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Workup Weaponry – and how best to use it

December 19, 2019
Workup Weaponry – and how best to use it

When dolphins or whales are pushing baitfish up and churning the ocean into a giant berley trail, gannets and terns will usually be signposting where the action is. Fishing in workups can be frantic, and in the excitement it is often easy to suddenly find yourself with a limit bag in only an hour or so.

This is particularly true when there are solid workups appearing consistently across a large area, such as in the Hauraki gulf in full spring glory.

In these situations, choice of lure and technique do not have to be perfect to still achieve great results, but there are a few things you can do to make the most of the workup experience.

Jamie Carson on a nice big workup snapper hooked in textbook conditions


Typical workup weaponry consists of three main styles of lure, Kaburas, Inchiku jigs, and slow pitch or other mechanical jig patterns.

Drop any of these bad boys down in the right spot and they will generally be monstered in a workup situation.  However, here’s a few tips to maximise the effectiveness of the patterns.

Kaburas and Inchiku jigs.

Both kabura and Inchiku lures utilise a big weight to carry a set of smaller hooks with a squid like body that appears to be irresistible to fish in a workup situation.

There’s not much that changes the dynamic of how these lures work.  Just drop them to the bottom, slowly wind and you will be on.

A selection of classic workup lures, kaburas, slow pitch jigs and inchikus

The catch is that these lures usually come rigged with very sharp, strong hooks but they are small.  Big fish need to be patiently worked to the surface and a net is critical to boat a bigger specimen.

Pliers on hand to remove the hooks is a great idea, and watch out for the second hook being flailed around by thrashing fish.  In the excitement of a workup these hooks love finding hands.

The soft rubber bodies of kaburas are the first to get chewed up, so have spare skirts at the ready.

In this situation, where skirts are getting quickly mauled, rather than continuing to fish kaburas, I usually like to change to a slow pitch jig with barbless hooks.


These jigs are super deadly and sport bigger, stronger hooks on stronger braid so you can afford to be a bit more aggressive on big fish.

There is a key technique change needed in workups to improve hookup rates.  Rather than working the jig actively from the bottom and keeping it moving as you would normally with a slow pitch jig link  the trick in a workup is to stop the lure completely.

Literally leave it on the bottom static for several seconds and you will find snapper will just pick it up.  In the frenzy fish are often just cleaning all the big easy scraps off the bottom and don’t want or need to work too hard chasing a lure.  That’s why the kaburas work so well, easy prey.

When working the slow pitch jig to give it a bit of attention grabbing movement, make sure you then just leave it hanging from the rod tip.  Even for several seconds.

As much as common sense says the lure must be hanging unnaturally in the water like a Christmas decoration on a tree, this is when the fish bang away at it and you will hook up far more often than if you keep the lure active.

Key trick - use barbless hooks

If you keep tension on the fish the barbless hooks will not pull out, so you are not compromising your chances of landing a good fish if you fish well.

Even if you do muck it up, give the fish slack line and lose it, don’t worry, your next hookup is seconds away.  You’re in a workup remember!


1) They actually hook up better with no barb resisting penetration

2) Unhooking fish once boated is a snap, and this makes a big difference when fishing is full on.  It also is very easy to slip the hooks at the side of the boat to release fish without even touching them.

3) If you hook up a small fish, rather than having to haul it up 45 metres to release it, and risking barotrauma if you are impatient, you can simply drop the tension deliberately and let the small fish throw the hook.  This usually works, and Boom! you’re back in the hunt.

4) If, in all the excitement with everyone on board going nuts, fish, rods, nets and lines everywhere, you end up hooking yourself or your mate, escape is easy and friends remain friends

5) It’s pro style ;-)

Workup mayhem.  The heart starts pumping as the action is about to begin


When the workups are moving around, popping up in multiples and spread over a wide area, don't be too concerned with chasing every change in direction the birds take.  Just be patient and hold a good drift where the workup has been and just gone.  Fish will be feeding away on the scraps for some time as the drift moves food along.  Only bother shifting if you stop hooking up after a few minutes on the bottom.


Decide how many and what size fish you want to keep prior to hitting the workup.

From sighting a workup to fishing it, there’s plenty of time to consider how many of you are on board and what fish you need for your pot, and the neighbours pot, and the relatives pot.

You are likely going to limit if you choose.  You are also likely to find big fish in abundance.  It pays to have an idea about the size of fish you intend to keep for eating, and the size of fish you choose to release.  Big snapper are glorious looking and will feed a good crew, but they don’t eat nearly as well as smaller ones.  

Think about the fishery and good release technique, and the workups stand a better chance of being there again next year.

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