A Test Report on Black Magic Trace (1994)

A trace failure can occur in a number of ways, the most obvious is that it fails to take the increased weight of a good fish during the final stages of a fight. This can happen if the material is too light, or has sustained some damage from the teeth of the fish or from being dragged around a rock, either by the hooked fish or in the current. Another reason for a broken trace is failure of knots or crimps. To avoid unnecessary trace breakage, the material has to have an abrasion resistance, or be as near to impervious as possible from damage from teeth, rocks or itself. Itself meaning that when that material crimped or tied in a knot, that tight bends or coils do not weaken the material. To get high abrasion resistance and good knot/crimp strength, the material must have a shell-like coating that is hard enough to resist damage, yet not too hard to breakdown or weaken when tied into a tight knot. Another lesser-known aspect of trace failure is its colour. What good is a material that is highly visible to a fish?

Fluorescent main line is an advantage to the skipper of a vessel when game fishing as he can easily see the way the line is going and act accordingly. If a fish sees the line regardless of whether it has the juiciest hunk of bait attached, it also acts accordingly and heads off in the other direction! To avoid this failure of a trace, the material must be as near to invisible in water as possible. This is generally achieved with a material that is clear, without colour at all. All of these aspects of trace failure were taken into account during extensive testing (both on and off the water), of the new Black Magic Trace material. Its 1 colour, or lack of it, immediately met my thoughts on trace visibility. No pigments have been used in the extrusion of the material at all, allowing the polymers to remain virtually clear. The Black Magic Trace also passed the "feel" test. The feel test is exactly that how the material feels. It is very pliable, almost to the point of feeling soft but, I was unable to mark it with my thumb nail no matter how hard I pushed. This indicated that the material had the hard shell necessary for superior abrasion resistance. Checking the memory of the material is also part of the feel test.

Memory on monofilament line is what happens to it when it's forced into tight coils or bends. A high memory mono retains those bends or coils when the pressure holding it is released. Low memory mono falls perfectly straight when pressure is released, retaining no coils or bends whatsoever. The Black Magic Trace tends towards the low memory category, falling perfectly straight from tight coils, but retaining a slight kink after being doubled back on itself. This small amount of memory is more than acceptable for trace material. The real test for the Black Magic trace came when I used it in the water, very deep water! As the initial tests of the material were carried out during late winter and spring, gamefish like tuna and marlin were uncooperative, so the next best thing was tie up some deep water ledger rigs for hapuku and bass which have been plentiful in my home waters off the Bay of Plenty. For these ledger rigs, I used the 120 and 200 pound materials. The relatively fine diameter of the material made easy work of tying a pair of blood dropper knots for the hooks and a double overhand loop on each end of the sinker and swivel attachment.

The knots pulled up perfectly, showing no sign of lessening of diameter within of the knot. Impressive stuff, in but not as impressive as what came up from nearly 200 metres below. I had supplied traces to four fishos aboard Lady Paulina that day two with 120 pound and the other two with the 200 pound. On the first drift over the reef, all four hooked-up, two on small 'puka', one on a large gemfish and the other on a large spiky dogfish. The gemfish with its impressive array of dentistry had not marked the 120 pound Black Magic trace at all, indicating to me that the abrasion resistance was excellent. During the next few drifts, several more 'puka' came aboard, along with a heap of gemfish. Several over 20kg. One of the blokes using the 120 pound trace caught half a dozen gemmies and his dropper was beginning to show some sign of wear.

But then  he hooked-up on a double of a good sized 'puka' and a large spiky dog and successfully landed them both, even though the trace was beginning to look as though it had been through a cheese grater. Then Warren hooked up. He was using the 200 pound Black Magic Trace, which was just as well for it took him some time to begin to win back some line from whatever had nailed his bait over 600 feet below. After about half an hour of holding maximum weight on his 24kg stand-up outfit, most of his line had been recovered and still I had no idea of what he was connected to. Then I saw some colour, the near iridescent bronze and clean white underside of a bronze whaler shark about two metres long. I quickly put on a glove so I could hold the trace while I stuck the gaff into its lower jaw and the fun started. The moment the trace came within reach, which was the same moment the shark's head reached the surface, I got a double wrap of the short trace with my left hand, pulled hard and tried to stick the gaff in.

One problem, the gaff wasn't sharp enough to penetrate the shark's tough skin but sharp enough to make the shark very angry! As it rolled and twisted at the back of the boat, I could clearly see the 16/0 tuna circle hook firmly embedded in the comer if its jaw, but each time the shark rolled the mono trace rasped across its teeth. I'd estimated the shark to weigh in the vicinity of 70kg and figured with me holding on to the trace and not giving an inch, that the dropper would break any second, at least I hoped it would as that way I wouldn't have to get the hook out. But everything (unfortunately) held and after about a minute of thrashing about, I managed to get the gaff through its lower jaw and· take the weight off the trace. A little bit of careful dentistry followed which saw the hook retrieved and the shark swimming away, hopefully, none the worse for the experience. Far worse off from the experience was the trace, it was wasted, looking like it had been through a mincer with the coating all but stripped away. But it had held through the thrashing around at the back of the boat when the actual weight on the trace would have far exceeded the weight of the shark.

This clearly indicated to me that even with its tough coating damaged, the Black Magic trace still retained good strength. Some trace materials I have used in the past have an incredibly tough shell, but once it’s damaged, the strength of the material diminishes markedly. To say I was impressed was an understatement! Using the two lighter Black Magic Trace weights, 60 and 80 pounds, I experienced similar results, the 60-pound trace managed to hold an 8kg snapper after being monstered by at least four barracouta, which have been in plague proportions in the Bay of Plenty this winter. Using the Black Magic Trace I found that far less hooks were lost to snakes when straylining around the rocks at Mayor Island. The heavyweight of the Black Magic Trace, the 400 pound is yet to get wet. But  it won't be long before it’s in the water with one of my lures attached.

I've tied up four of my favourite marlin lure on it, preferring to tie knots rather than crimp. Even in the heavy material of the 400 pound, I had no trouble. tying hooks with a uni knot. Once the water warms up and there's a few marlin starting to show, I'll let you know how the 400 pound Black Magic Trace performs.

January 1994 - Steve Sneddon
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
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