LAST MONTH we looked at five tips to improve your fishing success and increase your enjoyment while wetting a line. In this final instalment of my Top Ten Tips series I’ll give you five more important pointers so you can improve your catch rate and get the most out of your angling experience.
There’s nothing worse than losing a good fish because your gear has let you down. This is usually a result of poor maintenance; sand and saltwater are hard on reels and can quickly turn that shiny new reel into a solid mass of corrosion fused metal. Reels should be rinsed over with fresh water (preferably warm, soapy water) after each outing to get the salt off them. Tighten up the drag control before you do this to keep the water out of the drag washers. After the reel is dry, loosen off the drag before you store the reel – this will allow the washers to expand so they will work efficiently and smoothly for you next time. Never spray water under high pressure because you can force the external salt inside the reel.
If you have a mishap and the reel gets dunked in saltwater, you need to strip down the reel to bare parts, clean each part, reassemble the reel and lube all moving parts with a good Teflon-based grease.
Rods should also be washed regularly, especially the grips and runners. Cockroaches will chew on hypalon and duralon grips if they have fish residue left on them. Guides should be checked for cracks in the wire frames and the inserts. Running a piece of panty-hose around the inside of the inserts will soon show you if there are any cracks in them. Replace any that aren’t in good order as they could fray your line and cost you that next good capture. Most tackle stores offer rod and reel repair services if you need them.
Lures and terminal tackle should also be washed to prevent corrosion. Tools such as pliers often need a spray with a product such as CRC, WD40 or Inox to keep them moving freely, even stainless steel tools. Knives also need cleaning and sharpening to keep them in good condition. Try to have one good quality knife for filleting fish and a cheaper knife for cutting bait and other jobs.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard anglers say that a knot came undone and they lost a good fish. This is the result of poor knots or poor choice of knots. Badly tied knots often slip and eventually come undone. When you tie a knot, you’ll find that there’s a weak spot due to the friction caused when the knot is tightened. Lubricating your knot with a bit of water or saliva will help to reduce this problem.
Lines parting at the knot can also be the result of choosing knots that have low knot strength. For example many anglers use a spider hitch to make a double in their line. A better choice is a bimini-twist, which has higher knot strength. Heavy monofilament is best crimped rather than tied, as knots don’t pack down and grip as well in thicker monofilaments. The main knots I use for the broad array of fishing I do are bimini-twist, albright, simple snell, double blood, perfection loop and paternoster. Buy a good knot book and practice at home so you can quickly tie knots with a high breaking strength when you’re out fishing.
Fresh bait is the key to quality fish, and the way you present this bait is also very important. Often you won’t know what species of fish you’ll encounter, so it’s best to match the hook to the bait and not the hook to the species you’re targeting. Good presentation of bait, with maximum hook point exposure, will give you the best chance of success.
Long, thin baits like worms, yabbies and strips of squid are best fished on long shank hooks. Some of these hooks even have barbs on the shank to hold the bait up the shank and stop it bunching up in the gape.
Chunky baits such as cubes and pilchard pieces are best presented on a short shank hook with a wide gape, such as an octopus or suicide pattern. Just put on enough bait to cover the hook; too much will reduce the chances of the hook point finding its mark.
Most live fish baits are best pinned through the nose with an octopus or livebait pattern hook, as this allows them to swim freely and also to stay alive for long periods. Using ganged hooks on live baits will kill the bait quicker and reduce the bait’s ability to move. It is the struggling vibrations which generally attract the predators, and a more flexible rig such as a twin-hook snell will allow the bait to move more freely.
Fishing light has several advantages. Firstly, the bait can be presented more naturally as the thinner line is less visible to fish. Low diameter lines also have less drag in the water, so smaller lures can be trolled deeper, baits can be kept in position with a minimum of lead and you can cast greater distances with lighter sinkers. You’ll have a lot more fun landing your fish and, best of all, you’ll hook more fish.
Often you’ll entice the better quality fish as they are more cautious and often won’t be interested in bait fished on heavy line and pinned to the bottom with a large sinker. Careless fish don’t live to a ripe old age, and lighter line will often give you an advantage with these cautious, larger individuals. Admittedly, when there are big fish around abrasive structure you do have to fish heavy, but a lot of the time you can decrease your line size and increase your catch.
Knowing where a particular species is most likely to be at a particular time will greatly increase your chances of getting connected. You can have the best-presented bait on the lightest line with the strongest knots but if you aren’t putting it where the fish are you’re obviously not going to catch anything.
Being able to know which areas are most likely to hold fish is a combination of knowing how various species feed and also being familiar with how the tide affects the area you’re fishing. Many species hunt by ambush and prefer an area of slow current flow close to where baitfish are likely to pass. Other fish are opportunistic scavengers and travel around a lot looking for their food. Some mainly feed in one area but live in another area. Learning about the habits of various species, their food sources, hunting routine and tidal ritual will put you in with a greater chance of success. You get this information by reading fishing books and magazines, watching fishing videos and programs, talking to other anglers and, most of all, by making observations while you’re on the water. When you catch a fish, think about why that fish was in that area at that time. After a while the pieces of the puzzle will start to fit together and you’ll find your catch rate increasing, along with size of your fish.
You may be happy to be a worm-drowner and if that’s what you enjoy, go for it. If you want to improve your results while fishing and make the most of your time on the water, take the above tips on board with you next time you venture out. A bit of preparation and forethought will definitely pay dividends and you’ll enjoy the angling experience even more than you do now.
1) Checking out the area at low tide can help you work out where the fish are likely to lie. The mouth of this gutter would be a good play to try for flathead during the last of the falling tide.
2) Light gear increases the number of hookups and the enjoyment of landing a fish.
3) Livebaits are better fished off a snelled hook rig than ganged hooks because it allows the bait to move more and live longer.
4) Quality fish can still be caught from popular areas if you’re well prepared, have good bait presentation and know the area.Reads: 296