There's nothing like the built-up anticipation before a big trip. After months of waiting and preparation six of us keen fishos were foaming at the mouth in NZ's Whakatane checking out the sights and sounds (and local watering holes) of this spectacular coastal hideaway, with the knowledge that we'd soon be boarding Cova Rose and heading out to Ranfurly Banks for five days.
As a keen jigger remote grounds such as Ranfurly are what I dream to fish, and it's not just the headline acts of kings and hapuka on heavy tackle that offer all the appeal, as there's a raft of other opportunities on offer. This said, Ranfurly Banks has forged its world-class jigging reputation mostly through its consistent kingfish action on above average sized fish with knife jigs leading the attack. Being an early season trip to the banks what we didn't anticipate was the vast numbers of smaller to medium sized kingies which were significantly outnumbering the better fish in the cooler water. This meant non-stop hook-ups on jigs, but also a need for long spells of jigging to filter through these fish for the kings over 50lb which we came for. It threw up a challenge to overcome and we accepted it and battled on for some solid fish, and crazy sessions with basically hook-ups every drop at times. This place is jigging heaven!
Heavier jigs of 400 and preferably 500g were great for getting straight on the kings on the deeper reefs which is no easy feat here all the time, with wicked amounts of current and subsequent boat drift even before you throw in any sort of weather into the equation. The larger profile also seemed to attract bigger fish. Don't write-off lighter knife jigs at Ranfurly either. Mates of mine went down to 250-300g in the shallower areas of the banks when the tide wasn't really racing and they caught king after king.
Changing it up, knife jigs don't need to be worked at light speed to be hit in this area, and there's plenty of scope to give your arms a rest (well, initially at least!) and lower the jig to the bottom to tap into a range of species such as hapuka, bass, tarakihi, trumpeter, snapper and others. Our first day on the banks soon taught me this trick, and sure enough it was soon slammed with a solid hapuka inhaling the jig.
Speaking of slower and deeper jig work, one of the real highlights of our Ranfurly trip with Enchanter was chasing hapuka, bass and others on the bottom. Rather than use bait it was jigs all the way with this fishing for me. We had great sessions on the banks, with mostly hapuka and the odd bass thrown in, with both the shallower grounds around 50-70m producing, through to the deeper areas over 200m. Jigs in the 500g to 1.2kg range were standouts, allowing you to reach the bottom promptly and keep in contact with it, negating any boat drift. The slow jigging action with these rock-shaped jigs will sucker in a host of bycatch as well with school sharks, tarakihi, blue cod, trumpeter, snapper and more. The variety of fish on the banks we raised over the duration of the trip was impressive to say the least.
Ranfurly Banks with Enchanter Fishing Charters is a dream trip for those into jigging. I hardly touched the 'smelly stuff' (AKA bait) all week and still finished each day well buggered!