Story and Images by Steve Ryan
Cypress, CA (May 2, 2023) – Certain sounds register well beyond the human ear. They resonate deep inside our chest cavities and touch our very souls. They both excite and alarm us. Such sounds include the roar of a lion in the wild, the screeching of car brakes the moment before impact, the crack of lightning overhead, and the screaming drag of a DAIWA Saltiga 20000-size spinning reel, as a giant trevally engulfs your lure and races toward the nearby reef at 100 mph.
Of course, the Saltiga’s drag does not literally scream. Instead, the reel produces a loud, methodical, and melodic clicking noise as the spool spins smoothly against an impossibly tight drag. The excited angler is left to do the screaming.
Giant trevallies (or GTs as they are commonly known) seemingly have this effect on anglers. GTs instantly elevate excitement and anxiety levels to near manic heights. There is no easing into the fight with a big GT. As soon as the fish strikes the lure, it’s like riding a rollercoaster without a safety harness and the first 360-degree loop is fast approaching.
For some anglers, fishing is a relaxing, deeply reflective, and meditative activity. GT fishing is none of those things. Intense, strenuous, tedious, and painful more aptly describe the pursuit of this menacing adversary. In fact, the repetitive process of making long casts, nearly the length of a football field, with a deeply-cupped popper, weighing a third of a pound, and rigorously working the lure back to the boat in tropical heat is downright masochistic.
GTs are not a fish that you catch every cast, or every tenth cast or every hundredth cast for that matter. As with most large, apex predators, their population densities are low. You must actively hunt them and be prepared to put in your time for perhaps a shot at one or two fish day. When you do get ‘lucky’, you get both rewarded and punished.
The rewards of landing a large GT on a topwater popper are like nothing else in fishing. The strike is savage. For a moment, the laws of physics are seemingly suspended. The surface erupts as plumes of water rocket toward the sky. A crater is created where the popper once serenely rested on the water’s surface.
As gravity takes command of the spraying water, the remarkable power and speed of these muscle-bound fish becomes evident. The fish melts line off the reel with a drag set at 45 pounds of pressure. At this setting, you would be hard pressed to hold the rod in one hand and pull out a few inches of line with your free hand. And yet, these fish have the power to rip-off 50-plus-yards before the first bead of sweat drips from your tensed brow. At that moment, you second guess every element of your gear. Line, knots, leader, split rings, hooks – is there a weak link? Your physical and mental fortitude will be tested later in the battle, as these near unstoppable fish take joy in breaking equipment and hearts. Should the fish come exhausted to boatside for a few photos and a quick release, the elation of landing such a warrior of a fish makes all the effort and anxiety seem trivial. GTs are a true test of an angler’s skills and fortitude.
So, what exactly are these menacing fish? Where are they found, and what does it take to catch them? GTs are the largest member of the jack family. They can grow to a staggering 160-pounds, although a giant trevally over 100-pounds is a trophy in anyone’s book, and trevallies in the 30–60-pound range are more typical in most locations. These rulers of the reef have large mouths with crushing teeth inlaid amongst broad powerful jaws. They possess tall blunt foreheads and deep muscular torsos, complimented by long sickle-shaped pectoral fins and a massive tail for speed and power.
They are widely distributed throughout the Indian Ocean, as well as portions of the western and central Pacific Ocean. For American anglers, that means your search for GTs does not begin in California. Instead, you need to travel at least as far west as Hawaii to first encounter a GT. From there you could sample their range some 1500 miles further northwest at the US territories of the Midway Islands, then onwards to Japan for their northern range, south to Australia and finally, westward to the eastern coast of Africa.
Although GTs (known locally as Ulua in Hawaii) have cultural significance with Hawaiian anglers, they were traditionally targeted using fresh octopus or eels on slide bait rigs with extra heavy gear from rocky shoreline outcroppings. Modern sportfishing techniques for GTs have primarily been developed and refined by anglers in Japan and Australia. Today, GT fishing is dominated using powerful, yet responsive, rods in the 7’8” to 8’6” range. These rods are capable of casting and aggressively working 120–220-gram (4.25-7.75 oz.) poppers for maximum surface commotion and then exerting tremendous pressure on fish throughout the fight.
Spinning reels with remarkably tight tolerances and flawless drag systems are spooled with 300-450 yards of tightly woven polyethylene (PE) braided line, with a rating of PE 6-10 (90–130-pound test) and then joined to a 6-12’ leader of 150-250# monofilament leader for both shock absorption and wear resistance.
The Daiwa Saltiga 20000 is the pinnacle in reel engineering and design. It is the benchmark by which all other GT reels are judged. Boosting an astonishing drag system that smoothly applies up to 66 pounds of pressure on the spool (enough to dislodge arms from shoulder sockets or anglers from the boat deck), the Saltiga retrieves a generous 56.6” of line with each turn of the handle, weighs just over 31 oz. and is presented in Daiwa’s compact monocoque body design.
Poppers are cast toward the edge of coral reefs or channel edges. Play the tides and winds correctly to correspond with baitfish pods being tossed onto the apron of frothy white water that delineates the shallow edge of the reef. GTs and other reef fish streak across the flats between the crashing waves to scoop up their next meal. Should that include your popper, all the better. However, no stretch line, long casts, shallow water, sharp coral heads and large powerful fish make for extreme fishing. Only the strong survive and the weak are left humbled by the experience.
For Daiwa’s latest color catalog and/or information on Daiwa dealers in your area, call Daiwa’s Customer Service Department at 562-375-6800 or e-mail inquiries to: CSR@Daiwa.com. The URL for Daiwa’s web site is daiwa.us.
About Daiwa Corporation
Daiwa’s first spinning reel rolled off the assembly line in 1955. Since then, the company has grown into one of the largest and most influential tackle companies in the world today. To handle sales and distribution in the United States, Daiwa Corporation first opened its doors on September 26, 1966, operating from a small facility in Culver City, California. Today, based in Cypress, California, Daiwa Corporation sells tackle throughout the United States, Canada, Central and South America. From the very beginning, Daiwa’s emphasis has been upon innovation and quality. The result is a long list of product features, design and materials that have become standards for the fishing tackle industry. Daiwa’s long-standing record of innovation has left a visible mark on the majority of tackle manufactured today and continues to advance the sport of fishing. Learn more at daiwa.us