A Small Rod with Ambition

That’s fishing for you!

I started off as your average young and enthusiastic rock and surf angler with my tiny plastic rod and reel. I would fish little rock pools with small pieces of sardines and squid, catching all sorts of different baby yellowbelly rock cods, damsels, flagtails, surgeonfish, blacktails and karanteen to name just a few. I always tried to catch as many different fish as I could when my dad took me fishing with him and it wasn’t until my father taught me how to catch shad (elf) with a brass Toby spoon one December at Banana Beach, not too far from Port Shepstone, that this method of catching fish using artificial lures sparked an interest that, from the age of 10 to now 25, has become a lifelong passion and that is the art of fishing with a lure.

I was hypnotized by thoughts of catching a fish with a lure, in both salt and freshwater and have for years always been craving more and more of that feeling you get when you hook up. The ultimate satisfaction of tricking a fish into eating something that is not actual food was an out of this world experience for me then, and still is to this day some 15 years later, every time I catch a fish on a lure.

During my time fishing, I have experimented with many different lures and techniques, plugs made from broomsticks, spoons to rapalas, soft plastics, I even tried my hand at fly fishing with commercially bought flies and then flies tied by myself. Many hours were spent sitting in front of the TV, watching ESA videos of anglers all over Africa catching various species of fish, be it both with bait and on the lure. While fishing with and spending time with other fishermen going fishing, I’ve used from big surf rods to small bass rods. As a matter of fact, I often still fish for bass as well. More recently, I have also learned how to master the mighty KP reel and the art of fishing a rubber squid off the famous Durban South Pier and let me tell you, I’ve had the time of my life fishing in the sea with just a small rod, a small reel, light line and a small lure.

The number of species one can catch with small lures in the ocean and estuaries, let alone rivers and dams, to me has always been mind-blowing. Over the years I’ve spent countless hours fishing every single beach within my reach, early mornings, late afternoons, all day, day in and day out and I will admit that my all-time favourite area’s which I encourage every lure angler in KZN to visit would be Umkomaas, Illovo Beach, Garvies Beach and also North and South Pier including the Durban Harbour itself.

I’ve caught my fair share of species on artificial lures over the past 10 years, as always there are a few that stand out – refer to the attached photographs in this article. I spend almost every session fishing for these species and have often caught almost every single one of them in a single day, and at other times have spent weeks if not months learning and practising with lots of trial and error how to consistently catch a certain species, which meant having days where I can’t even get a single bite! That’s fishing for you!

Basing my approach on the knowledge shared by other fishermen, reading fishing books, online forums and – most importantly – spending time by the water, I came up with a basic system for myself which has enabled me to find exactly what species of fish I’m looking for when I go fishing and I’ve managed to catch almost every single fish species I’ve dreamt of catching, with some species remaining to be ticked off the list by using a small rod, a small reel and a determination that has no limits.
Most of my catches are returned to the water as I believe in catch and release, although a fresh fish for the pot once in a while is very healthy and I love my garlic with salt and pepper pan-fried shad on toast!

Over the past 6 years, I have been lucky enough to catch several interesting species using artificial lures and I will include a list of lures both locally and internationally manufactured which have produced all of my greatest catches and have worked time and again, over and over.

The below species can be caught almost everywhere and anywhere on the entire KZN coastline starting with zones that have shallow and deep rocky areas, gulleys and even long sandy beaches with scattered reefs and holes, to estuaries and rivers. Some of them can even be caught right in the shore break and each of them has a unique behaviour, feeding pattern and choice of structure they reside around and can be found all year round and are best fished for using a 5.6ft to 7ft rod with a 3000 sized reel or smaller spooled with 10lb breaking strain braid/monofilament/fluorocarbon mainline. When it comes to recommending what brand to use, today’s angler is spoiled with such brands as Daiwa and Shimano.

However, I will proudly state my preference for Okuma products since my childhood and in recent years they have done and continue to bring out some great products that speak for themselves when fished with confidence!

Targeted species

  • Juvenile kingfish ( blacktip/greenspot/big eye/ GT)
  • Threadfin aka bastard mullet
  • Surge wrasse
  • Blacktail
  • Oxeye tarpon
  • Shad (elf)
  • Indian goatfish
  • Juvenile (and not so juvenile) Kob 
  • Wave Garrick (Large Spotted Pompano)

Fishing the below lures with the following basic actions and conditions will catch you the above species, if not more, and please note results may vary during the seasons/areas and many other variables.

Successful retrieves

  • Action 1: A slow constant retrieve and light twitches
  • Action 2: A twitch, twitch, pause retrieve with 1-3 second intervals 

Feel free to change up the timing, and retrieval speed, as this is a baseline basic and can change with conditions, your own experience and time spent on the water.

  • Tide Conditions: Low to pushing tide.
  • Times: Early morning and late afternoon are best.
  • Weather conditions: I’ve caught fish on calm sunny days, I’ve caught fish in buster south-westerly, easterly and northeasterly winds, rainy days and even during thunderstorms. 

If the fish are hungry, they will eat no matter what the conditions are.

Recommended Lures

  • McCarthy Baits – Bristle Worm: Colours – (Kelp)
  • McCarthy Baits – Jerk Minnow 3′: Colours – (Olive Pearl/River Prawn/Glow)
  • McCarthy Baits – Jerk Minnow 4′: Colours – (Olive Pearl/River Prawn/Glow)
  • Sensation SD3 – Jerk Minnow: Colours – (Holographic Silver)
  • BLU 2798 Lures – Cracker Shrimp
  • Small Bucktails: Colours – Olive/White/Pink/Chartreuse
  • Strike Pro ARC Minnow 90
  • Small Poppers and Walkers: Colours – Olive/White/Black
  • Any good old fashioned S bend spoon, Toby spoon, brass or white metal

Some other locally produced brands include Dirty Prawn lures, Passion Baits ZAGhost Lures and Sensation.

I have been blessed to fish with some great fishermen and I’d like to name a few who have had a massive impact on who I am as a fisherman today and have given a helping hand along the way – John Otto, Lionel Crow, Veer Hiruman, Roarke “The Sheriff” Hamilton, Junaid “The Trace Guy” Gaffoor, Ray Thompson, Theo Potgieter, Jace Govender and Jaco Stroh.

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