The swimming gar rig is one of the most successful rigs on pelagic fish. from marlin to mackerel. It really creates natural swimming bait that has a great success rate fooling the fish into eating it.
The great thing about garfish is they thaw well, and if you purchase IQF garfish from your local bait distributor you will have a very fresh, natural looking bait.
You will need a Gamakatsu SL12 hook in size 8/0 to12/0. These hooks are chemically sharpened flyfishing hooks that will penetrate a very hard mouth with very light drag settings, as in light tackle sport- or gamefishing. As you can imagine, a 8kg outfit will have only 2.4kg of drag pressure and you will need maximum penetration to hook into the hard mouth of a billfish – and this is where the thin gauge chemically sharpened hooks come into their own.
This rig also has great success with toothy critters such as mackerel and wahoo. As these fish are usually tail biters, they usually only just get the hook. I recently caught a 15kg wahoo off Lady Musgrave Island with 150kg mono leader without any cutting or chaffing on the leader.
Just be aware that you will need to be very careful landing fish with these hooks as they will straighten very easily. Try to use a gaff or tail rope for lifting fish into a boat.
When using this rig on light tackle, use150lb to 200lb mono as a leader. Cut off a length of leader of about 150cm long and slide a crimp over the line to the hook end and crimp the hook on. Next, slide another crimp down towards the hook end of the leader and cut a 3cm piece of mono leader and a 3cm piece of 120lb single-strand wire and crimp these onto the main line just above the hook. Bend the wire 90 degrees, pointing upwards in the opposite direction of the hook facing down. Then, with the 3cm piece of mono facing down, you can slide a small sinker over the mono and heat the end of the mono, flattening it out to hold the ball sinker on. This sinker will act as a keel, keeping the head of the fish down. (The size of the sinker is relative to the sea conditions, and I try to use the smallest possible.) You will then need another crimp at the other end of your leader, forming a loop to attach to a snap swivel.
I usually run this rig off the corners and find it is better to pull the main line down to the handle of the reel. This pulls the fish from a shallow angle, keeping the head down in the water. I attach the main line to the handle with a rubber band, wrapping the band around the line 12 times with both ends of the band over the handle. This prevents chaffing of the line from the rubber band rubbing up and down.
SETTING UP A SWIMMING GAR RIG
Step 1. Snap the beak of the fish with your thumb and forefinger.
Step 2. Make the fish pliable by bending it back and forwards.
Step 3. Strip the stomach of the fish by running your fingers down the its abdomen, pushing the contents of the stomach out of the anus.
Step 4. Open the gill latch and feed the hook down the fish. Bring the hook out through the centre of the abdomen and press the 120lb single strand wire through the bottom jaw of the fish, finishing with the point coming through its top jaw.
Step 5. Place a rubber band over the point of the wire, wrapping the band around the head of the fish and finishing with it looped over the wire.
Step 6. Run your fish along the side off the boat to see whether you need to make some minor adjustments to make the fish swim well and straight.