Fishing with 1kg line (2016)

Fishing the one-kilo IGFA line class is often dismissed by anglers as ‘playing with your food’, but overcoming the many challenges involved can actually be very worthwhile, as Jim O’Brien explains…

So why would you want to use just one-kilo line to catch good fish? Perhaps most importantly, once the inherent problems and mental mindset of fishing ‘silly, silly string’ are mastered, you’ll likely have acquired a whole new range of angling skills. Moving up even one line class afterwards will seem an absolute breeze – and a couple more can seem like rope in comparison. That in itself can be good enough reason to give ‘like no other line’ a crack.

One of the great things about sport fishing is how it can take anglers down many different paths. One such path, and perhaps one of the ultimate challenges in sport fishing, must surely be learning to competently fish the one-kilo line class. After all, this aspect of fishing demands so many worthwhile qualities from anglers to achieve success, including great patience, an accurate understanding of the rod and reel’s functional capabilities, and having all-round knowledge of terminal-tackle preparation and presentation. 

But overriding all these challenges is the importance of carefully considering the words ‘sport fishing’ and ‘ethics’, because this is a very unforgiving line class to fish – but more about this issue later…

Where ‘silly, silly’ began

The real catalyst for some members of my fishing club, Wellington Surfcasting & Angling Club (WSAC), began some six years ago when we became affiliated to the New Zealand Sport Fishing Council (NZSFC). Being a fairly competitive club, we were keen to take part in that organisation’s increasingly popular Simrad Sport Fishing Nationals. Here, clubs compete in various categories during an annual week-long, nationwide tournament in the last week of February. 

Sea conditions need to be calm to fish for tuna on one-kilo line. This albacore, caught by Dave Pye in near-perfect sea conditions, still took over two hours to land.

While the Wellington region produces some good fishing for prime sporting species such as kahawai, kingfish, snapper, trevally and small tuna, the larger fish such as marlin and big tuna are unavailable. As most of the tournament’s categories are line-weight to fish-weight based, it made sense that, to be competitive, light line fishing was needed to put the club on a competitive footing. 
In a very short time WSAC members Steve Reed, Felix Wenzel, Dave Pye and Gary Whitaker became committed one-kilo fishers. All four, after successfully working through the quite intense frustrations that come with mastering this line class, are now feeling comfortable fishing with one-kilo line. And, in the spirit of encouraging and helping other fishers to give this line class a go, they have agreed to my request to share some of their thoughts around what has worked for them.

The rules and competition

In terms of the glue that allows anglers to fish New Zealand wide in a sport-fishing contest that provides a very level playing field, the time-tested rules of the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) are paramount. So whether you’re catching kahawai on one-kilo line or bringing marlin to the boat on 37-kilo gear, the relative merits of both angling feats fit nicely within the IGFA rules and NZSFC’s points-scoring formula: the weight of fish divided by line weight. To be fair, and commendably so, most marlin (and shark) species end up in the tag-and-release category and receive tagging points only. 
The IGFA system gives an international yardstick for measuring angling feats, and in terms of the NZSFC’s Simrad Nationals it is an easy way of assessing how clubs and individuals are doing on a daily basis throughout the contest.

Dave and Gary fish as one team and Felix and Steve fish as another in separate 14-foot (4.3m) tinnies. When interviewing both teams (separately), it became quickly apparent how similar their strategies were around preparation, some gear selection, fighting fish and, first and foremost, their attitudes towards the ethical issues inherent when fishing one kilo and, to a lesser but still important degree, other light line classes. But first, the gear…

Rods and reels 

All four choose to fish free-spool reels, which they feel have advantages over fixed-spool models. These reasons include the line twist inherent in a fixed-spool reel, no matter how minimal, which negatively impacts the line’s performance in the one-kilo class. Even a fish taking line quickly from low drag settings can create a twist factor when the line comes off the spool too fast and virtually overruns. 
Gary and Dave like the advantages lever-drag reel models offer, but warn that a lot of modern reels are made for braid, so their aggressive drag settings can be hard to adjust, given the relatively light and pin-point tolerances required for success. Currently they are experimenting with dry-drag washers, which seem to have an advantage over lubricated ones for maintaining smoothness and consistency. 
Also, they say if you’re going to do any casting, magnetic spool control is a must – you cannot afford to have even a small over-run using one-kilo nylon. 

When setting their Avet MC (magnetic cast control) SXJ reels’ drag pressure, Dave and Gary use a drag tester to ensure the proven one-third of the line’s breaking strain is set, and this pressure never varies, even if a bit of leader comes onto the spool at the end of a fight. 

Steve and Felix, on the other hand, surprised me by saying they set their Shimano Caenan bait-casting reels’ star-drag pressure by feel. Surprising, yes, but I believe some anglers are so in tune with their gear, doing it this way becomes a natural thing. Because they use very soft rods, they say they can instinctively feel where their drag pressure should be over the curve of the rod. It’s just something they have become used to and it works well for them.

There were also differences in rod selection, which wasn’t so surprising to me. Gary and Dave chose to import their 1.8-1.90m Xzoga rods, which are made in Malaysia to Japanese specifications, are guaranteed 99% all-carbon in composition, and have a parabolic (even-shaped) curve. These rods are designed for jigging with braid, so are a little more powerful than they ideally like, but still seem to be the best option available. 

Steve and Felix prefer their rods to be a little longer (2.0-2.2m), and although they prefer graphite, they like the rod’s bend to be mostly in the tip. This has seen them opt for Silstar Crystal Space Pro Power Tip and Shimano Spheia rods respectively, as they incorporate very flexible solid-fibreglass tip sections.
All four use silicon-carbide guides to minimise heat build-up; having a minimum 8mm tip ring so leader knots can easily pass through is considered a worthwhile advantage.


Apart from using tournament line that meets all IGFA specifications, the main criteria for all anglers is for the monofilament to be high visibility. After all, it is critical to see where the line angles are, particularly when trying to avoid line crossovers, and, just as importantly, to gauge just where your fish is at all times. 

Gary tests 1kg line on his line tester. Line that tests under 0.85kg is not good enough; ideally, they like their line to break at 0.9kg or higher.

As for line choice, Gary and Dave machine-tested multiple brands looking for consistent results a few points either side of 90 per cent. However, in addition to getting close to that 90 per cent breaking point, the other criteria was for that line’s breaking-strain to be consistent from spool to spool – a very important factor if any potential record fish come along. The end result sees Gary and Dave using Black Magic and Steve and Felix Moimoi.

The amount of one-kilo line you can get on a spool is immense, so all four tape off the backing at about half the spool’s capacity. Interestingly (and I’ll touch on this in the ‘ethics’ section covered in next month’s issue), all four anglers strip 30-40 metres from their spools after a period of use or after fighting a reasonable-sized fish. Consequently, Steve likes to put a mark at every 50 metres for this purpose when spooling up. 

All four anglers also carry spare outfits for when they’re into a hot bite, as this saves time having to strip line from spools and re-tie new Bimini Twist connections.  All four fishers agreed that, at the end of the day, the line was the most important part of their gear and also the weakest link. It was therefore critical to have absolute confidence in it.

Weighing a little over 5 kilos and caught on one-kilo, this was a just reward for his patience after releasing several much smaller fish.

All things terminal

IGFA rules for this line class (and up to the 10-kilo class) are quite specific as to the length of terminal gear, with the double line limited to 4.57 metres (as is the leader), and that the combined length of double line and leader must not exceed 6.1 metres.
Working within these parameters and having regard to the allowable ways of connecting line to leader, along with the positioning of hooks, mean anglers tend to prepare the terminal gear to their individual liking. 

What works well for Steve and Felix involves making a plait or bimini from the main line to create a strong double that also provides some resilience to sudden shock. This is attached to a braid leader, which is light and strong, and also allows for good (and small) knot connections. 
Steve and Felix spend most of their time fishing at anchor, so their traces are nearly always ledger rigged, sometimes with two hooks (that surprised me!), attached to the lightest sinkers they can get away with – usually around 60 grams. 

The hook selections are interesting. For small tuna trolling Dave and Gary use Black Magic KS 4/0 hooks, but straighten the hooks’ original off-set pattern. For non-lure (bait) fishing they use Black Magic re-curve 2/0 saltwater fly hooks which, despite a relatively thick gauge, have great penetration (probably because of the hooks’ very sharp, long tip). Steve and Felix’s preferred hooks are the slender Mustard Sea Demon re-curves in size 3/0, as well as Gamagatsu re-curves, as they achieve good penetration with just the third of one-kilo drag pressure set. All anglers have also had good success with slow-jigs and soft-baits (some thanks to Mark Kitteridge here for his informative talk to the club on soft-baiting!).

September 2016 - Jim O'Brien
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
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