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Pre-Season Shakedown
  |  First Published: December 2006



Summer produces hot gamefishing action from the Sunshine Coast to the Tweed. Off Moreton Island, the annual run of juvenile black marlin will be in full swing with tuna, wahoo, mackerel, dolphinfish and sailfish also around.

The run off the Sunshine Coast has already started but these waters still hold good numbers of billfish and other pelagics. Gold Coast anglers have been enjoying the warm weather and billfish are being caught right on their doorsteps, only a few hundred metres from The Seaway. Many other species are in this area and anglers can fish from boats as small as 4.5m when conditions are good.

With so many gamefishing options, anglers should be prepared. A pre-season shake down is the best way to make sure all your tackle and gear is ready. Hopefully, you will have serviced and checked everything at the end of last season.

SERVICing

Many anglers throw all their gear into the boat and head offshore only to discover that their rod and reel does not work. Reel handles become tough to turn once the handle bearings or main gear bearings start to corrode. Drags that have been left done up cause washers to compress, resulting in a low or lumpy drag settings.

To check your drag, run the line over the rod and pull line off the reel under light, medium and high drag settings. You will soon see how effective and smooth the drag is. I suggest a thorough check of all gear a few weeks before you need it. This gives you time to organise services and parts. Most dedicated tackle stores offer this service for anglers and there are also a few stand-alone reel technicians around the place.

You will probably need to go to a proper tackle store rather than a retail outlet. Quality tackle stores usually have a staff member on hand to sort out small problems or have a commissioned reel repairer for services and larger jobs. It can cost $30-50 plus parts for repairs. Services and repairs should be done regularly to save a lot of regret later.

Rods need to be checked that they are in working order. If you have conventional O-ring guides then find a pair pantyhose and run them around the inside of the ring to check for cracks and nicks. Any imperfections will pull at the fibres. Visually inspect each guide and tip runner as well.

Roller guides should be serviced. Remove the screw, bush and roller out of each guide then clean with metho, WD40, Inox, Lanox or a similar product and then wipe dry. Check the line groove in the roller to make sure it’s still smooth. Apply a smear of a Teflon-based lube to the bush, screw and inside of roller and re-assemble. You will also need to check the bindings on the guides. A few small cracks in bindings are normal, as the rod usually bends more than the feet of the guide. If in doubt, take them to a tackle store or rod repairer and get them checked.

Winch fittings should also be cleaned and checked. A good clean and a little graphite powder will often get the screw and chuck sorted out. Give the rod a decent bend to make sure bent-butt and mini bent-butt fittings are in order.

The line on your reel will need replacing every 12-18 months, depending on regularity of use. If you have had a crack or rough spot on one of your guides then it’s best to replace the line. A basic check should include a visual and manual inspection. For mono, look to see if the line still has its clear, crystal-like appearance. Hold it up to the light to check the clarity. If it is starting to go opaque then it is deteriorating. Run the first 50-100m through your hands to check for abrasion and nicks. Also ensure that it is not full of twist by holding a limp section and seeing if it twists up. If it does, the line can either be replaced, or the twist can be run out by dragging the first 100m or so behind the boat with no lures, leaders or anything else on the end, just bare line. Drag it for about 500m and then wind back onto the reel. In braid and Dacron a similar check should be performed. Look for pulled or cut fibres, which often appear as fluffy sections. Re-tie all knots, plaits and Dacron splices if the line is still in good condition. If it is not, then it should be replaced. Most larger, dedicated stores will have line-winding machines to make this task less of a chore. Some may charge for the service but if you buy your replacement line from them, most will usually do it for free.

WEAR AND TEAR

Many items of tackle get put under a lot of stress during use. As a result, they will suffer wear, which in an extreme case will cause problems. Most items need to be checked on regular intervals either annually or bi-annually.

If you own a downrigger, the main section that requires inspection is the wire. Even though it is stainless it will still rust with prolonged saltwater use. Changing the wire will cost you around $30 but if you break the wire and lose the downrigger ball and release clip then you will be up for $60. You’ll also have to spend $30 for a replacement wire cable.

The leaders on lures and pre-made rigs need to be inspected for nicks and abrasion. Like your mono line they should be crystal clear and not opaque in appearance. Inspect around the crimps for splits or wear, cutting off and recrimping, or replacing, where necessary. If you fish under IGFA or ANSA rules now is a good time to ensure all your lure leaders and wind-on-leaders conform to regulation lengths.

The towline of your teasers may show signs of wear and should be checked carefully. Good teasers can cost $150+ so losing one can be a costly mistake. If you have a ball bearing swivel or snap on it, then this may also need replacing.

If you have used quality stainless steel hooks in your lure rigs then you should not have to do much other than check them for sharpness. The rest of the rig though will need to be checked. Often they will only need a neaten up with a bit of heat shrink to stop the hooks fouling each other but all crimps, wire, shackles and thimbles need inspecting. Replacing the anode tape on hooks, especially chemically sharpened ones, is a good investment against corrosion.

Outriggers require maintenance to keep them in good nick also. Check the outrigger cable for wear, especially around the crimps holding the release clip. Make sure the rollers are moving freely and that any stabilizing/shock straps are not perished. The clips could probably use a bit of a clean and may need resetting for the particular line class you fish.

Other items of tackle that need to be checked include tag poles, gaffs and landing nets. Check that all tags will insert easily into the the needle on your tag pole. If you have a point protector on your gaff make sure it’s easy to remove and check the point for sharpness. The mesh on your landing net may need to be replaced as they get torn from use and depending on where it has been stored, it may have been chewed by pests over the winter.

All pliers, line cutters, swaging/crimping tools and associated items should be cleaned and lubed. Use WD40 or similar to free them up and than put a protective coating of a lanolin based product or similar on them, especially around the pivot screw. Knives should be sharpened if necessary.

TACKLE TOP UPS

A quick inventory check of all the terminal tackle items that you use is a must. Ensure that you have a good supply of any hooks, sinkers, swivels, snaps, rigging floss/thread, bait needles, leader materials, wire, spare line, rubber bands, bait jigs, live baiting balloons, wind-on-leaders that you may use. Make a list as you go and think about the situations you fish and the terminal tackle you may require. Keeping a few spare leaders for your lures can save a lot of time if a popular lure keeps getting hit and the leader subsequently abraded. A quick leader change can get the hot offering back in the water quickly. It is a good idea to have a few pre-made live bait rigs handy if you do a bit of this type of fishing as you never know when you will come across a good bait school while fishing offshore.

If applicable, ensure that you have plenty of tags available and that you have filled out and returned any tag cards from last year that may have been forgotten. Make sure the pens in your tag kit still write also.

Your selection of lures should be checked and any that may have been lost in action last season may need replacing. Treble and double hooks, as well as the split rings on bibless lures and bibbed minnows may be corroded and need replacing.

WHY BOTHER?

At the start of the season you should empty your boat and start from scratch, checking each item to ensure it is still in good working order and topping up any tackle supplies. By doing this you are going to save time on the water and will eliminate lost opportunities by being prepared. This will also mean you can maximize your fishing opportunities, which will result in more fish hooked and more fish landed. Most of all you will have more fun doing the sport that we love.

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