weather forecast in advance, boat all prepared, tackle in pristine
working order and enough jigs or lures to sink a battle ship. Bait tank
motor pumping enough water to irrigate the best crops in half their
normal time and a new strap for those Polaroids to just round of the
preparation thoroughly ...
Fishing buddies fired up,
pelagic game plan set, up early and down to the boat. Glassy water, boat
starts first time and out you go planing at 15 -18 knots with the salt
breeze in your nostrils and a quiet thump of anticipation in your heart.
Out comes the magic book
of secret GPS markings, then a serious and further reference to the
other secret cognitive book (of previous angling experience) and it all
begins. The big plan is put into action ..... Trolling, chumming, high
speed trolling, changing lures, adjusting depths, changing of trolling
patterns - diagonals, zig zags, erratic, out rigging, down rigging and
so unfolds the day.
Yet the fish are elusive
and patience is no longing becoming a virtue as the old cliche goes. In
fact the very opposite.
Quiet cussing begins and
tensions on the deck, along with friendship temperatures, begin to rise
at an alarming rate. Constant beeping from your sounder in the back
ground also starts to drive you nuts. Time is slowly ticking by and not
much is happening (at all!). The sun has risen higher and hardly a
decent strike to excite even the newest of novices on any boat.
Drag fiddling begins, and
doubts creep into the well-being of the knots you tied, or if you have
chosen the wrong sized breaking strain line. How is old is that line by
the way, 2 years, three years old? Is it 10 kg or 15 kg? Looks like 8 kg
, a voice from back of your mind says.. Also looks a bit light on to me!
Maybe I should be fishing
heavier? Maybe I am in the wrong current line? Maybe I should put my hat
on backwards, while examining the tide book (again) upside down, and
steer the boat with my nose or left big toe. That might help as well!
A mile or so away you see
bait busting up on the surface everywhere. Pelagics frolicking and
feeding with a myriad of birds overhead, and then suddenly disappearing
as fast as they came. Off in hot pursuit only to find that they are no
longer their on your arrival . You do this maybe another dozen or so
times over the space of a couple of hours with same result time and time
Your fuel tank is much
lower as the motor gets worked to it's max and so are the spirits of the
crew who now start examining the deck, at their feet, for hidden answers
in the many grooves and crevices. Some desperately seeking solace and
divine guidance from their cracked toe nails or that blister which has
started as a result of standing in the one place for too long.
One buddy heads for a ly
down and the others, who have glazed over some by now, peer aimlessly at
the horizon and begin secretly wishing that has stayed home instead to
watch the big game on TV while having a few quiet beers.
And why are they not on
the fish you may ask? Well, when it comes to pelagics the answer is
short, and not so sweet, more often than not.
They don't care about
you, me, or anything else that remotely looks like a boat, lure, jig or
flesh bait. They also don't care if your millionaire or a plumber, have
the best up market Riviera 43, a Black Watch, or a 10 foot rubber
zodiac. They are not interested in your on-board ice-making machine and
certainly don't care about the multi-layered, eight draw, metallic
glitter Plano tackle box that has a emergency positioning beacon, and an
inflatable life raft, all built into the back of it for those unforeseen
and desperate moments.
To them all that those
factors are irrelevant. What's relevant to them is food, food and food.
Then moving, shifting and feeding while trying to avoiding other bigger
fish that can mince them up in an instant.
In my experience they are
high speed, freight train, opportunists who essentially seize the moment
and then take off. They do not gather in seriously tight numbers for
long periods unless it's feed. There are a few exceptions to that rule
(like Giant Trevally) and yet generally this rule pretty much applies.
And so the repetitive
behaviour of these magnificent fish continues on pretty much regardless
of what pelagic species we are referring to. And what does it all mean?
Well, by all means keep the secretive cognitive diary, and those
magnificent GPS markings, but do not adhere to them like they are the
only holy script in the book.
Add a few other pages to
that book which can include contingency plans such as B through to Z and
maybe, just maybe, some of the following suggestions might just save you
some time, effort, depression and money.
Rule number 1:
Know all the following general rules (of thumb) like the back of your
And then comes the second
most important rule of them all. Rule number 361 is assume absolutely
nothing religious about all the rules above. That's means keep them all
close at hand, stay tuned to what is happening in the water around you,
and it if not's working on the day then go to the biggest angling rule
of all, in my opinion.
That final rule, bearing
all of the above in mind , is "trust your instincts". If
nothing else, at the end of the day an angler can avoid having to say to
themselves secretly in the toilet, or out on the back lawn, "I wish
I had tried this, I should have known better, I know that spot and
should have used the "X technique", and so on. Similarly, you
don't have to go to work and face the mates who just love taking the
mickey out of you or end up in the local Doctor's office looking for a
prescription for Prozac.
If you "trust your
instincts" and avoid these echo's as much as possible, then at
least they have been tried, and you did your utmost. From there it can
only get better and here are a few other suggestions that might improve
that equation up an increment or two..
Know your Territory
Tune into current lines,
how they change seasonally and/or bait fish types that run at different
times of the year. What kind of structures or reefs are closer inshore
and out-wide? Are there in fact "grounds' where pelagics sometimes
gather briefly or over a seasonal window in time?
Can I get to them from a
land based position? Ask questions of yourself and talk to fishing
veterans in the area to see what they will tell you. They may not be too
keen to give away much. Even so, it's worth a try especially if your
genuinely interested in what they have to say.
Get some hydrographic
naval or under water survey maps and look at significant contours for
deep line scars on the bottom and so on. Get the full picture on where
you are and what is there. Then keep building that picture it over time
with the bits and pieces of other information that you pick up along the
If you do not have a boat
of your own then find a Captain who does and will put you on the fish
using their understanding of accumulated local knowledge. " Local
angling knowledge is damn near everything" when it comes to
catching fish in my opinion. I also think this applies equally in the
fresh and the world over.
The above, and some other
important issues to follow, have become a part of I what I have named
the " 5 K angling baseline".
Know your Species.
Know your species and I
mean really know them. Think like those fish do and half the battle is
over. Who are they, what are they, how do they behave and why? Separate
them by species if necessary and sit over the winter with that secret
book and dedicate a separate page to each pelagic species and make some
notes. How shallow or deep do they run, what speeds, colour preferences
and so on.
Tease it all out and then
sit back and let all that sink in. Get out again and talk to other
anglers, Fisheries Department and whoever else you think may be
relevant. Sit and watch the water and most of all remember what you have
learnt that is useful so far. . Then and only then, can the issue of
appropriate tackle be thought about.
Know your Tackle &
Tackle choices are a very
personal thing and yet they must, in my view, have the following:
A good match between jig
or lure style and targeted species is critical. Cast your mind back to
the notes you made over the winter and all the reading or questioning
you did. Keep your notes close by and bear those in mind when thinking
about buying tackle. . Chosen tackle, and separate lures or jigs, must
have a good action while being able to work deep, medium or shallow as
needed on any given day. . Durability is the other "big"
Would you buy a pick up
truck to pull a Jumbo Jet? Not me!... Choose lures that have a
reasonable life and do not give up the ghost (e.g. puncture or break in
half) after one decent hit from a pelagic.
That then brings me to
one of my pet hates and that's issue of tackle in-tolerance. Many great
lures are made and some, unfortunately, have split rings on them that
can be pulled apart by a two year old kid. By all means buy your chosen
or favourite lures that can deliver the goods and then check the
I try to avoid all split
rings yet that is not always possible. Why? Because they are the weakest
and most vulnerable point on any lure assuming the hook loops are bedded
down well inside the lure body. I am also not a fan of treble hooks and
use single hooks where ever possible.
If you use trebles, then
get a solid pair of pliers and given those split rings a serious test by
putting the treble or single in your workshop vice, then grip the lure
body and give it the big test. Pull as hard (and as carefully) as you
can. If either the split ring or hook shafts falter, then take them off,
curse them severely, and stick em in the bin. The same applies to the
front end of your lures as well. Test them with the force of a gorilla
and if your happy with their tolerance then put them away into the
Who want's to loose
their fish to a $1-00 component?
Not me and I cannot imagine any angler that does! Last of all, look for
tackle that fits with your notes and then consider how versatile is that
piece of tackle. Can this lure also be used as a jig, or rig, will it
allow you to change techniques in an instant if need be?
Why is this important?
Because not every day fishing for pelagics is the like the one at the
beginning of this article. In fact some are the perfect and thankful
inverse. Days where you are trolling, casting and/or jigging all within
a space of minutes of each other are more than possible as those hard
hitter's feed up, stall, disappear and still don't care who you are,
even though they are not on the fast track train to Mt. Fuji.
There are not many tackle
items that will let you do all three. Some will allow you to cast and
troll, some to cast and jig... Raider lures can do a couple, heavier
lures like wise. Rapala CD 14's or 18's have the weight to be cast off
at a reasonable speed and distance. Both also troll well depending on
the desired depth and techniques used. .
There are also a
Pan-technic of jigs that can do the same in terms of casting and jigging
like Whip Tail's, Diamond Heads and others... Even so, not many troll
too well with the kind of requirements needed for pelagics in terms of
action or overall performance profiles.
A couple of
examples of all three techniques come in the form of Demon
Lures" which are purpose built for
medium to larger pelagics like Mackerel, Wahoo, Yellowtail, Doroda, Mahi
Mahi and it is here than we declare our bias freely..
have a host of specialist design(c) features including a great baitfish
profile, high flash and flexing body, front and rear opposing forged
hooks, plus the benefit of an underside, stainless, spinner blade. The
blade arm also acts like a skeg so you get less snagging.
They can be cast a
mile from boat or land given that the head is made from composite
alloys, jigged to 90 feet or so, and trolled at 6 knots or faster
depending on your favourite technique all with movement, depth action
and heavy duty construction. Think of a pelagic species like Wahoo,
Yellow Tail, Dorado, Mackerel and they are all on the hit list. Not only
that, you can down rig them deep on something like our light weight
Line Down Rigger Bombs" or use
stand alone 8 oz "High Speed" Semtex Lures at hit the stick.
As we say here, better than dynamite!
A bladeless 3 oz version
(with game hook inserts) is also available for Billfish, Sailfish and
others. In this form they are also perfect for teasing and switch
baiting as well.
Knots and Rigs:
There is nothing better
that the KISS principle when it comes to knots and rigs [ Keep It Simple
Steve] ... Personally I favour a really simple set up like a quality
line such as braids or limited stretch mono's of no more than 10 kg's
for general purpose pelagic fishing. Then a double, tying it off with a
quality bimini twist and then onto that your leader of choice using a
special Four Turn F_Nose knot or other knot of choice. I cannot tell you
what the F stands other than to say it's best to leave it out for
One of those hot, simple,
fast and strong knots that all guides love, and many client's
appreciate, in the heat of a pelagic battle. Tough as nuts and will
tolerate fish up to 80 pound (or more) depending on your principle line
class. On 22 lb line this tolerance is fairly accurate. The alternative
is to use an improved Albright knot and while not as quick to tie, it is
well known and well proven.
Where possible, split
rings and swivels in line set ups are to be avoided from my experience
and are often not needed unless your use spinning gear [instead of
overhead reels] and want to avoid line twist. . Wire can be used on the
end of the leader if big toothy bugger's are emptying your tackle box in
a hurry. In that case it's multi-strand wire and with the least breaking
strain you can get away with given the fish present on the day.
Tying off your lures
involves a simple loop knot for fish up to 50 lb which keeps the whole
train, from single line to lure or jig, both continuous and
uncomplicated. Just the way fishing should be. By all means use other
knots and rigs of your choice. This is just one example if interested.
Having waded through all that, it's then down to the last of the big
Know your Techniques:
Techniques are the final
and critical step in the hunt for pelagics (and many other fish for that
matter ) in conjunction with the others that have already been mentioned
above and may also include para-veins, sewn baits, high speed trolling
and other well known and proven methods.
At the end day though,
and after you have chummed your socks off with an oil trail 800 yards
long and been left wondering if a piston has not in fact gone through
the side of your engine block, there remains one technique that is often
A technique that is
simple, versatile and highly effective all over the world. It's called
"jigging" and is one of the most under rated, yet highly
effective, secret weapons in the desire to having a big pelagic day.
Many well known angling
author's have spoken at length, and waxed lyrical over the virtues of
the "Jig" and none more so, in my view, than when it comes to
pelagics. Of course many people may say, well I know jigs and that's
true. But how many people actively use them when fishing for pelagics?
This dynamite technique,
using the most under-rated and humble of all fishing tackle, appears
absent from the technical almanac of many global angler's and begs the
question of why?. I am not sure.
Maybe it seems too
uncool, too simple or maybe just has not been thought about... Either
way, and under the right conditions, it's cheap to do, relatively
static, consumes little or less fuel -personal or otherwise - and has a
myriad of sub technique categories that can be applied like:
Jigging" , "The Short Sharp Stick", "Oblique Drag
& Shoot" and the "Sling Shot". All are very usable
and highly effective under different conditions. In the tropics, on the
flats, out wide, or somewhere in between, all these techniques, and
more, can be used in combination with "pin point" or
"random opportunistic" approaches with great effectiveness and
results. Not only that, you can often hook up a lot sooner using your
sounder and the above mentioned principles.
It can also be a lot
of "fiery" fun and generate some serious heat in the boat.
It also needs to be said
that this is not just the case in relation to medium sized pelagics
either. If your into Bill fish then we have an up and coming technique
using purpose designed jigs called the "drop, shoot & run"
technique that will create a bit of fire in the belly as well (more on
that in a dedicated future article).
Cast you mind back to the
five big "K" principles. On any given day, jigging must be one
of those techniques to be used when angling for pelagics. It can be
spontaneous or it can be highly intentional.
Either way it does not
Off in the distance you
see a School of Tuna, or other surface feeders, busy at work. Rev the
motor, hit the throttle and let's go get those suckers! ... Wrong! ...
Wait, pause and implement the "K strategy" which says know
your territory ... Look at what the species are doing, which way is
current heading, are there other tight bait balls around, which way are
those balls heading, and so on?
Are the pelagics staying
up, or elevating (moving up and down quickly)? They may be doing all
three. Make all of these mental notes and then decide how to approach
them and this applies equally when fishing blue or tropical waters. From
the side or or well ahead. Am I better off trying yo make them come to
answer is yes and a lure like the 1,2 or
3 oz After Burner Trolling Lure is
purpose built for this job.
A double Yozuri skirted Demon surface lure that
creates lots of cavitation, flash and movement and can be worked on the
surface or shallow trolled at medium speeds with the specific intent of
making pelagics rise. They also have the design(c) benefits of an
additional front end hook, plus a - loose looped - trailing stinger. One
of their main purposes is to create losts of surface action. They can
also be downrigged with ease and used to achieve the same objective of
making the fish come to you, but starting from deeper down.
So with you plan in mind,
set off. In some instances, split level lure sets are also very useful.
That means have an After Burner working on, or near, the surface and on
another line run something like a Demon Bluewater Baitfish Lure that
digs down deep..
So with you plan in mind, set off. In some instances, split level lure
sets are also very useful. That means have an After Burner working on,
or near, the surface and on another line run something like a Demon
Bluewater Baitfish Lure that digs down deep..
This will give you plenty
of coverage and encourage medium sized pelagics to rise. The Tuna
family, including Albacore, Bonito, Bluefin and others are often fooled
by this approach and Spanish Mackerel are prone to it as well. But in
the back ground you also need to be prepared so have another rod set up
with some quality Bucktail or Demon Sprat (white bait) jigs already
loaded for when they hit the surface.
"never chase pelagics over big distances"....
applies to both bluewater and tropical species. So save your energy and
get strategic instead.... They will out gun you and win the chase 9
times out of ten I guarantee it and then more than likely appear half a
mile away, with their dorsal fins inverted rudely in your general
By all means troll your
way into position slowly if you want (as suggested above) and then stop
and do another snap evaluation. Watch and wait, watch and wait. Position
again if needed. Also note what you sounder is telling you. Look for
fish, deep water grooves, or channels under you were sub currents may be
running as opposed to surface currents.
What's the depth, how
does that influence my tackle choices, positioning etc?
And if they break
within casting distance?
... Get onto vertical-jigging straight away by casting out long and
hard. Use a jig made for the job and with a decent sized head on it (1.5
oz's) and a forged hook that is durable, well made, and has plenty of
grunt . Slug it out and overshoot the school by 20-30 feet at least. You
want it to sink fast and have plenty of feel to it. Let you jig sink
rapidly say down to 15-25 ft and then hit the reel handle using the some
of technique mentioned above e.g. "the Short Sharp Stick".
The aim is to work fast
towards yourself and up through the school at the same time. Short sharp
lifts with a long pause of 3-5 seconds, then repeat several times. if no
joy wind in several turns and repeat from the top again. This technique
is very successful on tropical species... You don't have long as a
general rule so this has to be well practiced and all done fairly
quickly. The "Demon Sling Shot Technique" (DSST)"
involves the same principle method of approaching the school and yet has
a very different rig set up.
Use a 1-3 oz cone shaped
head with a centre hole through the middle. Pass your leader through the
centre and crimp on a solid, fast revolving swivel that is smooth in
action. Another short leader of 3 inches, or wire if needed, and then
onto that a four to six inch saltwater fly of your choice. That's right
a big solid salt water fly Like a Deceiver or Flashy profile. Hit the
water and watch for the sparks & fins!
If you in a shallow sided
vessel then a great option is the "oblique, drag & shoot
". That means rod action sideways once down deep, reel in slowly (3
ft of line) and then pull hard or shoot the head of your jig forward
fast and then let it fall back again. Reel in and repeat with a slightly
upwards rod motion at the same time. This will help keep your rod tip
and line down lower when necessary, keeps you in the water longer, and
yet still allows you to work your jig properly.
If the fish have just
disappeared off the surface by now and you know, or suspect, they are
still under the boat then don't think about moving off ... Stay right
where you are! Just drop straight down and get right into it using a
straight vertical technique called the "high rise". Hit the
bottom and then lift you rod tip high (4-6 feet) and at medium speed,
then let the jig fall back. Repeat several times and then wind in 3/4
What you want to achieve
is working your way up through the layers and cover the entire depth
field at the same time. Believe me it works time and again and the more
you do it the better the results.....
Also don't assume that
the action will only start once you get to the bottom.
This is a dangerous assumption that has bought many fine jigging
exponents unstuck in a big hurry. Loose line, loose thumb and a mind out
of angling gear. Often jigs will be hit just as much on the way down as
they are on the way up ... so be ready.
A number of other species
are also highly susceptible to this approach. Similarly, don't confine
yourself to just out wide either. Get closer to shore and have a good
look around at other deep gutters, currents and structures. Plenty of
great fish like to be inside and run a muck in medium to shallow water.
The same can be done land based with a pocket full of light purpose
built jig heads, tails of choice and a good pair of Polaroids..
The perfect place for the
"oblique, drag and shoot" technique, or just slow retrieves,
as you make your way along the shoreline while flicking and casting at
pin point locations. ... Bluefish & Taylor are real suckers for this
approach on the right day.
Stay with it and you may
be pleasantly surprised at what turns up on then end of your jigs.
The final technique to be
mentioned is called "Slow Drop Angling" and is highly suited
to jigs that are purpose designed for the job. That means a small jig
head (1/2 to 3/4 oz) and into that is molded a large hook of choice.
Onto that you place a large 6-8" soft bait, or feed on a flesh
strip of a similar length and weight, in a vertical position. Either
way, make sure it has plenty of trailing tail and therefore action.
The example below is a Demon "Half Back Jig", 5/8 oz
head, large - thick top eye loop, dark head, big molded eyes and a HD
stainless 7/0 hook insert.
Drop it over the side and
watch it's fall rate. If it's too slow then just tune the bait by down
sizing it. Cut a small piece of flesh off the rear or change down a soft
bait size. Alternatively, slice a little off the belly of the soft bait
instead and take another look. Then, when it set just right, cast it out
into that oil slick left by the chumming and let it fall real slow.
Stand by because you now
have the advantage of full strike zone coverage as the jig and bait take
the slow elevator to the basement. This same method can be used in a
whole range of locations and for different saltwater species.
Casting into snags using
these heads and tropical estuary systems can produce some dynamite
action as well and is perfect in locations where Fisheries have a
"single hook ruling" zone (as is the case here in some
places). Or you can do the same when you head inshore as mentioned
Whatever you cast out jig
wise has to be tough and ready for anything given that other big species
often travel with, and/or underneath of, those same feeding schools as
well..... So be prepared for a few surprises like BIG Spaniards, Cobia,
or Giant Trevally and make sure your tackle is up to the job otherwise
it's hasta la vista baby!
Hook types, hook strength
and eye loop tolerance are the other three big factors to consider. Make
sure they have been well and truly covered in your selection of the
right tackle for pelagics (or other species for that matter). This is
especially true for jig heads that are made for a particular technique (e.g
slow drop angling) which have to be cast in special composite alloys
based on their metal mix and binding toughness.
In this situation, lead
is not a good choice for exactly the opposite reasons because it's way
too soft. Jigs with head mounted blades, and/or special custom made
dressings, are the other big secret jig weapon especially when jigging
(or trolling) in deeper water (40+).
Another great secret weapon.. When one angler has hooked up (either
trolling, casting or jigging) and has there fish under control and near
the boat, slug our your jig or lure because London to a brick their
scaly mates won't be far away. Some may know this technique as
"fishing the slide"... Pelagics are often curious creatures
and will come up for a look to see what all the fuss is about.... One
angler out one side and the other in the opposite direction of the
angler with the fish on already.
If your with a competent
Guide or Boat Captain , then wait for their call as they know when the
moment is right. Do not go before their word otherwise disaster
awaits.... If need be, then just change techniques without having to
changing this lure if the fish move off. Get straight on the troll and
work that patch some more. This Demon will dig down deep and track as
staight as a train line.
Finally, the same jigging
techniques I've mentioned can also be applied using what I call
"Pin Point" strategies.. Meaning you intentionally decide to
target a given structure, drop off, or deep water current line using
jigs or jig - type lures. It's a premeditated plan of action based on
the information at hand. This may be sounder readings, previous
experience in that spot or simply a strong gut feeling.
Either way, by all means
troll around, and near to, that location you have decided to head for
prior to getting their. Many a great fish has been caught when least
expected. Similarly, action or sounder readings on the day may have told
you that it has all the makings for fish even though they not be visibly
present at the time.. When your done, get static on the drift or drop
the anchor, and then jig up a storm using tackle designed for the job!
Because the days of conventional jigs are well and truly over even
though they maintain a very important, ongoing, and legitimate place in
the tackle box. At the same time, we are now moving into the next
millennium with a whole range of new "species specific" jig
and lure type designs which bring with it some much needed, cost saving
and timely, "heavy metal magic"..
Steve Badman (Master Jig
Jigs & Deep Water Lures