Wild Reign

By Joe Edlington @j.e.wilds
It was an early morning start as we made our way around the sheltered headlands. We had the boat loaded with topwater gear – ready for battle. The plan was to find a good ledge to jump on and target some giant kingfish on stickbaits.
Joining me were a couple of good mates – Mike from On Top Lures and Marcus, who had come up from Wanaka for a few days fishing with me. Mike is the genius mastermind behind OTL lures, a world-renowned topwater lure range that I have had some amazing success with. Marcus (Macca) is an experienced fisherman and hunter and has some awesome stories of his own. He usually joins me for a trip each summer and has a goal to get a nice kingfish on a topwater lure off the rocks.
As we passed a sheltered bay out to our right, it looked amazing in the morning’s conditions; there was no wind, and the sun was lighting up the tropical-looking aqua-coloured water. We checked a few headlands on our way down the coast. We were looking for obvious pressure edges where the current was starting to flow up against the rock ledges. I had a particular spot in mind and, as we neared the headland, we noticed baitfish jumping in the sheltered coves near the main rocky point. This was a good sign, and just like that, our decision was made. This was where we were going to focus our fishing efforts for the day.
Mike nudged his boat up to the rocks. I jumped off the bow and took an armful of rods and gear with me. I took a few steps and placed it all down in a safe spot before heading back and grabbing another load of gear from Macca, who was now standing at the front of the boat. We ferried the remaining gear off the boat and backanchored it with a bungy setup safely off the rocky point, in a sheltered area just around the corner from the main fishing ledge.
I had brought two PE10 setups with me – both reels were Saltiga 18000H’s – and Saltiga rods. Macca was going to use one of these setups for the day, so he started getting his reel out of its waterproof bag and putting it together. Mike brought along a PE8 and PE10 set up with him, so between us all, we had some grunty gear to stand up to the action we were hoping to find ourselves amongst shortly.
After putting my rod and reel together, I started looking through my lure selection. Between Mike and I, we had brought a heap of different colour options – all OTL lures. The baitfish we had seen jumping nearby were mullet; they appeared to be comfortable and free jumping, indicating they were schooling up and not being harassed. With happy mullet in the area, I chose to use an OTL 100g Chop in the mullet colour. This design is one of my favourite lures out there, and the fact there were mullet holding nearby, was the ideal lure to be using.
We started casting into the calm water. There was a deep drop off at our feet, and the water colour was bright blue/green. We all got into a rhythm, and we set into a cast-retrieve-cast- retrieve system while we talked, ripped into each other, and caught up on our recent adventures. I was standing near Macca talking about lure swimming techniques when deep below us a glint of silver shined through the water column. It took us a couple of seconds to register what it was, but as it got closer, there was no mistaking the outline of a big kingfish. It rose out of the depths below us and followed the kelp edge, both Macca and I were frantically casting our lures ahead of it hoping to bring it to the surface, but it didn’t show any interest at all. The big fish disappeared around the corner and out of sight. All three of us were fired up from the encounter but gutted we couldn’t trigger a bite; this fish was obviously not hungry.
A while later, a huge eruption of white water exploded at the opposite point from us! Mullet were launching out of the water and huge kingfish were getting airborne chasing them. Better yet, this massive pack attack was headed in our direction! The mullet school raced as fast as they could, with the kings right on their tails. They blew up on the surface a bunch of times before disappearing and going quiet, we knew they were still being chased in our direction, so the three of us scanned the water below, looking for any sign of the stampeding fish. The first group of mullet came flying through literally just a few metres in front of us, moving fast and for obvious reason as out of nowhere a pack of kingfish followed them right to our feet! We cast ahead of them, trying to get our lures into their zone. At this stage, there were mullet in all directions, frantically darting everywhere, with kingfish chasing after them only metres away.
I peeled off to the right from Mike and Macca, and a group of mullet came straight in my direction, they hit the kelp edge just as the kings came through. I bombed my lure on the surface trying to create as much noise and splash as possible… and it worked! A big fish came straight up from below and got airborne as it hit the lure! Unfortunately, the hooks didn’t grab, and the lure and fish hit the water and separated. I quickly recast in the direction the fish had gone and burned it in as fast as I could possibly wind. Another king was quickly on the lure, chasing it, then engulfed it right at my feet and thrashed the surface as I took the full load on the rod! At this moment, a second fish grabbed the lure out of the first king’s mouth, and, for a brief moment, I had two fish hooked up on one lure! They thrashed about before one of the fish came loose. The fight kicked into gear as the fish got traction in the water, with a couple of big power runs as I hung on tight to the rod. There were more kings following it, and Mike and Macca casted over my fish hoping to get a double or triple hookup.
I was running a near-locked drag, and at one point the kingfish did a huge run that pulled me off balance, and I hit the rocks – almost going into the water. I regained my footing and copped a heap of laughs from the boys before continuing the fight and tiring the fish out. Mike landed it for me – a nice kingfish, and we were stoked to be on the board! A quick photo and we released it back to swim for another day.
Shortly after we had another eruption in front of us. There was another school of mullet getting pounded by an even larger pack of hungry kingfish! There were mullet flying clear out of the water and fish getting demolished in all directions. All three of us were casting into the feeding frenzy, and Mike and I had a big hit on the lures each but failed to get the hooks in. Macca did a long cast out the back, and just as he brought his lure through the centre of the melee, a couple of fish peeled off and started chasing his stickbait. They were hot on it as another fish exploded onto the lure from below! A solid hookup for Macca, and the line started rapidly emptying from his spool. This kingfish was going hard and really putting the pressure on Macca; he did well to keep it away from the reef edges and eventually got it to the surface where I could get down to the water level and land it.
Another awesome fish for the day and a goal ticked off for Marcus! This was a day to remember – being in amongst two huge pack attacks on mullet was something we could only dream about – such a good day with good mates! If you want to watch the video of this day, you can find it on my YouTube channel, ‘JE Wilds - Fishing’.
“ There were mullet flying clear out of the water and fish getting demolished in all directions.