Never used a softbait before?
No problem, first of all softbaiting is a technique which usually takes some practice before results can be seen. But if you stick to it you will eventually catch more fish than with any other technique.
What do we need to get started?
The only thing you need it a spinning combo paired with braided line as its highly important to keep contact to your bait. Secondly, think about the fish you want to target and if you want to go rockfishing or mainly fish from boat. Shore fisherman usually use longer rods and a slightly heavier tackle is recommended if landing the fish may get tricky because of stones, weeds or other obstacles. Your local tackle dealer should be able to point you in the right direction.
Got your combo?
Now let us talk about which softbaits work best for beginners. Personally I always recommend smallish paddle tails paired with half ounze jigheads. Baits around 7-12cm work best and catch pretty much all common fish species available around New Zealand. Small baits are easier to cast, control and are usually cheaper. Furthermore, small baits also catch big fish and overall more fish. You should only ever fish big baits if you are targeting trophy fish and don’t want to deal with regular sized fish as a bycatch. But hey not a lot of people ever have that problem so sticking to small baits is a good starting point.
As you are now only equipped with one rod a handful of baits and maybe a net, moving around will be much easier. This is probably the biggest pro of softbaiting, there is no preparation needed which makes short sessions way more enjoyable. I would recommend to start over sandy terrain as getting a feeling for the bait is highly important when you later fish in snaggy areas. I will now explain you a technique which works for most fish species and is the holy grail of softbaiting, the jigging. Cast the bait out and straighten the line as soon as it hits the water surface. Keep at least one of your fingers directly on the blank to get a better feeling of the bait. Now let the bait sink till it hits the bottom which you should feel in your fingers as a slight tock depending on the bottom structure. The harder the bottom the more pronoun the tock will be. Beginners can also watch the line as it loosens once you hit the bottom. After the bait hits the bottom rotate your reel twice. You can at some twitches or jigging movements while doing that, but it might be tricky in the beginning and is not necessary to catch fish. After the two rotations you just wait till you feel the tock in your finger again and keep repeating it.
Now how do I tell a bite.
As I said it is really important to always keep contact to your bait. So a straight line plus the finger on the blank is the most important thing when using the jigging technique. Bites usually come while the bait is sinking to the bottom and feel similar to the tock when it hits the bottom. If the tock feels different to the lure hitting the bottom just give it a strike as this might have been your first bite on softbaits. You will be able to tell the difference between a bite and the lure hitting the bottom pretty fast.
Overall there are no rules on how to fish a softbait and sooner or later you will find what works best for you and your fishing area.
If you wana learn more, we will have a montly meeting of softbaiting intusiasts in Wellington were our team will show you the basics and give you some more advanced tips and tricks. If you are interested in meeting up, write us a mail with your name and phone number and we will give you the details of our next meeting. Cheers team Softbaits NZ.