I’ve been a firm believer of the easy-does-it approach to big fish on light line for years now. If you want to throw small offerings or tempt wary fish in pressured water, light line is the key to success.
When I think light tackle I think of a single hand spin stick loaded up with ultra-thin braid or mono and light leaders. Light tackle can be used to target a wide variety of fresh- and saltwater species with various soft and hard baits.
The techniques of fighting fish on light line can vary species to species but there are a few techniques worth knowing for that day you hook something a lot larger than intended.
Depending on target species, light lines can range from 2lb for bream through to 100lb for billfish. In this article I’m going to focus on ultra light lines at the lower end of the scale and their advantages.
The biggest advantage when using light lines is the ability to cast smaller and lighter lures greater distances in the pursuit of big fish. This comes from down sizing your main line. When doing this you consider two options. When fishing deep plastics in moving water having a fine diameter braided line is going to give you greater feel and less resistance in the current. However if you fish crankbaits over shallow water you have the option of running light casting fluorocarbon to ease heavy lunges and reduce pulled hooks.
Light lines can be used in many different fishing scenarios and can work in your favour to increase bites in a number of ways. Firstly, there is a need to down size leaders in most of the metro areas because of the influx of light line lure flickers continuing to put pressure on all the nooks and crannies of our water ways.
The nation wide success of catch and release tournaments also brings a necessity to fish as light a possible especially on competition day when there can be over 100 lines connected to the latest lures and techniques on the circuit. The advantage of light line here is that your presentation looks as natural as possible, which can give you an edge and the confidence to catch fish when targeting areas other competitors may have already shown offerings to.
Light line is also successful when targeting fish in crystal clear water, especially when the sun is shining high over head. In these conditions visibility goes both ways; spotting fish becomes easier, but fish become a lot more alert to foreign presences in their surroundings.
Even the lightest of lines and leaders can cast a shadow that can spook fish, which is often a problem when fishing on the flats where shadows show up easy on a sandy bottom. A light fluorocarbon leader can be the difference between consistent inquiries or constant refusals. Although these lines will still cast a shadow depending on the style of lure being used, once the lure descends and the line is submerged it absorbs colours and allows the line to appear to disappear.
It is this reason that the majority of lure fishing is done with fluorocarbon leaders. Light leaders that can’t be seen are a definite advantage when targeting sharp eyed opponents.
When using light mono and fluorocarbon it pays to understand what can happen when these lines are stretched and chafed. When under maximum pressure, the line can fail with the smallest contact from a sharp object.
Monofilament is made from a mixture of polymers and it’s these polymers once heated and formed into strands of line that allow stretch and make it highly resistant to abrasion. These lines can take a lot more scuffing and abrasion when less pressure is applied. It is these two traits that give anglers the necessary tools to ensure hooks stay set, lines don’t fray and lines don’t break from lunging runs or aggressive head shakes.
When fighting any fish in any situation being able to make quick and precise adjustment to drag pressure to alleviate pressure on the line can mean the difference between landing a fish and losing one. From the initial hook-up and throughout the duration of the fight the drag may need to be adjusted several times depending on the size and species.
When fishing light lines in our estuary systems anglers most commonly encounter big flathead, and it is these fish that teach most anglers how quick light line can wear through when fish with teeth are involved. The problems caused by flathead come from the rows of sharp teeth that can sever line in seconds.
The most effective way to counteract the super abrasive head shakes of big flathead is to back the drag off and make slow and deliberate movements with the rod to keep them as subdued as possible. Fast and aggressive or erratic rod movements only cause fish to fight back in the same manner and when this happens with big flathead the resulting head shakes can quickly sever the connection.
Less pressure is also best when a good fish runs you through submerged structure and stiches you up. You can either pull harder, which almost guarantees a bust up, or back the drag off releasing pressure and gently steer or allow the fish to swim back out.
This technique is used by anglers in most freshwater fishing environments as these tend to be more heavily timbered and fish often find these log piles with ease. Freshwater structure lends itself to this technique more so than salt because of the lack of barnacle and oyster encrusted growths.
This technique was perfected by tournament bass anglers fishing light in the timber expanses of many freshwater impoundments up and down the east coast of Australia. Big bass have explosive bursts of speed and power, and can bury you very quickly. When hooked near timber that has a healthy algal coating, there is no need to panic if you get wrapped up. Simply back the drag off and continue to keep steady pressure on the fish and guide it back out into clear water.
The light line open bail theory became a necessary part of a bream angler’s arsenal on the ABT BREAM circuit about 10 years ago now. To get wary bream to bite anglers started using 2-3lb either straight through or as leaders. Going this light enticed more bites, but when a big blue nose was hooked near structure, they dictate the terms and could more often than not easily reach it and hide.
This technique involves opening the bail arm when you think a bust off is inevitable. For example, if a big jack grabs your bait and is about drag your leader straight along a crusty pylon, open the bail arm so the line isn’t as stretched. It is a technique to use when you know your hooks are set well and the slack line won’t result in a spat hook.
Opening the bail arm more often than not stops a fish on the spot because they aren’t feeling resistance. This technique has been around a very long time and appears to have roots in land-based game fishing.
If you love to fish as light as possible or find yourself fishing light lines to raise a bite on competition day, be prepared to use this technique if need be and remember to be mindful of drag adjustment at any stage off the fight. Just remember, easy does it.Reads: 1387