Slide-baiting is a great fishing technique, new to most surf and rock fishers around the country, which has accounted for many anglers’ ‘first’ kingfish. It is a very effective method of putting yourself in the best position to catch a fish, writes Gary Kemsley…
Many think this fishing method is just for kingfish and they don’t realise that they could be catching more fish by sussing it out. It is a great method of fishing livebaits, but has other possibilities too.
Fishing is always full of new ways to catch more fish. Think about the quantum leap from lure fishing to nymph fishing in Taupo in the 1970s; the change from bait trolling for marlin to lure fishing in the 1980s.
My introduction to slide baiting came after a trip to Hawaii in the 1980s. There I visited the hallowed grounds for land-based game fishing at South Point on the island of Hawaii, the southernmost point of the United States of America. There, a couple of Hawaiian fishermen were slide-baiting for ulua, or giant trevally. They caught one while I was there and a yellowfin tuna after I left. My catch was a single green jobfish using balloons and dead bait, but I learned enough to change my fishing habits back in New Zealand. Well, at least to add another dimension to them.
Slide-baiting is a way to send your bait into the very spot you expect the predatory fish to be, rather than having it roaming the ocean under a balloon. By casting your weight (no bait) out past the waves and lodging it in the bottom, you can put out livebaits on separate leaders that will swim all the way down to the sinker. In crowded areas it may be the only way you can effectively send out a livebait without upsetting other anglers.
Provided you don’t cast over each other’s lines you can fish several rods (livebaits) in a small area where you expect the fish to be. I have found it particularly effective in areas where there is a lot of current, where free-swimming baits or baits under balloons will be swept away from the strike zone.
Dead baits can also be deployed into fish-holding areas of high current simply by casting your weight across and slightly downstream. Clip on a running trace with a coastlock snap and send your bait, either cut or a whole fish, or even a lure, down the line. You will find that it will head towards the sinker and away from your position. Once out hanging in the current it is second only to a livebait in attracting a hungry fish.
Look for elevated positions to fish from. A wharf or deep frontage on a rock ledge is ideal and a higher launching spot will get your baits into fish holding water quicker. Steep shingle beaches lend themselves to slide-baiting too. Often the fish are very close at hand. Even on flat sand beaches like the 90 Mile in the north, Mahanga at Mahia or whichever is your local, you will be able to wade out and get a good cast away to distant, fishy-looking holes. Then all you need is a lively bait like a big yellow-eyed mullet or medium-sized kahawai and they will swim right out to the sinker.
Use non-return slider clips so the bait can only swim in one direction – out to sea. Because your bait has no option but to follow your line into productive waters, you will save time when otherwise your bait may have been in shallow, fishless, surf-zone waters. Not only that, but your livebait will fish for you through all the water between your rod and the sinker.
Catching suitable bait can be as difficult as catching the big fish, particularly when the fish you are after are present and upsetting baitfish in the area. At such times you may need to import your bait from another location. When I was guiding fishers in the Far North this was the usual practice. We would catch our bait at Mangonui Wharf in the dark before dawn and keep four of the hardiest looking baits in a large bucket. I had an aerator attached to the bucket to pump air through the water. We also filled containers with water so we could freshen the water in the bucket.
Then we would be off to distant fishing spots like Cape Karikari or Puheke Rocks. Just after daylight we would have lively jack mackerel swimming in known hangouts of big fish. Almost always we would get a strike from big kingfish or snapper. It was always worth the effort because there were seldom any bite-sized baits like the jack mackerel available on location.
Any livebait is worth a try and there are a number of ways you can catch them. I caught a nice-sized kingfish on a live blue cod in an NZLBG club competition at Lottin Point years ago. Also a nice fat 25kg kingfish at Grenville Point on a flashy English mackerel that had taken my spinner on a light rod. One other cool catch was a 5kg snapper on a live spotty at Tairua Heads on a day when I couldn’t catch any other livebait. If you have nothing else, try anything you can catch.
To catch a bait the best way is to berley with bread and minced fish with a drop of fish oil in it and to cast into that with sabiki flies. Larger sabikis may be in order if the bait fish are large – kahawai, for instance. I like strong sabikis, anyway, so that a bigger bait can be landed if it shows up.
Have a bait bucket set up and ready so that any fish you catch can be dropped in without touching them. Blind-casting small spinners like hex wobblers will catch any small kahawai present and small soft baits will do the same. You can even try stray-lining a cut bait in the berley just to see what’s there if they are not reacting to the sabiki flies.
In northern waters a favourite bait is live piper. These offer a good challenge to catch themselves. As all good Far North fishers know, the skills to catch piper are a must-have. A small single hook on your lightest line is required and the bait (a tiny strip of tuna) should be fished on the drift in areas where there is current. Large bait buckets are required to keep piper alive so they have plenty of room to swim round in.
Your slide-baiting rig should be made up like this…
On the end of your line you need a break-out sinker on a metre or so of line that has a lower breaking strain than your main line. This lighter line between the fishing line and the sinker should break if you get hung up while playing a fish.
On the top of that you tie a large solid ring. Now add a small round float to your main line and tie it to the end of your shock leader. That will stop the bite leader running right down to the sinker and the float also offers a buffer when weight goes on the line with a fish hooked up. Line weights are up to you. Fifteen-kilo might be required when fishing from the rocks, just to keep a fish out of trouble. On a surf beach where there are no snaggy areas, I fish 5-6kg line. There is no need to go heavier and the thinner line will allow longer casting which can be an advantage in the surf. I have found monofilament to be the best line.
There are different ideas on bite leader formation and length, so I will just mention what works for me. I use two different leader make-ups. The first is a short one – a 1.5m length of 24kg mono with a one-way slider on one end and a single recurve hook with a green plastic lumo bead above it. I carry these in several hook sizes, which suit various baits.
The second configuration is still 24kg mono, but about two metres long this time. On one end a single hook (carry several in various hook sizes) with a lumo bead and a coastlock snap (ball bearing) on the other end. Next to the coastlock at the top of the line is a medium-sized float trapped with a neoprene stopper. This leader allows the bait to swim out until the float arrests its progress. That position, where the line is entering the water, is a very likely spot to get a strike.
I don’t advocate using two baits in areas where there are large numbers of big fish or you may experience, as I did, playing two kingfish at the same time. I enjoyed it for twenty minutes and then lost them both. I went back to a single bait and caught one straight away, a contest-winner as it turned out.
You will develop your own thoughts on the detail. The technique, however, will get you hooked into some great fish all year round.
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