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June 27, 2014

How to Catch Big Fish from an Open Boat

Defeating big fish from open boats requires special tactics and teamwork

Tackling monster fish from an open boat — such as a center-console or walkaround — ranks as one of the most adrenaline-charged experiences in the angling world, putting you closer to the water and to big sharks, billfish, and tuna than you could ever get on a large sport-fisher.

 Open boats (which usually have outboard power) are also more nimble, and many models allow for great angler mobility, especially when using stand-up tackle.

Of course, smaller boats also come with disadvantages. Unless you’re in one of today’s supersize open-fishermen, you can’t deal as well with heavy seas.

Learning what it takes to defeat behemoths from an open boat requires experience, according to Ben Secrest, national sales manager for Accurate Fishing Products. Not all of such experiences are good. “I have spent years learning to effectively fight big fish from relatively small boats,” he says. “You learn from your mistakes, as well as your victories.”

Secrest’s victories are notable in the saltwater-angling community. He has landed big fish around the world. In Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, he has battled massive yellowfin tuna. On his home grounds off Southern California, he has landed thresher sharks as large as 300 pounds and swordfish as heavy as 116 pounds from center-consoles as small as 20 feet in length.

For a jump-start in the learning process, we talked with Secrest and other captains who regularly challenge huge fish from open boats, and created this 10-point battle plan.