Last month we looked at the basic rod, reel and lure selection required for light-tackle gamefishing in southern Queensland. In this issue we will discuss the lines, terminal tackle and teasers that you will need when targeting billfish, wahoo, mackerel, tuna, dolphinfish and other pelagics.
Like all forms of fishing you can be basic or comprehensive in your approach. However, having a decent selection of quality gear when gamefishing will definitely increase your chances of success.
For recreational gamefishing, anglers can use any line that they desire. Tournament fishing, however, will require the use of pre-test lines. As mentioned last month, most gamefish tournaments in SEQ use 8kg as a standard line class for all non heavy-tackle tournaments. As a result, most anglers affiliated with these clubs use 8kg for their everyday fishing as well.
A pre-test line is a line that is guaranteed to break under the line class stated on the spool. This is to ensure that any potential record fish are not going to be disallowed because the line breaks over the stated class. Most pretest lines tend to have a little more stretch and are a little thicker than conventional monofilament lines, both factors that make them good for targeting records. Some good brands of pretest lines include Platypus, Hawk, Shogun, Trilene, Ande, Maxima and Momoi and each can vary in price quite considerably. Anglers are forced to choose whether they buy the dearest that they can find, in search of the highest quality and longest lasting, or purchase the cheaper brands on a more frequent basis.
For recreational gamefishing, braided lines can also be used, however I personally believe that their negative attributes outweigh their positive features. During prolonged fights, braid is much more likely to tear a hole where the hook has penetrated and heighten the chance of the hook dislodging. I recommend backing the drag lever off a little more when trolling to avoid tearing the hooks on the strike. Braid will also not allow a fish to suck in baits or lures as easily as the thinner diameters, and almost nil stretch means that there is less of a belly in the line between rod and lure.
On the positive side, braid can set a hook better in some circumstances due to the low stretch characteristics and can turn a half-hearted bill swipe from a sailfish or marlin into a solid hook-up. Personally, I prefer to use monofilament or polymer lines when gamefishing and mainly use Platypus Pretest as it is a quality Australian made product that is not too taxing on the hip pocket.
There are a lot of terminal tackle items that are needed for the broad array of gamefishing situations that you can find yourself in. Whilst items such as wind-on-leaders and skirted lure rigs can be purchased ready for use, you may even decide to get the gear to make these yourself.
Assuming we are fishing line classes between 6kg and 15kg, there is a selection of items that will be required on any boat. Monofilament or fluorocarbon leader materials between 80lb and 200lb, plus the various crimps that fit each, are definitely needed. I mainly use 80lb, 120lb, 150lb and 200lb.
Forty-nine strand wire of around 135lb is useful for leaders on high speed trolling lures. Heavier wire between 285-480lb will also be required if you are going to make your own skirted lure rigs. Plastic or nylon coated wire is usually only utilised for shark fishing and a roll of 170lb can be handy to have aboard for these situations. Make sure you get the appropriate size crimps for each wire as well.
I like to use double brass crimps, such as those distributed under the brands Hi-Seas and Shogun. A good swaging tool (not a crimping tool) is also a necessity and you can now get these for as little as $40. A swaging tool reduces the diameter of the crimp around the wire or mono, while a crimping tool just crushes the crimp. A crushed crimp is not as strong and the irregular shape will give off air bubbles in the water when trolling. This is like candy to wahoo and other pelagics and they can quickly decrease your lure supply.
When using wire, the entire length of the crimp can be swaged, however when swaging mono the ends of the aluminium crimp should not be swaged. This will make the crimp flare up on the ends, an attribute which decreases the chance of it cutting into or wearing the monofilament leader.
You will also need some quality ball bearing snap swivels for your leader system. Spend the extra couple of dollars to buy quality snap swivels because a failure will not only result in a lost fish but cost you in excess of $50 for a lost lure and rig. Quality snap swivels will greatly reduce the amount of twist you get in your line, another factor that can cost you dearly in lost fish, lures and time.
A basic selection of hooks between 5/0 and 8/0 will be required for live baiting. You can use either J-pattern hooks or circle hooks. I like chemically-sharpened circle or semi-circle patterns such as Gamakatsu Octopus Circle and Big Bait Circle or the Owner In-Line Circle or Mutu Circle hooks.
When rigging skirted lures, the hooks need to be straight (non-offset) patterns. Good ones that are readily available include Mustad 7731, 7732, 76LGS, and 7691S or Maruto 1962ss or 1920ss. For making your own skirted lure rigs you will also need small bow shackles such as Ronstan RF613, Black Magic or Master Baiter Custom Tackle. Chafe tube, 3mm, 5mm and 7mm heat-shrink and cistern washers will also help to give your rigs a professional look and high performance.
Rubber bands of various sizes are also useful for rigging live baits, flat-lining when trolling and using on outrigger release clips. Bait rigging and stitching needles, waxed thread, 8” squid skirts, needle-eye or long shank 8/0 to 10/0 hooks, No.5 to No.7 ball sinkers, scissors and a short bladed sharp knife will make up your requirements for rigging baits quickly.
When trolling lures for pelagics, a teaser can definitely increase your chances of success. The whole concept behind using teasers is quite simple. The white water created by the prop (or props) looks somewhat like a baitfish school to predators looking up from below.
Teasers are designed to enhance that deceptive image. Mirrored teasers give off a lot of reflected light in the water and this flashing can look like bait or predators slashing through the white water feeding. Bird-style teasers have little wings, which dip into and splash the water surface, like a bird would do when feeding on the baitfish from above. Daisy chains of squids and imitation ballyhoo (garfish) also create splash on the water surface like predators and distressed bait do during a feeding frenzy. All these teasers help to create the image of a bait school on the surface, which is usually like ringing the dinner bell for hungry pelagics.
When they are teased to the surface in hope of an easy meal, the most realistic ‘baitfish’ visible in the fringes of the whitewater will probably be your lures, which they will hopefully strike. Whilst any teaser can be helpful in this predator deception, the mirrored teaser is the most useful and should definitely be the first one you buy.
Heed this word of warning though: when using your teaser for the first time don’t just tie a length of rope onto it, begin trolling and hope it will still be there in half an hour. Teasers have an uncanny knack of untying the best knots and disappearing. Buy a proper teaser towline or make one yourself by swaging a high quality ball-bearing snap-swivel (such as a 300lb Sampo) onto a length of quality venetian blind cord or outboard motor starter cord. Secondly, don’t forget to pull in the teaser after a hook-up or you might back over and cut it off, stall your motor, damage your prop, or all three.
With all the basic gear covered to get you rigged up for gamefishing, next month we will look at fighting, securing, handling, tagging and releasing billfish and other pelagics. We are coming into the hottest period for gamefishing in southern Queensland, so there has never been a better time to get enthusiastic about getting amongst them.Reads: 166