Tips to help you catch more fish and better rig your boat
Updated: May 1, 2015
Capt. Roger Burge, Colonel’s Island, Georgia The Approach: Begin the day filling the livewell with large live menhaden, and then half a five-gallon bucket with dead ones. Fish with the liveys, and chum with the dead pogies. Due to large tides (6 to 9 feet), everything after catching bait depends on the stage of the tide. Sight-fish on the last of the incoming and first half of the outgoing, especially when throwing artificial lures. Other tidal phases utilize live bait, either drifting or on anchor. “I fish four baits: two under floats, one free-lined, and one with a 12-ounce lead,” Burge says. “I prefer to fish pods of fish that are not actively foraging.” Tackle Up: Burge prefers 8-foot rods, in both spinning and conventional tackle. On the conventional setups, use 30-pound mono and 40-pound braid with the spinning gear. Top bait is the largest live menhaden in the well. For lure color, Burge is a big fan of chartreuse. Worthy Catch: Little fishing pressure and fish happy to bite mean Burge has the opportunity to hook plenty of tarpon. Numbers aside, his biggest catch was 180 pounds. See the entire gallery of tips for reeling in the silver king. Photo by Doug Olander
Most wire-leader companies offer shiny or bright, black or brown, or camo color options. Different fishermen have their own personal preferences. “Black is a popular color because anglers say it vanishes in the water,” says Keith Kessler, of Knot 2 Kinky leaders. Camo finishes are also said to succumb to the same disappearing act. Capt. Dave Kostyo uses a coffee or bronze color, not silver. “I don’t want any sun reflection off the leader,” says Kostyo. “A fish will hit that leader instead of the bait.” Joe Marshall, of Malin, uses bright-colored leaders, but he alters them first with some elbow grease. “Baitfish have dark tops and silver sides to hide from prey,” he says, “so I knock the shine off my bright leaders with an emery cloth before rigging.” See the entire guide on wire leaders.
Trophy Seatrout Secret from Will Drost
NO RATTLING LURES A 10-pound trout didn’t get that big being reckless. I think these fish are smart and easily spooked. In this shallow water, I rarely use lures with rattles. I usually choose MirrOlure Floating Paul Brown lures. They were made for this type of fishing. I like bright colors in extremely clear conditions and dark colors in muddy water. I might add that I would rather have off-color water. When throwing -topwaters, I like MirrOlure She-Dogs. KEEP THE DRAG I use more drag than you would think — a 9-pound trout is no “weakfish.” They have very tough mouths. I like to be aggressive with the hook and won’t back off the drag until I know things are going my way. See the entire gallery of top secrets for trout, here. Photo by Will Drost
How to Rig Hollow-Core Wind-On Leaders
1) Cut a length of 8 to 12 feet of hollow-core braid. Mark Smith, owner of Charkbait, a California tackle retailer, inserts a latch needle into the braid about 8 inches shy of the middle, aiming the needle point toward the shorter length of braid. Continue the steps here.
Pro’s Pick: Top Tarpon Lures
Expert: Capt. Ed Zyak; Jensen Beach, Florida Weapon of Choice: Terror Eyz (regular size; “I have caught more tarpon on this lure than all others combined,” Zyak says.) **Color: **Root beer Fishing Conditions: The lure works great on the beach in clear water, as well as the stained waters of backcountry rivers. Technique: When using the Terror Eyz, Zyak typically casts to rolling fish — long, accurate casts are a must. Cast 4 to 6 feet in front of a rolling fish, and let the lure sink freely for a three- to four-second count, he says. Then use a steady, slow retrieve with no jigging movement at all. The bite is usually very light, but make sure to set the hook hard, says Zyak. Rigging: Zyak prefers a 5,000-size Shimano Stella spinning reel on a 7- or 7½ -foot, medium-heavy rod. He spools with 30-pound braid and 50-pound fluorocarbon leader. The line-to-line connection is a double uni-knot, and the Terror Eyz gets a loop knot at the eye. This setup gives the best balance of distance and accuracy, plus great drag and power from the rod, the guide says. See the rest of the Top Tarpon Lures, here.Jon Whittle
Time of Day: “We’ll pick at ’em all day long in the summer,” says Spoerle. Expect to average about three to five fish in one trip, ranging from 15 to 40 pounds. Where to Look: “These fish aren’t schooling like they do in the winter,” says Spoerle.” They’ll spread out with the warmer water.” Start looking at the mouth of the Port and follow the buoy line east. If that’s not happening, head north or south toward New Smyrna Beach or Fort Pierce respectively. Look for menhaden schools; catch a few baits and start slow-trolling them near the bait schools. **Baits: **Baits are easy to catch along the beaches in the summer. The top baits are menhaden. “We’ll castnet baits right along the beach in 12 feet of water,” says Spoerle. “Right away, we’ll toss some baits out near the schools. Usually, we’ll get bit somewhere between 20 and 50 feet of water. That’s the depth we’ll fish the rest of the day.” **Technique: **Top techniques are drift-fishing and slow-trolling. “Just make sure to troll fast enough to keep your lines tight,” warns Spoerle. “If the pogy swims forward of the leader, a kingfish hit misses the wire leader and slices right through the mono main line.” Get more tips on kingfish** here**.
Wood or Plastic Lures?
Wood and plastic plugs each offer unique characteristics. It’s up to the angler to decide exactly what he’s looking for in the lure, and in what scenario he wants to fish the lure. With plastic hard baits, expect to get consistent action straight out of the box, while the movement of a specific wooden lure model can differ slightly from plug to plug. Still, when a wooden plug is tuned properly, it’s tough to beat. Read the entire story, here. Photo Credit: Nick Honachefsky
If you plan to tow your boat, your dealer can set you up with a new boat trailer, but make sure it will suit your style of boating. For example, since you’re a saltwater angler, your trailer will get dunked in the brine, so avoid a painted steel trailer that will rust away in three years or less. Insist on an aluminum or galvanized steel trailer. These hold up much better in salt water. If you plan to use fairly shallow launch ramps, an all-roller trailer might be a good choice, especially for large boats that need to be winched onto the trailer. On launch ramps that are fairly steep, bunk trailers work just fine. Finally, make sure the trailer fits the boat well and is rated to carry the gross weight of the boat, fuel, water and gear, as well as the weight of the trailer itself. You will usually find the capacity plate on the trailer tongue. Read more boat tips here.
No Rattle, But Keep the Drag
No Rattling Lures: A 10-pound trout didn’t get that big being reckless. I think these fish are smart and easily spooked. In this shallow water, I rarely use lures with rattles. I usually choose MirrOlure Floating Paul Brown lures. They were made for this type of fishing. I like bright colors in extremely clear conditions and dark colors in muddy water. I might add that I would rather have off-color water. When throwing -topwaters, I like MirrOlure She-Dogs. Keep the Drag: I use more drag than you would think — a 9-pound trout is no “weakfish.” They have very tough mouths. I like to be aggressive with the hook and won’t back off the drag until I know things are going my way. Read the other secrets of reeling in trophy-sized trout.
Great depths call for a great amount of anchor line. For example, on Sport Fishing editor Jim Hendricks’ 22-foot center-console boat, with which he regularly anchors in depths of 200 feet, he carries 600 feet of ½-inch twisted nylon line plus chain (known collectively as rode). The deeper you anchor, the more rode you need. Of course, you’ll need a place to stow that much rode. If you find your anchor locker lacks sufficient room, carry the rode in a plastic tote or laundry basket you secure in the forward cockpit. Drill ½-inch holes in the bottom of the tote or basket to drain any water. Read more anchoring tips here.undefined
The Right Boat for Trophy Kings
You can catch king mackerel from just about any boat, but the most consistent winners show up with 23- to 45-foot center-console fishing machines from builders such as Contender, Everglades, Invincible, Intrepid, Jupiter, Regulator, SeaVee and Yellowfin. Serious competitors have the need for speed, so most of these boats sport twin or triple outboards — some even have quads. “You want to get to the fish first,” explains Scott Smith, a North Carolina-based captain of_Instigator_, a 31-foot Yellowfin with twin Mercury Verado 300 outboards. “It’s not unusual for the first boat to a spot to pick off the biggest fish,” he reveals. Power is one thing, but you also need a hull designed to run in rough conditions because the seas are not always cooperative on tournament day. “That’s why we fish a boat like the Contender 32ST,” says Jack Bracewell Jr., whose South Carolina team fishes 15 kingfish tournaments a year aboard Eren’s Addiction Too, powered by twin Mercury Verado 300 outboards. “A boat like this can take a lot of abuse, and still get us to the fish and bring us home,” he says. For more tips on catching trophy kings, read “12 Steps to Catching Trophy King Mackerel”
Capt. Stephen Szczepanik (Mayport, Florida) has learned over the years that flounder are more likely to hang near metal structure, such as barges, instead of concrete rubble. The flounder group together in masses around the base, likely preparing or concluding their spawn. Read more about heading offshore for mega-size versions of inshore favorites here. Photo Credit: Andrew J. Martinez / SeaPics.com
To see fish in the water, captains focus on two main issues – elevation and polarization. A perch above the water and quality sunglasses vastly improve the chances they’ll find fish. However, many options and opinions exist for just how high to go and what type of glasses to wear. For instance, captains who chase cobia and bonefish usually invest in a boat built with a poling platform or tower, or they buy a custom, aftermarket crow’s nest or second station. Some add a bow platform for the casting angler. To read more about tips concerning sight-fishing, click herefor the full story.
Capt. Geoff Page, inset, offers these three seatrout tips. SET THE STAGE In spring and fall, find clean grass flats that aren’t run over by boats daily. Ideally, you will also find schools of black mullet and pilchards or glass minnows. February through April are my favorite months for targeting big gator trout. KEEP YOUR DISTANCE Fish around the new or full moons, and stay as far off the area you plan to fish as you can. TWITCH-TWITCH-PAUSE I use three types of lures — topwater (Super Spook), subsurface (MirrOlure MR 17 MirrOdine) and soft plastics (Saltwater Assassin 5-inch jerk bait). With the subsurface suspending baits use a twitch-twitch-pause action. I also fish D.O.A. Shrimp with the same method. If you need more tips to reel in some trophy trout, check out our recent October feature, “30 Trophy Seatrout Secrets from Top Captains”
Two-speed reels differ from single-speeds in that they provide high-gear and low-gear cranking abilities. Two-speeds handle large fish that fight deep and circle, forcing the angler to power them to the surface. Reels with a single, higher-speed gear have trouble in this distinct scenario. The low gear ratio allows greater cranking leverage to handle the weight and strength of large species that fight this way, such as tuna and amberjack (pictured). Photo by Doug OlanderDoug Olander
When Capt. James Robinson, of Wound Up Charters, targets wahoo along the Bermuda coast, he favors trolling live baits such as frigate mackerel and robins (scad). Robinson utilizes a three-rod spread, trolling at just 3 to 4 knots. He fishes two lines off the outriggers and one line off the downrigger. “This is a light-drag fishery, just 5 to 10 pounds, so we use Shimano Tiagra 16s spooled with 50-pound braid,” says Robinson. Photo by Al McGlashanAl Mcglashan
When it comes time to dip out a** live bait**, avoid the tendency to scoop up a mess of wriggling bait fish, unless you’re going to chum with them. When looking for a hook bait, carefully dip one bait at a time. This keeps the rest of the live ones healthy and panic-free. Instruct your crew to do the same, as two or three anglers continually scooping netfuls of bait will rapidly destroy the vitality of your bait supply. Photo by Jason Arnold
Just about any hull can benefit from a set of trim tabs. They allow you to adjust the running attitude, correct for a list while making way, reduce your planing speed, control porpoising and jump on plane quicker. All of these benefits can generate better fuel economy. About the only exceptions might be catamaran hulls that don’t really have areas on the sponsons to mount tabs and stepped hulls, which are designed to ride up on a cushion of aerated water, somewhat negating the benefits of tabs. With any other type of power boat, insist on a set of trim tabs.
Utilize High-Viz Lines Offshore
“For offshore, especially when using multiple rods in the spread, high-viz colored lines make fishing easier,” says Mark Schindel, director of sport-fishing and outdoor products at Cortland Line. “Let’s say I’m running three lines in an outrigger: blue, yellow and red. The color quickly lets me determine which rod was bit. With multiple hookups, different-color lines make it quicker and easier to direct the angler to the right rod.” Photo by Adrian E. GrayAdrian E. Gray
When an amped-up billfish nears the boat, the captain, mate and angler must be on the same page. “If you hesitate, you can put yourself in a bind,” says Kevin Beach, a charter captain out of Venice, Louisiana. “First and foremost, you want to be safe. The fish will dictate where the mate leaders the fish, but I like the action to happen in the port corner. That’s the best position for me to see what’s happening.” Once the leader is in the mate’s hand, the angler’s job isn’t over. Capt. Carter Andrews, director of fishing at Isla Secas Lodge in Panama, agrees that the angler plays an import role. “Ninety percent of the anglers we take fishing have never caught a tuna or marlin,” says Andrews. “We ask them to turn the clicker on, and then move the drag back to where we’ve marked it on the reel.” Following the mate’s orders, the angler should reel in as much of the wind-on leader as possible, stopping only when the swivel reaches the rod tip. Read more about leader techniques.