PICS: CRAIG THOMASSEN, CHRIS SCHOULTZ
Over the last ten years or so, anglers have been targeting kob in the surf on spinning tackle. This method has always been very successful, usually outfishing natural bait or live bait techniques.
As technology has improved and anglers have learnt more through experience, spinning for kob in the surf has become further refined and is accounting for more and more fish being caught.
There are a number of reasons why artificial lures are so effective for catching kob as a species in particular. Firstly, they are a species that relies heavily on vibrations in the water to find their prey, more so than eyesight or sense of smell. This is what allows them to hunt successfully in the dark and in low visibility water.
The movement given off by a lure therefore is a big attraction and a moving lure is more likely to be picked up than bait lying still on the bottom. Also, the kob have a couple of feeding techniques. Sometimes they move around actively searching for food and at other times they hold in certain areas, waiting in ambush for food items to come past them.
It is when they are holding in an ambush position, in shoals, that the best catches are made on artificial lure. At these times, the shoal can be targeted using accurate casts, and the lure can be brought through the fish from the direction that they would expect a bait fish to approach from. Getting a livebait into these holding areas is often difficult due to the length of the cast needed, and then the surge over a sandy bottom would result in it quickly being swept out of the zone if it did reach there.
Experienced kob anglers are quick to pick out the right spots to target kob. They generally hold in fairly specific areas, with certain criteria that make these spots ideal. Kob like a deep hole or drop-off adjacent to a sandbank, close to the point of the sandbank where the water moves in and out of the channel. They also like places where sand has been scoured out next to rocky ledges and a hole has been formed with a sandy bottom. There needs to be some white water churning for them to hide in.
Another place where kob tend to congregate in the surf is in the region of river mouths. Reading water and learning what sort of areas kob like holding in is the first essential skill to perfect when wanting to target these fish in the surf on lures. If you are fishing the wrong spots, you are highly unlikely to have any sort of success.
Generally, kob are best targeted in the surf over a low tide, when the surf is fairly small. This gives the angler access to the banks or rocks that he needs to stand on in order to make the casts that will reach the hole where the kob are lying. Ideally, you want your cast to go over the fish and allow the lure to sink a bit, before retrieving it to the edge of the drop-off and allowing it to fall in, with some twitches to give it an enticing action.
The kob usually hit the lure as it goes over the drop off, where they are waiting to ambush mullet or other bait fish that get washed off the shallow bank by the water surge. At times, they will also follow the lure and hit it close to your feet or take it somewhere in the channel between you and the hole.
The first lures used to catch kob in the surf were spoons. These did very well due to their weight and the fact that they could be cast far. Rapala-type lures became popular later, and anglers figured out ways to make them heavier to cast by either wrapping lead wire around the hooks or drilling holes in the lures themselves and adding lead. These lures were very successful because of the amount of vibration created by their movement through the water.
More recently, lead-head jigs dressed either with bucktail or with soft plastics have also been used for kob with great success. These lures are fished deep, close to the bottom; in fact, they should make contact with the bottom between twitches. Some fishermen are also fishing soft plastic lures on bass hooks in a weedless style presentation, with a weight directly in front of the plastic. These are doing particularly well in rocky areas, where the lure has a great chance of snagging up if the hook point is exposed.
The choice of lure and how it is rigged depends very much on the terrain that you are fishing in and the length of cast needed to reach the fish. Generally speaking, the more vibration that you can get out of a lure, the better it is to attract a strike. Paddletail soft plastics have the ability to give off plenty of vibration and can be fished on jigheads weighted as you need them. This makes them a great all-round lure for casting to kob in the surf, and they can also be fished weedless when the terrain is rocky.
The improvement in quality of braided lines and decent spinning reels has also broadened the opportunities for spinning for kob. Large fish can now be targeted on reasonably light tackle due to the line capacity of the reels and the strength of low-diameter braid. Lures can also be cast further with this setup, making more kob holding spots accessable.
Spoons and jigs cast for kob should be fished with a twitching motion of the rod, allowing them to sink back to the bottom between twitches. This action seems to trigger a strike reaction in kob and results in good hook-ups. Bucktail jigs are very successful for these fish, partly due to the fact that they cast well; also, the movement imparted by the bucktail as the jig moves through the water is attractive. The heavy head and fast sink rate of bucktails also means that they fall quite hard onto the sand between twitches, making an audible thump that kob pick up through the water.
A good set up for spinning for these fine angling fish is a nine-foot rod, such as a Shimano Aerocast rod rigged with a good quality front drag spinning reel. The Shimano Stella 5000 is the top of the range choice, but the Shimano Sustain and Stradic 5000 are also up to the job. 20lb Sufix 832 braid is ideal, used with a leader of 40lb Sufix Zippy.
Spoons that work well for kob are the Krocodile Spoons, as well as the Lucas spoons. The Krocodile has plenty of movement in the water and gives off a lot of vibration, whereas the Lucas spoon casts very well and also has an enticing wobble.
Jigs of around an ounce-and-a-half are best for most situations and can be dressed with a variety of soft plastics or bucktail. Olive and white bucktail seems to be a popular colour for this type of fishing, as well as black over white. Jerk shad-style soft plastics cast a bit further than paddletails, so if distance is an issue, then the jerk shad is the way to go. If you can reach the fish easily, then a paddletail is better as it gives off more movement. Plain white, orange and purple are some of the favoured colours of soft plastics, but most colours will work for kob.