Formulate a game plan and start catching bigger fish.
Depending on where you’re at in your fishing career, you’ll likely have a different set of goals. When most of us first wet a line as kids, simply catching sometime big enough to keep was a worthy ambition.
For those of us that stick with fishing, as we grow a little older and more experienced, the goal posts tend to move.
Wanting to catch bigger fish that fight harder is a natural progression. Learning to snap a decent photo of your catch at some stage is a big help when it comes to bragging rights. And of course it’s always a nice bonus to bring home some quality table fish from time to time.
Sometimes the goal is just to land a certain species by any means possible. Other times it only counts if you hook a species in a specific way, using particular tackle.
Most of us have met guys over the years that take fishing very seriously. Some even seem to look at it as their primary calling in life and spend decades ticking off their angling goals.
On the other side of the spectrum, plenty of blokes enjoy wetting a line from time to time but treat it very casually. Something to do while enjoying a beer on the beach or out in the tinnie. An excuse to get out of the house.
Wherever you fall on the spectrum, one thing that can be agreed upon is that we’d all like to hook more, better and bigger fish. To land more of the fish that we do hook, and to make the most of the opportunities we’re presented with.
ATTENTION TO DETAIL
Probably the biggest difference between the bloke who’s consistently catching good fish and ticking off angling milestones and the bloke who seems to live in a cloud of bad luck and missed opportunities is attention to detail.
Paying attention to the big things, like when and where to fish, and what species to target. And also to the little things, like whether to go up or down a hook size, whether to double or triple check your knots and leaders between fish.
The quality of the tackle we’re using has improved so much in recent years that we’re afforded a bit of wiggle room when targeting smaller species.
It wasn’t that long ago when targeting fish like whiting, bream, trout or bass, that it was necessary to use the lightest gauge gear possible in order to elicit strikes.
These days, rods, reels, line and terminal tackle are such that we can go up a line class or two and still hook plenty of fish. It’s still necessary, though, to make sure you get the basics right, all of the time.
IF YOU CAN’T TIE KNOTS…
Using the best leader for the situation is vital, and tying perfect knots is one of the simplest ways that you can improve your strike to landed fish ratio.
Losing a quality fish to a dodgy knot is a crushing blow and an avoidable mistake that is going to sting for a while.
I’ve dropped my fair share of good fish due to failed knots, but it’s a mistake I try to leave in the past.
It’s only necessary to know how to tie a handful of knots for most anglers to cover the majority of situations, just make sure that you tie them perfectly and check them regularly.
A solid uni knot is all a beginner fisho needs to know how to tie to start catching fish, and more experienced anglers can add the albright, double uni, slim beauty, Lefty’s loop and FG knots to their repertoire for fantastic results.
Once you want to start getting serious about specialised techniques, it might be time to learn how to tie bimini twists, plaited doubles and PR knots. Geoff Wilson’s Complete Book of Fishing Knots & Rigs is a great print resource, but there’s no shortage of YouTube tutorials that can guide you towards tying perfect knots every time.
CLOSING THE DEAL
If I had a dollar for every good fish I’ve seen lost at the boat or rocks, just prior to landing, I dunno… Maybe I’d have enough to pay for a professional gaffman to eliminate the problem of dropped fish.
Knowing the limits of the gear that you’re using is vital to closing the deal and landing fish at the crucial end of the fight.
If the estimated weight of the fish you’re fighting is less than the breaking strain of your line and leader, you can roll the dice with an attempt to deadlift the fish out of the water, hoping that every component of your rig holds up until the fish is flapping at your feet.
A better choice is to carry a landing net or gaff, and be ready to use it. Landing nets are best suited for small to medium sized fish up to a few kilos kilos in weight.
When attempting to use a net to land your fish, you want to play it out until it’s on the surface and fairly tired and can be guided head first into the net. If you attempt to net a fish tail first, it’s liable to spook and go on another run away from the net.
A gaff is a much better option for landing large pelagic species, or any fish weighing over about five kilos that you intend to keep. It’s important to make sure that your gaff point is sharpened and you’ve removed the end cap prior to use.
The gaffman should make a single, decisive gaff shot once the fish it beaten and on the surface. A perfect gaff shot should pin the fish somewhere around the head or shoulders.
Short handled gaffs around a metre long work well when fishing from a boat, whereas longer four to five metre gaffs are the norm when fishing from elevated rock platforms.
Obviously, pinning a fish with a gaff shot is usually lethal, so you should only gaff legal sized fish that you intend to kill and eat.
A little bit of forethought and planning goes a long way when it comes to catching bigger, better fish. Planning ahead, paying attention to detail and focusing on closing the deal on each hook up will see you catching more and better fish before you know it.