Now, I’m not calling Off-Site readers dummies, but if you’re looking for a quick way to catch a feed without too much thought, equipment, or skill – then this is the article for you!

The gear

You don’t need to spend lots of money on gear to be successful when soft-baiting. In fact, there are plenty of decent rod and reel combos that come spooled up for only a couple of hundred bucks. As an entry-level set, I’d go for a 2000-4000 size spinning reel loaded with 10-20lb braid, and a 7-8ft rod. Although lots of soft-bait rods are particularly bendy, I prefer 6kg+ weighted rods because they have a bit more oomph to set the hook when you get a bite. Towards the pointy-end, a metre or two of 20-25lb fluorocarbon leader, tied to a 3/8oz 1/0 size jig-head, is a good ”all-rounder” to suit a variety of fishing scenarios.

Speaking of all-rounders, it’s hard to go past a 5’ jerkshad for your lure. Good brands include the Daiwa Bait Junkies, Z-Mans and Berkley Gulps. I’m also a fan of curly-tailed grubs and crazy-legs style lures because these have an action built into their design that means the bait “swims” on the descent (fishing without even trying – how good!). All colours seem to work on most species, although it pays to experiment on the day to see if the fish have any preferences. One important thing I’ve found is that baits with two contrasting colours tend to get more interest than ones consisting of a single shade. I tend to favour the more natural, duller colours such as: dark green, brown, purple, silver, and blue, but have been out-fished plenty of times by my flashier mates!

While it is possible to soft-bait from the shore (beach or rocks), this style of fishing really comes into its own when done from a vessel. However, you don’t need a big vessel – kayaks are a great way to sneak around the shallows flicking soft-baits. You also don’t need an anchor or a parachute – just drift along and start fishing. Too easy!

The spot

This is the simple part – you can catch fish on softies basically anywhere there is saltwater. Throw ‘em around mudflats, estuaries, harbours, channels, bays, beaches, rocky shores, underwater reefs, drop-offs, areas of surface-schooling fish, or deeper water offshore – you’ll catch fish. Most of my soft-baiting is for snapper. If I’m after a feed of “pannies” (especially in summer or autumn) I often don’t travel far and regularly fish in just a few metres of water over sand and mud close to Auckland city. If I’m after larger fish, I’ve found it pays to travel a bit further afield and throw soft-baits at exposed rocky coastlines and reefs. But you don’t need to exclusively fish deep water – aim for guts, current lines, back-eddies, and underwater reef edges – often the big moochers are lurking right up in the shallows.

The technique

There are two basic techniques when soft-baiting. My preferred is to cast ahead of my drift direction or directly at structure, and then let the lure free-fall to the bottom. I then work it back with a sequence of twitches as I lift the rod upwards, then a retrieval of the slack line as I drop the rod back down repeatedly . A lot of strikes tend to happen on the drop, so I always try to stay in contact with my line, trying to notice any unusual movement that might indicate a bite. Don’t be afraid to fish your soft-bait close to the bottom – sure you’ll end up losing some gear, but a lot of the better snapper will stay deeper amongst the rocks and kelp. Sometimes fish will engulf your soft-bait and you can’t miss them, other times they will nibble away at the rear-end of your lure and you will need to time your strike to perfection. Generally speaking, fish should come back for a couple of cracks and you will usually hook them sooner or later.

The second most effective technique is classic fishing for dummies. Simply drop your soft-bait to the bottom, put your rod in the holder, and crack open a beer while you watch your drift do all the work as your soft-bait enticingly bounces along the bottom. However, if you want to really flex on your mates, you can employ both techniques at the same time and either catch two fish at once or cause a horrific tangle. Go well dummies!