Sometimes the impromptu fishing trips are the best ones.
A last minute call up from the man himself, Matt Watson, to fish with him in the Far North, was not one I was going to turn down. The diary got rearranged in a hurry, the alarm was set for 12 am and by 6 am the next morning I was driving into KeriKeri to meet Matt, his mates Jules and Blair and cameraman Dan.
After ten years at the top of NZ Fishing Television, Matt’s ITM Fishing Show still sets the bar as far as fishing entertainment goes. And it is immediately clear that Matt still has the passion for it, as soon as we hop on the boat Matt is regaling tales of this years adventures, like taking his new Stabicraft 2750 to the Three Kings. Matt cut his teeth spending spent countless hours at the Kings crewing on top NZ boats like Primetime and Ultimate Lady, but this was his first time at the Kings in his own trailer boat. You can tell by the way he talks about this epic mission he is still buzzing about it.
Today we’re off to do some deep dropping to get the last bit of footage Matt needs to wrap up his 2016 season. As we cruise out of the harbour at Mangonui, the TZ Touch lights up with fish targets, and well, it’d be rude not to get some livebaits. This is the first time I’ve seen a TZ Touch hooked up to a Furuno Tru Echo Chirp sounder module, and the read is impressive. We are clearly seeing individual fish as crisp arches and in no time we have a livie tank full.
The Northland sky is an ominous dark red this morning, with an impending blow coming in from the Tasman, so we don’t have long to get what we are after. Matt has a few spots out wide in mind to prospect with electric reels, and with a quick touch of the screen sets the NavPilot 711c to our destination.
The ride in the new Stabicraft as we cut across 15 knots of sloppy easterly is impressive, but more impressive is how the boat holds into the sea once we are at the grounds in reverse. As we hold the lines vertical with the motor in reverse, there is zero spray. Like nothing. This is a big bonus for Matt while he is filming as there is no spray on the camera lens to contend with. I’m liking it too, as I lean up against the livie tank and await the bite without having to suck in salt spray.
Another thing I notice as we’re holding in 400m of water is how clear the read is on Matt’s TZ Touch. The TruEcho Chirp sounder module is more designed for shallow depths, usually only rated to 400m, but even at the supposed end of its range we are getting a very clear picture. Matt has mounted the TM265 transducer in a fairing block thru the hull and away from propellor disturbance which obviously helps. (For best deep water performance over 400m we recommend running the DFF3 sounder module and 2kw or 3kw transducer with 38khz being the most popular, but the TruEcho Chirp module still seems to be doing the job for Matt in the deep.) A run past one of Matt’s sword spots as we prospect in the deep and Matt shows us the layer of bait up above a canyon we are marking in 600m. “That is exactly the sign I catch my swords off” says Matt.
We have other quarry in mind today though, namely hapuka, bass and gamefish and the Shimano Beastmaster electrics reels are put to the test prospecting the depths. It is a solid day with no shortage of fish coming aboard (to find out more you are going to have to watch the show!). The walk around on the Stabicraft is put to the test on the biggest fish of the day as it gets tangled around another fish on the other side. As it pops to the surface off the bow, I’m thinking I’m lovin this boat.
A great day out in Northland is finished with a few Lion Reds, a filleting session and a big clean up. Dan is busy sorting through and organising footage from the day. A quick tour through the headquarters of Tightlines Television the next morning gives an insight into how big an operation this is behind the scenes and how much work is involved producing the show. Dan is busy cutting footage for this season and I get a sneak peek at some amazing footage of Matt pitching baits to Blue Marlin in Cape Verde, and pulling up hapuka up from the depths in Kaikoura.
All too quickly I am heading back south, albeit with some bass fillets, and a gemfish roe to smoke up, which Matt assures me is simply the best smoked fish.
Cheers for the Northland hospitality Matt! A day fishing with one of NZ’s legends I’ll remember for a long time. Chur.