Against All Odds

Beating Big Fish On Light Tackle

FSF Staff January 26, 2013

For whatever reason, targeting the ocean’s most formidable predators on tackle nowhere near suitable for the job is incredibly intriguing. Subduing predators that weigh upwards of 10 times your chosen line class is no easy task and can be highly detrimental to both combatants. However, anglers with the appropriate instruction, tackle, leader construction and captain can accomplish some truly great feats on diminutive tackle and gear.

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Photo: Captain Russell Kleppinger

It’s important to note that light tackle doesn’t have a place in every angling scenario, as with some species and techniques it’s simply foolish to fish with inadequate equipment. When fight times are extended game fish can suffer so it’s important anglers are stewards of the sea and respect the game fish they seek. There is much more at stake here than just a cheap thrill. With that being said, there are times when light tackle provides a huge advantage. In areas with heavy fishing pressure and crystal clear water light tackle presentations can greatly increase your offering’s allure. In addition, light tackle casting outfits enable anglers to present smaller baits and lures, which are often required to elicit savage strikes.

With the odds already stacked against you there’s absolutely no room here for needless tackle failure, as any weak link will certainly be exploited.

You may not be fond of intense battles, but even if you’re out fun fishing and hook a 100-pound tarpon on a trout rod it’s nice to know you have a fighting chance. Just remember that light tackle battles provide game fish with an upper hand and a much greater chance of avoiding capture, so it’s definitely not the most effective way to put together a large catch—it’s more gratifying than anything.

Whether your ultimate goal is to lament your name in history by way of an IGFA World Record or you are simply looking to finesse big fish to the surface, subduing large game on light tackle is incredibly exciting. If you’re attempting a world record you’ll want to select a line that’s IGFA-rated, but if you are out for sport your line’s actual breaking strength is irrelevant.

It’s obvious that your target species and approach will determine your rod and reel selection, although the common goal remains the same among tackle requirements. You need to apply as much pressure as possible without creating too much friction on the line. This is true regardless if you are fishing 2 lb. or 20 lb. test. Light rods with soft tips and flawless guides are essential, as is a compact, high capacity reel with a fast retrieve and silky smooth drag system. Furthermore, your knots and rigging techniques need to be absolutely perfect. With the odds already stacked against you there’s absolutely no room here for needless tackle failure, as any weak link will certainly be exploited.

Because of its shock absorbing characteristics, monofilament is the choice when spooling for enduring light tackle battles. Whether trolling or casting, you’ll want to rig baits and lures with thin wire hooks. Since you’ll be limited to the amount of drag you can apply, razor sharp thin gauge hooks offer greater penetration with the least amount of effort.

Due to the ultra light breaking strengths of hair-thin monofilament you’ll never be afforded the opportunity to horse fish or lock down the drag. Instead, you’ll have to make continual adjustments as you compensate for the actions of the competitor. In regards to fighting fish on light tackle, the most critical aspect is the bite. On the strike you’ll need to apply the most pressure to ensure the hook penetrates, while a blistering sprint requires you give the fish plenty of room to run. Hopefully it will expend a lot of energy on the initial run. Once you’re sure the hook has penetrated you want to fish a light drag setting and apply pressure as needed with your thumb, index finger or hand. Monofilament is your friend, but remember that the longer the battle the greater chance your trophy has of escaping. This is also where an experienced helmsman enters the equation. The captain can make or break the deal so it is essential you work as a team and keep a clear line of communication.

If you choose to play by IGFA rules, with line classes up to and including 20 lb. test, the combined length of your double line and leader cannot exceed 20 feet. There is no limit on the breaking strength of the leader you can select. If you are going to be in a casting scenario you want to keep your leader short, maybe a 24-inch double line and 5-foot leader, but if you’re trolling you should maximize your leader length so when a fish comes to the boat you can apply increased pressure once the heavier line is on the spool. Whether casting or trolling, a double line is an essential starting point that provides necessary shock absorption for light tackle battles.

While you may choose to battle game fish on light tackle, unless you are extremely determined you’ll probably only attempt to withstand the pain, endurance and defeat on certain occasions or when a particular size or species of game fish comes within range. For your first attempt try tossing live bait on 4 lb. line to a frenzied mix of bonito or jack crevalle. After the immediate zing-pow, think about those who have persevered epic battles and the determination required to emerge victorious. Because it’s no fun getting skunked every time you hit the water you’ll want to have a few light tackle outfits rigged and ready to go in addition to more suitable gear and equipment. As you gain confidence in your rigging techniques and fish fighting abilities you will start to feel more comfortable waving a wimpy stick. Few anglers have the patience to fish light tackle on a regular basis, but those who have the determination to withstand repeated defeated will eventually come out on top. Good luck!

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