Ten top tips for game fishing

Ten top tips for game fishing

Controlling the coil

Controlling and storing the trolling lures’ leaders, or leaders rigged to fish with baits, is a necessity, enabling them to be deployed quickly and easily.

Heavy monofilament leaders need to be stored in a reasonably wide coil to avoid them taking a ‘set’ after being coiled for a time – but how to secure the coils? After trying various methods, I settled on a product that is cheap, simple to use, lasts indefinitely, and does not mark the leader, boat or storage container.

Spiral binding is a plastic spiral wrap used for bundling electrical cables together. It comes in a wide range of diameters, colours and lengths, and is readily available from electrical supply stores. Buy a firmly), cut it into around 100mm lengths and twist it around the coil. Bindings will secure leaders in a controlled manner, are easy to remove or add, and will not corrode or break.

Tennis anyone?

Some time ago I published a short piece on the use of tennis balls to keep a firm, even pressure on a spool of line when loading it onto a reel.

Buy a couple of cheap tennis balls and, using a bait knife, make two incisions opposite each other on either side of each ball. This allows the balls to be pushed onto a large screwdriver, one on each side of the line spool. Modest hand pressure provides sufficient friction to get a well-seated line load – even up to 60kg line class.

Another use for tennis balls is as guards on a game-chair’s footplate mounting bars, preventing people injuring themselves when the plate is set short and the bars protrude behind the chair.

Set and mark the drag

Knowing how much pressure the drag is applying when playing big fish can be critical, especially on lighter line classes, although it’s only part of the equation. If using an overhead game reel, take the time to check the drag pressure (with the line running over the guides) using a set of scales. Run some plastic tape around the reel side plate (not obstructing the drag quadrant) and mark the drag pressure at various points, so you know exactly how much drag pressure there is over the guides when playing a fish.

Guard the drag lever

One of the keys to successful game fishing is to eliminate errors. When trolling, good deckies or crew-members regularly check drag pressures and ensure the ratchet is on. It is surprising how often a potential problem is detected. With lever-drag reels, it is easy for someone to brush against a reel (especially while getting in or out of a game chair) and accidentally alter the drag setting. One way of preventing this is by adjusting the reel handle so it is directly above the drag lever. The handle may be bumped, but the drag lever will be protected.

Reel clip under

It is usual practice to add a safety line to big game rigs to avoid any possibility of losing them overboard. Lever-drag game reels are usually fitted with a pair of harness lugs on top of the reel and a single one on the rod clamp under the rod. Because the harness lugs on top of the reel are more accessible, many people attach the safety line here, usually using a metal clip. However, these safety-line clips swing a little from side to side as the boat travels and, over time, this wears through the reel’s anodising, allowing corrosion to take hold (as well as making the reel look manky). Be sure to clip the safety line to the back of the rod clamp to avoid this problem.

Band on the run

Rubber bands are used for all manner of tasks on boats. I once needed a bit of pressure on the lines so small live baits could be held in place while being trolled off eggbeater reels with the bail arm open, yet still allow the fish to take line freely for a little while after biting.

Removing the reel from the reel seat, I wound a rubber band multiple times around the rod butt (until it was under reasonable tension), then slipped it up to the top of the reel seat. Taking the line directly from the re-mounted reel’s spool, I slipped a short loop under the band, adjusting the tension needed to pull it free by increasing or decreasing the number of rubber band’s strands that the line loop was passed under.

This worked perfectly: when a fish struck, the loop of line pulled out from under the band, and was then free to run from the spool without alerting the fish. All I had to do was decide when to flip the bail arm closed and strike, before fighting the fish using my pre-set fighting-drag setting.

This system is infinitely adjustable, with changes to the rubber-band thickness, number of band loops and the tension that that they are under, allowing for a range of release pressures. Nylon monofilament, being thicker than braid for a given breaking strain, has more friction, so it’s easier to achieve harder release pressures.

This system is also useful for surfcasting and stray-lining when using eggbeater reels.

Spinning reel harness

With the advent of PE braid lines have come more powerful, but compact reels to use it on. One result is the use of heavy-duty spin reels on large fish, up to and including marlin.

There are times when a long, drawn-out fight on such reels can have an angler’s arms almost dropping off as a harness cannot be used on an eggbeater reel because it has no harness lugs.

A simple solution involves a short piece of cord with a loop in each end. It is small, light to carry, and can be easily manufactured on the spot with materials found on most boats or in a tackle box. It is a good idea to make the looped cord up before you need it (if you suspect you might), as it is easier to get the lengths right for the rig and harness/belt combination you are using, when not busy fighting a fish. The one shown in the accompanying photos is a deluxe model with whip-finished ends, but it need not be this flash.

Take the cord, place the middle over the top of the reel foot where it fits into the reel seat. Wind the two cord arms around the reel foot, then cross them underneath and around the rod so the loops come out on opposite sides of the rod, below the reel. Attach a harness clip to each loop.

A similar cord loop (but attached around the reel differently) can also be used with overhead reels that have no harness lugs. 

Making bait needles

Bait needles of two types are useful for game fishing. One is designed for bridle-rigging live baits (see diagram). Make these from 1.5mm stainless steel welding rod, available from most engineering supply shops. Tools required are side cutters, pliers and a bench grinder with a reasonably fine wheel.

• Cut the rod into 250mm lengths.

• Using the fine stone on the grinder, grind both ends of the rod to a half-rounded shape (step a).

• To one end of the rod, grind a fl at section 20mm long to half the rod’s thickness (step b).

• With a pair of pliers, bend half the fl attened section back on itself, ground-face to ground-face, forming an open eye (steps c and d).

Making needles for rigging dead baits is the same, but use heavier (2mm) welding rod and sharpen the tip. If a closed-eye type is desired, simply bend the end of the flattened section in hard to the needle.

Estimating large fish weight by measurement

How can you tell the weight of a big fish if you do not have scales to weigh it or you want to release it alive? Fortunately, there are several formulae that will give an approximation from measurement. They work best if the fish is reasonably symmetrical, such as a tuna, kingfish or marlin, but will give a ballpark figure for most species.

Measure the fish in centimetres. First, measure the length of the fish from the fork of the tail to the tip of the nose (in the case of a marlin, measure to the tip of the lower jaw). This must be a straight-line measurement, not over the curve of the body.

Next, measure the girth of the fish (i.e. right around the body at its greatest circumference, but do not include the fins.

Apply this formula: Girth x Girth x Length ÷ 29,000 = approximate weight in kilograms. For fish in particularly good condition, add 10% to the total.

I tested the system on a small blue marlin with the following result: 108 x 108 x 216 ÷ 29,000 = 86.9kg. The actual fish weight was 91.0kg, or within about 4% of the measured weight.

Safety in the cockpit

Game fishing, by its nature, involves sharp implements such as hooks, gaffs, knives, bait needles and the like. Careful stowing of gear and caution go a long way towards keeping everyone safe. Also, be aware of the tripping hazards provided by safety lines, flying gaff ropes, bungee lines etc. There is a good reason why good seamanship equates with the correct stowing of lines. Make sure the footing is good, too. This can include non-skid decking and appropriate footwear.

Sunglasses, besides aiding vision and protecting your eyes from the sun, also protect them from mechanical damage (if a hook suddenly flies free, for example).

As a last resort, be sure there is a pair of bolt cutters on board. One day, if you are a long way from home, they may be the most useful first-aid device you have.

Take care out there this season.

   This article is reproduced with permission of   
New Zealand Fishing News

March 2017 - Sam Mossman
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited

Rate this

Fishing bite times

Major Bites

Minor Bites

Major Bites

Minor Bites

  • Fishing Reports, News & Specials