IF YOU want to improve your catch rate it pays to be prepared. Tackle maintenance, correct tackle choice, bait quality and good observation are just some of the factors that increase your chances of hooking and landing your targeted species. I work in the tackle trade and customers often ask me for a good tip to help them improve their results, but it’s impossible to narrow it down to only one tip as there are many aspects that are extremely important. This month I’ll take you through five of my best tips to improve your catch rate and next month I’ll outline another five. These basic pointers should get you started on the right track.
No matter whether you’re targeting garfish or billfish, your hooks need to be sharp at all times if you are to have the best chance of hooking your quarry. If you can’t set the hook into the mouth of the fish you’ll never have a chance at landing it.
There are several styles of hooks on the market and all are designed to hook fish, no matter what the chosen situation. Different styles of hooks are designed for different uses and for best presenting different baits (as I will discuss in Part 2 of this series). Ask at a good tackle store for recommendations if you are in doubt as to which hook to use.
You can buy some hooks that are extremely sharp, straight out of the packet. These chemically sharpened hooks are razor sharp when first used. However, because the points are more brittle than those of most other hooks, they need to be checked every time you wind in, no matter whether you’ve had a bite or not. Most other hooks will need a touch up with a stone or file straight out of the packet to get them extremely sharp and they’ll also need regular sharpening during use to keep the best point on them.
One of my golden rules when fishing in the saltwater is to always have a good spin rod in the boat rigged with a chromed lure. Schools of surface feeding fish can pop up at any time and if you aren’t ready you’ll often waste the opportunity. Inshore you’re likely to find schools of tailor, trevally and occasionally cowanyoung and mackerel. Offshore, tuna, mackerel, bonito and tailor are often seen crashing bait schools. Surface feeding fish are usually an easy proposition as you know exactly where they are, can usually see what size bait they are feeding on and – best of all – you know they’re hungry. Often by the time you stop to rig up a spin rod your chance has gone as surface feeding fish often don’t stay up for long.
In the estuaries I carry a 3kg 2.1m outfit, rigged with a 20g chrome slug. In the bay and offshore it’s a 2.3m outfit spooled with 6kg line to cast a 40g chrome slug. The lighter outfit also goes offshore because it can cast the lighter, small-profile chrome slug, which often matches the bait’s profile better than the larger slug. Lighter line often means a lengthy fight on larger fish, but if you don’t hook fish in the first place you won’t be landing them anyway.
Reels need to have a fairly fast retrieve and should return at least 80cm of line to the spool with each turn of the handle. A rigged spin rod is one piece of tackle I never leave home without.
Terminal tackle needs to be in good condition to give you a chance of landing the fish that you’ve spent so much time and effort getting connected to. I have spoken about the importance of sharp hooks but your whole rig comes into play once the fish is hooked. Check your leaders regularly for cuts, abrasion and nicks, and if in doubt, replace them. You should also check your knots to ensure that they’re not going to slip, and all other connectors such as swivels should also be moving freely. Check the line up from the leader for abrasion and if in doubt, cut off the bad section and re-rig – because that’s what you’ll be doing if you hook up and a part of your terminal tackle fails. If this happens you’ll not only lose your whole rig but the fish that you have just hooked. Check your rig every time you reel in and fix or replace any pieces that are in doubt, otherwise your next hookup will be just another ‘the one that got away’ story.
Bait selection and presentation is very important when it comes to enticing a fish to bite. Fresh bait is definitely the way to go and spending a little time acquiring fresh offerings can often save a lot of time waiting for a bite. It will definitely give you the edge over anglers who are using frozen offerings.
You can gather your own yabbies, worms, prawns and baitfish with the use of yabby pumps, worm forks and cast nets. If you’re not feeling that energetic, an alternative is to go to a good bait shop and purchase what you want. Baitfish can often be gathered on-site and sabiki style bait jigs worked along rock walls and around jetties, pylons and piers will often produce herring, pike, yakkas, slimies and cowanyoung. A cast net or drag net can also be used near where you’re fishing to gather baitfish and prawns (check local regulations first). Even baits such as fresh chicken fillet will work extremely well for bream, whiting and other species.
If you’re serious about your fishing, taking the time to obtain fresh bait will definitely pay off – both in the quality and quantity of fish of fish landed.
Many anglers insist on using wire leaders for all fishing, whether they’re fishing inshore or offshore. While wire may prevent bite-offs from toothy critters such as sharks, mackerel, wahoo, barracuda and tailor, it will also greatly reduce the number of other fish that will be interested in your bait.
In saltwater, wire emits small electric pulses, similar to the sensation that you get when you put a pure silver spoon in your mouth. For this reason, as well as the visual factor, many fish shy away from baits fished with a wire leader. You will definitely not get as many hookups as you would if you were using a monofilament leader. Those pre-made traces with the snaps on them may seem like a good way to change hooks quickly but the snaps on them make the bait appear unnatural and you’ll receive far fewer bites as a result. Unless you are specifically chasing toothy critters, leave wire out of your rig. You’ll hook a lot more fish with monofilament leaders and are also more likely to get the interest of the better quality specimens, which are usually more discerning.
Next month I’ll take you through five more top tips. Until then, get out and get into a few whoppers.
1) Spinning chrome lures is a successful way to catch tuna, mackerel, tailor and many other surface-feeding species.
2) Schools of surface feeding fish can pop up anywhere. This school of tuna was in the Gold Coast Seaway.
3) Catching fresh bait can take a bit of an effort but it definitely pays off.
4) Don’t use wire leaders unless you’re targeting toothy critters like this one.Reads: 248