Unfazed by the outcry following last month’s cod-catching feature aimed at New Zealand’s more southern populace, Aucklander Mark Kitteridge goes even further into the breech, this time suggesting that catching them on poncy lures can actually be loads of fun!
Whenever I start talking about targeting blue cod on lures to anglers from New Plymouth south, it’s hard to ignore the facial shutters clanking shut in response. I really can’t understand why. Sure, I realise this activity is simply a food-gathering exercise for most anglers, with a sturdy rod-and-reel outfit armed with a baited dropper rig being the time-honoured method. However, lures can be equally effective, and anglers will have ten times more fun fishing for cod with a whippy strand of graphite rod and a dinky, toy-like reel!
As already suggested, this generally consists of a small, compact reel (either a bait-caster or small spin-fisher) loaded with at least 200 metres of 8-10kg braid (you’ll never need anything like this length of line for blue cod; it just caters for a few break-offs and/ or hooking something much bigger than expected), attached to a two-metre-plus graphite rod with 6-10kg capabilities. The long rod is not used much for casting and retrieving lures in this instance though. Instead, it enables jigs to be effectively lifted and dropped, fluttering and flashing throughout, just up from the weedy sea floor. The extra length can also be used to slowly swoop soft-plastics around, perhaps also jiggling them enticingly.
The trace tends to be a couple of metres of nylon or fluorocarbon around 10kg (20lb) breaking strain.
The lures can be standard jigs, slow-jigs or soft-plastics, with the weight largely determined by the water’s depth, the current’s strength, and the size of the cod you expect, or hope, to encounter.
If possible, it pays to remain on the drift, as cod are territorial and quickly cleaned out of localised areas. However, if the wind is blowing, making the drift fast – despite the deployment of a sea anchor – you can anchor up in reasonably deep water (20-metres plus, say), let out a little extra anchor rope, and then use the swinging boat to cover more territory. You will still need to relocate on a regular basis though; as mentioned, cod are territorial and aggressive, and jigging can be VERY effective!
Cod regularly eat jigs ranging from 20–150g in weight, but 40-100g models are more commonly used to target them. As for colour, most will work, although pink-white, green-yellow, metallic bluechrome and straight chrome are well proven and often attract other desirable (and fussier) species, too.
Traditional-type jigs: Conventional jigs will benefit from having the treble replaced with a single hook, as this cuts down on snagging and makes unhooking the cod much easier.
The best technique involves simply lifting and dropping the lure repeatedly (‘yo-yoing’) just up from the bottom, although little stutters on the uplift can prove effective, too. Whatever action is deployed though, it’s critical to react quickly once the lure touches down (signalled by a suddenly slackening line) by immediately engaging the reel and firmly lifting the rod tip so the lure is lifted up and away from the weedy danger zone – or possibly hooking you up to a fish!
If you’ve managed to avoid both the sea floor and biting cod, wind up a couple of handle turns before commencing to lift and drop the lure – a technique called ‘yo-yoing’. However, it pays not to lift the lure too quickly or too high, as cod are not the fastest swimmers. Instead, start by dropping your rod tip until it’s pointing towards the water – a 7.30 angle if your upright body is treated as 6 o’clock. Now steadily lift the rod until it points to 10 o’clock (any higher makes setting hooks into biting fish almost impossible), before dropping it back down again at a rate that keeps the line slack behind the descending lure. Too fast a rod drop can see the line catch around the rod tip, too slow and the lure’s fluttering action will be lost. If you feel an increase in pressure on the uplift, STRIKE! If you notice the line jerking or staying slack for too long, STRIKE!
Slow-jigs: The rather sedate rod motions used to activate slow-jigs suit blue cod particularly well, as they are ambush-type predators used to short bursts of speed rather than anything sustained. They’ll often come up to investigate, gaze at the lure’s jiggling motion or wafting tentacles for a few seconds, then suddenly pounce. So everything is best done S-L-O-W-L-Y. A little jiggle. A single, sedate handle wind. Then nothing for a few seconds. Maybe a swooping, jiggling lift, followed by a slow drop. Then nothing again. More small jiggles. Any bites seen or felt should be responded to by winding the reel handle till the rod loads up, before setting the hook more firmly. Or, if you have a nice long rod, it’s also possible to steadily lift the rod until a hook-up occurs. If it doesn’t, simply drop the rod tip and continue to tease.
Soft-plastics: I find this style of lure to be especially well suited to fishing for cod in rough territory; not only is there just one hook involved, reducing snagging, the hook’s point and barb are positioned above the lure, making snagging less likely still.
The choice of suitable soft-plastic lures is almost endless, as cod will eat most lure types and sizes – even 7” – but 3-5” models tend to be more consistent. Blue cod are not too fussy with colour combinations either, but some DO work better, especially those with highly contrasting, gaudy colours, luminescent qualities, or in browny-squiddy hues (such as ‘New Penny’ or ‘Bruised Banana’/’Curried Chicken’).
Possibly the most important soft-bait quality is durability. Most of the more commonly-encountered reef fish species are armed with sharp little choppers that quickly remove chunks of softplastic tail, so it pays to use the tougher brands.
Having said that, these same tough lures tend to be very stretchy, so if lots of the small biters mentioned are present and/ or deep water are involved, the softies may need to be copperwired firmly onto a worm-type hook or even Supaglued to prevent their ‘pants being pulled down’ (the term given to soft-plastic lures pulled off the various lure-holding mechanisms, rendering them useless).
Whatever you decide to use, it can be attached to either a fixed lead-head or a more heavily weighted deep-water ‘elevator’ rig. Shallow water – around eight to 20 metres deep, say – suits fixed lead-heads of around half- to one-ounce; the deeper you go and the faster the current, the heavier the lead-head required.
If fishing deeper water, 2-4oz ‘elevator’ rigs will work better, either fitted with a ribbed-shank standard hook or a ‘worm’ hook. As a very different style of hook, ‘worms’ up to 5/0 in size can be used in this instance.
Whatever the offering, drop it down to the bottom, wind up two or three handle winds, then repeatedly lift and drop it with your long rod, perhaps jiggling it on the ascent occasionally. While many of the bites will be obvious, with the weight coming onto the rod at some stage during the uplift, just as many will probably occur on the descent – you may not recognise or notice it though. A suddenly slack line is one indicator, but more often the braid wafting around in the water just jerks around a bit or comes tight/ stays slack more quickly/slowly. Consequently, whenever anything strange appears to be occurring, wind quickly and/or strike firmly; should a hooked fish be felt, keep the rod tip up and bent whilst continuing to wind it further downwards. Then, once a more horizontal rod level is reached, lift the rod firmly again to ensure the hook has been set properly.
Now pull your cod in – and get a buzz from that light rod whipped hard over. Who knows, it may even be big enough to pull off some line!