I cannot tell you how much I enjoy flying over from the United Kingdom to visit and fish in the United States. Your tarpon have put me on my knees after smashing me to pieces on those road bridges in the Keys, and I think I have a potentially serious striper addiction starting to take hold. You have some of the best fishing on earth, but apart from Hawaii you don’t have the craziest of the crazy. A fish so horribly aggressive and powerful with such insane levels of adrenaline that you can sometimes be left wondering if you really want to make another cast.
Instinctively I snap the bail back, turn to look at the shallow reefs, and launch a huge popper out there. Yes, my hopes and dreams are to connect with a mean giant trevally, but I must say there is a tiny bit of me that hopes I don’t get hit. Upon ripping it along the surface something decidedly nasty-looking suddenly lunges at my popper but misses. My heart is in overload, but I keep working the lure. Outwardly, I might have looked relatively calm, but inside I was a total mess. The fish charges back a second time and smashes the lure with a ferocious eruption. My drag is set so tight I can hardly pull an inch of line by hand, yet the raged fish melts line from the spool at will.
GTs don’t take lures, flies or baits. They smash them with a ferocity rarely seen in any predator—and then they destroy you. They break you down…
GTs fight down and dirty until they either break you off on structure, or you break its will and physically manhandle it to the boat. It’s the kind of intense fishing that does not give you time to reflect and appreciate until you are sitting exhausted on the deck wondering what on earth just happened. This is giant trevally fishing, and this is insane!
GTs don’t take lures, flies or baits. They smash them with a ferocity rarely seen in any predator—and then they destroy you. They break you down piece by piece. Physically at first and then mentally. Because they are so aggressive, GTs can be caught deep-jigging, fly-fishing, live baiting, and of course with surface poppers.
Popping for GTs has really exploded in popularity. Partly because more and more serious GT destinations are opening up, and partly because today’s super tackle is leaning the odds in our favor. You see, if these fish enjoyed cruising open water then the challenges we face would not be so severe. However, since big GTs prefer to haunt reefs, drop offs, rocky channels and surf zones throughout large parts of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, plus the fact that they fight until the bitter end, and the need for bombproof tackle that can overcome these obstacles becomes vital. I have spent a lot of time fly-fishing for GTs on the remote atolls of The Seychelles, but the only reason this is even remotely possible is because in the Seychelles GTs traverse the flats in relatively structure-free water. Put a fly guy and a big GT near a rocky reef and the bout is usually over before it even gets started.
If you want to fool big GTs on lures then you need to visit waters that are known to harbor the right habitat and quality numbers of big fish. In popping circles that means the Coral Sea, Andaman Islands off India, southern Oman, Mozambique, Madagascar and Tanzania, New Caledonia in the Pacific, The Seychelles and some of the more inaccessible Japanese islands. And by big we are talking about monsters exceeding 60 pounds. The ultimate dream is always a 100-pound behemoth and at most of the aforementioned destinations, besting such a beast is a real possibility.
Fishing surface poppers for GTs is very involved. You will be constantly heaving heavy lures as far as possible to cover lots of water. It gets tiring, believe me, and it gets even more so if the fish are really on the feed. Thankfully, the latest rods built specifically for GT fishing really are something, but it is not until you attempt to slam the breaks on a rampaging fish that you really appreciate what this sort of specialized tackle is capable of. The right popper could easily weigh 6 oz. or more, which is a lot to cast and work repeatedly. Rods are generally 7 ½ to 9-feet and for the most part they are coming out of Japan. While Daiwa and Shimano both make GT rods, enthusiasts often lean toward specialized Japanese brands such as Ripple Fisher, Fisherman, Yamaga, Carpenter and Tenryu.
As with high speed vertical jigging, the most popular reels are the Shimano Stella and Daiwa Saltiga, with specialists sporting custom-made spools, handles and knobs to increase line capacity and drag pressure. If you want to beef up your reel check out Studio Ocean Mark (studio-oceanmark.com). Spooling with braid is the only option, with high-end Japanese 8-strand braids rated to 100 lb. test particularly popular. Bottom line is that you can expect to dish out over a grand for a top quality popping outfit.
There is a huge array of surface lures designed solely for GT fishing, including poppers, topwaters and subsurface lures. Working these big baits is all about rhythm and it seems that the more disturbance you can create, the more likely you are to get smashed. When selecting lures it is important to note that lesser quality fakes will end up mangled. For the most part serious GT anglers have moved away from treble hooks and rig with a mixture of assist hooks, single hooks and even two singles secured with a cable-tie or electrical tape.
While GTs have a wide ranging territory, ongoing piracy issues have for the meantime put a halt to many mothership-based operations around the ultra-remote atolls of Cosmoledo, Astove and Providence in the Seychelles. At the nearly remote Farquhar Atoll there is a land-based fishing operation run by the South African company FlyCastaway (flycastaway.com). There’s a landing strip, a basic guesthouse and a small population of locals. Even though FlyCastaway caters to fly-fishing aficionados, they are equally happy to put popping clients on the vicious GTs that prowl the outside reefs of this exotic destination. If battling the most intense jack on the planet amongst the most unforgiving structure is your thing…look no further, as crazy GTs are the fish for you.
GT Fishing Resources
Here you will find loads of information and a fantastic forum, with plenty of ideas on destinations, tackle, rigging, etc. You will see lots of talk about places like Oman, the Coral Sea and New Caledonia.
This US-based shop and online fishing tackle store specializes in importing hard-to-find JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) fishing gear.