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Chad

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 #1 

"SURFCASTING" soft bait phenomenon


In the past twelve months soft baits have really taken off. Great results have been shown from boats but from what i have seen surfcaster's are a little reluctant to use them. soft baits are a great alternative and very handy to have in the tackle box. A wide range of species can be taken while using soft baits from the surf, ranging from snapper, gurnard to the elusive moki and blue cod. There is such a fantastic range of soft baits to counter most species , many different rigs can be used to produce different effects. so here are some ideas to get you on your way to catching fish using softbaits

TARGET FISH
Something i have noticed in the past, allot of people just buy a random pack of soft baits, slap em on and hope for the best? From time to time this may work but most fail with this approach and pack it in. Fishing smart is a much better idea! A combination of location, Target species,rigs and seasons ( current food source ) are all major factors and balancing the four will increase your catch rate. Most of my surfcasting Is fished on shallow sandy beach's , Gurnard , Trevally, and Snapper are the main target. One thing these fish have in common is they are all small crustacean feeders so the smart way to fish would be to use either a one or two inch peeler crab or at night a amber glow grab witch will keep all options open. Other species such as Moki , Kahawai and Lemon fish will also take crabs. "Craw" small crayfish, works well on these fish as too. when targeting kahawai and kingfish ,Shards, pogys, mullet and smelt are a better option depending on location.



RIGS FOR THE SURF
The double ledger rig, This is a favourite of mine, most soft baits are aerodynamic light weight and can be thrown a very long way. One advantage with using a ledger rig is you can quite comfortably throw two baits into the surf and still pull off the same distance as if you where using a single bait. Another advantage is being able to target two different species at the same time. I usually use a 1" peeler crab on the bottom hook for the likes of gurnard, then put a shard on the top hook for kahawai, snapper or what ever else is present. This works a treat . The most important thing with soft baits is movement, in the picture below you will see the loops on the ledger rig are 150 mm-200 mm this is to maximize movement and add a more visual attractant to the soft bait.



Running rig is very effective and can be productive when fishing area's with a good currant, when using a running rig i find using a float about 150 mm behind the soft bait gives it plenty of hight and movement in the turbulence behind the waves. This is a good rig to target the likes of trevally,kahawai and kingfish, the trace is roughly a meter long.

place photo of running rig
caption; handy tip is to hold float in place using neoprene tubing, no line abrasion and holds firm.

Long cast rigs, rigs using an Impact Shield or Imp are a great alternative to the running rig for that little extra distance. The floated soft baits still work to the same principle, the only difference is the float is made more aerodynamic and in sync with the rest of the rig allowing a smoother cast.

Walk the dog,Perfect for the times where nothing is happening, this rig takes your bait to the fish! same style as the running rig although instead of using a sand grip sinker, run a ball sinker. Use a two or three ounce sinker depending on current so your rig rolls down the beach in the current, along shallow shelves, deep holes and right in front of the fish. use a simple trace without a float 500mm long, so the soft bait bounces around on the bottom freely. It can take a little perseverance to nail this technique, but thats what fishing's all about !!

CASTING AS A LURE
There are many ways to do this from the shore,this can be great fun and very exciting, whether you are after a challenge on light gear or after the big one, A friend of mine Lee christianson is a gun with soft baits and has caught some excellent fish from the shore including snapper while casting soft baits as a lure.

He use's a Star Rods Nickelite Series 3-8 kg rod running a Abu Garcia T-Alloy 4500, this is a great little combo. Plenty of flex in the rod is important for landing fish and retrieving the lure back through the surf in a jigging motion, yet enough strength in the butt to get a good cast. Running light line 2-4 kg adds allot more interest and skill into the mix, and is a test even for even the best angler. For best results i would suggest using 1/4-1/2 ounce jig heads, its nice and light to cast, yet heavy enough to get good distance and depth.

The local river mouth is a great location to get in amongst the action. Kahawai is the main catch although a stray kingfish wont hesitate to strike! Around rocks, reef area's especially over foul ground is where this method works best for snapper. wharf's and jetty's are also site's worth a look as you never know what will turn up.


HOOKS
One of the most important components when using soft baits while surfcasting are the hooks. Most fish that strike tend to pick the soft bait up and run with it before realizing and spitting the hook. Not always are we right beside our rods to strike the fish at this moment so circle hooks are great especially for these situations. Striking the fish using circle's is not necessary just gradually applying the weight does the trick. Depending on the size of the soft bait, i generally use 3-4/0 gammy circle's, I find this size hook presents the soft baits quite well and gives a very good hook up rate. However a 4-5/0 is a much better size for a 5-7 inch soft bait on a running or long cast rig. If your not a fan of circle hooks the other alternative is a long shank hook. The benefit is the longer shank allows you to thread the soft bait right up the shank towards the eye and have the hook on the lower region of the soft bait.

BITE TIME
This is a very important aspect of fishing, bite time is the period where the fish are hitting the line in rapid succession. You can sit in one spot all day and catch bugger all but when the fish come on the bite you can fill your bin in half an hour. Its important to have rigs already baited and ready to deploy! Bite time usually doesn't last to long so every second counts! soft baits are awesome in these situations, its just a matter of unhooking your fish and ripping your line back out there.

DURABILITY
Unlike fresh baits such as pillie's when using soft baits there's no need to rebait after every cast, or fish for that matter, they just keep on catching. Their quite tough and durable although crabs can be a hassle at times. I have noticed they have a taste for soft baits and will demolish them. This can be an expensive lesson! So if fishing an area where there is a plague of crabs, just hold off with the soft baits until the change of light when predators come in and feed on em.

SUMMARY
fishing with soft baits is a good substitute to fresh bait, and very handy to have a selection in the tackle box. Not only are soft baits visually stimulating but they have an added scent witch brings fish in from a distance. They work in all conditions,dirty or clear water. i wouldn't suggest you fish with soft baits solely, rather treat them as a bait alternative. Great for the times when nothing is happening, they can make all the difference. perseverance, Trail and error are huge aspects of fishing in discovering what works for you !!


Finny

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Posts: 1
 #2 
Hi Chad,

I'm planning to use softbaits from the shore/surf this season and am in the process of gearing up.  Is a 7-8ft softbait rod really a substitute for the average surfcasting rod?  It doesn't seem possible.  What are the characteristics of a land based softbait rod regardless of brand? Do I need lots of flex up high?  or do the techniques for LB fishing change and so the rod is different to a boat softbait rod?  What would a 6-8kg 3m - 3.5m rod look like?  Is it possible? Is it even necessary? Any thoughts? 


Chad

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 #3 
Hi Finny.

very good question. The rod type really depends on the characteristics of terrain you are fishing, also the platform in which you are fishing off. Regardless of where you are fishing you will need a slightly heavier rod than which you would use fishing from a boat. From a boat you are directly above the fish, you can move the boat to aid the landing of the fish. From the shore you are highly restricted, especially from the rocks, For the smaller fish like pan sized snapper and kahawai it is fine, but trophy fish will test your gear.

The key i believe to successful soft-baiting from the shore ( using it as a lure ) is distance, being able to hit spots 40-50-60 meters offshore. This means;

A stiffer rod - higher rating

8-10 foot rod, keeping in mind you loose action with a taller rod.

Slightly heavier jig heads ( one once )

Adjust your action to the water depth.

Some salmon rods I believe are very good for this, generally built with a little extra strength, made for spinning, and built in the 7-11 foot range. Look for a high graphite rod, cheep surfcastors have a high F glass percentage in them, there is very little response through to the lure from F glass. Hi carbon rods are stiffer and highly responsive towards the lure creating a much better lure action. Problem is carbon is very brittle, and if you intend on spending a lot of time on the rocks, you may have to compromise.

So in short, a little more length to your rod, slightly stiffer action at the top end. If you have any more questions or advice feel free.

Chad

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