NZ Fishing World home
NZ Fishing World

Deep in the strike zone

08 December 2015
Deep in the strike zone

Finding deep-water targets is the first challenge but then bridging the great chasm of water between you and the bottom is the next, here's how.

Those of us who can remember the dark ages probably still have moth-eaten diaries with pencil-scrawled landmarks and notes. Once you had deciphered your notes and you had finally found “the general vicinity of the rock”, an innocent victim would be chosen to heave an ungodly lump of lead over the side tied to several hundred metres of bungee-like monofilament.  

After a predetermined period the bicep-testing task of retrieving a protesting length of rubber band and its attached mooring block would begin. Only the most experienced anglers would know with any degree of certainly if their punt was fruitful before it got to the surface and those old salts were never silly enough to go first.

Tech to the rescue

The advent of chart-plotters radically changed the deep-water fishing landscape but that’s a story for another time.

The revolution of superline was apparent from the first day we wet a spool of it. I forget whether it was Dyneema or Spectra based, but instantly our bait rigs were plunging through the water column at twice the speed of the equivalent monofilament setup. More importantly, the gear was hitting the bottom on target.

These two zest jigs are favourites of the author.

These two zest jigs are favourites of the author.

Coping with shock

Such was the sensitivity of the product that experienced anglers could feel their live-baits twitching nervously when the puka came on the prowl.

A few good ole boys that liked to fish with the drag lever pushed to “sunset” soon discovered 130-pound superline has the potential to do unnatural things to an unprepared angler’s vertebrae.It was quickly apparent a shock leader was needed to manage the ferocity of the bites as well as to ensure the bait has time to be swallowed before the weight comes on.

These days I like to fish a four to five metre shock leader (monofilament or fluorocarbon) anytime natural bait is used. With artificials I think two metres is ample – just enough to prevent line damage.

Fishing in an egg cup

The important thing to consider when fishing very deep water is accuracy to, and time in, the strike zone.

Three important pieces of information come into play:

1.   The speed and direction of the current

2.   The speed and direction of the wind relative to the current

3.   The time it takes for a set to get to the bottom

Numbers one and two are important because they control the vessel’s drift. Unless profoundly confident of success I always make a preliminary drift with a single set of gear in the water before filling all my angler’s arms with lactic acid for no result.


Before even contemplating a set it is useful to spend a good deal of time mapping the fishing zone, marking the areas that look active and productive on the chart-plotter. Quality electronics are a must and a few modern tools such as scroll-back are gold.

With the chart-plotter’s track switched on, start a set: timing the descent of the gear to the bottom with a stopwatch. A good rough guide is to allow for a sink rate of two meters per second but timing this first shot provides better accuracy for the rest of the session. As soon as the gear hits the water I also like to drop a mark on the plotter, adding another mark as soon as it hits the bottom. I will explain why in a minute.

A skilled boat driver can greatly increase the productive phase (time in the strike zone) of any set by manoeuvring the vessel to keep the line as vertical a possible. This is most easily achieved by reversing up the natural lay of the line, usually directly into the wind.

Now, having mapped the area and completed a set you will be armed to the teeth with the data needed to catch a pile of fish.

You will have:

1.   A map of the structure showing the spots most likely                              
to be productive

2.   A track showing the direction of the drift which can be used to align an optimised shot

3.   A couple of marks indicating the distance travelled while the gear was descending, as well as a time it took to get to the bottom – this is used to optimise the start point of a drift.

So there you have it. Deep water fishing 101. The same method can been applied to multiple species – hapuka, bass, tarakihi, kingfish, blue cod, trumpeter, snapper and more – it all comes back to maximising time in the strike zone.

Related posts

Kingfish: How the experts catch them
Hints & Tips
NZ Fishing World spoke to five of the country’s most respected kingfish fishermen to find out the secrets to their success.
Rod and Reel Maintenance
Hints & Tips
Rod and reel maintenance is an activity seldom loved by fishermen however it can save you money and heart ache if something fails on a monster fish.
The Finer Points of Straylining
Hints & Tips
The less obvious but equally important principles of stray lining are often the underlying keys for success.
Rust Never Sleeps - Trailer maintenance
Hints & Tips
Many people stow away their boat over winter, however proper care and inspection is essential to ensure springtime does't become an expensive repair exercise.
Going for gurnard glory
Hints & Tips
Gurnard are a gastronomic delight and fun to catch. Michael Parker shares his gems of wisdom gathered from 25yrs of chasing this fascinating fish.
The Jack of all trades - The many uses of Jack mackerel
Hints & Tips
Jack mackerel are a tasty bait and are attractive to both fish and fishermen. Put one on your hook but keep a couple for an appetizer and you will understand why predators happily eat them.
All Related

See Also

How to target bluenose with Ultimate Fishing
Master fisho Matt Watson has some great tips here for identifying and targeting bluenose, a very tasty deep water species that melt in the pan.
Lure Fishing masterclass seminar
Watch now: Grant 'Espresso' Bittle and Catch pro angler Edward Uhai Lee share some expert knowledge with hints, tips and technique advice to help you with your artificial bait game. Recorded live at the 2019 Hutchwilco Boat Show. Enjoy.
It’s easy! Just sign up to our newsletter (using any of the sign-up tabs on our website) and every time you open our email you are in the draw to win a Catch Fishing lure prize. Catch lures have been developed using the latest technology, with input from pro anglers here in NZ and around the world, and are effective on just about every species that eats. For more info on how to fish them just check out many of the articles and videos right here at NZ Fishing World.
The best fishing spots at Whangarei Heads, New Zealand
Check out a drone's eye view of some of the best land-based spots in the Whangarei District
Surfcasting Muriwai Beach - Tips and tricks
Jason 'aka The Fish Whisperer' is one of the best surf fisho's around. Here's a bit of his expert advice for tackling Auckland's Muriwai Beach
New Zealand Spearfishing Diaries: Part 2
Epic spearfishing action in the Coromandel and Hauraki Gulf with the Aquatic Rehab team
All Posts

Drop NZ Fishing World a line!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.