Last month we looked at the basic rod, reel and lure selection that you will require for light-tackle game fishing on the eastern seaboard. In this issue we will discuss the lines, terminal tackle and teasers that you will require when targeting billfish, wahoo, mackerel, tuna, mahi mahi and other pelagics.
Like all forms of fishing you can be comprehensive or basic in your approach. However, having a decent selection of quality gear when game fishing will definitely heighten your chances of a successful outcome.
For recreational game fishing, anglers can use any line that they desire. Tournament fishing, however, will require the use of pre-test lines.
A pre-test line is one that is guaranteed to break under the line class stated on the spool. This is to ensure that any potential record fish is not going to be disallowed because the line breaks over the stated class.
Most pre-test 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 pre-test lines include Platypus, Hawk, Shogun, Trilene, Ande, Maxima and Momoi and these 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 game fishing, braided lines can also be used but I 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 a bait or lure as easily as mono and the almost-nil stretch of braid 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. I prefer to use monofilament or polymer lines when game fishing 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 game fishing situations that you can find yourself in. While 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 15kg and 24kg, there is a selection of items that will be required on any boat. Monofilament or fluorocarbon leader materials between 80lb and 300lb, 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 285lb and 480lb will also be required if you are going to make your own skirted lure rigs. Plastic- or nylon-coated wire is usually only used 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 but when swaging mono, the ends 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 as a failure will not only result in a lost fish but will also cost you more than 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 which can cost you dearly in lost fish, lures and time.
A basic selection of hooks between 5/0 and 10/0 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 whitewater 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 other predators slashing through the whitewater 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 garfish also create splash on the 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 offered in the fringes of the whitewater will probably be your lures, which the predators will hopefully strike.
While 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 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 hookup 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 game fishing, next month we will look at fighting, securing, handling, tagging and releasing billfish and other pelagics. We are coming into the hottest period for game fishing so there has never been a better time to get enthusiastic about getting amongst them.