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Ganging up on them
  |  First Published: July 2012



I can’t quite remember when I started using ganged hooks, but my earliest memory was with my father using whole garfish and pilchard baits for chasing Australian salmon, tailor, bonito, kingfish, flathead and snapper. And I haven’t stopped using them since.

If you have never used ganged hooks before you are definitely missing out on a great rig for chasing a number of different fish species.

It is especially good for fish that have plenty of teeth that will cut through the line in a blink of an eye. They are really effective on gummy sharks, various types of mackerel and even bream.

Alvey gangs

The Alvey Quick Trick Ganging Hooks come in six sizes: 1/0, 2/0, 3/0, 4/0, 5/0 and 6/0, and can be purchased in packets of 15, 50 and 1000. The unique thing that sets these ganged hooks apart from all other ganged hooks on the market is the shape of the eye.

If you look closely at the eye of these hooks, you’ll see that it’s not round but an oval shape. The oval eye allows you to easily make your own set of ganged hooks, and therefore increase or decrease the number of hooks you have ganged up. The best thing is that it can all be done without the use of a set of pliers.

The Alvey ganging system is a real time saver. Making up your own sets of ganged hooks before a fishing outing is very time consuming when you have to open or close the eyes of the hooks with pliers. It is also quite annoying when you have closed up the eye on the hook only to find that you can’t easily twist the hook to get it into your bait.

The Alvey Quick Trick Ganging Hooks make it so much easier and quicker to use ganged hooks, which means more time fishing, rather than fiddling around trying to get the ganged hooks to sit correctly in the bait.

The first time I was shown these hooks I was a bit sceptical about their design. I thought the shape of the eye would allow them to come apart very easily, especially if you had a tailor or Australian salmon hooked up and it jumped out of the water. However, after putting a set of hooks together, I found it extremely hard to get them apart unless they were in the perfect position for attachment or removal.

There has been the odd occasion when the hook came out of the eye, but this was very rare. I am prepared to put up with that if it means I spend less time making, fixing and detaching my gang rigs.

In my tackle box I usually carry a range of hooks to accommodate several fishing situations. My hooks range from 1/0-6/0 single hooks, while I also have a variety of rigged gang hooks made up in sets of 2, 3, 4 and 5.

This range will give you the flexibility to accommodate for different sized and shaped baits. For those of you that like using strip baits you can easily design a set of gangs to suit mullet, tuna, slimy mackerel, yellowtail and many more.

Late last year I put together a book called How to catch Australia’s Favourite Saltwater Fish. I listed a number of different tips and techniques when fishing with ganged hooks. Techniques 1-5 are targeted towards Australian salmon, tailor, bonito and kingfish, and techniques 6-8 are for targeting bream, flathead and silver trevally.

technique 1

Australian salmon and tailor will put on a feisty display of acrobatics while trying to dislodge the set of ganged hooks, and many an angler has cursed when hooks have managed to pull free. I’ve found that dropping your rod tip just before they jump can often decrease pulled hooks and lost fish.

The tip is to watch your line carefully, because you can usually tell when the fish is about to head to the surface for an acrobatic display. Before they leave the water, slowly and slightly drop the rod tip down towards the water surface, while at the same time not allowing any slack in the line.

Nine times out of ten this will decrease the strain being put on the line and also decrease the fish’s lever advantage when trying to dislodge the gang hooks. Once the fish is back in the water you can then start to slowly raise the rod tip and apply pressure on the fish by winding in the line.

This technique can be applied whether you are fishing out of a boat, off a beach, from the rocks or offshore.

Technique 2

It doesn’t matter whether you are casting out gang-rigged pilchards or garfish from the beach, off the rocks or out of your boat, I find that the slower you wind in the bait the more takes you get.

While winding in the bait, have the rod tip about a metre from the surface of the water. This will allow a strike in either a sideways or upwards motion to set the hooks.

Once the fish is hooked, keep the rod tip between 60-90° to the water’s surface. This will allow a bit of leeway if the fish makes off with a powerful run.

If the slow retrieval of the bait isn’t working on the day, vary the speed of the retrieve until you find what works.

Technique 3

When using a set of ganged hooks, always make sure the top hook (hook attached to line) has a closed and straight eye. The straight eye will let the bait drift more naturally.

I usually attach a swivel directly to the straight eye hook when I’m preparing for a fishing session. This will eliminate the need to have a swivel further back up the line and it will also stop your line twisting.

The only time you need to use a second swivel up the line is when you have a lighter mainline. Place the second swivel around 30-40cm up the line. This will allow you to have a much heavier leader from the second swivel to the swivel on the top hook.

Technique 4

When anchoring up over a reef or drop-off, feeding lightly weighted bait into a berley trail is the most effective strategy. The key to this technique is getting the bait to work its way down through the berley as naturally as possible, despite containing a set of hooks in it.

The speed and angle of the bait going down should be the same as the berley trail. I prefer to rig the bottom hook into the eye of the bait so that the pilly or garfish seems as though it’s swimming down the trail as you feed it out, not falling backwards.

Technique 5

Very slow trolling your gang-rigged pilchards and garfish is a very effective way to target Australian salmon and tailor when they are very finicky. You can also try trolling blue and whitebait the same way, but you will need to reduce hook size and number to suit the baits you are using.

Bait presentation when trolling is important; a bait spinning will put a lot of fish off. To combat this, get some solder wire and wrap it around the shaft of the first hook, this will act as a keel and stop the bait from spinning.

As a kid we mostly used whole garfish when targeting Australian salmon and tailor. It seems times have changed and now, like many other anglers, I use WA pilchards on ganged hooks. You could also try using whole yellowtail, cowanyoung, blue and whitebait, pike, slimies and mullet on a set of ganged hooks.

Technique 6

The best baits to use when drifting for bream or flathead are whole whitebait, frog mouthed pilchards or poddy mullet, or strips of mullet, yellowtail, squid or tuna. Depending on the thickness of the bait, I will tend to only use 1/0 and 2/0 ganged hooks.

The rig to use is a ball sinker that slides directly down on top of the swivel. The leader of monofilament or fluorocarbon should be no longer than 60cm. The sinker will kick up a puff of sand or mud as it is being dragged across the bottom; getting the attention of the fish.

Technique 7

When fishing off the rocks for bream, it’s effective to use a rig where the small ball sinker runs directly down onto of the tail of the half garfish or pilchard or onto the nose of the whitebait or frog mouth pilchard.

This will allow the bait to float around in the wash and not get snagged up as much. It will also allow a slow retrieval of the bait, while at the same time lifting the tip of the rod to avoid it getting snagged.

Technique 8

Although this may not be classed as a technique, it is very useful. There are three main things you need to remember to check when using gangs on whole, half or strip baits. Firstly check all the hook points are protruding outside the body of the bait. This will ensure a greater hook-up rate.

You should also check that the last hook point must be down near the back of the bait, whether it has been rigged head or tail first. This will keep the bait more secure on the hook.

Finally the rigged bait must be sitting straight on the hooks. Presentation is key to a successful day’s fishing.

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