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The Gentle Art of Busting Newbies!


CATCHING gigantic fish far out to sea from a six-metre trailerboat is always challenging. With only two or three on board, it gets pretty busy when a big marlin jumps on and heads for the horizon. This past season I changed my tackle up to 37-kilo gear after being wiped out on stand-up 24 kilo outfits too many times by rampaging blue marlin.  Stand-up 37-kilo tackle isn’t that easy to fish. The gear is heavy to lift, the drag pressure is set at 10 kilos and hanging on to the rod alone presents challenges when a blue marlin grabs the lure and departs at high speed. The problem is that the least experienced person on board usually ends up taking the rod, as the skipper (usually me) has to do the driving and you need someone experienced to take the leader in hand when the fish gets close. The 2012 season saw some great battles where we broke both the anglers and the fish.

To fish stand-up 37kg tackle proficiently requires a certain amount of size and a reasonable degree of physical fitness. When the fish takes off it’s just a matter of hanging on. The belt and harness are fitted once we’ve cleared all the lines. If the fish stays connected after the first few minutes it will generally have jumped a lot, ripped off several hundred metres of line and usually will then go deep. This is where the hard work begins. From a small boat you don’t have the luxury of backing down or using professional game boat crews. It’s all about good boat driving and stamina from the angler. Some fish stay high in the water column, but the fact is that most blue marlin go deep. When the fight has settled down and the sea is flat, a blue marlin can tow a six-metre tinny along if you push the drag up to sunset pressure. One big fish took us over 14kms.

Getting strapped into a stand-up harness can be daunting for any angler, but for those only used to light tackle it’s like entering the Super League. When young Dan Hickey came out for the day late last season I don’t think he was quite ready for what was about to happen. We set the spread of lures, fitted the belt and harness for size and then continued trolling. Nothing much happened until blast off moment. If you keep the harness and Black Magic belt on, it can be a bit like waiting to go into bat. You may be padded up for hours or next ball you might be out there. On this particular day it took a few hours to find a fish, but when we did he tore off a heap of line in an explosive surface strike and went berserk on the surface. Batter up!

Dan was so excited his knees were trembling and we drove after the fish to avoid a spooling while my mate Aykut cleared the gear. Then the fish headed into the abyss, going deep and down current. This is the part of the fight where things get a bit hard. Driving off the fish can help to pull it up, but it is a game of attrition for both angler and fish. With words of encouragement like “the first two hours are the worst”, Dan settled into battle. I run the reels at around 10 kilos of drag on the button, and this makes the pressure at both ends of the line fairly tough in a long fight. I don’t think Dan spends a lot of time in the gym and he was sweating and clammy working a tough fish that was hard to break and refused to budge from the depths. I could see it on the sounder about 120m down. It was in cruise mode. Eventually Dan got the upper hand and did a good job getting a blue of about 150 kilos to the boat in a bit over an hour. I find a bit of coaching along the way definitely helps, particularly when it comes to using the swell to gain line, when to change to low gear and how to work short pumps to maximum effect. When we leadered the fish I had a very excited angler holding his first blue marlin by the bill and all the pain was forgotten.

The next fish a few days later was caught by my son, Michael. This was on a Makaira 80W on a Shimano straight butt 37-kilo stand up rod, a beast of an outfit that needs size and muscle to get the best out of. Mick has caught a lot of fish and slammed the marlin quickly. We had it at the boat and released in about 20 minutes. The one after that was a smaller blue around 120 kilos caught by Tom Ryan, his first on stand-up 37 kilo. Tom had very good technique and had the fish sorted in quick time. This fish had a three-kilo striped tuna jammed in its throat.

Following that, Dave Lawless came out and entered the fight club with a good fish that pulled the hooks after 30 minutes of sweat and toil. He didn’t have to wait long for No.2, which turned out to be another tough one. Dave’s pretty fit but hadn’t fished stand up 37-kilo before. The second fish went into the abyss and we were at a stalemate where the top shot, about a hundred metres long, joined the Dacron. The battle was one of attrition. At one point the fish was within about 30m, then it did a spectacular deep run of about 150m straight down. At the two-hour mark we finally broke the fish. There were only two on board that day, so I had the challenge of driving and leadering the fish. I never got a photo of that fish as I let go of it accidentally after getting the hooks out.

It’s a great thing helping anglers catch their first blue marlin, but entering the league of stand-up heavy tackle isn’t for the faint hearted. I reckon they should have marlin simulators in gyms with adjustable drags to practice on. Once you get good technique, it gets a whole lot easier.

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