Ultimate Guide To Fishing Workups
The Run Down On Workups
Spring in the Hauraki Gulf is arguably the hottest fishing period on the seasonal calendar. Baitfish pour into the Gulf via the Jellicoe, Craddock and Colville Channels. Hot on their tails are a plethora of hungry predatory fish, birds and oceanic mammals wanting to pack on condition after a long tough winter & for their upcoming spawning seasons. The scenes that can unfold are nothing short of National Geographic-spec, and the fishing can be equally as impressive.
As dawn breaks on any given day on the Hauraki Gulf, the numerous gannet colonies come to life and squadrons of birds depart in search of pilchards. The synergy between the gannets and dolphins is one to be admired, the dolphins utilising their echo-location capabilities quickly round up schools of Pilchards to the surface where gannets rain down relentlessly. The utter chaos caused results in a war zone of scraps that slowly waft down the water column, resulting in predatory fish like snapper, kingfish and kahawai having a field day. As an angler, if you can get in the maelstrom of activity you’ll most likely experience fishing you won’t forget for a very long time!
A Workup refers to a concentrated feeding frenzy that occurs in places like Doubtless Bay, The Bay of Islands, Bream Bay and throughout the Hauraki Gulf during the spring season. It involves various marine species, including baitfish (mainly pilchards), predatory fish, birds (especially gannets), and marine mammals, all converging on a school of baitfish. This natural spectacle creates a chaotic scene where predators chase and feed on the baitfish, often resulting in intense surface activity. Workups are highly sought after by anglers as they provide excellent fishing opportunities and a chance to witness a remarkable marine ecosystem in action.
Workups in the Hauraki Gulf start in winter and build in intensity throughout spring as baitfish congregate along the coastline. Generally they taper off through summer and start to ramp up again in Autumn. Late Summer and Autumn offer inshore anglers work up opportunities with schools of Anchovies making their way in to inner harbour locations.
You usually find Workups during the spring season in the Hauraki Gulf. Workups are often spotted in several productive areas. One prime location is off Fantail Bay, located north of Coromandel township. Multiple launch points are available in this vicinity, and you'll often find substantial work-up activity within short distances, sometimes visible from the shoreAnother excellent area for spring work-ups is Whangaparaoa Bay, known for its abundant pilchards and ongoing work-up action. There are convenient launch spots in this area as well, with work-ups frequently occurring close to the coastline.Consider exploring the region behind The Noises islands, situated in approximately 42 meters of water. This spot, located about eight kilometers past The Noises, is consistently productive during spring, but it's crucial to choose suitable weather conditions.If the conditions are favourable wider spots like east of Flat Rock, The Squiggles, The Broken Islands, Channel Island and north of Anchorite can produce bigger fish. The further you travel the less boats you will encounter and most likely better work up action.
Workup patterns are relatively consistent and tend to stay close to their previous locations from day to day. Plan to head towards reported workup areas, and keep a sharp eye out as you go. The signs are there if you know what to look for. If you find an area with bait on the fish finder, dolphins and gannets circling high in the sky, it’s most likely that it won’t be long till a work up springs in to life.
Recognising a Workup in progress is essential for successful fishing. Look out for these indicators:
Gannets: Keep an eye on gannets, which are often the first sign of a Workup. If you see them flying fast and low away from their colonies, they are likely heading towards the action. If they are circling and flying high a work up is usually imminent.
Gannets on Water: Gannets sitting on the water and dunking their heads are usually watching bait underwater, a clear indication of baitfish. Closely packed rafts of gannets can indicate a work up has just finished, it’s worthwhile dropping lures. Widely spread gannets sitting sluggishly on the water usually means it’s slack tide or you’ve missed the action.
Dolphins: Dolphins are active participants in Workups. If you spot dolphins chasing bait or circling an area, it's a strong sign that a Workup is underway. Dolphins herd the bait to the surface, allowing the gannets to rain down, in turn attracting predatory fish.
Give Workups the space and time to develop without interfering by avoiding boats disrupting them before they have fully formed. Pay close attention to wind and tide direction to position your boat effectively, improving your fishing opportunities. Additionally, consider targeting the debris field left behind after a Workup, as this area can be highly productive for catching snapper and other species.
Use overhead reels loaded with 20-30lb braid and 30lb fluorocarbon leaders. Using larger baits and lures can entice bigger fish, while mechanical jigging and elevator-style rigs are effective for targeting larger models. When fish are feeding on smaller baitfish, consider using Saltiga SLJ jigs to enhance your chances.
Consider using these lure options: Kohgas, which are technical sliding lures meticulously designed to imitate natural prey movement and appeal to snapper. They come in various colours tailored for different times of the day. Pirate Jigs offer versatility and are well-suited for workups, particularly when targeting larger fish. Lastly, Saltiga SLJ jigs are effective when fish are feeding on smaller bait. These lures can enhance your chances of a successful fishing outing during Workups.
Respect fellow boaters by maintaining a safe distance and refraining from creating wakes in the vicinity. Additionally, practice selective fishing and only catch what you need, especially considering that snapper brought up from depths of around 30 meters or more may suffer from barotrauma, making their survival upon release less likely. Responsible behaviour ensures a sustainable and enjoyable fishing experience for years to come.
While workups are known for being an accessible and sometimes easy way to have a top tier fishing session, there’s some key info anglers should know in order to make the most of their time on the water. Here are our top tips to workup success.
Take a good set of binoculars or a friend with sharp eyesight. Finding the birds is the key to a successful day on the water. A good set of polarised sunnies also pay dividends on those hazy glory days.
Watch the gannets, if lots of groups are flying fast and low heading away from their colonies, it’s likely they are heading towards the action. This can be a good direction to head. Gannets up high and circling usually mean bait is in the area and it won’t be long till something kicks off. Also, gannets sitting on the water regularly dunking their heads mean they are watching bait underwater, another sign the action isn’t too far away. Rafts of gannets sitting stationary is usually a sign that had workup has recently finished, if there is good sign on the fish finder it is worth having a drop. Rafts of gannets sitting over slack water usually means the fishing will be flat until the tide picks up again.
Watch the Dolphins too. Packs of fast-moving Dolphins are likely heading towards the action. When they are doing short, sharp bursts along the surface they are likely to be chasing bait. If they are circling in the same area, disappearing, then coming back up, they are likely to be trying to herd bait to the surface. It could be worth sticking around, particularly if the gannets are in the same area circling high. Keep an eye out for the whales too, if they are in an area the bait will be too.
When you find a workup, give it space and if it is kicking off, give it time. If boats are ripping through them before they get a chance to form, it is unlikely the fishing will get a chance to fire up either. The wind will push you towards a workup, so line up your drift to head down the edge and not through the middle. Put some consideration in to the tide direction too, the tide will push the scraps in the direction it is heading, understanding this will make sure you are putting your lures in the right zone
Think of a workup like a Tornado smashing through a town, where the workup has been it leaves a debris field of smashed up baitfish, this area can fish better than the workup itself for snapper. This is also a good tactic if kahawai are a problem in the workup, often the Snapper will be hanging back in the debris field.
Overhead reels are preferable for this style of fishing, loaded with 20-30lb braid and 20-30lb fluorocarbon leaders. Overhead reels are easier to click in to gear when you get bit on the drop. Braid has no stretch, so it allows the angler to impart more action in to their lures. Braid also increases the capacity of line on smaller/compact overhead reels. Heavier leaders give you security if you hook a bigger fish and hopefully mean less lures lost.
Snapper will sit high in the water column, be prepared to click your reel in to gear at any time. Often the bigger predatory fish will sit higher in the water column.
Big bait, big fish. Increase the profile of your Kohga by adding the Mega 6 and you tend to get the next size up in fish.
It can be worth mechanical jigging around the workups, especially when the water warms up as there can be a lot of Kingfish in attendance. Big Snapper also love a long jig, so don’t be surprised when you get stuck in to the Snapper on them.
Also big softbaits on elevator style rigs can be good for targeting larger models. Use a big 6.2” BaitJunkie Paddle Tail to imitate a wounded baitfish.
If the fish are tuned on to smaller baitfish like anchovies, a tungsten jig can get a smaller profile bait into deeper zones. Also, if the fishing is slow a smaller jig can get the fish to bite, especially if fished on a lighter leader.
Workup Rods and Reels
Fast sinking but slowly retrieved metal lures are the name of the game in workup fishing. With so many on the market it can often seem overwhelming, so let us help you navigate the best workup fishing lures Daiwa have to offer.
Kohga lures are recognised as the most advanced sliding lures in New Zealand. They tend to attract more bites compared to other jigs. These lures are designed to mimic the natural movement of prey, which is crucial because snapper struggle to find lures that stop moving. Kohgas excel at maintaining continuous motion, increasing your chances of getting more bites.
The Kohga lure's head is keeled to ensure stability during descent, making it look like natural prey item to snapper. Spinning lures often get rejected by snapper due to the unnatural motion. The head of the Kohga lure has a thin side and a thicker side. In high currents or deeper water, use the thin side forward for a tighter action. In low current conditions, opt for the thicker side forward to create more action. Additionally, the head features a ceramic tube that protects and extends the life of your leader. It also allows you to use a thinner leader if the fish are tentative on the bite.
Choosing The Right Colour:
Kohga lures come in various colours, the following recommendations are from lead Daiwa lure designer Hideyuki Furuya. Choose Orange or Sakura Glow for morning fishing, Pink for mid-morning, Gold/Glow for the afternoon, and Chartreuse or Black/Glow for evening sessions. These lures are enhanced with UV paint to maximize visibility underwater. The skirts also feature a distressed pattern to imitate a baitfish in distress, which attracts a predatory response.
Additional Cosmetic And Hardware Features:
Kohga lures have large holographic and abalone eyes, strategically placed to maximize visibility to predatory fish. The skirts are designed for durability, with multiple layers of glue & binding. Quality fluoro-infused Kevlar cord is attached to the ultra-sharp Saqsas hooks, providing the ultimate connection between angler and fish.
The Technique For Maximum Results:
Fishing with Kohga lures is simple: let the lure sink to the bottom, then retrieve it slowly for 5-10 turns before repeating the process. If the line angle exceeds 45 degrees, reel it in and repeat. Adjust the head weight if needed to stay in the strike zone. When you feel a bite, continue reeling slowly to let the fish hook itself and avoid striking, as striking can damage the lure if the fish only has the skirt. If you want to upscale the size of fish you’re catching, add a Kohga Mega 6 to your lure, the increased profile will attract larger predators.In summary, Kohga lures are a valuable addition to the tackle box of spring snapper anglers, offering technical excellence and effectiveness in attracting and catching fish.
These lures are the perfect choice if fish are tuned in to smaller bait. They also excel if the fish are slow on the bite, down scaling lure size in conjunction with a reduction in leader weight can provide a more natural presentation, encouraging a bite from sluggish fish. On those calm glassy days that often feel lifeless employing this tactic can turn your day around.
The unique design creates an original action replicating the motion of a wounded baitfish. Combined with the Adel Hologram finish this lure is sure to grab the attention of nearby predatory fish.
The technique to fish these lures is get them to the bottom and maintain contact on the descent. Aggressively feeding fish will smash a falling jig. If you do make contact with the bottom, give the rod a high lift and follow the fluttering jig down maintaining a small amount of resistance to detect a bite. Repeat this action a few times, then perform a slow mechanical style jig 5-10 turns off the bottom, then allow the jig to fall back down. Once the line angle exceeds 45 degrees, wind in and repeat the process. The Saltiga SLJ jigs provide a deadly addition to the spring anglers bag of tricks and can turn a slow day in to a successful one.
Nothing beats the natural spectacle of a workup. Whales, dolphins, kingfish and other predators pushing bait to the surface while gannets rain down on the schools from above and hungry snapper feed on the scraps falling to the sea floor bellow. Sometimes the excitement of being in the middle of these workups is all too much for us fisherman and common sense goes out the window so here are a few things to remember.
Don’t Always Rely
On Social Media Reports!
Workups can be very fast moving and do move around a lot so don’t rely on intel you’ve seen on the internet. Too many people these days jump on Facebook or Instagram and go exactly where someone was fishing yesterday. They won’t necessarily still be there and it can take the reward out of finding the workup yourself!
Be Respectful Of Other Boaties
When you do find a workup, just remember the rules of the road at sea still apply. Five knots within 50 meters of any other boat and make sure not to create a dangerous wake for any other vessels. Don’t go blasting through the middle of a workup, no one likes that guy. Work out your drift direction and make sure you aren’t going to drift into anyone. Be courteous and if you find yourself drifting below or into another boat that was there first just move out of the way.
Only Catch What You Need
Workups are an amazing spectacle but the biggest thing to remember is that snapper don’t like coming up from the depths so be very selective with what you release. When brought up from depths of roughly 30m+, snapper will suffer from barotrauma and are unlikely to survive upon release. Obvious signs can be guts coming out of orifices and/or blood seeping out. These fish are best to be enjoyed by you and not sent back to the ocean. If you want to release fish then head into the shallows and try softbaiting, or just sit back relax and enjoy watching the carnage unfold around you.
The arrival of spring in the Hauraki Gulf provided the Daiwa team with a great opportunity to hit the water, chasing workups, and testing new products. With a favourable forecast and calm seas, we set course for Channel Island.
The product I was most eager to get my hands on was the new 22 Light Game IC reel. First impressions matter, and the new Light Game reel certainly lives up to expectations. It boasts a robust design for a baitcast-style reel and a sturdy power handle, preferred by Kiwi anglers. I opted for the 200 size, perfect for saltwater, which felt light yet extremely rigid, ensuring a smooth rotation. The digital line counter proved easy to read, and as someone who had never used a line counter reel before, I was keen to see how accurately it could guide me to the fish.
Fishing in 60 meters of water, the sounder indicated activity around the 55-meter mark. Utilising the line counter, I dropped my lure to the desired depth. True to form, as soon as the lure reached the target zone, a powerful strike followed—a sizable Trevally, setting the tone for the rest of the afternoon.
With ideal fishing conditions and Scott Malcon guiding us to the right spots, I was in for an exceptional afternoon. In quick succession, the Light Game tackled a 71cm and then a 75cm Snapper. Both fish put up a spirited fight, pulling plenty of line, but the reel effortlessly handled the task with smooth drag throughout the battle.
However, the afternoon had more in store. I soon faced an even greater challenge, putting the reel to the test against a powerful opponent—presumably a Kingfish. One of the advantages of the line counter is knowing how much line the fish has taken and, crucially, how much you need to retrieve. On this occasion, the fish had taken the line from 60m to 130m in a matter of minutes, a somewhat disconcerting but exhilarating experience! Recognising the challenge ahead, I focused on gradually reeling in the line, allowing the fish to run while slowly increasing the drag (this model boasts 6kg of drag). Despite my arms feeling the strain, the Light Game showed no signs of stress. After a few intense minutes, a magnificent Kingfish emerged on the surface.
It was undeniably a day to remember in the Gulf and a perfect opportunity to put the new 22 Light Game IC to the test. It has swiftly become a favourite among the Daiwa team, and with both 150 and 200 sizes available, it is sure to be a popular choice for both freshwater and saltwater lure fishermen this summer.
By Gareth Shaw