure.
Have a gimbal belt handy, a lighter plastic unit won’t damage the internal sides of whoever’s boat you are on.
Lures for the deep
The Catch Fishing Giant Squidwings.
Fishing this lure with great success recently, actually provided the inspiration for this article.
Here is a lure that really has nothing else like it in the market. It’s designed specifically for purpose, and does a bloody good job of hooking up.
It’s available in either 500 gram or 750 gram sizes, and essentially imitates a squid, as its name implies. Importantly, the entire lure from head to skirt is highly luminous, so exposure to sun or a UV torch lights it up once the sun’s rays are extinguished by the deeper fathoms.
Check out that lumo glow. The deep down dinner bell
The rather unique Catch Fishing Giant Squidwings is a great option for deep dropping
Equipped with 15/0 circle hooks on assist rigs, this lure unlike most traditional jigs, has a form factor that allows it to be fished a number of different ways.
Normal mechanical jigging action works very well. Be aware that circle hooks set differently so allow a hit to just load up the rod. It’s also an option to change these hooks out to standard J patterns also available in rigged twin packs from Catch or just use your own favourites.
A slow, easy jig-wind, jig-wind, jig-wind action allows the rubber skirt to waft around and the winged head provides a swimming action that also works very well.
It can easily be fished just sitting in roddy-rod holder using the action of the sea
If things are not happening, as sometimes can be the case particularly in winter, try hooking a mackerel or baitfish through the eyes of the lower hook in the skirt. It does not interfere with the action much, and if it gets bitten off you’re still fishing.
A decent sized gemfish munched a 500 gram lure in 250 metres west coast Northland
Traditional knife jigs are often all that is needed to jig up a good deepwater fish.
Go for bigger models from 300 – 800 grams depending on current and depth requirements. Most good jigs benefit from having a luminous glow finish, and you can add additional material such as luminous squid skirts to your assist hooks for added visual attraction.
These have to be jigged just as you would fish for kings, with a fast mechanical action.
Swinging big jigs down very deep is quite physical, and will tax you pretty quickly if you’re not jig-fit. Be prepared for a tough session, or think about some of the other lures options here.
Big slow pitch jigs
Slow pitch jigging is relatively new anyway, but using them to target the deep is definitely niche.
Although new to NZ, they have been using jigs like this overseas for a while now. The slow pitch rods are a lot more flexible, but still capable of working a 300 gram plus jig easily. This style of slow lift, drop, and wind is much easier than speed jigging, and allows the flatter leaf shaped jigs to do the work. It’s an easy way of keeping a good looking jig working near the bottom in the strike zone also.
Five advantages of fishing deep with lures
So why do this when there’s perfectly good bait around?
Fishing with lures is just more fun in my book. It’s active, hands on, and rewarding when you hook up due to your own good management. Other than that, there are advantages to using lures sometimes.
1) They have far less drag in the water, so get up and down the looong water column much easier
2) They sit patiently on the boat or in you tackle box all year round, don’t smell or go off, and are always ready to go at a moment’s notice if the opportunity or inclination to head out deep takes you.
3) They can be fished on smaller and lighter gear. Puka and bass in particular actually go really well as a sport fish, and you can enjoy a great battle in the early stages of the fight before the pressure gets the better of them.
4) You’re always fishing. No need to wonder if your bait has been taken as you debate whether or not to wind up the long haul to find out.
5) Say no to sharks. Doggies and various other undesirable sharkies are a curse to the deep water fisho. They can be both a massive anti-climax to a good fight, or worse, a plague in numbers. They are not a worry on lures.
Where and how to fish
You can drop all the lead you like, and it won’t do much good unless you are on top of fish.
Finding Hapuka and the like warrants its own article, and wherever you live and fish there will be grounds that host these fantastic eating species.
Many anglers do the hard yards and find their own secret spot X puka holes. One of the advantages of searching for these using lures is that it is easier to have a quick probe on some good looking sign and if no good, it’s easy to keep moving with little time and effort wasted.
In deeper water you’ll be looking at any bottom features such as pins, banks, contour lines, guts and holes to provide food and shelter for your target species.
Fishing with lures as far as boat positioning and techniques go is no different from dropping baits. In fact, while your mate drops bait, you can throw a lure down and you are in the game.
Fishing an hour either side of a tide is a good way to plan a deep drop, as there are fewer external factors working against you with reduced tidal flow and so much line out.
Assuming you have found some reasonable looking sign on your sounder, you’ll need a driver to hold the boat backing into the wind, pushing in and out of reverse to hold your lines in a vertical position.
Bluenose love the Giant Squidwings too
Get the lures down, and work them close to the bottom unless you’re marking sign that is holding higher.
A couple of drifts will soon identify where the boat is tending to go, and you can rely on the driver’s skills to reposition and cover the fertile ground using your sounder’s tracking trail.
Remember to keep in mind every fish is a keeper at these depths, there’s no tag and release option as fish float to the surface unable to survive release.
It does not take many of these big boys to provide a great feed, so fish for the future and limit what you take. Mark your spot for next time and there will still be a next time.
Without doubt, there are still times that bait will out-fish a lure when targeting these fish. Smell is a big factor in the limited sensory environment of the abyss, and the real thing is sometimes what it takes to do the job.
Lures provide an option that is fun, convenient, and often very effective, so maybe throw a Giant Squidwings on board, grab the big gear and think about this as an option next time you head out wide.