Reels: The reels that we use for Game fishing have to be capable of carry large quantities of line and for trolling in particular we use what is known as an overhead reel ( by that what we mean is it actually sits on top of the rod as opposed to a reel that sits underneath the rod ). Like everything else in fishing there are different manufactures and different qualities and pricing across the range. We will endeavour here to give you a basic run down of the better manufacturers on the market and then by order of their reels.
Shimano:Without a doubt one of the better companies on the market and the flagship of Game Fishing with their top of the line Tiagra range of reels running a fuller range in recent years with their reel sizing going from a baby Tiagra 12, Tiagra 16, Tiagra 20, Tiagra 30, Tiagra 30wlrs, Tiagra 50, Tiagra 50wlrs, Tiagra 80 to the giant Tiagra 130. Quite a few people ask me the significance of the numbering. What it basically boils down to is the old scale of weight or line class being described in pounds.
All Tiagras are designed to carry 1000mtrs of their prescribed line class with a Tiagra 12 therefore capable of holding 1000mtrs of 12lb line or 6kg per say in the new scale although 6kg actually equates to 13.2lb ( 1kg=2.2lb ). A Tiagra 16 holding 1000mtrs of 16lb ( 8kg) and so on up to the monster Tiagra 130 holding 1000mtrs of 130lb ( 65kg ). Most Game fishing tournaments and IGFA records are done by line class with 8kg, 10kg, 15kg and 24kg being the most common line classes for tournaments hence if you are going to fish line class you buy your reel accordingly with the classes previously equating to Tiagras 16, 20, 30 and 50 accordingly.
Also you will see that you can get a Tiagra 30 and 30w and a Tiagra 50 and 50w, The main differences here is that the reel is wider as the W suggests allowing for more line capacity on the W models and you will find that they will give an increased drag pressure when set to full which I will describe for you below therefore some people run 24kg on the 30w model and 27kg on the 50w model. The Tiagra 50w, 80 and 130 models run what is known as a hydro-thermal cooled drag which keeps the drag pressure at a constant temperature therefore keeping the drag pressure constant where as in the old days you would see the deckhand pouring water over the reel to keep it from blowing apart while that big fish went screaming into the sunset.
Price wise Tiagras and Game reels fluctuate across the market depending what the Australian dollar is doing relevant to the American dollar and as I write this blog in mid 2010 the Tiagras are currently probably at an all time low, you can currently expect to pay anywhere from $550 for a Tiagra 12 up to $1900 for a Tiagra 130.
The above aforementioned Tiagras and most game reels are what we call lever drag reels with the drag being controlled by a lever on the side of the reel which you can back off towards you putting the reel in free spool allowing you to release your lure back behind the boat. You then push the lever forward to what is called the strike zone which the lever will stop at as there is a spring loaded button at this point.
The drag can be preset at this point on the reel which is done by means of a drag checker or a spring balanced scales. This is done by backing the lever off towards you and there is a knob placed centrally in the reel which the lever pivots around. as you turn the knob forward it will increase the pressure on the drag cam. The lever is set to the strike zone and the drag at this point should read at a third of the percentage of the line strength that you are fishing with.
Hence if you are using a Tiagra 30w loaded with 15kg line the drag pressure at the strike point should be 5kg or alternatively if you are using a Tiagra 50w loaded with 24kg the drag pressure at strike should be set at 8kg. The reason why this is done so is that if we get a fish taking a lot of line and we want to increase the drag pressure we can push in the spring loaded button at the strike zone and push the lever drag further forward increasing the pressure on the drag cams. Because we set the drag pressure at the strike zone at a third of the percentage of the breaking strain of the line when we push the lever forward the drag pressure on full should be somewhere between a half and two thirds of the breaking strain of the line therefore allowing maximum pressure without getting busted off.
I am however not a fan of doing this and you can get some good quality drag checkers that you can actually run the line through while you are fighting the fish giving you a much more precise read.
Shimano's next in line in their game reel range is the Tld which was the bread and butter reel of light game fishing for some time and has earned it's reputation around the traps. The Tld range comes in sizes from a Tld20, Tld25, Tld30, Tld50 and Tld50lrs with each one taking about 600mtrs of it's prescribed line class. These have also dropped dramatically in price over the years and you can pick up a tld25 around the traps now for under the $200 mark. The handles on the Tlds are small and tend to be hard to crank. Shimano brought out a Tyrnos range which are a range above the Tlds but the single speed reels are too high speed for Game fishing though the two-speed reels will operate quite well in the lower speed. Alternatively you can and quite a few people do interchange the Tyrnos handle to fit the Tlds giving the Tld a larger cranking handle. You can get the full specs on all their reels off their website www.shimanofish.com.au
Daiwa: Daiwa do a Game reel called the Sealine Tournament and run the more popular sizes being the 20, 30 and 50w and 80w models. these are a beautiful range of reels and Daiwa are doing great guns on the Australian market with Stainless steel gears and twin speed gear boxes with dual drags keeping the drag pressure constant to both sides of the brake rotor. Again prices fluctuate so check with your local Team Daiwa Tournament dealer. You can get all the specs off their website which is www.daiwafishing.com.au
Penn:Not as strong on the Australiasian market as Shimano the Penn internationals have been around on the scene for years and little has changed in their models doing a 16, 30, 50, 70 and 80 model and again check their full specifications out on www.pennreels.com
Okuma:These reels started to come stronger on the market in the early 2000's and while they came in relatively cheap on the market at first their prices are now up there with the rest of them.
Their top models are their Titus Golds with the sizes being 15, 20,30, 30w, 50 and 50w though they they not have the same line capacities as the Tiagras in the relevant sizes. They also do a single speed and two speed in most of their sizes, they also do a cheaper version being the Okuma Titus range, their full specs can be checked out on www.okuma.com.au
There are probably plenty of you out there reading this blog that have caught game fish on your old Penn Senator reels and other such star drag reels and off course there are plenty of other reels out their on the market as well as some Star drag reels that will do the trick for your lighter game species, the above are the stronger and more better quality ones on the market.
Rods:There are a few different styles of rods for game fishing and most of them go under the heading of short stroke-rs which as the name employs are about 5' 6" in length, there are a few different styles and they run different guides without going into the different brand names here as there are quite a few custom built rods and designs out there on the market what I will endeavour to do here is explain the different styles and classes as to what will suit you best for what you are targeting.
Most Game rods are rated to their line class which is what I covered above in reels so you will get an 6kg, 8kg, 10kg, 15kg, 24kg, 37kg and 65kg rod rating.
The line class rods from 6kg to 15kg will generally be what we call a straight butt rod with a gimbal butt base which has a cross slot in it so it will sit directly into the rod holders on the boat as you troll your lures and lock in per say ( I still run what is called a reel safety strap on my heavier outfits which has a clip that will lock to the harness on your reel and then run around a cleat or solid fixing point on the boat ) and you will have a rod harness gimbal that fits around your body which will also have a butt holder on it so the rod butt also locks in place taking the pressure off your stomach or groin as you fight the fish.
You will get what's called a fully rollered rod or what is called a roller tipped rod, this refers to the guides that they run on the rod, a fully rollered rod will as the name employs runs little rollers for the line to run across thus when you get that initial strike from that big fish and has he runs off with maybe 8kgs of drag or more and as the line runs over the guides under pressure the rollers will turn thus decreasing the drag or friction on the line which will lead to less line stress and ware so you will get more life from your line and less chance of a bust off. A rollered tip as the name suggests has just a rollered tip which will create more line friction and line ware and tear over the fixed guides.
The quality of the rollers and size can vary quite dramatically with the better ones running ball bearings and when you run heavier line classes we use over sized tips to run doubles and wind on leaders which I will explain to you about later on. Thus the price of the rod can vary dramatically depending on the type of rollered guides being run. The better guides out there on the Australian market are called AFTCO ( American Fishing Tackle Company ) guides. You will get different styles as well. There are lightweight guides which work very well on 6kg to 15kg rods then we can go to big foot guides which you can get in different sizes and colours which are used on the heavier game rods from 24kg upwards.
We also then get what are called bent butt rods which are generally on the heavier class of rods from 24kg and upwards which again as the name suggests have a bent butt below where the reel sits. The idea here is that when you sit the rod butt which also has the cross section at the base into your harness you will get more leverage on the rod on your up stroke. You will also get what is called a kidney harness which will run around your back and have two lug clips on it which will harness to the reel to lock you solid in place so you can bend your knees and apply maximum pressure to the fish.
You get what are known as mini bent butt rods which are used as stand up tackle as you fight the fish, you can get a mini bent butt 24kg or 37kg rod. The dramas being here has you get to the heavier tackle you are applying more drag to the fish and you are strapped to it so if you are using a mini bent butt 37kg rod paired it's relevant Tiagra reel which is an 80w, the drag pressure at strike zone alone is 12kg so you need to be fit and strong and experienced before you get to this scale or if not you could end up in the drink!
With the harnesses that are available you will also find that they vary dramaticaly, if you want to fight decent sized game fish on heavy tackle you will need a quality harness kit, probably the better one that you will get as a kit is the black magic harness and kidney harness equaliser kit.
Therefore your larger class rods come with what is known as a full bent butt or a chair rod where the butt section sits in a gimbal holder between your legs on the game chair which you sit in and are strapped to allowing you to brace your legs on the foot of the chair and use your whole body to fight the fish.
Line: You will need to use a good quality mono-filament line for game fishing and obviously pick the one pertinent to the line class and outfit that you are going to use. In most of my other forms of fishing I use a braided line but with Game you need to have that stretch when they hit it and again if you are fishing tournaments and wanting to ratify claims the line has to break below the line class that you are fishing. In some cases the prevailing body will ask for a sample of the line that was used and actually test its breaking strain to make sure it breaks within its line class. Thus when you go to your tackle store you need to get an IGFA ( International Game Fishing Association ) rated line and basically what it means is that it will break slightly below the line class it is stated at thus a IGFA rated 24kg line is guaranteed to break at below 24kg. If it does not the claim will go into the next line class in this case being 37kg.
Again there are several of them out there on the market and they also vary a bit in diameter thus giving you slightly more line capacity on your reel with the smaller the diameter of the line. Hawk, Black Magic, Stren, Platypus, Maxima Tournament and Momoi are some of the more popular ones on the Australian market. You will also get them in different colours, the idea here is that we use different colours on the boat and use the same colour in the same spot on the boat so it helps us a bit in identifying what lure has gone off per say.
Ok..... so you've made your Reel, Rod and Line selection and you've spooled up your new Tiagra, now you need to get down to the terminal tackle and the rigging.
First of all we need to put what's known as a double at the end of your mainline, the reason why we do this is that when we tie off to our snap swivel we have twice the breaking strain of the line going into the knot thus if we are running 24kg line we will have a length of 48kg line going into our knot and thus if we lose some strength at the knot we are losing it on 48kg instead of 24kg and we will not have a weak point at the knot.
There are two ways of doing a double properly, 1: a Bimini twist and 2: A plaited Double. They will both do the exact same thing and whichever one you can learn to master easily is the one for you. I prefer a Plaited double because I find it easier to do though most people find a Bimini Twist easier to do. I have posted some videos in the video section under offshore showing you how to do this.
After you've done your double you will need to tie off a quality snap swivel again pertinent in size to the line class you are using, Sampo snap swivels are probably the best ones you'll get on the market for this job, You will get them in chrome or black. I favour the black as when we get toothy critters like Wahoo and Spanish Mackerel they will sometimes hit the Chrome flashing in the sun mistaking it for a bait-fish and PING there goes your lure.
The best knot to use here is called a Cats Paw knot, again I have posted a video showing you how to tie off this sexy looking knot.
Well done your outfit is now rigged, Have you set your drag? Again I have posted a video for you showing you how to do this. You are now ready to run your lures, Check out the rigging videos and where the lures work in the spread and that's it you should now be catching fish!