Hooked on a feeling!

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a night, teach a man to fish and he will eat for a life time. Why is it that ten percent of fishermen catch ninety percent of the fish ?
Is there something, that somebody forgot to tell the rest of us ? Well here is a run down that will help you understand what separates the Danglers from the Anglers.
Knowledge is power, and fishing is no exception. Understanding your equipment is a key to your fishing success.

Cut back to the basics, fishing is a line, a hook and hopefully a fish attached. Walk into a tackle shop today and you see Lures, hooks, reels, lines, sinkers, swivels, soft plastics, burleys, baits, nets and gaffs, it’s a daunting place, so where do you start ? This guide will explain these items and when to use them, hopefully giving you better fishing results and maximising your time on the water.

Hooks

These are important as these connect the fish to your line. Bad or incorrect hooks are the reason that many anglers don’t land their fish of a lifetime.
A hook is simply a piece of wire. So how is one piece of wire different from another?

Years ago strong hooks had to large barbs and blunt points, it was very common for many anglers to have to sharpen their hooks prior to using them, this practice was known as “Honing”. These days with the introduction of chemically sharpened hooks we are lucky enough to be able to use a hook straight out of the packet, this coupled with improvements with metallurgy has evolved hooks that are Sharp, fine gauge and very strong.

A hook that is light weight but still strong gives the angler the ability to more naturally present their offering, this increases the anglers catch rates.
While the Japanese prefer hooks with a flat eye, due to a weight reduction of about 20% allowing them to more naturally present their bait, us westerners however like our hooks with an eye. The eye of the hook should be free of sharp edges, have no gaps on the join and be of the correct size for the line you are using. If you wish to fish with a small trace connecting to the hook, your eye should be quite small, if you wish to fish with a double or heavy trace look for a hook with a larger eye.

When you go to your tackle store don’t be frightened by all the different hook sizes and styles. Hooks are sized with a number 12 being on the smaller side of the scale while a number 12/0 is on the larger size of the scale. There are only 2 things that you really need to worry about. The first is the bait you are using, and the second is the fish that you are chasing. For example: A Whiting fisherman using worms for bait would probably use a size 4 long shank hook because the Whiting has a long slender mouth and the bait is long and slender.

A Snapper fisherman using squid heads for bait may use 2 size 6/0 Octopus or Suicide hooks as the Snapper have a large mouth and the angler is using a big bait. A Salmon or Tailor fisherman using pilchards may choose a gang hook. See it’s simple, just match your hook to your bait and fish. Trust me there is a hook to suit everything.
From a conservation point please don’t use Stainless steel hooks. These are horrible devices that stay with fish for years. They simply don’t corrode, if you need an extra strong hook use a hook with a high carbon component. There are arguments that say stainless hooks are better for fish as they don’t decompose in the fish. These arguments look at the imbedded hook as a style of harmless piecing.

Sinkers

Sinkers are dictated by water depths, fish locations and tidal movement. Sinkers are simple a piece of lead used to present a bait at a determined depth. Sinkers are sized in numerical form, with 1 being smaller than 2.

If you require a sinker to present a bait in deep or fast flowing water then you will need a large hydrodynamic sinker. You may also need a larger sinker to aid in casting long distances. Different sinker styles are produced to fish different marine surfaces.

Sinkers come in many different moulds and weights. Picking a sinker can be easier than it looks. All you simply have to do is look at it. If you take a ball sinker for example, you can tell just by looking at it that it will roll along the bottom. Now look at a Star sinker, this sucker is not designed to roll, its designed to hold to bottom.
Here is a run down of some popular designs.

A Star Sinker is designed for use in the surf. Its design enables itself to embed into the sand and hold the bottom. This sinker is best used with a dropper rig.
Snapper Sinkers are designed once again for use with dropper rigs. Snapper sinkers are very popular with reef fishermen as they are less prone to snagging and designed to sink quickly to the bottom.

Bomb sinkers are designed to let the bait roll around the bottom and can be used by both shore and boat anglers. The Swivel line attachment helps eliminate line twist and also gives the angler the ability to fish with a running sinker, this is best done with an easy rig.

Ball sinkers are round and designed to roll over the seabed. They are great for anglers that want to present a bait on the seabed and have it move and roll about the bottom.
Bean sinkers are like ball sinkers but they roll less. Bean sinkers are more inclined to roll from side to side but not forward and back.
Bug sinkers have a flat top and base and are designed to sit on the seabed with minimal roll effect.

Barrel sinkers are long and thin and are commonly used by anglers trawling baits and lures to get their presentations to a desired depth. Barrel sinkers are very hydrodynamic and when used in bait fishing provide minimal drag. Barrel sinkers will roll from side to side, but they are a great option for running sinker rigs in fast flowing water with smooth seabeds.

Spilt shot sinkers are designed to be clamped on to the line and weigh down a bait or a float. They are normally very small and are very popular with float fishermen. When using Spilt shot sinkers don’t clamp them too tightly onto your line as this can damage the line and cause you to lose your prized catch.
Sinkers are made of lead, so they are not exactly the most environmentally friendly compound. In the near future some waterways may ban the use of lead sinkers, as  hunters have had lead shot banned for use in swamps and waterways. This development may never happen though.

Tungsten is the newest fad in fishing sinkers in the USA. Tungsten is better for the environment and has a higher density. The higher density for tungsten gives the angler a better ability to feel the bottom and distinguish a stick from a rock and weed from sand.

Fishing Line

Fishing line is a great topic in itself. Monofilament or Mono line is a nylon line that will stretch considerably prior breaking. Braided line is a fibrous line that has virtually no stretch. The advantage of braided line over mono line is the fact that braided line has a smaller diameter, virtually no stretch (aiding the angler in distinguishing bites and snags, and also helping in hook setting) and is stronger for its line class and diameter than mono. The disadvantages of braid are that it is very expensive, has a reduced abrasion resistance and does not offer the same shock absorbing qualities of mono. Also due to the material used in the construction of braid and the fine diameter care must be taken in tying knots.

Braided line with all of its advantages is still not suitable for game fishing as there is a reduction in abrasion resistance and no stretch. With no stretch in the line there is no shock absorbs ion to soften the impact of a strike and help hold the hook in place. While braided lines are permitted by the IGFA the breaking strain of the braid often over tests its rating due to the fact that braid is rated to the breaking strength at the knot rather than the main line.

Braided lines are great for lure and soft plastic anglers as it gives them the ability to impart more action on the lure and better detection for strikes and snags. Braided line is also a great asset for anglers fishing deep and fast flowing water. The reduced line diameter gives the angler the ability to fish with lighter sinkers as the line has less water resistance. Also since the line has little or no stretch bites are easily detected as the line will not absorb such inputs.

When using braided lines you have to always use a mono leader. This leader acts as a shock absorber as well as protection against abrasion. The leader should be as transparent as possible. To achieve this you should  use fluorocarbon monofilament, this material has the same reflective index as water so it becomes close to invisible.
When choosing a fishing line you tend to get what you pay for. If you plan on using your line only occasionally and your not that serious purchase a cheaper line, if your going to use your line often and are a  serious angler purchase a good quality line.

There are many different line characteristics. Supple or soft lines are a preferred option of bait anglers as they give the ability to more naturally present a bait. More rigid lines are great for lure and soft plastic angles as they give the angler the ability to more responsively work a lure and detect strikes on the sink.

When un-tangling braided lines it is better to tease a knot out rather than pull it out, if a knot is tightened in braided line it can be virtually impossible to untangle.

Lures

Go into any tackle store and the hundreds of different lures on display can be very confusing. Where do you start and what do you look for.
Firstly lets think about what you want to fish for. There is no point trying to catch a 1 kilogram fish on a 6 inch lure, so if you are chasing little fish try little lures. Little lures will catch both small and large fish. Now lets think about the fish we are chasing, are they surface, mid-water or bottom feeders ?

If your fishing for Australian Salmon it’s a good assumption that they will be feeding on the surface or mid water, so you would choose a surface or mid water lure. Now if you were fishing for a bottom feeder like Flathead you would choose a lure that is fished on the bottom, lures like deep divers and soft plastics are perfect for these applications.
Now what do the fish you are chasing eat? If your chosen species eat yabbies a yabby or Crawfish lure is a good choice. For example Yellow-belly eat Yabbies so a Yabby pattern is a good choice. Now if your after a Trevally a baitfish style of lure is the best choice.

When lure fishing here are a couple of great tips. When fishing in clean water use natural colour lures, when you are fishing in dirty water use bright colour lures. Match the lure colour to the water. Also on bright days bright lures are best.

Lures are made of plastic, wood, metal and fibreglass. Lures can also be divided into different categories.

Spoons: are metal lures shaped in an egg, oval or rounded fish shape. Used for Trout, redfin and fresh water natives as well as flathead, tailor, salmon and pike in the salt. Large spoons are also very popular with Spanish Mackerel and Kingfish anglers.

Spinners: Are lures with a rotating metal or plastic blade(s) that spin around a central metal shaft. While most spinners are small some larger models are made for Murray Cod. Spinners are normally small and very effective on all fresh water Natives as well as trout and Redfin. Recently Spinner Baits have come onto the Australian scene. Spinner Baits originated in the United States and are very popular with their Bass fishery. A Spinner Bait is a V shaped lure with a rotating blade and a lead headed jig covered with feathers, plastic or a soft Plastic lure. Spinner Baits are very effective on all Australian freshwater native fish in both tropical and southern waters.

Slices: Are metal lures angularly cut out of lengths hexangular, square or circular metal rods. Slices are predominately used by salt water anglers and are designed to be retrieved at high speed. Slices are very productive on Tuna,Salmon, Tailor, Kingfish and Mackerel.

Lead Lures/ Slugs: Slugs are made out of a lead alloy or lead and are pencil or Knife shaped. Slugs are most effective when they are cast and retrieved at high speed. Lead slugs are designed to imitate a small fleeing baitfish. Lead slugs are predominantly used by anglers chasing Tuna, Mackerel, Queen fish, Salmon and most other pelagics. The key to success with lead slugs is matching the size of your lure with the size of the baitfish the fish are feeding on.

Jigs: While jigs were traditionally just oversized lead slugs, now days jigs represent a number of different forms. Forms of jigs include lead headed flies, lead-headed soft plastics and also the traditional form of oversize lead slugs. Jigs can have a number of different hook combinations from single hooks to trebles. Jigs can range in size from just a few grams right through to half a kilogram. While jigs were once traditionally used only in deep water, today with the increasing range and diversity of styles there is a jig to suit nearly every popular angling species. If a suitable jig is moved in the correct region in the water column very exciting fishing is possible. As a tip vary your action and retrieves to find the most popular for the day.

Squid Jigs are a type of jig that is specifically designed to catch squid. There are two distinct types of Squid Jigs. The first type is the Bait style squid jig. This jig is characterised by a long steel shaft that that has a set or two of very sharp barb less prongs. A whole fish bait of a Whiting or pilchard is threaded onto the shaft. The second style of squid jig is the Yo-Zuri or prawn imitation jig. These jigs are very popular with squid anglers and are made out of cloth, wood or plastic.Squid jigs range in size from one inch through to six inches.

Bait Jigs or flasher rigs are multiple hooked rigs dressed with a combination of luminous beads, tinsel, feathers, cloth and/ or soft plastic lures. While flasher rigs are typically used to capture bait fish such as Mackerel, Herring and Trevally, they are also popular in larger sizes for larger off shore reef species including snapper, morwong and trumpeter.

Plugs: Are deep-bodied diving lures with a bib that controls the lures action as well as the lures diving depth. Usually of timber or plastic construction, Plugs are sometimes call Crank-baits. The term Crank-bait refers to the action in which the lure is retrieved, the lure is literally cranked through the water with the reel. Plugs are productive and popular on all Australian freshwater and estuarine species including Barramundi, Cod, Bream, Saratoga, Perch, Trout, Flathead and Bass.

Minnows: Are a timber or plastic slim baitfish profile lure that also has a bib. As with Plugs the bib on the Minnows also control the lures depth and action. Minnows are designed to imitate baitfish like mullet, pilchards, sardines, white-bait, blue-bait and mackerel. Certain Minnows are designed to be retrieved in a jerking motion. These lures are popularly called Jerk-baits. Minnows vary in size from just a couple of centimetres right through to models exceeding 30 centimetres. Minnows in their respective sizes will catch nearly every popular Australian species.

Poppers: Are surface lures that are made out of wood or plastic. There are many different types of poppers including fizzers, bloopers and chuggers. Poppers are designed to imitate a startled or injured bait fish on the surface of the water. Typically a floating lure with a concave, flat or scooped head large poppers are predominately used in the tropical waters while smaller models are popular with fresh water native anglers and now also bream and whiting fishermen fishing the shallow sand flats and weed beds.

Lipless Crank-baits: Are deep bodied lures that typically have a loud internal rattle. Lipless crank-baits have no bib and get their action from the flat section on top of the lures head. Lipless Crankbaits are very successful when used on estuarine and freshwater species.

Trolling/ Kona Heads: Often called locally Pakula style lures, Trolling Heads are made out of metal, fibreglass and resin and have a skirt made out of plastic, tinsel or vinyl. These lures are used in game fishing and regularly catch Bill fish, Tuna, Mackerel, Wahoo and King Fish.

Soft Plastics: Are in all essence artificial baits. Typically plastic in construction and attached to the line by a jig head Soft Plastics have revolutionised Australian fishing as we know it. There are two parts to a Soft Plastic and these are the Tail and the Jig head/ Hook. The tail is the part of the lure that gives lure its action. The tail of a soft plastic is at times scented and even in some cases completely biodegradable. While the tail controls the action the Jig head and Hook control the lures position in the water column and sink rate. Soft Plastics are typically sold in 2 parts, the Jig Head and the Tails. This is a great advantage to the angler as they can use the same Jig Head on different Tails and vice versa. Soft Plastics also can represent a great value for money as you get a number of tails and jig heads per packet. It should also be advised that when you fish with Soft Plastics you will get your best results when you angle in a fashion that is a combination of Bait and Lure fishing. Soft Plastics will catch species from Tarpon to Tuna and salmon to Sailfish.

Traces and leaders

Traces and leaders are used as shock absorbers, abrasion protection and main line protection. Monofilament or Mono leaders should feature Fluorocarbon co-polymer construction, high abrasion resistance, high knot or crimp strength and high tensile strength. Mono leaders should be used when fishing with braided line, this gives the angler extra abrasion resistance and shock protection. A leader should be used when ever an angler has a hook attached. This gives main line protection, more natural bait and lure presentation as well as shock protection. Mono leader material is a better choice over a wire leader as Mono leaders give a more natural presentation, are less visible and more shock absorbent. Wire leaders should be used when chasing Toothy critters like sharks and Mackerel. While coated multiple strand wire is normally the choice of anglers there are occasions when an angler will require a thinner gauge wire. Single strand wire is often used by anglers live baiting for mackerel.

Swivels, Snaps, Keels, Rings and Ezi Rigs

Swivels are used for a number of functions. The primary function of a swivel is to prevent line twist as a result of a rotating bait, lure or rig. Swivels are also used as a joining mechanism to join main line to leader, and as a separator and restrictor to stop sinkers from moving on to a rig or too far up the main line.
Swivels are sized the same as hooks with 14 being the smaller end of the scale and 4/0 being the upper end of the scale.
There are a number of different types of swivels. Types include Barrel, Torpedo, Box, Crane, Snap swivels and 3-Way swivels.
Barrel swivels are the cheapest and most popular swivels. Barrel swivels are not the most effective in reducing line twist but they are a very effective component when used in a running sinker rig, where the swivel is used as a separator and joiner. Barrel swivels come in two colours, Brass and Black. The brass are fine in most applications but if you are fishing in areas where fish like Barracouta, Barracuda, Mackerel and other toothy predators live, a black swivel is the smart choice. The reason behind this is the fact that a shinny brass swivel can look like a baitfish and attract the unwanted attention of hungry toothy critters resulting in bite-offs and lost fish. Black swivels are very useful in clear water and when targeting shy fish, this is once again due to the minimum amount of “flash” that they produce.
Box swivels are similar to Barrel swivels but the box swivel is typically stronger than the Barrel swivel.
Crane Swivels are stronger, smaller and more effective than Barrel swivels. The only disadvantage to the Crane swivel is the fact that it more expensive than the Barrel swivels.

Torpedo swivels are typically used in Game fishing and heavy-duty applications. Torpedo swivels turn more freely than other swivels of a similar size and come in
sizes ranging from three hundred pounds up to one thousand pounds.

3-Way swivels are great in dropper style rigs. 3-Way swivels are great for preventing a dropper twisting around the main line. The reason behind this is the 3-Way swivel’s ability to enable unbalanced bait to spin in the water and during casting. The major downfall of a 3-way swivel is the possibility of the swivel arm breaking under pressure due to metal fatigue.

Snap swivels are mainly used by lure anglers as the Snap mechanism gives the angler the ability to quickly change lures while not having to re-tie on the lure. Snap swivels do reduce the action of a lure and its buoyancy. Snap swivels are great for offshore anglers frequently changing rigs. I personally use Snap swivels in a dropper or paternoster rig to attach sinkers in fishing locations where there is a large amount of tidal flow. Snap swivels also come in Black and Brass finishes, and colour selection is the same as that used for Barrel swivels.

To reduce line twist when trawling some anglers employ Keels in association with swivels.  For heavy-duty salt water applications heavy lead keel sinkers are employed where in fresh water applications like light spinning and slow trawling for trout, clear plastic or celluloid keels are used. Keels are not required for all trawling and spinning applications but should be considered when fishing with free spinning lures.

There are two types of Rings, Brass rings and Split rings. Brass rings are used in much the same ways as Barrel swivels. The advantage of Brass rings over Barrel swivel is the rings lighter and stronger for its size. This gives the angler the ability to more naturally present baits. Split rings are made of steel and are used to attach hooks to lures.
Ezy-Rigs are a piece of tackle consisting of a piece of plastic tubing and a Snap clip.

Ezy-Rigs are used in running sinker rigs and give the angler the ability to change sinkers regularly. Ezy-Rigs come in 2 sizes, small or large and 2 colours Blue or Red. There are many imitations of Ezy-Rigs on the market these days they come in a range of sizes and colours, they are sure to do the job, but the original is always the best.

Floats

Floats come in many shapes and sizes and are used in many fishing situations. Floats are typically used to suspend a bait or baits in a certain area in the water column and indicate to the angler indications of a bite. Floats can be fix or running, clear or coloured, made of Plastic, wood, cork, foam or glass. Most floats are high visibility on the top for angler recognition and low visibility or white on the base for camouflage.

When choosing a float think about the application that you are going to use it for. If your fishing for Mullet or Luderick in calm waters you would probably use a Quill float. Now if you were fishing for these species in more turbid waters you would use a heavier pencil float. If you require a float for use in very clear water for catching very timid fish say trout for example, you would use a bubble float. Bubble floats are great because you determine their buoyancy by inserting water into the bubble, this lets the angler present the bait as naturally as possible. If your rock fishing and casting big baits you would use a Torpedo float.

You have to consider the following when choosing a float, Size of fish targeted, size of bait, Casting characteristics, environment being fished, angler visibility required, running or fixed rigging and the advantages of fish attracting devices like burley cages and flashing devices.

As a tip if you want to rig a float in the running style and don’t want to use a heavy sinker as a stopper try tying a piece of wool where you require the stopper. Many anglers find that their line sinks and creates a bow of line between the rod and the float. This bow of line reduces hook-up rates as it reduces strike time. One way of reducing or eliminating this line bow is to apply Silicon or Vaseline to your main line.

Nets, gaffs, bats

Nets and gaffs are used to land fish. Gaffs are primarily used on fish that are intended for the table. Fish should be gaffed in the head or shoulder region, this reduces the damage to the edible fish flesh. Gaffs come in a variety of sizes and are typically designed for landing larger fish. The size of the gaff required is dictated by the size of the fish targeted. For fish that roll and thrash like sharks Flying Gaffs (Gaffs with detachable barbed hooks) are best suited. Gaffs can also be used in handling fish destined for released. If you intend to release a fish gaff the fish in the mouth there is very minimal damage done to fish as long as you support the fish’s weight as you lift it.
A quality Gaff should have a strong handle, sharp stainless steel barb less hook, hook cover and a quality handle grip.

Nets and the type employed are once again dictated by the fish that you are targeting. All nets should be of sturdy construction and furnished by a quality mesh. It is essential to match your mesh dimensions with the fish that you are anticipating on landing. You can look very silly if you fish slips through your net’s mesh and escapes. Nets are a more fish friendly way of landing your catch, this is epically true if your intending to release your fish. For anglers primarily intending to release their fish a net from the Environet range should be considered. Environet are specifically designed for catch and release fishing. Environets reduce the damage to the fish’s protective coat of slime, thus reducing the stress levels on the fish and increasing the fish’s chance of survival.

There are many features to look for when choosing a net. Net features include telescopic handles, collapsible heads, mesh type, mesh gauge, grips and handle lengths. When selecting your net make sure that you choose a net that is durable enough for your chosen application. Also in is vital to check the condition of your net prior to each fishing expedition, there would be nothing worse than loosing your catch of a life time due to a failure in your landing equipment.

Tip: Always net your fish head first and lead the fish to the net. Squid on the other hand should be netted from behind.
Bats are used to kill a fish and prevent the fish from suffering and doing damage to the boat. Bats are normally made out of aluminium or wood and are in the shape of a base ball bat. They are very effective for pacifying large fish quickly.

Fish Finders/ Depth Sounders

Depth Sounders have many applications including monitoring water depth, temperature, bottom structure, sea bed composition and fish locations. Good sounders offer high definition images/pixel count, water temperature readings, depth readings, grey line (a measure of the density of the sea bed), sensitivity control, interference reduction, split screen display, zoom, speed display, back light and even GPS input options.

Pixels are the measure of how many part a screen is divided into to. The higher the pixel count the higher the display definition. For shallow water operations a frequency of 200Khz is best, where deep water applications require a frequency of 50Khz. With a lower frequency you obtain deeper penetration but your target separation suffers.
The more power that a unit has the greater the depth separation obtainable.

Sounders are very much horses for courses. If you are going to use your sounder a lot then purchase a high quality model, if your only going to use one occasionally then get a lesser model. The key to a sounder is to get the best one for your requirements. There is no point in having features that you are never going to use. Sometimes a basic sounder may be all that you require. Simple features such as Grey line, 200Khz frequency, water temperature, sensitivity control, depth readings and zoom are all the features many anglers require.

Tackle Bags and boxes

To bag it or to box it is the new question in fishing gear storage. In the past everybody has had a tackle box. These boxes were hauled across the country in search of the fish and fishing memory of a lifetime. Your typical tackle box was like a trophy cabinet furnished with all of your favourite lures and accessories, it had fresh and saltwater gear as well as everything else you owned. Tackle boxes can be very cumbersome. A quality tackle box should be waterproof, have a quality handle, quality-locking device and be of suitable internal design to suite your needs. Tackle boxes have many different internal designs, including multiple trays, removable trays, adjustable shelves, adjustable compartments and internal removable storage boxes.

Personally I prefer tackle bags. My reason behind this preference is the simple fact that the tackle bag is a very versatile item. A tackle bag is a Shoulder bag or backpack style of bag that has many different features. Tackle bags use storage boxes and plastic sleaves to store your chosen tackle for the trip. I have many storage boxes all sorted into relevant categories, Trout, Salt water, Freshwater, Tropical, Surf and Trawling are just some of my categories. I love the fact that I grab my bag, chuck in the relevant storage boxes, a jacket, hat, sunscreen and other supplies and it is all in one neat easily carried bag. This is a huge advantage if your hiking/ walking to your chosen location or even if you storage space is limited.

A quality tackle bag should be very study in construction, have quality shoulder straps, heavy duty zips, and compartments big enough to store your storage boxes. Features of tackle bags can include binder rings to store plastic pockets, removable sections, phone, map and GPS storage units waterproof and cooler compartments and even inbuilt seats.