Winter fishing time is one of my favourite fishing times and I firmly believe the snapper taste better during the winter months due to their beautiful condition. Also New Zealand produces some stunning crystal clear 5 knot days during winter that are not to be missed.
There are 3 methods that I use during Winter and all work well depending on the conditions.
1. Deep Water Jig Fishing
2. Wash Fishing/Shallow Water Soft baiting
3. Deep Water Softbaiting
The one I want to focus on today is deep water soft baiting as this has been working particularly well this season with some very nice snapper between 8-15lbs caught using this technique. The thrill of landing a fat winter snapper on light gear using soft baits is very addictive and has been getting me out of bed early on a cold winters day for some years now.
What are the best conditions for deep water softbaiting?
The best conditions are low wind and a slow drift. It is much easier to get to the bottom and keep in contact with the soft bait when you are not rocking and rolling or screaming along on a strong tidal stream. Also a slow drift allows you to use a lighter jig head, even in deep water which can be more productive.
How do you fish the soft baits in deep water?
In deep water there is no need to cast, simply drop the soft bait directly under the boat and work it very gently on the bottom.
What Colours work?
There is one colour and one size I will always put focus on first, and that is 5” Yellow and Brown soft bait. There are a range of these baits available through the different manufacturers and my preferred brand is the Zman Bruised Banana 5”. This soft bait produces solid snapper consistently in shallow and deeper water and is a tough resilient bait. Yellow is the colour I will
always start with and test before anything else. Other options are to test more natural colours such as anchovy and pilchard coloured soft baits. The colours can vary throughout the winter season but start as above.
What are the best areas to fish?
We have always found the better fish in 40-60 meters and the first thing I look for when coming to a new area, are ridge lines on the map as shown below. I particularly look for lines that run parallel with the tide and have a variance in depth between the ridges. Drifting along the edge of these areas and working the softbait very gently, will produce the bigger fish even when no sign shows on the sounder. This technique has produced snapper from 8 to 15lbs this season.
What sized jig heads work best for winter softbaiting in deep water?
With 3 anglers on board last week, it gave us the opportunity to compare notes and see what had worked the best on the day. We analysed the different weights and leaders used to see what produced the better fish.On this occasion 3/8 oz jig heads did the business and the heavier jig heads were not as productive. Also interesting to note the 15lb leaders were more productive
than the 20lb however be prepared to test and change out on the day and it changes regularly.
The following week a 2 ounce jig head was more productive as example. I do tend to start off with a heavier lure in deep water such as the Nitro Elevator 2 oz jig head as shown below
What are the best Rod and Reel to use
Successful winter fishing in light conditions equates to having light gear. A very flexible light rod with a strong butt section
and a light but strong quality reel increase your chances considerably. Gentle movements with the soft bait have the best hook up rate so keep the bait moving gently. Having light gear also increases the user experience considerably and for me there is nothing better than the sound of line pulling and a flexible rod putting the hurt on a winter snapper.
What can you do to increase your chances?
Slow pitch Jigs, inchiku jigs or soft baits all benefit from some enhancements particularly over winter. I use Ocean Angler Secret Sauce (Drag Juice) on the inside flap on the softbait and find this can help. I also like to put a dollop inside the skirts on the Inchiku Jigs particularly outside of workup season when extra help can be required. I also like to alternatie and use 6 inch gulp baits also which on particular days will outfish the more rigid baits.
So next time you are out try deep water softbaiting on the ridges and see how you get on. It is very addictive.
Cheers Craig Connelly