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Rigging For heavy tackle sportfishing

THE onset of summer weather brings nutrient rich and warm waters down our coast each year. These cobalt blue currents come to life with all manner of pelagic and predatory species that offer exceptional sport and grow to frightening proportions. Heavy tackle used to be a cumbersome affair with large bulky overhead reels, thick graphite or composite rods and tackle that was both functionally and ergonomically challenging. The term heavy is now relative with smaller outfits more than capable of fishing lines and drag pressures that were once the realm of game fishing reels and offshore cruisers. Fishing heavier tackle requires specialist tackle and rigging with a few key considerations noted below.

Main line considerations

The options for main lines are either monofilament or fluorocarbon lines versus a braided or fused line. The advantages of monofilament style lines are that they typically have better abrasion resistance characteristics and introduce some degree of stretch into the equation which improves hook retention by cushioning and sudden jolt transmitted through the line however they are thicker and more cumbersome to manage. Braided line on the other hand is much thinner in diameter and offers exceptional transmission of feel and power due to it is near zero stretch however it does not withstand abrasion well and the lack of stretch and dislodge hooks during an erratic fight. For trolling or live baiting, the compromise is to have most of the reel filled with braided line and the last 10 or 20 percent of the reel’s capacity spooled with mono. If you are casting for larger fish like tuna, kingfish or giant trevally then you will want to spool the entire reel with braid and have a rod length of mono or fluorocarbon leader. The ideal braid to monofilament connection is with an FG knot or a PR knot. You can also use a bimini twist to create a double leader and large loop in the braid then create a loop in the mono using a plait. You then join both using a loop-to-loop connection.

Terminal tackle requirements

An outfit and rig is only as strong as the weakest link so it is of utmost importance to use quality componentry and reputable brands for your terminal tackle when fishing heavier drags settings and line classes. Hooks, swivels and split rings need to be robust and able to manage bouts of momentary intense pressure as a fish lunges or spool is locked to turn an unruly opponent. There is a tradeoff between strength and balance in your rig; a heavy wire hook will not straighten but may cause a floating lure to sink or otherwise stifle a live bait or lure so it pays experiment or to ask your local tackle shop on matching the terminal tackle to the style of fishing you are planning. Rigging lures with assist hooks is quite effective as they help optimise hook up rates along with hook retention. An assist rig allows the hook to swing freely and clear of the lure body, allowing for a hook that is well exposed. Being free swinging also minimizes the chances of the hook levering against the lure during the torrid battle and significantly improving hook retention. If using live baits, circle hooks will result in fewer fish hooked in the gills or stomach with the recurved hook point usually pinning the fish in the corner of the jaw. Once locked into the corner of the jaw you can exert immense pressure without too much concern of the hook pulling of working free.

Terminal connections

Once leaders get to a thickness, they become difficult to tie knots in when connecting to terminal tackle. For many brands of leader this is at a breaking strain of 120-150lbs as the stiffness and thickness in the leader make it difficult for the knot to bed down. For anything lighter than 120lb I use a uni knot with four turns being optimal in most cases. For heavier leaders, use aluminum crimps ensuring that you do not crimp too close to the edge so the crimp can flare out. If using long crimps, I crimp one end then turn the crimp upside down 180 degrees and crimp the centre then turn it back and crimp the end. Sometimes crimping in the same plane will cause the crimp to bend slightly so turning the crimp over helps to realign and maintain straightness.

Fighting aids

Heavy drag setting and extended battles can fatigue an angler so comfort it paramount. Fighting belts were once a necessity and still a staple of heavy tackle fishing however lighter models are now available as are several alternatives that might be better suited to the gear being used. Hi density foam gimbal cushions that slip over the butt of the rod or smaller gimbal pads are less intrusive and effective ways to protect your body from the point pressure of a rod butt under load. If fishing for gamefish or species where the battle might be protracted, a harness is another valuable accessory. If using spin gear or an outfit without harness lugs, you can buy a harness clip which comprises a short length of webbing with a stainless loop on either end that you can wrap around the base of the foregrip and clip onto a harness. The final accessory that is a must is a decent paid of gloves. Repetitive casting with heavy braid will often rip the skin off waterlogged fingers and during an erratic and torrid battle. Gloves also protect the hands during a torrid and erratic fight and offer greater grip for wet hands; they’re the first thing I reach for fishing heavy tackle! 

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