My mobile phone rang – Fish City’s Hamilton’s head honcho Ross Christensen was on the line.
“Hey Mark, I hear you’d like to give our Minn Kota electric motor a go. We’ve got an FC 560cc boat fitted with one at Fish City Hamilton; I can get Max, my son, to drive up from Hamilton so you can put it through its paces if you like.”
“That would be great, Ross!” I responded enthusiastically. “But I’d really like to head to waters an hour’s drive north of Auckland – that’s a long way for Max to come for a few hours of fishing…”
“Nah, that’s fine,” Ross said, “he’s young.”
I arrived at Sandspit Marina to find an empty Fish City branded car and trailer parked, but just a rather tired-looking hard-top tinny tied off the pontoon, with a couple of guys standing in front. What was going on? Maybe the arrangement had changed – how were four of us going to cast stick-baits and softies from that?
Then, as I approached the pair, one of the two detached, a friendly smile showing through his beard and his hand outstretched.
“How’s it going, Mark?”
“Gidday, good – Max is it? Nice to meet you, mate. Um … is that the boat?”
“Oh, no,” he said hastily, “I got here an hour early and launched it – anchoring it out there is much easier than mooring it on the pontoon, in the way of the boats being launched.”
Sure enough, 50 metres out and well clear of any marina structure, was the promised FC 560cc (Centre Console), already bristling with rods and looking rather jaunty with what I took to be an anchor rope hanging vertically from the bow.
“Er … how are we going to get on board?” I asked, still rather perplexed – there seemed to be no retrieval system in place anywhere.
“No worries – it’s remote controlled,” said Max breezily, and proceeded to demonstrate, the vessel coming around obediently like a model boat in a pond, before heading towards us and nosing in for tying off at the pontoon. What had appeared to be the anchor rope (to my bung old eyes, anyway) was actually the Minn Kota motor’s slender shaft. Wow, impressive!
Presently we were joined by a friend of mine Josh Darby, who had enjoyed some excellent kingfish action in the area recently. He was an obvious companion to have along!
Originally, we’d hoped to do some coastline snapper fishing first, but the sight of a few fluttering terns and several shags while motoring down the channel encouraged further investigation. Sure enough, huge red blobs of baitfish showed on the sounder, accompanied by what appeared to be very good snapper sign.
“Woah! It looks a lot like last time,” Josh said encouragingly. “I reckon the kingies should be nearby, too.”
Unfortunately, as Josh and I had yet to appreciate the electric motor’s full potential (or we would have done things differently), I motored us along under conventional power with a couple of stick-baits trolled out the back, Josh and Max adding occasional rod sweeps to make their movements more erratic.
Having failed to see any sign of kingfish, I was therefore happily surprised when Josh’s lure was smashed, his reel howling long and shrill as the fish charged away on an unstoppable run.
Looking down at the rapidly rotating spool, Josh commented nervously, “Bugger – wish I’d brought my heavier outfit along…”
However, a smooth fighting style calmed the fish, allowing us to slowly head out towards deeper water with the fish finning obediently along behind. Then, with more water under us, Josh increased the pressure, and five minutes later the gleaming form of a 16-20kg kingfish planed tiredly into view.
What a relief! I hadn’t realised how much pressure I’d actually been under till then – and was already planning which delicious kingfish recipe I’d use that night… Then Josh’s rod tip sprang up as the hook let go and our ‘dinner’ swam slowly away.
“Nooooooooooooo!” Beep! BEEP! What a beepin’ beep!”
Although disappointed to have lost such a great fish, it had been a very encouraging start, so the FC 560cc was headed back to the general area. It was time to bring the Minn Kota into play (and what a fortuitous move that turned out to be!).
Deploying the electric was straightforward. After lifting the bow rail, it was simply a matter of unclipping the shaft, depressing a button to slide the shaft down, and swinging it over until it locked into place.
Max then hit the propeller button (‘engage’) followed by the rabbit symbol (‘full speed’), using one of two arrows to determine our direction.
The Minn Kota proved to be a genuine game changer. For a start it’s incredibly manoeuvrable, enabling Max to position us perfectly for casting into the nearby baitfish schools. Secondly, being virtually silent meant the baitfish and accompanying predators remained undisturbed, despite our close proximity. As a result, we ended up right in the middle of the action, with the ‘anchor’ facility holding us there.
This was great for Josh, who was casting a stick-bait from the 560’s casting platform up at the bow – and pretty damn good for me, too, casting from the stern towards another baitfish boil-up. But not for long.
After a couple of false starts that saw good kings boiling and splashing behind Josh’s lure but not hooking up, a third crashing boil buckled over his rod and the reel began unloading again.
Max was at the FC 560’s helm and did a nice job of catching up with the fish before leading it out of the rocky shallows – at which point I hooked up, too. Yes – a double!
Ten minutes later we were both posing for the camera with our near-identical 12-13kg fish, although it finished badly when Josh tried to bring his fish on board without a gaff, the trace snapping to leave the fish swimming off with the lure. (The FC boat was a demonstrator, so had very little equipment on board, and Max had forgotten to bring a net or gaff!)
And so it continued. All around us the anchovy schools shimmered and dimpled, occasionally leaving the water in a panicked, glittering carpet, with watery detonations behind them providing plenty of incentive to avoid being last. It was very exciting!
We took turns on the Minn Kota control. (Note to self: determine where the motor is facing so you don’t end up doing reverse circles – highly embarrassing!) A mix of monster kahawai and good-sized kingfish continued to boil and explode onto our lures, including another double hook-up – to Max and Josh this time.
My session finished abruptly. I’d cast my Star Walker stick-bait at a disturbed patch of water, brought it right back and was about to lift it out, when a large, dark shape rocketed out of nowhere to smash it on the surface. A smoking run followed, more reminiscent of a yellowfin than a yellowtail. So, mindful of the relatively shallow water, I added pressure against the spinning spool with my fingertips. Line continued to spew from the reel unchecked, and then crack – the almost new 37kg braid parted near the rod tip!
A lull followed, so we headed elsewhere for a short snapper soft-bait session. Using a mix of ‘Motor Oil’ and ‘Bruised Banana’ coloured soft-plastics, we found the snapper very obliging.
Again the Minn Kota proved particularly useful. Thanks to its ability to automatically keep the bow pointing into the current, we managed to slow our drift speed significantly (the tide roars through here) by setting the motor at its lowest forward speed, so we could cover the area more effectively with our lures. Then, later, when the wind puffed up a little from the opposite direction and the tide began to slow, stalling progress, we used it to chug us along with the current so we could continue to cast to new ground and fresh fish.
Indeed, it was during that last half an hour of ebbing tide that our larger snapper were encountered, including what was possibly the biggest of the day, the hook pulling out of the nice 4.5-5kg specimen alongside the boat – the story of Josh’s day!
Max finished the session off by demonstrating how the Minn Kota could follow along the previous drift line exactly – great for when you’ve encountered good fishing and want a repeat experience, although we were filleting our catch by this stage.
So what a shame we hadn’t trundled out under the Minn Kota’s power alone: we could have hit the ‘repeat route’ function, leaving us to chat about our wonderful day and drink a coldy or two while the FC 560cc took us home…
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