Getting ready

Generally, with deep dropping, you’ll be heading miles offshore, so it goes without saying that your boat needs to be capable, have plenty of fuel, and equipped with decent safety equipment. A sounder capable of picking up structure and fish in the depths is also mandatory, unless you’ve been lucky enough to be given GPS marks to a honey-hole and can ‘bombs away’ blind!

Rods and reels need to be sturdy – 24-37kg stand-up game or 300g+ weight jig rods, and reels possessing a decent drag output and holding at least 300m of heavy braid. Braided line is mandatory because it’s low stretch, allowing you to feel bites when your baits are hundreds of metres down. Electric reels, while some say they are cheating, make life a lot easier!

Rigs are straightforward – heavy duty ledger rigs with 14/0-16/0 circle hooks and 32oz sinkers. Just beware that some off-the-shelf packet ‘puka’ rigs are not up to the task. I prefer to make my own rigs with easy-to-tie dropper loops and 200lb trace. Adding lumo beads or tube can help attract fish in the dark depths.  

You need a good high-pressure forecast to head out to the deep – wind over 10 knots makes life difficult when trying to hold over the spot, and the long trip home even longer!


Finding the spot

Finding a good spot is the real challenge with deep drop fishing. If you do a bit of gamefishing, try trolling with the sounder in split frequency and keep an eye on the bottom, marking any reefs or foul ground you pass over. Another popular but often unsuccessful technique is to bribe mates, acquaintances, or old-timers at the local fishing club with free beer in exchange for GPS marks. If that doesn’t work, have a perusal of the bathymetric charts in your target area. Hapuku, bass, and bluenose always hang out over structure, be it a reef, area of low rubble, drop-off, canyon, or seamount. Where you find the contour lines close together, that is a good place to start prospecting.

Although hapuku and bass can be caught in water less than 100m deep, many of these shallower areas have been fished out over the years and deeper options will yield better results.

Once you’ve found a likely area, you’ll need to tune your fishfinder in with the right settings – check out info online for your make and model as every brand has different settings that work. Invariably, if your spot is around 200m+, you’ll need to set your unit to low frequency and play around with the gain. Motoring along at a slow pace will help your finder pick up the bottom and fish more clearly. Hapuku and bass will show up as sign right on the bottom, whereas bluenose are often slightly higher up in the water column. Sometimes the sign you are picking up can be less desirable species, so you might need to do some trial-and-error drops to find out!

Fishing techniques

Once you’ve found your spot, do a dummy drift over the area to work out which way the combination of wind and current will push your boat – often it will be in the opposite direction from what you anticipate! When baiting up with dead bait, use streamlined strips or triangles of tough-skinned fresh fish or squid. Livebaits are very effective on larger fish, and it pays to bridle rig them to make sure they stay on the hook during the long descent to the bottom. 

When your bait is dropping and when fishing on the bottom, using a bit of reverse with the boat engine helps keep the line angle straight and over the fish. If your craft is fitted with an electric motor, this will make holding over the fish so much easier.

If you’re in a good spot, the bites won’t take long. Let the circle hooks do their job by not striking; rather, just apply slow steady pressure to see if you’re hooked up. If you’ve been marking fish higher up from the bottom, try wind up to that depth as that might be where bluenose are schooling. 

If you’re lucky enough to hook a big dog, you’ll be in for a serious tug of war to lift the fish away from its home. However, once you’ve wrestled them up away from the bottom the fight should get easier and easier. Once the fish comes to the surface, their swim bladder will be well and truly blown and it’s simply a matter of hoisting your quarry aboard with a gaff. Be careful grabbing hapuku and bass in the gills with bare hands as they have nasty gill rakers that will prick you. 

If the fishing is hot, try not to get carried away – one 30kg fish goes a long way, and there is plenty of meat to enjoy around the head, wings and backbone so don’t just utilise the fillets. Good luck out there!


Article by: Nick Jones