Soft Bait Fishing

for Snapper in the Waitemata 

It always pays to have a softbait rod rigged up when fishing Auckland's Waitemata Harbour. There are some times when bait fishing just does not produce results. Changing to a soft bait rig can result in a big change of fortune.
That happened in early January this year when my wife and I were out fishing in our new dinghy.


It was a beautiful summer's day and we were grateful for the Bimini top. Sue was delegated to catch some fresh bait on the sabichi rig and it was not long before a couple of yellowtail were hauled over the side. One was filletted and the resulting chunks added to a Flasher rig. The other was butterflied and cast out on the strayline rig. We were fishing the edge of the main channel, out from Rangitoto in about 12 m of water so no sinker was necessary. I like to have the fresh bait sink slowly through the water column as there is a good chance of picking up a cruising Kingfish as the juicy bait drifts down.
But not on this occasion - the fresh baits were ignored by all fish, except for some small fish attacking the Flasher rig.
After half an hour of this, I hauled out the soft bait rig with my favourite reel - the Shimano Stella. This rig has accounted for some big fish over the years from the Channel and I always have a lot of trust in this high end rig.


I added a Gulp crazy legs softbait in a new colour to the 3/4 oz Lightbulb hook.

gulp softbait

I like these new Lightbulb hooks - the shorter shank seems to have a better hookup rate that the usual longer shank hooks.


Casting it well forward of the drifting boat, I retrieved line until the slack was taken up. I don't normally add much action to the drifting softbait - I know some expert anglers do but the passive, drifting bait seems to work best for me.
As the line tightened, I let out a bit of braid to get the bait drifting nicely along the bottom. Then there were a couple of light taps on the softbait.
"Small ones" I thought but swiftly wound in some line and jagged up the rod. Bang! A decent fish pulled out some line.
"No small one here," I thought. A few minutes later, a nice 50 cm snapper was in the net, the crazy legs protruding from the side of his mouth.
Several similar-sized fish followed - all on the same softbait and all gingerly tapping on the softbait. I had experienced those very gentle takes on an earlier excursion with the CEO of Zeald, Dave Kelly. He had kindly agreed to show a novice how to get into softbait fishing. Fishing softbaits out from Mangawhai, we had encountered many snapper that seemed hesitant to take the softbait. Seemed like they were just nibbling at it; certainly not the smashing take that one often gets with softbaits. 
Dave fixed this problem by attacking the light bite. Reeling in, as he lifted the rod sharply, he succeeded in hooking a couple of good snapper. I had remembered that lesson and the use of it on this, otherwise, slow day resulted in a bin full of fish between 40 and 60 cm.
It was interesting that no legal snapper took a bait all day despite us trying squid, pilchards and fresh yellowtail. Just proving how fickle fishing can be and why you need to have a range of fishing techniques whenever you are fishing the mighty Waitemata.

Waitemata Snapper