Popping on a pittance


A tight budget didn’t stop the ever-thrifty DAN BODE from amassing quality gear for a budget GT popping adventure.

FINANCIAL retardation led me to reconsolidate my expenditure for a pre-booked jigging and popping jaunt to Fiji. As a kayak fisher with no GT popping experience, I needed a complete stable of single purpose gear that could turn the heads of GTs to 40kg while still leaving enough money to finance the trip itself. While travel companions spent over $15,000 on their respective popping related addictions, my immediate tackle buying resources had dwindled to a paltry $2000 gear budget, with virtually nothing held in the stockpile.

For this trip, my Fiji travel companions Ewan Macleod and Darren Cook meticulously accumulated some of the most bling-a-licious and ridiculously expensive GT popping and jigging products available today. Compared to their silky smooth Varivas braids, PR knotting tools and supple shock leaders connected to the schmickest Coral Vipers and Wild Violence rods, I was filling the shoes of Uncle Scrooge amidst a pair of Trumps.

When it came to gear selection, my travel companions were happy to separate the necessities from the “nice to haves”. Not only did they prioritise rod, reel, line and terminals, they were keen advocates of helping me source quality secondhand gear or mid priced items that were expected to fulfill whatever purpose was most reasonably achievable given my comparatively cash strapped situation.

My first reel choice focused on the newly released Okuma Salina II 16000 High Speed model. After testing the power gear Salina II 5000 on the kayak for the last 10 months, I was totally convinced that this higher capacity, high speed Salina II 16000 would perform flawlessly as my selected GT popping powerhouse. When crunch time neared, a very good mate offered me his vintage 2001 Stella 10000SW HG with a spare 16000 spool on a try (in Fiji) before I buy basis. Given my situation and the deal that ensued, the Stella option was a tight wad’s dream. From there my ageing Shimano Saragosa 18000 would act as the primary dogtooth jigging reel and double as a backup popping reel if the 10-year-old Stella and new Salina somehow got stitched up in the maelstrom.

When a superficially blemished Smith WRC Tokara 60 popping rod emerged locally, I was immediately compelled to open my wallet and give an Aussie tackle provider my hard won bucks. A tiny paint error didn’t constitute a compromise in rod strength and I was rewarded with one of the world’s most capable popping rods at a respectable price.

As we discovered in Fiji, popping rods are one product not worth skimping on.

Now that a hefty slice of my budget was eaten away, I scoured the bargain bins in tackle shops at every opportunity and located some 80lb Stren Microfuse and 100lb TufLineXP braid as well as scavenging a mixed selection of fluorocarbon and mono leader materials from 80-150lb. At the same time, I also collected a handful of value packed lures like Halco Haymakers and Williamson Jet Poppers, both of which maintain a proven history on Fiji’s Coral Coast.

The bare bones were pretty well covered but now I had to dig deep and source specialised terminals that could withstand the head boofing rigors of chunky GTs on the new rig and dogtooth tuna on the jig gear. This stuff is all purpose built, none of it is cheap but everything is mandatory. With just $600 left in the gear kitty I ended up with three boxes of Owner ST76TN 5/0 trebles, some 8/0 Owner inline singles, a few packs of size 9 and 10 Owner Hyperwire split and solid rings, some super strong swivels and 10/0 Shout assist hooks for my tag along jigging setup.

The tackle box was coming together nicely but I still needed some custom GT poppers, some “Ay Carambah” stickbaits and a couple of jigs. The idea behind only a dozen or so trebles and inlines was that I’d swap the hooks on one or two poppers and keep rotating until they were lost or taken.

As I discovered through one too many bad experiences, this treble swap method required the best and most expensive split ring pliers available to facilitate quick and easy changeovers on the water. Stupidly, I put all my trust in a cheap pair of crap pliers and found myself continually slipping off the split ring, stabbing myself with trebles and wasting way too much time re-rigging. Fortunately I never drew blood because my perfectly fitted $20 landscaping gloves from Bunnings offered awesome protection in every aspect of this popping and jigging foray and proved to be an equal match when compared to the $100 popping gloves worn by my mates.

With the trip closely looming and a bunch of lures and stickbaits desperately required, Darren and Ewan put me onto Brad Anderson from Weezel Lures in WA. He imports and distributes big tough hardwood GT poppers that swim similarly to the $150 Japanese and Taiwanese brand names but retail at completely affordable prices.

About a dozen poppers later, a couple of Nomad Ulau 150 lure swaps from Daz and Ewan’s premium collection and three Smith Baby Runboh stickbaits, I’d milked every last cent out of my total $2000 GT popping gear allocation budget and ended up with a completely functional and perfectly adequate GT popping system for the challenging South Pacific waters and beyond.

As a result, I’d compromised feel, sensitivity, paint jobs, lure actions, casting distance and personal fishing comfort for gear that wasn’t quite as flash but which did the job. There’s no doubt that my companions and their highly coveted bling were able to squeeze a lot more action out of their premium tools. Ultimately they achieved better casts with more fish fighting comfort for the amount of effort they put in. But was that worth the extra cash they had to outlay? It’s a matter of personal perspective, I guess.

Just knowing I was able to handle the fish and compete with equal hookup and landing ratios to the other guys came as a great relief when we finally got onto the GTs and dogtooth tuna in Fiji. That said, if I had the misfortune of being spooled or lost the best coloured poppers to GTs on the reef, my big fishing adventure could have ended as quickly as it began.

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