Like all sports, gamefishing has its trials and tribulations. Sometimes everything goes to plan and it all seems too easy. At other times there appears to a comedy of errors and nothing looks to be in your favor.
Knowing all the little facets of the sport that can result in an unfavorable outcome will put you on the fast track for success. Eliminating problems that could arise, before they actually happen, will guarantee your chances of greater success.
When fishing the tournament circuit one small error can result in one missed fish. This can cost you greatly in the final result. Although winning isn’t the most important thing, the satisfaction of doing well is a good feeling. Even for recreational gamefishing, an error can be costly. You don’t only lose the fish but also a lure and rig which could be worth up to $150.
This can also have an effect on your confidence, which in turn will affect the way you fish in the future, possibly spoiling the gamefishing experience somewhat. Many anglers put errors down to bad luck but they are usually a result of poor preparation or lack of diligence. Let’s look at a few common problems and how they can be eliminated or minimised.
One of the greatest problems in fishing is line twist. There is a number of reasons why we get it and many of these can easily be fixed.
Cheaper lures often don’t have their tow points or leader holes in the middle of the lure. This will result in the lures spinning when trolled. Even the occasional roll of the lure will result in a bad twist problem when it is trolled for many kilometres across the ocean.
A correctly swimmed lure can also pick up small pieces of weed or other flotsam, which can affect how it tracks. This is where diligence is important. Lures need to constantly watched and checked. Line twist as a result of weed on the lure can be the least of your problems. That big blue marlin you have been targeting may come up to the lure for a look and turn away because the lure is either not running correctly or looks a bit suspicious trailing a bit of weed. A chance might be missed due to lack of attention.
Skipping baits and swimming baits also have a high possibility of causing twist, a problem that cannot be totally eliminated. Ensure that the bait is supple by pressing along the backbone with your fingers to loosen the fresh, and you will usually see it tracking better.
Why is a bit of line twist such a problem? Line twists are sometimes not noticeable until the line becomes slack. The pressure of the lure or bait dragging through the water keeps the line tight and the twist is usually not noticed until it is too late. The two main problems that twist causes will both result in a broken line and lost fish. Fish such as marlin, dolphinfish and occasionally wahoo and Spanish mackerel will jump during the fight. When fish jumps there is often slack line. The twist in the line will recoil into a ball when the line goes slack. When the line becomes tight again, this knotted mess, and the friction caused as it is quickly pulled tight, creates a weak point and will usually pop when the full pressure is again exerted.
The second big problem arises when twisted line causes the rod to become tip-wrapped. As a lure or bait is dragged through the increased pressure of a wave, the rod tip will load up (bend) slightly causing it to spring forward when the trolled offering breaks out the front of the wave. This momentary bit of slack often causes the line to wrap around the tip runner. If a strike is forthcoming when the rod is tip-wrapped, it will usually result in a bust off at this point. While a watchful eye can decrease the chance of this happening it won’t eliminate the problem.
The best way to eliminate twist problems is to use high quality ball-bearing swivel or snap-swivel in your rig. The end of the wind on leader is the perfect place to put a ball bearing snap-swivel in your rig as it can then be used to attach the leader of your lure or bait rig. While this will almost eliminate the line twist problem, tip-wraps can still occur in windy conditions.
Tip-wraps caused by windy conditions and occasional slack line can be resolved using rubber bands. By keeping the line tight off the rod tip you will eliminate the chance of it becoming tip-wrapped. There are several ways this can be done. For overheads, the line can be pulled tight along the back of the rod and a rubber band looped over the lower guide, wrapped around the back of the rod and then looped over the guide again.
Another method is to wrap the band around the line three times and put both loops of the band over the paddle of the reel handle. An even better method is to attach a light snap to a short length of heavy mono, the other end of which is attached to a point on the transom corner of the boat. The rubber band is wrapped around the line three times and each end loop put onto the snap. This flat-line set-up keeps the line tight between the rod tip and the band even if the line between the band and lure becomes slack. Tip-wrap problem solved.
The latter set up is favoured as it has other benefits as well. It will lower the angle of the line in relation to the water, which will usually result in lures tracking better and not jumping out of the water when the transom of the boat lifts on a swell. It also allows a momentary bit of slack line on the strike, which permits the lure or bait to be inhaled by the fish, resulting in better hook sets.
Rubber bands can also be used to solve outrigger problems. Surges of the boat when it comes down the face of a swell will often cause outrigger clips to open, especially with light settings on lower line classes. The line rubbing across the wire of the clip will also cause wear and a weak spot in the line, especially with older clips. Wrapping a rubber band around the line three times and putting each end of the band into the clip solves both of these problems. Usually the outrigger or downriggger clip is tightened a little more than usual to ensure that the band actually breaks on the strike. Because the band is only wrapped around the line and not tied onto it for outrigger, downrigger and flat line set ups, it will break free on the strike and will not hinder the fighting of the fish. I find that size 16 Superior brand rubber bands work well for all light tackle applications such as these.
It never ceases to amaze me the number of anglers who spend huge amounts of money on a boat and tackle and then neglect to sharpen their hooks. Hook points need to be checked before a lure is put in the water at the start of the day and then again every time it is put out again, even if a fish has not been caught on it.
Hooks that are less than razor sharp often result in missed hits or the hooks being thrown during the fight because they are not razor sharp and haven’t successfully penetrated the fish’s mouth.
Chemically sharpened hooks are also prone to electrolysis when trolled which can make the hook points brittle. By attaching a small piece of sacrificial anode tape to each hook this problem is greatly decreased. It’s a good idea to cut off the double and a good 10-15m of line from each reel at the start of each day or after every good fish. Dragging the bare line (no leaders, doubles or knots) 50m behind the boat for a couple of minutes on your way to the grounds, will remove any amount of twist in it. As you wind the line back onto your reel, run it between your fingers to check for nicks and abrasion. If found, remove all the line below the problem area and start again. This may seem like a waste of money but just think how many reels can be respooled for each quality trolling-lure you could lose as a result of damaged line. Re-tie all knots at the start of each day and check wind on leaders and lure leaders before initially putting them into service and again after each fish.
These are a few of the most common problems associated with gamefishing and apply no matter what size vessel you are fishing from. Taking the time to eliminate the possibility of these problems arising which will greatly increase your success. Next month we will look at lure selection, trolling patterns, leaders and tackle storage. We are right in the midst of the gamefishing season so now is the time to get out and put some theory into practice. The best knowledge is gained out on the water.Reads: 205