Slowing right down

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Andrew Spear
March 2011

We look back at the arrival of inchiku jigs in New Zealand, and offer a few reasons why you might want to revisit this super reliable technique - plus how-to set up an inchiku out of the packet.

I'm a sucker for new things, in fact I've often been called a marketer's dream target. Whether it's a new gadget or a re-labelled beer from the supermarket, I must try it. The same applies for fishing and I am always keeping a close eye on new, innovative fishing techniques and gear to try out for myself. Don't get me wrong, I was brought up fishing with bait as I'm sure most Kiwis are and I still enjoy straylining a whole pilchard out the back of the boat in hot snapper country. But I am fascinated with new developments in fishing, especially when they work.

So when I got the chance to head out with the guys at Douglas Johnson, the distributors of Shimano in New Zealand, and test their new Bottom Ship slow jigs, I jumped at the opportunity. These Bottom Ships are Shimano's version of the popular Japanese inchiku jigs. These funny-looking little lures consist of a smallish jig that is designed to flutter through the water, with a small rubber squid and two ultra-sharp small hooks attached by Kevlar. You can just imagine how appetising they must look to a hungry fish as these brightly coloured lures come casually fluttering past, looking all distressed and tasty.

The gear

So we made a plan to launch from Gulf Harbour and head out wide to test these little bad boys in 40-50m of water. With me was Steve and Matt from Douglas Johnson and Mat Hewetson from NZ Fishing World. As well as having a go with these lures we would also get the chance to test out some nice, new rods and reels that are perfect for slow-jigging. We had two rods to try, firstly was the ultra-light, super-parabolic Shimano Backbone Elite Lucanus 6'6" rod. The second was a T-Curve Lucanus 80-150g 7' rod that packs a little more grunt than the Backbone. Both these rods are designed with this type of fishing in mind as they load up and effectively hook the fish through their own action rather than the angler striking. However, what I was most looking forward to was giving the new Shimano Trinidad A a crack. These little reels pack a powerful punch and when combined with really smooth drag and a pretty quick retrieve, make them a perfect tool for dropping these jigs. We were using both the 12A and 14A models, spooled with 20lb and 30lb Sufix Performance Hi-Vis braid respectively. (Check out the reel review at the end of this article for more on the Shimano Trinidad A).

Great drag and a smooth return make the shimano trinidad A a world beater

Quickly converted

We headed out from Gulf Harbour with little wind and flat seas hoping to run into some working gannets. With not a bird in sight we steamed out to 43m and decided to have a go. There was nothing in the way of snapper sign on the sounder, but we dropped anyway. I decided to sit back for a few minutes and study the technique involved in this type of fishing. I really think this is a much better way to learn as two minutes watching someone fish correctly is a much better start than dropping blindly and hoping for the best. Well, it turned out I didn't really get to study much at all as Matt was walloped as soon he hit the bottom. Amazing, nothing on the sounder and we were in to what seemed like a decent fish. The light rod performed admirably while the reel allowed Matt to slowly retrieve the fish smoothly and without any issues. The brassy form of a snapper soon appeared through the depths and we were on the board with a healthy 43cm specimen. First drop and we were in, not a bad start to a tackle test if I must say! After a few photos I decided that I had better give it a crack. I attached a blue 90g Bottom Ship to my set, which was the Trinidad 14A on the T-Curve. This is the lightest of the Bottom Ship jigs and they go all the way up to 240g.

Drifting is by far the best method of fishing with these types of lures, as with all jigging, as you cover more ground and can move to new spots or start the drift again effortlessly and quickly. Inchiku jigs of any type are designed to be dropped and retrieved as straight up and down as possible and this isn't too hard given their weight. My first drop and I was to the bottom pretty quickly. A few slow lifts of the rod, followed by a few quick winds of the reel before letting the jig drop once more is the accepted technique although as I was soon to find out, if the fish are around and hungry they will smash the lure no matter what you do.

A laugh and a 'wahoo' from an excited Steve over the other side of the boat confirmed that he was into a decent fish and it wasn't too long before he pulled a healthy panny red over the side. The pressure was on, Douglas Johnson 2 – New Zealand Fishing World 0. I needn't have worried though as while I was quickly winding off the bottom something crunched the jig in spectacular fashion.

The bottom ship jigs accounted for many decent sized snapper during the test.

A real test

"Bloody hell, that was an aggressive hit. I'm on!" The rod had folded over, the line was screaming out and I was preparing myself for a bit of a fight. The drag on these reels are superb and allowed the fish to take a run smoothly before I put some hurt in and began working it back towards the surface. After a bit more to-ing and fro-ing I managed to lift the fish to the surface. A rat kingfish, not a bad size and a great way to really put this gear through its paces. It seemed a school of rat kingys were making their way through our drifting path and it wasn't long before all three anglers had a feisty rat firmly attached to their jigs.

One thing I liked immediately about these jigs was the two small and seriously sharp hooks. Every fish had managed to hook itself in the mouth while the other hook had attached itself to another area. This both took a lot of pressure off each hook and meant that if one slipped there is another to hold the fish. A warning though, they a razor sharp and care should be taken when removing them, especially from the mouth of a struggling kingfish. I learnt the hard way pretty quickly and got caught when trying to remove one with my hand, luckily not as deep as the barb but still enough to cause some pain for the next few hours. Always use pliers, I can't stress that enough!!

The two sharp hooks are strong enough to tackle the toughest fighters

We had a bit of fun with the kings but were really after some solid snapper and so thought we would chase some birds we had seen working towards Little Barrier Island. We soon arrived where the birds had been and decided to switch to slightly bigger 110g Bottom Ship jigs as we were in deeper water and the current had picked up a bit over the last hour or so. We were all using different colours here, myself now with a solid metal jig and pink squid while there were oranges, blues and different shades of pink being used by the others.

Again there was little on the sounder but we struck fish immediately. I was having a blast, these things were working far better than I had originally thought they would. While there was a steady stream of healthy snapper coming on board, I once again connected to something that peeled line. Instead of the kingy that I originally thought had attacked by lure, a very healthy kahawai appeared and was pulled on board. Steve had earlier told us that a work colleague loves kahawai and was keen for one so she was now in for a treat when he returned at the end of the day.

"So kahawai like these as well?" I asked.

"Mate, everything loves these Bottom Ships," Steve replied, never missing an opportunity to endorse his product. Why not, they obviously work and I was by now a firm believer.

I found that no technique was working any better than another and I was having success often and on varying methods. Sometimes a fish would smash the jig that was being dragged along the seafloor, other times I would just lift the rod and drop it while I also had a lot of success winding and jigging as fast as I could to about halfway up before letting the jig flutter its way down once more.

After a couple more hours, we finally saw a proper work-up back a bit closer to shore. So we shot off there to find hundreds of gannets pummelling the water. Any fishermen knows just how exciting it is when approaching a big work-up like this. We soon arrived, but as I've found all season out in the Gulf, they disappeared as quickly as they had arrived. There were still dolphin cruising around but it seemed obvious that whatever bait was in the area was quite dispersed and free to move where it chose. This makes chasing them very difficult.

The ultimate challenge

We were nearing the end of our day when Matt, using the Trinidad 14A and the T-Curve rod, hooked something with some real weight. This thing, whatever it was, didn't want to come up so we all wound in and started chasing it in the boat. Matt was slowly getting some line back but this fish didn't want to lift its head. We thought he must have hooked a big stingray as it seemed to stick to the bottom. After nearly half an hour we finally managed to get it near the surface, what appeared was definitely not what I had expected.

A BIG thresher shark that had managed to get both hooks through its giant tail was slowly coaxed back to the boat before it wrapped the braid around the propeller and we were forced to cut the line. We estimated it to be 60kg plus, a solid effort on the light gear. What amazed me though, was that those little hooks hadn't straightened during the fight. They are tough little numbers, that's for sure. (You can check out a video of Matt's fight with the thresher shark at www.nzfishingworld.co.nz/legends)

We made our way back to Gulf Harbour very satisfied. These slow jigs really work and I was eager to take them out again. Once more I had been converted to yet another type of fishing, but what will come next?? I can't wait to find out.  

Simple inchiku setup

1: Out of the packet, things are not that obvious
2: Remove ring from kevlar
3: Thread kevlar through centre hole
4: Re-attach ring to kevlar
5: Ready to roll

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