Jetski (PWC) fishing is a classic combination – pure unadulterated speed melded with angling, resulting in a potent and addictive mix. Like me, you’ve probably noticed more PWC’s geared up for fishing on the water and it seemed like a good idea to see what the attraction was. With support from the team at Kawasaki, Lowrance, Farnley’s, Club Marine Insurance and Brave Design, NZ Fishing Media put a Kawasaki Ultra LX project ski in the water recently and without doubt, it’s been a blast. The return trip to your favourite fishing spot takes on a whole new perspective and fishing from a PWC is easy, comfortable and fun.
If you’ve been contemplating getting into PWC fishing, here’s some of the things we’ve learnt and experienced over the last few months.
The first question is if you don’t already own a ski, do you buy new or go for a second-hand unit, and what are the key features to look out for?
Affordability is the key determinant as a second-hand ski will be cheaper, however you need to make sure it’s been well maintained and cared for. A proven mechanical and service history with minimal saltwater damage are likely to be good predictors of future reliability and costs. Second-hand PWC’s seem to range between ten and twenty thousand dollars and pricing reflects age, size, condition, trailer spec and extras installed.
Technology moves quickly so the newer the model you can afford, the better. Four stroke naturally aspirated engines are generally more reliable and are more economical. Talk to people who ride PWCs (and who don’t have a vested interest in a particular brand) about what they like about their particular ski and try different models to see what features you prefer.
Bigger is generally better, as a larger ski is generally more stable and tends to have more storage, although if you’ve been a kayak fisher at any stage, you’ll find the comparative storage on a ski very generous. The Kawasaki Ultra LX has plenty and boasts a generous 212L of space. In addition, Farnley’s provided the Fishski unit on the stern which takes care of tackle and accessories, a net, rods, ice and the catch. The latest Sea-Doo GTX has a nifty innovation with the front storage area being conveniently located directly beneath the handle bars providing easy access without having to move from your seat.
Generally you get what you pay for and the main types are rollered or carpet/skid trailers. The skid type are cheaper, but can make beach retrievals difficult and the runners can also be quite abrasive on the watercraft hull. Rollered trailers are generally a better option and the addition of guide poles assists retrieval of the ski in cross currents. DMW make a trailer with a pivoting rear roller to enable winching a ski off the sand on tidal beaches. Make sure your trailer has a decent wind-up jockey wheel to give more launching/retrieval options and to manoeuvre it when storing.
As with any water-based activity, safety is paramount as things can go wrong in a hurry and our weather can be unpredictable. Take two forms of communication – a fully charged mobile in a dry bag stored in the glovebox and wear a waterproof handheld VHF. Be sure to have your Coastguard membership up to date. If your trips are on the more adventurous side, a PLB is a worthwhile investment. For extra safety and security, a GPS tracking system is another option.
Some practice on general ski riding is a good idea before you go too far afield and it’s not a bad idea to be familiar with how to get back on the ski if you do end up in the drink as with a fishbin on the stern, that isn’t an option. If you’re out early morning/ late evening then you should install navigation lights. Railblaza have a handy and economical nav light LED safety pack that is easily installed without having to drill holes in your ski or you can go the whole hog with fixed mounted nav lights, hard wired with illuminated glove box mounted waterproof switching. The team at Farnley’s made a great job of installing the dual battery set-up on the Kawasaki and it certainly gives piece of mind from any unexpected main battery failure or long-period current draw from electronics. Running a battery maintainer while your ski is not in use is best to keep voltage levels topped up.
Less is more with PWC fishing as most trips are short and sweet. Lures and soft-baits are ideal for the job as they’re simple, effective, and no there’s no mess. A plastic tackle box with a few different-weight jig-heads, kaburas, micro-jigs and slow-jigs make up the arsenal on our Kawasaki project ski. I take a couple of spinning rods and have spare spools rigged and ready to go. Leaders are tied with an FG knot and Mustad Fastclips to make changing jigheads quick and easy. Reel covers are a must as the saltwater spray is relentless and unforgiving and it wont be long before you’re looking for new gear. Products such as Ultimate Reel Covers from Jetskifishing.co.nz are essential. Other important kit includes a knife, landing net, short gaff, spare leader, braid scissors and a selection of soft-baits. We’re in the process of adding a handle-bar pouch for soft-baits after advice from Andrew Hill. Generally there’s no need for a drogue as the ski doesn’t receive much windage, but a small drogue is more than adequate if you need one.
Sun protection is critical year-round to avoid getting fried so all the standard kit applies – hats, sunnies, long sleeve shirts, buffs, sunscreen etc. In winter, warmth is high on the list and wearing thermals as your first layer in the winter will retain heat, with a waterproof breathable outer layer to top it off. Sharkskin clothing have an excellent range if you have the budget. Fingerless gloves, zipless booties, balaclava and a face mask such as SavePhace make up the outfit. Some people like the wetsuit option for flotation/warmth in the event they go overboard, however chafing can be experienced with wearing wetsuits out of the water.
Technology is improving all the time and while there is some very high-end gear being customized for PWCs, the key feature is it needs to be completely waterproof. The Kawasaki project ski features a 5” Hook 2 unit with an in-hull transducer and that seems to be perfectly adequate. Some experienced PWC fishos prefer a larger unit mounted by the display dash. There’s a view this may reduce sea sickness symptoms, but regardless, it freesup glovebox space and makes it easy to operate functions while riding. Transducer options start at a transom version often attached inside the hull, to in-hull or to the clearest reading of all which is a tilted element Airmar thru-hull.
Join a club or community of fellow PWC fishos for support and advice. Most are only too keen to share their knowledge and experience and you just can’t beat advice from the real experts, like Andrew Hill, who simply live and breathe PWC fishing (www. jetskifishing.co.nz). Have a question you’d like answered? Post it on our forums at Fishing.net.nz/Forum.
• The deep-V displacement hull gives a soft, comfortable ride from a design that enables the hull to cut through the water rather than bounce along the chop. A comfortable ride means a more pleasant day on the water.
• The deep-V hull also offers a high bank angle, enabling motorcycle-like turning. This reduces lateral G-loads during turns and when combined with contoured seating, the ride comfort is further enhanced.
• Stable at speed and at rest.
• Ultra LX offers a whopping 212 litres of storage space.
• The jet pump on the Ultra LX has been derived from Kawasaki’s race machines, engineered to deliver increased reliability, acceleration, and optimum performance in all water conditions.