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Catching the uncatchable

November 14, 2019
Catching the uncatchable

For the last ten years I have made it my mission to learn everything I could about catching marlin on lures. It has been an amazing journey and my learnings are ever evolving.

In this article I will share a few tips on rigging lures and techniques for fighting fish, to hopefully help you catch an extra fish or two.

Before all else

It seems obvious but the most important thing is to make sure the hooks are sharp. It is lure fishing 101 yet so often overlooked. Hook sharpening is a skill that requires developing, practicing preseason will certainly help.

Right Files

To achieve razor sharp hooks it is essential to possess a good pair of files. The first file to acquire is a single cut bastard file. This is used to take the bulk off the hook, thinning down the barb and point.

The second file to get is a fine diamond-embedded file. This one is used to finish the job, polishing the hook down to a razor sharp point. Once the hooks are sharp this file can be used daily to keep the points sharp with fine and accurate polishing, allowing expensive game hooks last longer.

Rig types

In my experience the actual type of hook and rig is vitally important. I prefer a single closed gape hook with a loose swinging rig for the following reasons: a closed gape hook, rigged in a swinging style, will naturally pull itself further in when the point of the hook starts to bite. This setup is also more flexible and less likely to fail under stress.

The ability to catch a fish that is not properly hooked is the x-factor the best crews use to stay on top.

Getting in behind

Big game fishing with lures is a team game, where everybody has a part to play in achieving a capture. As the skipper it is important to focus on keeping the lure behind the fish the whole time. A fish swimming away from the boat with the leader pulling over its shoulder very rarely ever shakes the hook.

A game of chess

If you can focus on the angles and keep your head in the game with the aim of a successful capture, rather a picture of black smoking glory and locked-up drags, you will swing the odds in your favour.

There are a number of ways to do this. The first is do relax a bit about maintaining a tight line. With lure fishing slack line is your friend.

Slack line creates a belly in the water forcing the lure to trail naturally behind the fish. There may be no weight at the angler’s end yet the fish is still dragging the lure and line behind it, keeping the hook right where it needs to be.

The second thing is to avoid fishing straight up and down above the fish. In this scenario it is very easy to pull the hook straight off the bill as it changes direction. Of course, the angler has a big part to play, particularly with respect to correct drag management. The angler should apply just enough drag to gain the line. This will benefit the fight in
a few ways.

One, it will reduce the incidence of pulled hooks if they are fouled or in a soft spot. Secondly, it will help reduce gear failure during a rampaging first run. Remember, no matter how much drag you apply you’re not going to stop a green fish with the drag. It will also help by not turning the fish, especially if the fish is small and jumping.

A reduced drag may also change the behavior of the fish. I have found that with a light drag the fish will often stay up on the surface more and allow the skipper to chase the fish, keeping the lure behind it and a belly in the water.

Rampaging fish are best managed with light drags.

Exception to the rule

Using just enough drag to do the job is the recommended technique while a fish is on the surface. But when the fish decides to go deep the angler must react with some heat on the drag lever. As the fish starts to go down the skipper will not be able to chase it. A good skipper will want to maintain some angle for leverage.

An increase in pressure may be all that is needed to get the fish to come back to the surface. Once it’s back on the surface the angler can drop the drag back and the skipper can once again chase the fish.

This combination of angler drag management and skipper boat handling is a deadly weapon. You will be surprised how fast you can subdue a big fish using this technique. More importantly it will give you the best chance of catching a fish which is not properly hooked...


A career traveling the world's hottest spots has refined the author's skills to an expert level.

I hope these few tips help you out on the water this season. They have been vital to my increasing success over the past few seasons.

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