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Chasing Golden Trevalley on the Magnetic Island flats.


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Friday 5 August 2011

Trolling for Spanish Mackerel (Part 3 of 4)

(part 1) (part 2) (part 3) (part 4)
Article by Nicko_Cairns

Lure colours

Another contentious issue amongst the trolling fraternity… colour. On this issue I choose to argue with science… there is a huge range of colour choices available to anglers and I firmly believe the lures catch more anglers than fish. I am an avid SCUBA diver and skindiver. The first colour to disappear from the colour spectrum underwater is red. Red changes to a dark blue/green/blackish colour at around the 6 meter mark, so if you are trolling lures containing red I conjecture that 5 meters is their most practical depth in terms of the red working as a bright attractant.

Basically the most visible colours at the 10 meter mark are anything metallic (as sun reflects very well off these colours); fluoro yellow, fluoro blue, fluoro green. Non fluoro colours being dark green, dark purple, white and black. These colours are all about contrast. The next time you go for a snorkel/SCUBA, take several of your favourite lures along (without any hooks!). View these lures from underneath and to their sides as these are the viewpoints the Macks will use. What you’ll notice is that the sky above you is either bright or dark and regardless the darker colours will generally be the easiest to spot. This goes against 95% of lures sold today as they generally have a lighter underside (as fish do). I argue that natural selection would dictate that fish with a darker underside would be eaten first; hence fish are camouflaged with a lighter underside, so try a darker underside to your lures. Regardless of the colour on the side of your lures, contrast is again the key with two contrasting colours being king. This may be why lure colours such as the QANTAS colours are so popular and successful, even at depths below 6m when they essentially become a black/white lure. How many anglers would purchase a black/white lure when a red/white lure is sitting beside it? Not many as lures catch more anglers than fish. I believe that a black bodied lure with a lighter head colour would be as successful with Macks and I recently had some custom made black lures with fluoro highlights made for me, more updates on them in the near future. You can also take to the underside of some of your trolling lures with black paint. Take one of these black-underbelly lures (without hooks) for a dive and you’ll see why they work.

Braid or mono
Mono and braid both work well but I find that braid is best. Generally if using braid there are two main theories, one being that you require several metres of wind-on shock leader. The second being that pure braid attached to the wire trace will help in hooking fish, I’ve tried both theories and currently use braid without a shock leader, it works however refer to the hook-up techniques section of this article. Note though that If you keep pressure on the fish and keep your boat moving there’s no reason for the fishes tail etc to rub on the braid, it’s only introducing slack line that causes rub offs, or by trolling near very shallow structure.

Hook-up techniques (to strike or not to strike)
I’ve tried various boat driving techniques when a fish is hooked. These include increasing boat speed for around 20 seconds to secure the hooks, or continuing at your current speed. Both of these options work well, if you abide by one simple rule. Slack line is the biggest reason for people losing fish, whether you increase your boat speed, or continue at your current speed, both will help alleviate slack line. At no stage stop the boat as this is the fish’s best opportunity to throw the lure/bait. Keeping the boat moving also largely eliminates the opportunity for the fish to rub off as Macks generally run to the sides, not straight back away from the boat so pressure and no slack will mean that rub offs are incredibly infrequent, so infrequent that I don’t use a shock leader anymore as I think they introduce slack line (by flexing with the strike), a lighter drag setting and continuing boat momentum (or increasing it) suffice to remove slack line and stop rub-offs from fish.

If you are trolling two dead baits and you hook a fish on one dead bait and increase speed as described above, you may render the other dead bait useless due to the hooks pulling in the bait. Some people swear by this technique; however I choose to continue with my current speed during a hook-up and only increase speed when two macks are hooked at the same time as I generally only swim two baits/lures at a time.
Should you strike upon initially removing the rod from the rod holder, you risk losing the fish if you introduce slack line at the top of the striking motion, or while removing the rod from the holder. Some anglers strike then lower the rod tip slightly toward the fish (watch people strike and concentrate on the rod tip and you’ll see what I mean), introducing slack line. With the speed of the fish when hitting the bait, coupled with the boat’s speed, striking is unnecessary, the fish will be hooked and a continual pump and wind will suffice to keep the hooks buried sufficiently. This is truer without a shock leader, braid to swivel to wire has no give so there’s no need to strike, however you need your drag set properly (about 1.5-2kg breaking strain). You also need to up the drag after the initial hook-up until it’s about 1/3 of your breaking strain and continually wind when the fish isn’t running to prevent slack line.

Upon hook-up the fish will commence its first and longest run (good time to increase your drag without the possibility of slack line), after this initial run there may be a subsequent smaller run, or the fish may not run again until it sights the boat, or is at the side of the boat. At this stage of the fight reduce your drag slightly and expect a last ditch run from the fish. This is the one time that a shock leader can help, should the deckie muck up the gaff shot, or should you let the fish rub against the boat, good gaff shots and constant communication with the boat driver will stop this happening. Also learn to control your fish. Also be prepared for the fish to make a lunge toward the outboard, I’m not sure why they do this maybe they are trying to evade their predator by diving into the bubble stream? The deckie should use a gaff from behind the angler, basically standing behind their shoulder and away from the head of the fish. Basically so if the gaff shot misses then the fish can run with minimal chances of hooking the line. A very tired fish can be gaffed under the jaw; however I usually take the first gaff shot opportunity with a shot at the shoulder, just behind the head. Try to avoid gaffing the fish’s stomach as this is the most likely area that will tear away from the gaff. The deckie may need to swap sides to suit the angler, the angler shouldn’t have to move as there’s more chance of slack line. If the angler has to move they should try and slowly wind while they are moving, or make sure the rod is under plenty of load (no slack line). Regardless the angler should call the shots when the fish is beside the boat.

TIP: when removing the rod from the rod holder, ensure you wind continuously to avoid any slack line, also try to keep the rod tip at a nice high angle; this avoids accidentally facing the rod tip toward the fish and introducing slack line. Personally I start winding with the rod in the rod holder and continue until the rod is in the fighting position. Should you choose to use a fighting belt, then I suggest winding line as you drop the rod butt into the fighting belt as this is another critical time that fish are lost due to slack line. After the rod is removed from the rod holder you can increase your drag to fight the fish (as the drag should be only 1.5-2kg as the fish strikes). Increase your drag to 1/3rd of your lines breaking strain, if you don’t know what this is its time to buy some small scales and find out so you can do this without thinking, I do the same with my bottom bashing rods, I always want to know how to select my optimum drag setting (1/3rd) without looking at the reel. This becomes second nature soon enough, I actually have one TLD set so the traditional strike button is actually my 1/3rd position, so when I want to right amount of drag I push the lever until it hits the stopper ensuring perfect drag every time. Usually people have the stopper as their strike drag but they don’t know exactly how far to push their lever to get the optimum drag setting which can be a recipe for disaster. Plus you want to put hurt on a mack (or any fish) to get it out of the water as quick as possible to avoid shark attack.

When trolling I use slow wheel turns so the boat is doing a slow, narrow S-bend pattern. This forces one lure/bait to slow down slightly (on the inside of the turn), which also makes this lure/bait sink slightly. The lure on the outside of the turn speeds up slightly and may subtly rise in the water column. This technique enhances hook-ups with the lure/bait appearing more lifelike rather than swimming at a constant speed/direction.

  • Trolling Patterns
  • Current
  • The Coral Trout Bonus
  • Killing the Fish