Have I just bought my last packet of No 32 rubber bands? I certainly hope so.
Like most game boat skippers and crew, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with rubber bands over the years. While they are handy for many purposes on a boat, as breakaway devices for lure trolling, they have some substantial drawbacks.
Their quality can vary markedly from packet to packet and brand to brand. They deteriorate when exposed to sea air (although storing them in talcum powder and/or in the fridge will alleviate this), and break constantly on rough days when towing big lures and baits. They can also damage the line on the strike if not tied on securely.
The adjustable Dacron loop approach, however, is about as foolproof as it gets. It is especially useful on boats where inexperienced crew can’t tie a rubber band on so it won’t slip. What’s more, they can set the spread accurately in a matter of seconds instead of minutes, without any arguments about the correct position of the outrigger and shotgun lures.
This makes the skipper a very happy chappy!
Adjustable loops work on the same principle as the Dacron end of a wind-on leader, where the concertina weave creates a Chinese finger-trap effect, holding it in position on the line when under tension.
Should you need to adjust the loop’s position, simply bunch the Dacron up like a caterpillar, slide it up or down the mono until you reach the desired location, then smooth it back out.
If you’re not quite happy about where a lure or bait is swimming, it then takes only seconds to adjust, unlike alternatives such as fixed whipped loops, which if you don’t get exactly right, are out of place forever. A change in sea conditions, adjustment in boat speed or direction can really throw a spanner in the works.
It’s also possible to set the release tension on the clip accurately via spring scales. When you establish a suitable trip weight, any knockdown after that is going to be a bite 99% of the time.
This method is ideal for bait fishing, too, because the loops are fully adjustable so it’s possible to keep one bait short and another long to avoid a greedy marlin eating both.
Another plus is that being quite limp, the Dacron loop won’t hang up in guides like rubber bands can, especially if you’ve over-gunned it size-wise.
The downside is that they are reasonably visible, but except in the tropics, how often does another fish attack something attached to the line? Even then, given their advantages, the risk is negligible.
Making Dacron loops is so simple that they can be made up in advance, although they’re probably not something you’ll go through a whole lot of unless the fish are really hammering you.
Just make sure that the connecting loop is small enough that it won’t lasso the rod tip as it approaches – it has happened!
An alternative to Dacron is 200lb Dyneema, as used on jigging assist hooks. This is a longer-lasting alternative, as the Dacron loops will gradually fray if you’re doing a lot of fishing and/or using big baits or lures.
Just remember to remove the central core of the Dyneema first. For most of us weekend warriors, though, 130lb Dacron will be fine for medium to heavy tackle.
Once you have the spread sorted, at the end of the day’s fishing, measure and make a note of how far back those lures/baits are from the loops (fingertip-to-fingertip armfuls are fine).
It’s often a lot different from what you might think, but it also speeds up the replacement process when you can slide a new loop into roughly the correct position from the get-go.
There’s more to the adjustable Dacron loop story, though. How you rig the tag line release when lure trolling can have a big bearing on its success, and possibly avoid a broken line or, even worse, an entire outrigger. Having seen a $7000 braced aluminium pole bend to the water and then break when a fixed loop got caught in a clip, I’m here to tell you it’s not a pretty sight.
The universally popular Black’s Clips are ideal for this but they need to be rigged stiff, with absolutely no movement at all.
In this instance we can dispense with the cork ball found on most outrigger tag lines; the clip will be wider than the tag line return weight.
Depending on the position of the outrigger rod holders, the length of the tag line may have to be adjusted to prevent the main line wrapping back up around the clip on a turn.
That’s not a good time for a bite to occur, not to mention potential line damage at other times. On my boat, for instance, tag lines about 300mm shorter than the outrigger pole proved to be a workable solution.
THE POWER GUM ALTERNATIVE
Power Gum is a different approach to adjustable loops.
A European coarse fishing product used for fixed-line fishing with poles up to 12m long, Power Gum’s built-in elasticity means it has a certain amount of give for when using 0.5lb to 2.5lb lines (yes, you read correctly – 0.5lb to 2.5lb!).
This comes in especially handy when a big carp or barbel intercepts a maggot intended for a target species that might only weigh a few ounces. About as far away from coarse fishing as you can get, Power Gum makes a damn fine outrigger loop, too!
The advantage of Power Gum is its inconspicuousness. You now have an opaque loop that measures only a couple of centimetres overall, as opposed to the Dacron approach, which is about 18cm long all up.
For medium tackle up to 37kg and lures to 35cm, 4.5kg breaking strain Power Gum is more than sufficient. If fishing Cairns-sized baits, 10kg would be a better fit.
To adjust the positioning of the loop on the line, wet the mono in front of the knot, slide it along until the loop flattens out, and repeat the process with the second knot until the correct position is achieved.
In Cairns, it’s common practice to have a backup 130lb outfit rigged with two outrigger loops for short and long baits. In other fisheries, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a spare or even one of the flatline rods rigged in such a way so in the event of something happening to the outrigger lines, you’re immediately back in the game.
Australia’s short-lived infatuation with coarse fishing fizzled out about 25 years ago, so Power Gum may be difficult to source locally. To purchase Power Gum, drop David Theobald a line at --e-mail address hidden-- for prices.
Establish the correct position for the lure in the wake, and then attach the Power Gum to the line with a uni knot. You’ll need about seven to eight turns in the knot to prevent it slipping but enable it to be moved easily. Trim the tag.
Using the standing end of the Power Gum, tie another uni behind and quite close to the first. The closer they are together, the smaller the loop.
Slide the two knots together, trim the tag, and your outrigger connection is complete. To adjust, wet the line, slide the first knot along, and then move the next knot up.