Fishing is my life. It has become an obsession that sees me hitting the water almost daily – especially over the summer months, when the weather is so much more appealing and the fish are really on the chew. The problem is everyone else has the same idea, so you need to make yourself stand out from the crowd and be one of the ‘10 per centers’ who catch all the fish.
Early this year, I was smack bang in the middle of a patch of boats holding over a school of big kings. The fish were on the bite but it was plainly obvious that just a couple of boats (ourselves included) were catching the lion’s share. The rest of the fleet largely watched on with envy. This is a common summertime occurrence and it really highlights the 90/10 rule: 10 per cent of fishos catch 90 per cent of the fish!
So what were we doing that was so different to the rest of the fleet? In truth, a lot of it concerned little things that really made a big difference. First and foremost, we used the sounder and GPS to sit right on the fish, while the other boats wandered around aimlessly. Then there was the close attention to detail, making sure all our rigs were perfect. On top of this we timed our session to coincide with the tide change, and above all else we had the best bait – not the packet stuff from the servo some boats were using.
Yep, the small things count, and by paying attention to detail and doing some research you will dramatically improve your results. Remember, irrespective of what you’re chasing you’ll only get a limited number of opportunities, so you have to make the most of it. In an effort to get everyone ready for the impending summer, I’ve detailed my best tips that I guarantee will help you catch more fish.
As a full-time fisho I rack up around 200 days on the water every year. Along the way I’ve learnt there are a number of key points that play a big role in helping me catch more fish, irrespective of the species or the location.
Competition is greatest during the summer months so no longer is fishing simply a matter of cruising around and hoping to bump into a fish. Instead anglers really need to maximise their time on the water and fish smart to ensure success.
Your preparation should start well before you even hit the water. It includes everything from servicing your outboard to re-spooling reels. As silly as it may sound, the more you do prior to hitting the water the better your chances. You won’t be the bloke at the ramp with the busted engine looking sorry for himself, nor will you bust off on that huge fish of a lifetime because of faulty tackle.
The funny part is that all these issues are easily preventable with a bit of maintenance, so put in the time to go through everything and anything well before you head out. Re-spool all your reels, make up leaders, check everything on the boat and even go as far as inspecting the trailer. That way you can spend the day fishing, instead of fixing something.
As tackle goes it’s paramount in my books that you thoroughly review everything. Inspect all your leaders and knots visually for signs of wear and tear. If I have any doubts with any part of my tackle I replace it, simple as that. There’s no such thing as too much preparation.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
The more research you do before you hit the water the better your chances of hooking up. Obviously you should know your seasons, but you should go one step further and be in contact with guys fishing all the time so you’re in tune with what’s happening. It doesn’t matter whether you’re chasing bass in the back country or kingfish offshore, the better you keep your finger on the pulse the better you’ll know what’s happening.
Your phone is an obvious link; I’m in constant contact with mates up and down the coast by mobile and I’m regularly on the internet comparing reports. At the expense of a massive phone bill I know what is biting and where. This information is vital and, to be honest, it’s paramount to my success. Obviously it’s reciprocal throughout my network of contacts and only once has someone not shared their information. Needless to say, they’re now out of the loop.
Fishing mates aside, the internet chat forums, charter boats and tackle shops can also be good sources of information. Having said that, if you don’t know or trust the source then ask some questions. Which boat? Who was the angler? If they can’t answer these then take the report with a grain of salt.
FISH TO THE TIDES
The tides dictate the lives of all aquatic life from marlin to mullet, and understanding the tide’s influence is essential. However, to complicate matters different species are affected in different ways by the tide. For example, flathead will position themselves around gutters during the run-out tide, while whiting will move up on the flats during the flood tide.
The one thing that runs for all fish is that they generally come on the chew around the tide change. Now if you want to get specific, the bite period is about an hour and 15 minutes before the tide, with the peak being around half an hour before the tide. After the tide has swung there is usually another bite mirroring the first one, but it is generally never as good.
If you are planning any fishing time in saltwater then try and encompass a tide change. I should also add that everyone thinks that the tide only influences the fishing inshore, but in fact its effects can be felt right across the ocean.
PLAN YOUR DAY
This leads directly in from understanding the tides. Don’t just go for a fish because you feel like it – instead plan your day around the wind, tides and other influences. This really is a key to becoming a better angler.
There are daily variables that need to be added into the equation such as tides and weather. Therefore, if there is an early-morning tide change it is well worth getting out early, but if it’s a midmorning change then you can take your time.
The weather plays a massive role in fishing. If I’m running offshore for the day and there’s a southerly wind then the most comfortable approach will be to fish south. Obviously different variables come into effect depending on where you are fishing and what you are chasing, but if you add them all into the equation then your chances of success are greatly increased.
If you want to catch fish then you have to be pro-active and keep moving. In the old days the attitude was to simply pull up somewhere and wait for the fish to come to you, but times have changed and today you have to actively go hunting. When chasing snapper in Port Phillip Bay I’m always on the move, using the fishfinder to help locate the fish. We fish for around 20 minutes before moving if we don’t get a bite.
It’s the same if you’re walking up an estuary flicking lures. Don’t stay in the one spot flogging the water to foam, instead keep moving and cover the ground. Ultimately the more ground you work the more likely you are to come across the fish. On the same note, watch all the other boats to see if anyone else is catching fish.
READ THE SIGNS
The sea is a massive expanse of water that many find hard to read. The trick is to take the time to study your surroundings and suddenly you will start to see there are subtle signs everywhere.
One of the most obvious is the seabirds and by knowing a bit about each species you will be able interpret their behaviour. A while back I was fishing in Sydney Harbour chasing bream on the flats when a couple of seagulls started flying around on the edge of the drop-off. With a spin rod rigged and ready I flicked a little Halco out under the birds and instantly hooked up to a solid salmon in just 2ft of water.
This wasn’t a fluke, rather it’s a classic example of interpreting the signs. It’s not just out on the open ocean where you should keep an eye on the birds, either. If you are fishing an estuary on the run-out tide the best gutter to fish is always the one that has the most herons or egrets congregated around it. Up north this works a treat for barra anglers, while down south it is deadly when targeting flathead.
Like it or not, we live in an age of electronics and they now dominate the dash of any boat. What you can do with a GPS and fishfinder these days is amazing, but you need to know how to get the best out of the technology. This may sound silly, but reading the instructions and getting a feel for how your electronics run should be done before you head off for the summer holidays. If you really know how to use your gear properly you will definitely catch more fish.
The technology we use isn’t restricted to the boat, either – the internet is also a massive plus for anglers. These days we have fishing forums, weather updates and even sea surface temperature (SST) charts all at our fingertips. I have found myself increasingly reliant on my phone for real-time weather reports or even Facebook fishing updates. Technology is here to stay and it’s a godsend for anglers. If you’re not confident with a computer, get the kids to do it for you.
COVER ALL BASES
Fishing is unpredictable at the best of times – you simply never know what’s going to happen next. Smart anglers fish to the conditions and have all their gear rigged and ready to cover all bases.
A classic example happened recently while we were chasing snapper on the anchor. Suddenly a mako appeared at the back of the boat. Being prepared, I had a circle hook on a wire trace ready to go and within seconds we were hooked to a high-flying mako in just 25m of water. In the end the snapper proved slow and the mako ended up being the star of the day. If we had not been ready we may well have missed the opportunity and gone home empty-handed.
I have never understood why anglers get so excited about fishing, but when it comes to putting the hours in they always give up and go home early. Nothing is easy in life and if you want results you need to put the hours in – it’s as simple as that.
With people working harder these days and leisure time becoming increasingly rare, we really need to maximise our time on the water. At the end of the day, the more hours you fish, the more likely you are to succeed. The longer you soak your baits the higher the chances of a fish swimming past, so don’t make excuses – get out there and stay out as long as possible. I like to be the last trailer at the boat ramp – then I know I’ve given it my all!
THINK OUTSIDE THE SQUARE
There are no set rules in fishing, yet most anglers are set in their ways. Fishing is something we can result every day on the water you learn something and improve your fishing skills. The trick is not to get set in your ways and end up doing the same thing every time. Instead, vow to try something different every time you head out. Keeping an open mind this summer will ultimately make you a better fisher. So go on – get out there and get stuck into it!