What to do when there are no workups
Nothing beats chasing work ups out wide on a flat calm winters day and the thrill of finding one is as good as gets, however even with the best binoculars, a fast boat, enthusiastic crew and calm weather, workups don’t always materialise at this time of year.
The Gannets laze on top of the water, the dolphins are there, but not actively rounding up bait balls and many miles can be done with no results at all.
Sooner or later the decision has to be made to try something different and one of my favorites is deep water softbaiting. The thrill of landing a larger fat winter snapper on light gear is very addictive and gets me out of bed early on a cold winters day.
What are the best conditions for deep water softbaiting?
The best conditions are low wind and a slow drift. It is much easier to get to the bottom and keep in contact with the bait when you are not rocking and rolling or screaming along on a strong tidal stream. Also a slow drift allows you to use a lighter jig head, even in deep water ( 50 metres in our case) and the lighter you go, the bigger fish you will catch.
What Colours work?
There is only one softbait that I turn to in winter, the saviour to fishing enthusiasts, the softbait Mark Kitteridge describes as his “go to winter lure”, the one and only Zman Bruised Banana Jerk Shad 5″.
What a howler this bait is and boy does it produce big fish on a regular basis over winter, both in deep water and in the shallows.
Zman have a great range of softbaits and I am sure there are many other colours that work just as well over winter, however the bruised banana is consistent with many anglers. See below a fish produced on the first drop in 50 metres near Channel Island using a softbait.
What are the best areas to fish?
Look for ridges on the map that run parallel with the tide. Drifting along the edge of these areas and working the softbait very gently, seems to produce the biggest fish. Often in these areas no sign shows on the sounder so the best bet is to just try it and see how you go. On the day the writer was out we produced 5 solid fish between 8lb and 13lbs using softbaits in 46 to 50 metres deep working the edge of the drop offs and along the edge of the ridge lines.
What sized jig heads work best for winter softbaiting in deep water?
With 3 anglers on board it gave us the opportunity to compare notes and see what had worked the best. We analysed the different weights used and different leaders to see what had worked best. On this occasion 3/8 oz jig heads did the business and the heavier jig heads were not as productive. Also interesting to note the 15lb leaders were more productive than the 20lb.
What can you do to increase your chances?
A good dollop of Drag Juice Secret Sauce on the softbait inside the flap helps tremendously and some very slight movement of the bait on the bottom resulted in these nice snapper being landed.
A top day had by all and another day of being thankful for living in the best fishery on the planet. So next time you are out and you are running out of ideas, get into some winter deep water softbaiting.