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them faster Release them healthier Plus
What billfish is that? Dr pepperell’s IDentification guide makes it easy
make the bucket-list trip for your biggest yellowfin
Mr grander Capt Peter Bristow
g n i t a Bo > assegai marine’s rebirth of the force > repowering with diesel – what you need to know > trailerboats: preparing for the road trip
BlueWater Boats & Sportsfishing Issue 96 (March–April 2013)
battling blue granders Sooner or later you might find yourself hooked-up to an enormous blue marlin, perhaps a fish weighing more than 1000 pounds. What then? Capt Peter Bristow, the skipper with more granders to his credit than any other, details the game plan and strategies to catch them faster and release them healthier.
creatures of the deep Crested bandfish Dr Pepperell describes an unusual fish that seems to share a similar escape tactic with squid.
lure lore Part 14: Casting an illusion Jim Rizzuto details how the choice of skirt material and the way it is attached can affect lure action.
fast-track your bucketlist to panama It may seem a long way to go, but this dream destination has so much to offer that you’ll have to get there!
Technically speaking Easier, safer, better billfish releases Techniques to ensure that the billfish you release actually survive.
what billfish is that? Being able to correctly identify different species of billfish is important, not only to determine if you’ve just caught a record fish, but so you can accurately fill in your tag cards, which affects scientific research. Dr Julian Pepperell’s handy billfish identification guide now makes it easy for you.
Classic tomes Tight Lines Ralph Bandini’s adventures during the ‘golden years’ of gamefishing with the Tuna Club of Avalon.
big fish – small boats Protecting your prized possessions Prepare your equipment for road trips and it will serve you better.
they call the shots Capt Peter Bristow From Cairns to Madeira, he’s chased the world’s biggest black and blue marlin for more than 45 years.
1 0 0 smoke and mirrors Bonze ‘Pineapple Express’ This high-quality lure represents slim baitfish like sauri and garfish, and also enables high-speed trolling.
Boats and more
BlueWater Boats & Sportsfishing Issue 96 (March–April 2013)
CONTRIBUTOR: MARC MONTOCCHIO Marc specialises in capturing unique and stunning images of oceanic wildlife in their natural habitat, especially in the deep, blue waters of the open ocean. Marc’s photography has taken him on expeditions all over the world, where he has photographed all five species of marlin and both species of sailfish, unhooked and free swimming. When he’s not travelling, Marc lives on the southern Outer Banks of North Carolina. To learn more, visit: www.marcmontocchio.com
CONTRIBUTOR: TERRY WILLIAMS-KING
the force is still with us Assegai Marine 40-foot custom sportfisher It’s back! Once suggested in this magazine as one of the best Australian-built gamefishers, Assegai Marine’s five-month restoration has seen spectacular results.
As a Kiwi, Terry grew up chasing snapper and kingfish in the Hauraki Gulf with his grandfather. This passion lead to a part-time job at a tackle shop and eventually a manager’s role in one of New Zealand’s leading saltwater outfitters. Terry loves chasing big fish and exploring new techniques, so when not at work he is always off chasing fish around the Pacific and honing his angling skills.
Repowering with diesel Taking advantage of the amazing developments in modern diesel engines can pay for itself with a vast improvement in your boat’s performance and considerable savings in fuel and maintenance.
SUBSCRIBER: ROLF CZABAYSKI
Co lum ns
A n d mo r e ...
1 3 0
Rolf was introduced to fishing in 1976 when he joined the Game Fishing Club of South Australia, and since then he’s held office once as Secretary and twice as President. From 1990 to 2006, Rolf ran Calypso Star Charters and three times took his boat from SA to fish off Cairns. His most outstanding capture is a 699.5kg white shark on 15kg tackle, which earned him a State, Australian and world record.
14 Editorial – Simpson
102 Tournament News
Cover: Kona blue release
38 Hot Bites – Australasia
108 GFAA Report
Photography: Jon Schwartz
40 Hot Bites – International
110 NZSFC Report
44 IGFA Rule Book
110 IGFA Report
44 BlueWater Calendar
112 On the Waterfront
24 The IGFA
45 A Site to See
129 Advertisers’ Index
46 Rum Lines
130 Out of the Blue
26 The Billfish Foundation
© BlueWater 2013 SUBSCRIPTIONS (see page 9) www.mymagazines.com.au 1300 361 146 or +61 2 9901 6111 Post to Locked Bag 3355 St Leonards, NSW 1590 Digital subscriptions www.zinio.com/bluewater
The Editor Tim Simpson has a thirst for knowledge and a passion for teaching others the skills for success. His adventures have taken him to a long list of tournament wins, six IGFA world records, and more than 500 tagged gamefish.
Make it count Even if you are one of the conscientious anglers who release all of your billfish, do you know how many of them survive? Out of sight should not be out of mind. As Tim Simpson advises, we should all take a little more time and care to ensure that when we release a fish it actually counts and the fish survives. After all, it’s in our own interest. These days, nearly all of us release our billfish. There is a very good reason for this: we respect them; they are special. We care about them, and we want plentiful stocks out there and waiting for us next time we go fishing. But if this is the case, why do so many anglers release their fish with so little thought, so little regard for what happens to the fish once it slips back into the blue? The answer, probably, is that we don’t know what happens when the fish disappears. At that stage it is out of sight and out of mind. Besides, we’re busy putting the lines back out to catch our next one. We assume that it will soon recover its normal strength. Sadly, that is not always the case. Many billfish are released in a very tired state, and unbeknown to the angler and crew, some of these fish will drop to the ocean floor, or into the cold and oxygenpoor depths, and die before regaining sufficient strength to swim and maintain their favoured depth. To prevent this, we need to provide much more care to revive them and bring them back to reasonable strength before release (see my article on better billfish releases on page 95). I once witnessed a striking example while fishing for baby black marlin off the top of Fraser Island in Queensland. I was in the water photographing a hooked marlin in 30 metres of water
along the outside of Breaksea Spit. It was a small fish and easily landed in just a few minutes, although it did jump a lot beside the boat. The angler tagged and released it in a tired state. I swam with it, following as it descended in the crystal-clear water, occasionally beating its tail. It struggled to maintain an upright posture and before long it crashed right into the ocean floor.
“If you care about the future, and the health of the ocean’s resources, that is what it takes. Just do it!” Dismayed, I watched as it flicked itself off the sand, sank back, then flicked again. It seemed to be getting stronger – recovering – the longer I watched. I got the impression that, unless the sharks found it, it would soon regain strength and power-up off the bottom to resume a normal swimming pattern. Sadly, I couldn’t stay to make sure. The wind was blowing the boat further and further away, and off Fraser Island the sharks are often in plague proportions. If some of the grey gangsters arrived,
I wanted to be able to make a quick escape. I swam back to the boat and left the marlin to its fate. The encounter left me with a profound impression. We really need to take more care, to spend more time with our billfish and make sure they are recovered enough to swim upright and reasonably strongly before we set them free. That can take a little time and effort, but we owe the fish that courtesy. If you care about the future, and the health of the ocean’s resources, that is what it takes. Just do it! In this issue you’ll find a revealing feature by big marlin specialist Capt Peter Bristow. Peter has caught his clients more marlin over 1000 pounds – both blacks and blue marlin – than perhaps any other captain in history, and he’s been doing it for more than 50 years! I commissioned Peter specifically to teach us how to fight big blue marlin while trying to prevent them from diving into the depths and dying. I hope it takes your game to a new level of expertise, enjoyment and sustainability.
Tim Simpson IGFA: Representative TBF: Board of Directors
BlueWater Staff & Associates Editor Tim Simpson Tel: (07) 5501 5410 Mob: 0400 665 947 Email: email@example.com Sub-Editor Nick Ransley Design & Layout iMedia Corp Office manager Kim Bruce Tel: (07) 5501 5400 General manager Tim Simpson
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A rethink on clubs
ROB KRAMER began his term as the IGFA’s sixth president in October 2002. Before joining the IGFA he worked for Florida’s Division of Marine Fisheries, where he distributed fisheries research data to the fishing public and represented recreational fishermen on various regional and national fisheries management bodies. Rob is also the founder of Fish Florida, a non-profit organisation that provides fishing opportunities and conservation information to Florida’s citizens.
Fishing clubs provide a fun and informative meeting place for anglers, yet many seem to be struggling, particularly with attracting junior members. IGFA President Rob Kramer considers how to turn the situation around. Fishing clubs are great! As IGFA Hall of Fame Inductee and legendary angler/author Peter Goadby once wrote: “The fishing club is the logical and visible extension of the bonds and companionship of fishermen; it is the link between the master angler and the novice, the distributor of information…” So why is it that wherever I travel in the world I am finding so many clubs struggling for membership, scraping for finances, and in some cases, closing their doors altogether? While I do not have any easy explanation, I am seeing some patterns. Prior to sharing those observations, it is worth noting that there are some fishing clubs (associations) around the world that are doing quite well. And to these we should look for guidance and advice on how to better strengthen our own clubs. The reasons for forming fishing clubs in the first place are as varied as their structures and sizes. Some are founded to organise competitions, share fishing skills and knowledge, create a venue for family participation, or simply provide a social forum where members can come together to share fishing stories. Some of the more recently formed associations have been assembled for a relatively new phenomenon – to combat the challenges of diminishing fish stocks and shrinking access to fishing opportunities. Whether or not you belong to a club, this issue is almost universally on the minds of all modern-day anglers. And it is this point, ironically, that brings me to my first suggested reason for the decrease in club participation. It is a widely accepted conviction that fishermen like talking about fishing. This is not the same as fishing politics or fishing policy. In fact, most fishermen I know loath discussing the complex and often confounding practices of fisheries
management and the politics that go with it. Unfortunately, however, this subject is nearly impossible for any organised fishing body to ignore, as it has an ever-increasing impact on our sport. Additionally, the general sportfishing public looks to the organised clubs for leadership in this complicated, and emotional, arena.
“Take a good, hard look at what benefits your club is offering its members.” Another change that has negatively impacted fishing clubs is how they exchange fishing knowledge. Whereas the traditional club meeting or the association’s annual meeting were one of the few places we could meet with fellow anglers and exchange meaningful information, we now have this thing called the Internet. Even before the Internet, the proliferation of printed fishing publications was beginning to usurp some of the unique benefits of belonging to a club. It also seems that when I speak to club members around the world they say – almost without exception – that participation by younger members is down, or in some cases, nonexistent. Getting the younger generations to understand the importance of clubs in our sport is particularly challenging. Finally, the lack of free time has also reduced participation in clubs. Regardless of who you ask, people are just plain busier these days.
So what can the struggling club do about it? The first step is to target a potential new membership. And the logical target are those who have children who fish and who can benefit the most from all the good things a club can offer the entire family. It is necessary to look ahead for continued recruitment. Take a good, hard look at what benefits your club is offering its members, particularly younger members, in exchange for their time. It is imperative that the potential member sees enough value in belonging to commit their precious commodity of time. Finally, it is worth taking a step back and looking and the organisation’s by-laws and founding purposes. Are these still relevant today? Should a new set of organisational objectives be created to save the organisation itself? While tradition is important and in some cases the essence of a club, evolution is necessary – for entities that do not adapt to changing conditions inevitably disappear.
Battling Blue Granders
Granders Continuing Capt Bristow’s series on how to catch enormous blue marlin, this instalment deals with the battle after you’ve hooked the big one. As a recognised expert with half a century of giant marlin experience, this detailed guide is worth its weight in gold if you’re serious about tackling a blue marlin weighing more than 1000 pounds. Author: Capt Peter Bristow Photography: tracy epstein; Bill Boyce; John Ashley; Bryan Toney; K.J. Robinson
‘ve lost count of how many times I have been asked, “What makes you keep going all these years?” To be honest, I don’t know the answer. I never thought of it as a job, so why should I want to quit? The only thing I can say that drives me to get up each morning and look forward to another day on the ocean is just finding one of those huge fish again. The anticipation of seeing one of those huge marlin never ceases to inspire me with their frightening attack on the lures. Giant blue marlin are like prehistoric monsters. In fact, we have a spot on the south coast of Madeira that we call ‘Jurassic Park’ – where the monsters live. The danger of encountering them is tantalising in the extreme. No-one is going to be able to tell you effectively how to deal with massive blue marlin. Driving the boat and having it in the right place at the right time will come from instinct gained from a world of experience. However, one way or another, you must get it right. After the excitement of finding one comes the thrill of the chase. This is where teamwork comes in, and extreme pressure on the captain to co-ordinate a fantastic gig. That’s what it is – a gig – entertainment at its best. You can’t really learn this stuff from a book. You must do it for yourself and learn from experience before much of this will make sense to you. But read on; most of this is how I learnt to do things myself.
Let me make this absolutely clear – the advice that follows applies to blue marlin only (although it should make interesting reading for black marlin skippers as well). In my previous two features I covered the preparation and first five minutes after hook-up from the angler’s perspective. This time I would like to describe the scene once you’re hooked up and battling your blue grander. Your first big blue will be nothing but excitement, confusion and the thrill of battle. Nothing you read in a book can fully prepare you, or be a substitute for the experience gained from years of seeing these magnificent fish behind the boat, trying to eat the paint off the transom. To relate the actions and reactions of an experienced captain and crew in the first few minutes will only make sense to a very few, but take note – there may be some wisdom for you to hang on to. When getting started in my career chasing marlin I recall vividly the comments from the best captains of the time and trying to remember every word of advice; although I made some terrible mistakes by listening to some bad advice. All I can say is you will learn a lot more from your own mistakes than from bad advice. After the crucial first five minutes of battle there is something going on up there on the bridge that most novice anglers are not aware of. Decisions are being made and relayed to the deck. The captain is really
Battling Blue Granders
Battling Blue Granders
“All I can say is you will learn a lot more from your own mistakes than from bad advice.”
the only person who can see clearly what is happening as they try to anticipate the fish’s every move. With competent crew on the deck, the captain’s decisions and manoeuvres can be co-ordinated with everyone, most importantly the angler. Once you get the hang of it, this will come easy, and then you have a team. Wellconducted big-game fishing is teamwork.
Unless you know exactly where the fish is and where the line is laying on the surface, you need to be very careful not to run over it. If you run the fish then stay on the outside of the circle. When the line takes a dip and is showing angle, spin the boat round and have the line square off the transom. This moment can be full of surprises.
RUNNING THE FISH
If you like heavy drag for the hook-up then make sure it is backed off the instant the fish is hooked and takes off on its first blazing run. This is a critical point for first-timers, so to make life easy on my charter boat I set the drag light to begin with. It is amazing how many big marlin you can successfully hook on 8lb of drag. In fact, the first year I tried it I was looking at 100 per cent success, although I think it was the way they were biting that year. The law of averages pulled me back to reality the following year, but levels have remained very high – always better than 70 per cent – even when the marlin are just picking at our lures. From here on, the drag is not increased until the fish stops its first run. Then and only then is the drag increased in stages. At this point in the battle I need a tight line to know where the fish is, but not so tight that it will break should the fish bolt again. However, I have not seen a second run that is equal to that initial burst of lightning speed. In the final stages of the fight – once we are settled down – the drag can be increased to as much as the angler and the gear can handle.
Once hooked-up, the skipper has a number of options for how to begin the battle. You can start backing down right away or just gun the boat forward to make sure that the fish is hooked tight, although, it really doesn’t matter, because the fish is going to be hooked on the strike anyway. When using light tackle (anything from 24kg down), no amount of gunning the boat is going to hook the fish – she’s already on or she’s not. The advantage of getting away from the fish in the first few seconds is to minimise the chance of it coming flying back through the lure spread, or worse, coming flying into the cockpit – it does happen! If you are going to stay close to the fish then your manoeuvring will have to be world-class, because these things move around extremely quickly. When the fish takes off in a jumping run you can do one of two things – start backing down or turn the boat and run the fish. Blues are particularly hard to keep up with by running them, because they always run and jump in circles.
Here is a secret about running the fish. When line gets low on the reel, the quickest way to get it back is to spin the boat and run it forwards in pursuit of your fish. This applies whatever species you’re chasing. Raise the outrigger on the side of the boat you intend to take the fish. Now turn the boat and warn the angler they’re about to lose line because of your manoeuvre. Go after the fish at whatever pace it takes to maintain or gain line. Watch the line exactly where it enters the water and look for the finger of line just below the surface. This will tell you where the line is laying, and if the angler is tight it will point right to the fish. While that finger of line points away from the boat or straight ahead, you can stay on course or even come closer. On the quarter is comfortable. However, if the finger closes in towards your bow then turn away immediately or you will run over the line. Should the line close in I think it is better to turn hard around and then back in to square off with the fish until you know exactly where it is. This is all very exciting stuff. If the angler in the chair keeps the line tight, the point of entry will rip a great ‘rooster tail’ of spray from the surface. If the pressure is on, you can hear it from the bridge. Dacron is the line that I have always used, and 130lb stands out in the water like rope. The new green colours are all very well, but totally unnecessary. Hi-vis mono is good for this (at night-time it’s fantastic) and you can get by with clear so long as you pay attention. But don’t ever try this with blue mono – it disappears – and black is even worse.
UNLIKE BLACK MARLIN
At this point some heavy pressure can be applied, but watch where the line is pointing. My best advice is to look where the line enters the surface, and just below it will point to where the line is laying or where the fish is. If the angle suddenly increases and line starts pouring off the reel – watch out, she is coming up to jump, and that might be right under your bow. Add to that advice the following scenario. You are hot on the fish and are close. You have good angle on the line, say 45 degrees. To entice the fish to jump a good angler will, at this point, put on maximum pressure –
Battling Blue Granders
even ‘sunset’ drag if the fish is not going anywhere. This is a critical moment with a blue. If the line should start quickly going off to one side or the other, the skipper needs to get out of there by going forward in a hurry, and I mean right now! These blues are treacherous, and unlike a black in every way. They will double back on you, and if you’re unlucky, will jump right into the boat with you. I got caught once with an unhappy ending (see Winning Strategies for Blue Granders in BlueWater Issue 86). Since that time, this has happened more than once, and I was able to recognise the move and anticipate the outcome. It’s the lightning speed of the blue that will catch you off guard, so do not be complacent. The situation just described can be quite a trap for those captains not used to blue marlin. After a lifetime of giant blacks off Cairns, I must say I was not ready for it the first time around. Those big blacks are so predictable. Get up close and hammer the drag on a black marlin and 9 times out of 10 it will be one of the best, and safest, photographic experiences you’ve ever had.
IN THE LOOP
As I’ve indicated, from the outset blues are full of surprises. They have this habit of going right around the boat, and before you know it, they are jumping right in front of you. If you are not careful you will be trapped in the circle of line. About all you can do is spin
the boat and drive around the outside of the circle; or you can back down and follow the line. Of course, success with all this depends on the angler’s ability to handle the situation. You will have to judge this one on its merits. If you’re running the boat around the outside of that circle of line, the new-chum angler cannot be expected to know how to retrieve rapidly in such an extreme situation. However, if the angler was to drop their right foot to the floor and lower the rod tip to horizontal – with the right elbow raised level to the reel – the line can be retrieved at high speed if the angler can wind like a runaway machine. Always take the advantage of getting line back the easy way. When chasing an active blue there are times when bails of line will suddenly come easily, giving the impression that the hook has pulled out. Don’t worry; all will be okay with a bit of luck. Remember that while the fish continues to swim ahead, the drag provided by just the lure being pulled through the water is enough to keep everything in place. I watched this happen to a boat right by me one day with the crew on board totally oblivious to what was going on. They did not see the fish jump right across in front of them and then ran right over the line. By some miracle they did not cut the line, but after realising they were hooked-up, they stopped the boat – period. Hours later they hand-lined up 400kg of dead marlin
“If you are going to stay close to the fish then your manoeuvring will have to be world-class.”
Blue marlin are fast and unpredictable, so should always be handled with great caution at the boat.
Battling Blue Granders
“If the angle suddenly increases and line starts pouring off the reel – watch out!”
– a prime example of what not to do, on every count. It is a shame the fish was not cut off when they ran over the line. It is vitally important to keep the boat moving forward and maintain an angle of around 45 degrees on the line. This should keep the fish alive by allowing it to swim right up to the boat, still in good shape and ready for release. You can do exactly the same thing with a tuna. The easy way is to head down-sea, and no matter what the fish does, do not change direction. Tail-wrapping a fish usually occurs right at the outset after hook-up, on its first jumping run. While the fish is going nuts it gets wrapped up in the leader and throws a hitch around the butt of its tail, which will not come off.
There is so much to say about the tail-wrap situation, although there is not a lot you can do. However, like everyone else, I have had my share of it over the years. In comparison to the number caught, I am pleased to say this is minimal. So let’s be realistic about what you can and must do with the boat to relieve this predicament. On 60kg (130lb) tackle it is possible to steamroll fish of 600 to 700lb and bring them to the boat before they die. Upwards of that you are in real trouble when they take a death dive. There are two trains of thought on how to react in that situation. Should you reduce to light drag and allow the fish to voluntarily come to the surface, or should you stay on heavy drag and try to muscle the fish up before its curtain falls? The answer comes from knowing what the problem is before the rot sets in. When battling a huge tailwrapped fish, the more you pull the worse the situation becomes, because you are lifting the tail in such a way that the fish will drive itself into the depths.
With almost a full spool of line out, there is nothing you can do but wait with heavy drag and keep a good angle on the line – ideally at 45 degrees to the horizontal. When all has stopped and come to a stalemate, then the fish must be planed up using the boat.
RAISING DEEP FISH
With one engine, nudge the boat ahead slowly without losing line until the angle is well up – then reverse quickly to pick up a few turns. This laborious practice can go on for hours until the fish pops to the surface as dead as a door nail. There’s nothing anyone can do about this, and sorry, but the fish will not be able to recover from such an encounter. The other method is very effective and I have used it on light tackle with good results. One occasion was off Tangalooma in southern Queensland when I battled a sailfish estimated at 250lb for nine-and-a-half hours. I figured that to stop the boat and drift would put so much angle on the line that this enormous sail would voluntarily come to the surface. It was a long wait between chances to run back down the line, and I hoped the fish would stay on the surface and jump. During the drift away from the fish, a full spool of 6kg line was let out. Six hours later, in the dark and after I don’t know how many attempts – the fish finally jumped within gaffing distance and could have been ours ... but what did the anglers do? They put a tag in this thing – much to my regret – because they were in a tournament! Of course, it took off and we never saw the fish again. After nearly another four hours of battle the line broke – and I said goodbye to a world record! The lesson learnt on that occasion was that a fish will come to the surface if you stay far enough away on light drag. Then, once it’s up on the surface, you can
Battling Blue Granders
Battling Blue Granders
run back hard and pounce on it. It is a technique worth thinking about, but a hard one to call.
“These blues are treacherous, and unlike a black in every way.”
By the time blue marlin are able to be brought alongside for release they are often bronze in colour and exhausted. To ensure they have an excellent chance for survival, they must be given the time and care necessary to revive them back to swimming strength before they are set free.
Getting a shot early in the fight calls for superior boatmanship and a very experienced crew. This is dangerous work and I would advise anyone without great confidence in all the team on board to wait patiently for a good and more docile chance at a capture or release. After the first blazing run of a blue, the fish can be approached with some degree of safety. Keep a good angle on the line and when necessary keep the boat going forward so as to keep the fish swimming. With good pressure on the line they will come up relatively easily. This is the time when a blue will shows its real colours. When you are about to bring the fish alongside and think you have it made – watch out! They have a horrible habit of tacking suddenly to the opposite side they are laying on. Squirting the boat fast ahead is the best way to keep out of trouble. This manoeuvre by the fish quite often results in a small circle. Just let her go and don’t back up. She is going to return to the same position or just go down a bit. Don’t worry – she’s coming back. Maintain your direction and don’t take your eyes off the fish for a second. At this point, I have watched so many boats run over the fish. I cannot impress on you enough how unpredictable these blues can be. Make absolutely sure the entire crew understands they should let the fish go if this should happen. There is no way you can stop 1000 pounds of blue marlin going the other way! Something is going to break – or the crew-member will get ripped into the water with the fish. Over the past two decades several crew have been pulled overboard and drowned. I suspect the situation just described had caught them unawares. Remember: this is a dangerous business when you are not tuned-in to what is going on – or is likely to happen.
Battling Blue Granders
When they do this side-to-side bit just hold them there behind the boat and hang on waiting for the chance to bring them alongside. Once secure, they seem to settle down quite well and a snooter can be slipped over their bill. Keep the boat slow ahead at all times until you are secure – perhaps out of gear for a brief moment to let the fish swim alongside. You will know when the time is right, but don’t take any chances and don’t be in a rush. I think the most important message is not to change direction – remain in control and do not allow the fish to take any advantage of any move that you might make in error.
This is now the time to take stock of the fish’s condition. Should it need reviving, are you ready? Have a good piece of half-inch poly floating rope ready with a spliced eye in one end. Throw a snooter over the bill by passing the end of the rope through the spliced eye. Come tight on the bill and maybe take a hitch. The skipper should move the boat slow ahead with one engine while the crew let the fish back 10 metres or so and hold the line taut after a turn around the cleat. After a while the fish will revive, but may take up to 20 minutes or more. It is a wonderful feeling to see one of these puffed-out fish swim up to the boat with all of their colour back and then swim off to feed and fight another day. I always say, “See you next year, fish”. In this late stage of the proceedings it is highly unlikely that the fish is going to jump. In fact, I think you can be sure it is not going to jump – unlike its black
counterpart again. My opinion is that blues fight more like a tuna after the antics are over, in so much as they want to dig and stay down, and then lead like a tuna. Foul-hooked fish are another story and can only be dealt with on a case-by-case assessment.
An effective and safe way to revive a marlin is by using a snooter or a bill rope to slowly tow it while it regains its strength.
THE WIND-ON SYSTEM
The leader I like using is the standard wind-on setup with 650lb mono – attached via a loop-to-loop connection to a one-metre-long double. The leader tip with the lure is three metres long and connects to the swivel at the end of the wind-on with a shackle. This set-up has a lot to recommend it. The other outfits can be wound up with the swivel at the rod tip, and the lure left in the water while the rest are dealt with. The lures should be in the water where they cannot hurt anyone, but short enough not to get in the wheels. Then, in orderly fashion, the outfits can be cleared while the captain and angler are getting on with the hooked-up fish. The other big advantage of fighting a fish on this setup is that when the angler’s swivel eventually comes to the rod tip, the fish will be right there within reach of the tag pole, snooter, dehooker or gaff. In a lot of ways this eliminates the need for a second crewman who would otherwise have to wrestle with a 30-foot leader and carry on with all the cowboy antics and heroics. With the wind-on system, the angler is able to wind the fish right to the side of the boat, but can also be aided with open-hand assistance on the leader, without the need for the crew to take wraps until right at the end.
“The anticipation of seeing one of those huge marlin never ceases to inspire me.”
Lure Lore – Part 14
Lure Lore – Part 14
illusion To the uninitiated, fishermen’s obsession with lures must appear as some sort of fetish – the shiny, dangly things that bring you fish. But of course we know that lures are imbued with magic, the magic of illusion, as they fool a predator into becoming prey. Author: Jim Rizzuto
Photography: Jim Rizzuto; antonio amaral
Lure Lore – Part 14
he near-surgical removal of a lure’s skirt on an odd double strike many years ago has influenced my thoughts on skirting and rigging trolling lures ever since. The first strike churned up a blast of whitewater and yanked the rod tip down, but the reel didn’t scream, snap your fingers and the fish was gone. Hoping it might return, we kept the lure running in position without reeling it in for inspection. We then forgot it for a half-hour or so – until it received a second strike. This time, the hooks found a solid hold, and we eventually reeled in a blue marlin attached to a puzzling discovery. The tail of the lure, made from strips of sheet-vinyl, had been cleanly and completely sheared off right behind the head, as though it had been hacked by a machete. The puzzle is that marlin don’t have the teeth to do that, so what did? The answer is a wahoo; these high-speed, razorjawed attackers have taken out more skirt than Errol Flynn. The first strike must have been a wahoo that did not get hooked, despite the very committed nature of its strike. And the second strike was obviously a marlin that didn’t care at all that the lure was all head with no tail except a trail of dangling hooks. When I tell this story to other fishermen I hear muttered echoes of one aspect or another. Like the year the Kona coast swarmed with huge schools of five-inch-long filefish and the big yellowfin had gotten so lazy from gorging on the easy fodder that they couldn’t be bothered to hit trolled lures. You could troll any standard skirted lure and two-hook rig all day with no action. One fishing friend fooled them by removing the skirt from a five-inch-long trolling head in matchthe-hatch colours of yellow and green, rigged it with a single hook, and trolled it slowly through schools of rolling tuna. It wasn’t the perfect solution, but he caught fish on his unskirted head when others didn’t. Apart from this rather unique situation, it would be extremely rare for anyone to remove the skirt intentionally, but when the bite is on we sometimes experience strikes on lures with skirts shredded down to the last few strips. These and similar experiences have made me a minimalist when it comes to skirting and a maximalist in matters of rigging. And I am definitely not the only one.
My great friend, the late Capt Zander Budge, schooled me early in the idea that a lure skirt was intended to be an illusion. The best skirts create a full-figured look with only an empty envelope to hide the rigging and hooks. The minimalist approach puts the head of the lure in control of the action, reduces the drag caused by the tail and minimises the chance of having tail strands get between the hook points and the striking fish. Recently, I heard a luremaker ask some of his colleagues whether they prefer lures with two skirts or three. For many of Kona’s most successful fishermen, the correct answer would be one-and-a-half. That would be a skirt cut from Naugahyde sheet-vinyl (in sparkle colours, of course) with a half-dozen strands
“When you add too much skirting to a lure, you can find yourself dragging a lifeless mop.”
of multi-coloured Newell strips underneath. When you add too much skirting to a lure, you can find yourself dragging a lifeless mop. Look back into big-game fishing history and you’ll see that the early trolling lures were skirted with wingshaped overskirts cut out of sheet-vinyl. The pennantlike ‘wings’ created bait-shaped bodies as they tapered to tips that stayed clear of the hook points. A rubberstrip underskirt shorter than the tapered wings ended ahead of any point where it would interfere with the hooks, but gave the illusion of a meaty body. Capt Scott Crampton, a highly regarded Kona luremaker, captain and crewman from the early days to today, remembers the wing-cut material as both effective and economical, because you could skirt two lures with the same amount of material that you would otherwise use to make a hula skirt. The cost would be very small these days, but makes a big statement about skirt bulk. Like most of Kona’s old-time captains, Scott stays with the Naugahyde-over and Newellunder, even with the hula-style skirts, because the stiffer material avoids tangling in the hooks. “You are just going for flashes of colour and not a bunch of crap that gets tangled on the hooks!” Scott explained. Capt Jack Ross, another old-timer who has fished Kona since the 1960s, remembers that a lot of the very active lures popular back then wouldn’t troll correctly with anything but the wing-cut panels. That’s worth noting in case you have a lure that isn’t acting the way you would like it to – maybe it’s overskirted? The only way to know for sure is to start at the minimal end of the skirting scale, so let’s get specific, and take the following as successful suggestions to be modified for your own needs.
Kona’s most popular skirt for big heads is light vinyl cut into strips, bound tight and flat with minimal bulging over a dozen strands of Newell material. Both materials help to minimise the skirt tangling with the hooks.
Vintage lures were often skirted with ‘wings’ and strips of shredded plastic sheet material – and they really worked!
LENGTH, THICKNESS AND BULK
The skirt should be long enough to disguise the length of the hook rig, but end just in front of the point of the rear hook, and take note – the eye of the rear hook must be inside the skirt to qualify for IGFA records and tournaments conducted according to IGFA rules. When skirt material is too thin and too flexible, it tangles and snarls around the hooks, especially at higher trolling speeds. Some snarling can be avoided by placing hooks either well forward in the skirt or out past the tips of the skirt. Thicker sheet materials like Naugahyde avoid most tangles, but may be too bulky for bullet-nosed lures. When skirting lures, remember that less skirt usually means more lure action. Capt Darrin Auger, skipper of Nemesis off Kaui, told me about a time when
Lure Lore – Part 14
Skirt bulges may be inevitable if you reverse and tie squids on smaller lures. To avoid bulges, you may have to skirt by cutting and gluing the squids. Depending on sea conditions and head shape, however, getting a smooth skirt attachment may not matter much, especially with single skirts, as on these Rizzuto lures.
“When skirting lures, remember that less skirt usually means more lure action.”
This Jim Rizzuto lure head has twin collars at the rear for attaching two lure skirts. Each is reverse-tapered and slimmer than the diameter of the lure’s head, which enables a more secure and more streamlined skirt attachment, maintaining a smooth water-flow around the head. It also allows a larger-diameter head with a slimmer skirt, which helps by not obstructing the hook point when the lure is taken.
he set out a bullet lure skirted with vinyl-sheet strips on a boat off Kona and was criticised by the skipper because, “You don’t put vinyl on bullets”. Darrin did it anyway and hooked a marlin half-an-hour later. But despite this exception, Darrin is the first to agree the lighter skirting of squids gives a more desirable action.
When using ready-made, octopusstyle skirts the taper is already built into the tips of the tentacles. The result is a skirt that flutters and ripples as it trolls. Fish love that action, or so I have been told by other fishermen – and you know how much faith to put in a fisherman’s word. Even with cut-sheet skirts, I see a lot of fishermen who taper their strips as they cut them, or later cut pointed ends on the individual strips. Whether the pointed ends really help or not, these tapered or pointed tentacles catch fish and I don’t argue with success. Either way, they do help to reduce the amount of material that might get in the way of the hook points and that makes them worth doing.
HEADS AND TAILS
The tail stock – the part to which the skirts are bound or glued – is unseen, but can have a very visible effect on the look and action of the lure. If the skirt is tied so that it bulges out more than the diameter of the lure head, the protrusion definitely affects the lure’s action because it increases drag. Most lure heads are designed to generate a particular action while the skirt’s job is to follow through and carry out the effect. A well-crafted lure allows the skirt to make a smooth and continuous transition. And if the skirts are attached sloppily enough to make the lure lopsided, it can prevent the lure from ever swimming true – so it’s best to avoid bulges and bumps altogether. These days lure designers are crafting their lures with a generous tailstock indented with two or even three deep ridges on a long extension. The extra length makes it easier for us, the fumble-fingered, to tie on tails, but may slow down the action enough to make a fish-attracting difference. At one point in history, luremakers built their heads with a ridge on one very short tail piece to which you tied both the over- and underskirt. This allowed the head to work more easily with less tail drag, and repositioned the lead hook that much closer to the front of the lure for a better striking position. In fact, moving the hook forward was considered so important that luremakers opened a larger leader hole at the rear of the head to accept the crimped sleeve.
HOOK SELECTION AND ORIENTATION
I recently discussed the advantages of single-hook rigs over tandem-hook rigs with an Atlantic Ocean billfisherman who was not buying the argument. He said he would rig with three hooks if the rules allowed it. The reality is that you can be as effective with one hook as with two, and as ineffective with three or four. Single-hook rigs are easier to unhook for tag-andrelease and less dangerous for the crew. They tend to generate outside-in hook-ups with the hook going through the outer plate and anchoring solidly, and they help rudder the lure if the leader is pinned, to help keep the hook upright and following the nose. For two-hook tandem rigs, the front hook should be as far forward as possible, even if that means drilling into the rear of the lure to accept the sleeve. A good rule of thumb for the size of the hook is to match the gape to the diameter of the head. That way the point will always ride clear of the skirt. The tail hook should be a smaller, ‘Southern & Tuna’ turned-in-point style, as the shape and small size provide some chance of holding a billfish that gets snagged on the hooter. Make sure the barb is sharp enough to jam into the bill. I like to set them at 90 degrees and pin them with a toothpick jammed into the back of the leader hole so the front hook (riding point upwards) follows the nose of the lure. In any fishing season we hear tales of hooks that opened or broke and released the fish. That includes most brands and styles. Your first hook-choosing criteria is to make sure they are strong enough to hold the fish you expect to catch on the line strength you will be using; the second is that they are light enough to let the lure be itself so it can attract the fish you hope to hook. Whatever you think of these suggestions, in truth, you are listening to the ravings of a guy who could troll a lure for a half-hour and not notice that its skirt was gone. But, remember, that guy caught a fish on it!
Smoke and Mirrors
Lure review by Matt Gross
‘Pineapple Express’ Lure reviewer Matt Gross was particularly excited by the prospect of a new Bonze lure to play with, but the Pineapple Express exceeded even his high expectations. It’s a versatile lure that resembles those subtle-swimming, long, slim baitfish, and it doubles as a successful high-speed lure too.
“You are actually buying another man’s saltwater wisdom in these lures.”
Every so often I’m sent lures that immediately get my heart beating faster, the kind that can claim the unoccupied place in your lure line-up, and makes you wonder why you haven’t used something like this before. That was my first impression after peeling the bubblewrap from around the Bonze Lures ‘Pineapple Express’. The profile of the Pineapple Express is best described as that of a garfish or saury. It is a long, skinny lure from the Signature series and measures out at 9.5 inches (240mm). On first glance there is an expectation that the lure is a hex-head in shape; however, when viewed from the front it is actually circular. This effect is due to the slight bulge in the head towards the rear that gently tapers off to the neck. One of the design features that must be noted is the four, small jets on the lure’s face. This is an outstanding effort given the small diameter of the cupped face – just 10mm. The paua shell inserts also make these lures some of the most attractive you will see, and it should also be noted that this is a heavy-for-its-size lure, quite deceptively so. I rigged the lure with twin 10/0 Gamakatsu SL12 hooks and a shackle rig. For those
unfamiliar with these hooks, a small strip of anode tape will protect the hook points from electrolysis and give years of service, rather than the usual day if they’re left off. While Capt Bonze recommends a leader weight of 150 to 300lb, I ran them with 80lb given I am only fishing 8kg line class. If you were to run these as high-speed lures, which they can certainly handle, then by all means consider heavier leader-sizes, stronger hooks and higher line-classes. With their long heads providing additional planing surface, the Pineapple Express is well-suited to the longer positions in your wake. We experimented with them on the short corner as part of the testing process and found that the heads did not have the grip necessary to hold the water in close. While they didn’t tumble or become airborne, they did seem to pivot on the fatter part of the head. However, as soon as we changed it out and pushed back a wave further, the transformation was sensational. The lure spent its time smoking-up a great little trail, and quite surprisingly pushed a solid little squirt of water forward when it breathed. The smoke trail is dense, and I think this is due in part to the four small jets in the head, but in addition, also to the gentle taper at the rear of the head combined with a long, skinny skirt. In combination
this creates a lure with a tighter action than a lure with a big face and narrower neck. You will need to get this lure going at a minimum of 5.5 knots, otherwise it starts to sink a bit and breathe inconsistently; at six knots you are starting to see the lure come to life. On the day that we tested the lure, 10 knots were no problem for the Pineapple Express, although you will need to use a single hook to stop the lure from spinning. At this speed it is also important to run it a fair way back, as this reduces the line angle as well as keeping it clear of the prop wash. Aside from really enjoying the light-tackle aspects of this lure, I have no doubt that big yellowfin and bluefin tuna would go crazy for the Pineapple Express. I intend running one this coming season on 24kg in the shotgun position while trolling for blue marlin. I am fast coming to the conclusion that Bonze Lures represent nothing but quality. They are designed by a captain who has fished the world’s oceans, and his experience is transferred into the product. And although these lures are not the cheapest on the market, you are buying a top-end product that has spent years in research and development. In fact, you are actually buying another man’s saltwater wisdom in these lures, and that comes at a price. The Pineapple Express is a great lure that will reward all who own one with plenty of bill marks and tooth scratches, to be worn with pride until the inevitable happens and a fish finally wins its freedom. I’ll miss mine when that day comes.