With the advent of braid line along with fit-for-purpose rods and reels, there has been a quiet revolution going on in the recreational fishing scene as anglers switch from natural baits to artificial lures.
‘Quiet’ might not be quite the word for it, because lure fishing engenders plenty of vocal expression and excitement, especially casting topwater lures with its spectacular bites. That unmistakable sound of line being ripped through the guides by a rampaging fish, accompanied by a shout of ‘fish on’, followed by lots of yahoos, is what lure fishing aficionados live and breathe for. If you could bottle that euphoric moment, it would be worth a fortune!
Similarly, softbaiting and slow-pitch jigging has the same effect, except the bite is not usually visual, but all the other elements are there.
Lure fishing to me is hunting, no more so when targeting fish in the shallows or the wash, that hallowed ground where the marine washing machine stirs up the bait, food, and ultimately the predators.
Alistair Arkell has been smitten by the lure-fishing bug. For him it is not so much the fish he has caught, but the way he scratches the itch.
“It is the thrill of the hunt,” Al says. Casting lures for snapper, and big snapper in particular, is addictive and not too many anglers new to lure fishing who have come on my boat, don’t leave raving about it.
Alistair with our best fish of the day, dragged out of the shallows.
Depending on the conditions, fishing the wash and the shallows can be slow going, but Al says sometimes all it takes is for the wind to puff up a little ripple on the water to trigger feeding activity.
“Hooking a big fish in seven metres or less water and having to manoeuvre the boat in close, driving around bommies and working it out of the kelp sees the adrenaline levels rise off the chart. Other times it is a buzz to see a lure nailed right by the boat, before working the fish alongside and after the release, swimming off healthily.”
Al has only ‘seriously’ been into his lure fishing for six years or so. He had always lure-fished but considered it ‘just another way to go fishing’ rather than his go-to method.
The Haines Signature 543SF Centre Console has plenty of beam for stability, while the variable deadrise produces a solid bluewater performance.
“The addiction began when I started working at Shimano NZ where the staff ate and breathed lure fishing, enough so that they weaned me off live and dead baits in favour of plastic and metal.”
Having now caught plenty of respectable snapper and kingfish on lures, Al says he tends more to remember trips rather than individual catches.
“The whole package gets me amped – the sunrises and sunsets, the food, swimming and snorkelling for p?ua and crayfish, glassed-out days, car trips north filled with anticipation, working hard on slow days – I love it all.”
The Haines Signature is a full walkaround, with upholstered gunwales offering the angler protection from bumps and bruises.
On resigning from his marketing post with Shimano NZ, Al set up a small company Hauraki Gulf Media which was ‘more or less’ an extension of his fishing.
“It was a side hustle for me – content writing, photography and social, and my own blog where I document my fishing trips. I enjoy every aspect, so why not record it properly with cool photos and words? Otherwise, it is easy to forget.”
Outside of the actual catching, there are two key elements – good gear and a fit-for-purpose boat. Being in the trade, he has access to both.
One of the features of the 543SF centre console is a large amount of storage space.
His favourite softbaiting outfit is a Penn Slammer 7’2” PE2 with a Penn Authority 2500 reel spooled with Berkley ProSpec Ultra X8 rated at 15lb. When asked if he could only use one softbait tail, his answer was an emphatic Gulp! New Penny 6” Grub. It is appropriate at this stage to point out Al creates social media material for Pure Fishing, the distributors of Penn and Berkley tackle.
That leads us into boats. The key elements of a good lure-fishing boat is a hull configured either as an open or centre console.
The Yamaha 130 Fourstroke returns excellent economy figures
“Get the best that you can afford – but there is no substitute for a good attitude and a desire to catch fish.”
In other words, it is not much use if you have all the gear, but no idea!
Al reckons Kiwi manufacturers build the best trailerboats in the world.
“However, our GRP boat manufacturers are behind the times as far as centre consoles are concerned, there is really nothing available.”
That forced Al to look beyond our shores to Australia where glass centre consoles are massive, with a huge selection.
“Once I rode in a Haines Signature, it was a done deal.”
Al’s previous centre console was built in alloy, a material which has many benefits when it comes to customisation.
“Features can be welded on, whereas GRP boats come out of a mould which is not as easy, and is expensive, to change. They have to get it right from day one with the design.”
The casting platform has plenty of space for two anglers.
He says Haines Signature has done just that with his 543SF CC, and he would change nothing.
Recently, I had the pleasure of a day’s fishing with Al out of Mangawhai where we targeted snapper in the shallows. If the day’s success was judged only on the number of good fish hooked, we would have been happy chappies. We crossed the bar on the way in with zero big fish landed on the scoresheet – every one dusting us in the kelp or reef and it didn’t matter what we did, we couldn’t winkle them out.
Despite that, we still came home with a good feed and the highlight for both of us was seeing a snapper well into double figures climb all over a softbait in just a couple of metres of water – unfortunately it didn’t stick either!
Many of the boats coming out of Aussie are ‘turnkey’ – they arrive ready to fish. Al’s Haines Signature was not quite like that, but almost.
The key elements built into the hull are ample storage and a forward casting platform big enough to accommodate two anglers.
The well-laid-out helm station is dominated by the 12” Simrad screen.
Everywhere you looked around the boat were opportunities to store ‘stuff’. Dry storage, wet storage and cold storage. Our fish were kept in prime condition in an insulated bag of salt ice which sat perfectly in the large 110-litre baffled live well. The well is one of two onboard, the second one at the back that Al uses to store a huge selection of softbaits. There is plenty of rod storage – 10 at the last count with four more to come.
With so much storage available the deck is kept uncluttered. There is X-Deck underfoot, offering great grip and comfort.
The vessel is transported on a Hoskings single axle, braked trailer.
Another important element is the Haswing electric trolling motor. Al considers an electric motor essential for any serious craft set up for lure fishing. Much of the fishing is done in the shallows where the stealth aspect of an electric motor is a huge advantage.
“An electric motor is as important as fluorocarbon leader to the softbaiter. It is a game changer and increases considerably the number of casts you can get in during the day.”
Electronics are another key to success.
“Good electronics are a must. I want to be able to pick up bait schools at speed in 50 metres. I will also be doing deep drops for ‘puka, bass and bluenose so need good bottom reads in 300 metres plus.”
Al has a second smaller ‘slave’ sounder screen mounted on the bow rail adjacent to the casting platform.
While NZ manufacturers may have cornered the alloy centre console market, the Aussies produce great GRP lure fishing platforms.
”I look for bait when I fish so it is great to see what is happening around me at a glance without having to repeatedly go back to the helm station. Find the bait, find the fish.”
The larger Simrad 12” NNS Evo 3 is flush mounted at the helm station with the bow unit a 9” NSS Evo 3. The transducer, a SS164 high/low unit with a separate scan function, is mounted through hull. A Simrad VHF completes the electronics.
In pride of place on the transom is a Yamaha 130 Fourstroke that returns some good fuel numbers – 1.2 litres a nautical mile, running at a comfortable cruising speed of 22-24 knots, depending on the sea state. Key to the boat’s fuel management system – a LX Nav unit – enables Al to ‘absolutely nail fuel economy’.
There are three batteries on board – the standard start and house batteries plus a separate Lithium battery for the Haswing. All are wired for ease of charging.
Looking around, there are some ‘bits’ missing. The most obvious is a bimini top. Al considers a T-Top too restrictive when casting, especially with three anglers on board.
When you see the gullwing-style hull you can appreciate why the centre console is so stable at rest.
“The new Simms gear I am wearing has a 50 UPF rating so that, coupled with sunscreen for exposed hands and legs, does the job.”
The ground tackle has its own locker forward, with Al not adding an electric capstan. Any anchoring he does is in shallow bays for swims and eating lunch, so he is happy to hand-retrieve the gear – or have a crew member do it!
Trim tabs are noticeable by their absence, with the jury still out as to whether they are needed. Al is ’90 percent sure’ they aren’t required and having run the boat I would agree.
The hull is stable at rest and handles any chop with ease. GRP gives the boat weight and it sits relatively low in the water. The variable deadrise (21-33 degrees) cuts through the chop nicely, producing a soft, dry, and quiet ride.
Spoilt for choice – the rear livebait makes a handy place to keep the Gulp! softbait selection.
“Its flat keel lets the boat sit on the plane at relatively slow speeds, creating an efficient hull. I have been sold on its bluewater performance, and it has no bad traits in the following sea.”
One final element is the trailer. Al has a Hoskings custom-built single-axle braked option under his rig.
“I hate crap trailers, poorly performing ones can ruin a perfectly good day, so am happy with the Hoskings which does everything a good trailer should.”
While Al agrees there is no such thing as the ‘perfect boat’, he suggests that for lure fishing, his centre console comes damn close! I would have to agree with him.
Manufacturer: Haines Signature
Outboard: Yamaha 130 Fourstroke
Fuel Capacity: 150 litres
Recommended HP: 90 – 150
Electronics: Simrad 12” NSS Evo 3 & Simrad 9” NSS Evo 3 with Thru-hull SS164 high/low with separate 3D scan, Simrad VHF, LX Nav fuel management system.
Electric trolling motor: Haswing 12-volt 55lb 60” shaft with a lithium battery
Hull LOA: 5.45m
Length on trailer: 7.1m
Height on trailer: 2.18m
Towing weight: 1690kg
Passenger Rating: 5pax or 400kg
Packages from: $115,000*
Cost as tested: $145,000*
Exclusive distributor: Rogers BoatShop, Albany
*Pricing subject to shipping costs and exchange rate changes
May 2023 - Grant Dixon, Alistair Arkell
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
Copyright: NZ Fishing Media Ltd.
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited
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