Offshore: Go Light To Increase Hook-Up - The Fisherman

Offshore: Go Light To Increase Hook-Up

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The author with a nice yellowfin that wasn’t spooked by 30-pound leader. “Broke off a bunch, but we kept what we could use and had an exciting day chunking while other boats watched,” he said.

Have you ever been next to a boat or angler that just seems to out-produce you so badly that it’s almost embarrassing? You try what they’re doing and even switch to a similar lure or bait, and still come up empty.

Often overlooked and almost always the culprit is your leader size. Very recent advancements in materials and technology have produced ultra-light lines with very thin diameters and high breaking strengths. Thin diameters are harder to see (won’t spook your prey) and literally disappear from view in the water. They are also limber and allow your jig, lure, or bait to appear more natural, with better action.

The rule of thumb is to use lighter leaders when fishing higher in the water column and when the sun is bright. Going lighter will increase your hook-up ratio, but you may lose more fish too. Which is better than not hooking up at all. The adage “stop them or pop them” applies here.  Better to hook up and have fish break off mid-fight, than to not hook up at all.

Advancements have also occurred in terminal tackle as well. The materials used to make hooks are lighter, thinner, laser-sharp, and stronger than ever. This allows for smaller hooks to be used which is a huge benefit for chunking and live lining. When chunking the smaller and lighter hooks allow that bait to drift back seamlessly with the hook easily concealed. Live baits will be less stressed allowing them to remain hardy and frisky for hours. A pre-rigged hook with a welded ring will give the bait more freedom to swim and act naturally. The welded ring is also a better contact point for tying off as it’s a little beefier than the hook eye.

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It’s important to have an ample supply of varied-size leader, hooks and terminal tackle on the offshore grounds. “I also recommend pre-tying and labeling chunking rigs ahead of time,” the author advised.

When scaling down you must employ strategies that will help increase your odds of successfully landing a hooked fish as the fight becomes a tense game of give and take. After the initial hook up the drag must be backed off. To accomplish this, testing and knowing your drag settings beforehand is essential. Marking the reel with tape where the desired fight drag setting is will take the guess work out of the equation. When using spinning gear, cup the spool to keep a fish from turning away and gaining an advantage. But do so carefully; the added drag can pop the fish off. This is a technique that can only be mastered with practice.

With a lighter leader and terminal gear, you will need to adjust your technique for catching and leadering your fish as well. Thin braided lines can be tricky to work with; tangles are a disaster and can be impossible to undo. When possible, cut the tangle off and re tie. The bite can shut off as fast as it started, so don’t waste time trying to save line. Having pre-tied rigs on hand will speed up the process.

When it comes to the end game, do not leader the fish hand over hand. You will break off almost every fish boat side. Instead use a wind on systems and wind the fish into gaff range. As the fish gets close you should back off the drag even more. This may mean cupping the spool again, so get good at this technique. If the fish suddenly turns and sounds boat side and the drag is not set light enough all you will hear is zing and ping as the fish breaks the line. Gaffing is essential. You will not get a bunch of opportunities to swing and miss; wait for the gaff shot to present itself and only fire when your 100% sure you have a clean shot.

Make sure to check line, leader, terminal tackle and knots. If anything appears compromised cut and retie. Don’t take any chances, especially with big game fishing.

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