Portland Tuna -What I've Learnt

Southern Bluefin Tuna, Kingies, Marlin and other game fish.
barra mick
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Re: Portland Tuna -What I've Learnt

Postby barra mick » Tue May 09, 2017 8:42 pm

agree...keep it coming .....its fantastic reading

cheers bm



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Lightningx
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Re: Portland Tuna -What I've Learnt

Postby Lightningx » Tue May 09, 2017 8:46 pm

Great read once again! :)
Cheers.

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Sinsemilla
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Re: Portland Tuna -What I've Learnt

Postby Sinsemilla » Wed May 10, 2017 2:30 pm

Thanks for sharing that mate!

Cheers, Anth

ncr1
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Re: Portland Tuna -What I've Learnt

Postby ncr1 » Thu May 11, 2017 4:35 pm

Sunset Drag: Much, Much More Than a Last Resort

The primary advantage of a lever drag reel is that upon pre-setting a desired amount of drag as a starting point (i.e. strike drag), the lever drag system then allows you to quickly and efficiently (and hopefully accurately) increase or decrease the amount of drag with a just simple slide of the lever. Ideally, in addition to the standard strike drag setting, there should also be a few other marks above and below the lever arc where the drag setting has been pre-determined following calibration. For example, for the 24kg line-class it would be typical to set the strike drag at 8kg (i.e. one third of the breaking strain) and then afterwards, establish what amount of drag the reel pulls at low-sunset (i.e. when lever is just above depressable strike button) and max-sunset (i.e. lever as far forward as possible). As a hypothetical guess, let’s just say these drag points might equate to 12kg and 20kg. You might also want to work out where a lighter drag setting below the strike drag, say 4kg for example, is positioned on the lever arc.

Most gamefishos are aware of the importance of setting their drag before heading out on the water – you certainly don’t want to be guessing what the drag is once you’ve hooked up to a barrel. However, I imagine that only a small proportion of anglers, when they finally hookup to that fish-of-a-lifetime after years of trying, would then be courageous or brave enough to push the lever drag above the strike setting (e.g. 8kg drag) and into the sunset zone (e.g. 12-20kg drag). Sunset drag is often considered a last resort option. And when you think about it, after all these years of effort on the water, all the 1000s of liters of fuel burnt, all the money you’ve spent on the boat and the gear, it is completely understandable that when you finally hook up on that barrel, that you would want to take a more conservative, softly-softly fighting approach rather than going-for-broke. But one of the most important lessons I’ve learnt over the years is that by NOT making regular use of the sunset zone when fighting SBT, you are doing yourself a major disservice - you are completely underutilizing the true capacity of your gear.

I learnt this lesson over a number of years from my light-line gamefishing experience. I remember the very first SBT I caught on the 8kg line class. The hookup was only in 30 metres of water off Port Mac, so I very much took the softly-softly fighting approach and kept my drag set at strike (i.e. 2.6kg drag) throughout the whole fight. My confidence to increase my drag also wasn’t helped when I felt some scuffing on the line as it slipped over my fingers. We, along with two other boats in our party had done well on school-sized SBT the day before, but this was the only hookup any of the boats had registered on this particular day and we naturally assumed it would just be another run-of-the-mill schoolie. However, after about half an hour of fighting this fish, the other two boats nearby decided to stop trolling and casually cruised over to us (at a safe distance) to spectate, thinking that I may have hooked a much bigger fish. It took another 15 minutes of fighting to bring the fish to the gaff and perhaps somewhat disappointingly, there was nothing exceptional about this fish - a standard 18kg SBT. Still a nice capture on the line class, but certainly hard to justify a 45 minute fight. A few playful jeers were shouted from the other boats after they saw the fish being landed – obviously it failed to meet their expectations. Oh well, I had still landed my first SBT on 8kg line, so I was still very happy. But I knew I would have to find a better and faster way of landing tuna on lighter gear so that I wouldn’t be overtly ‘wasting’ valuable fishing time. Afterall, it’s a bit of a luxury to be able to gamefish with lighter line classes, but to be given consistent opportunities I really need to maintain the respect and support of the captain and other crew members, since they are the ones who will be waiting around and twiddling their thumbs while I’m ‘playing on bream gear’. Accordingly, the first thing I did when I got home was to respool the reel with new and unscuffed 8kg mono, ready for my next rumble.

The next big lesson also occurred out of Port Mac, but this time off the shelf. There were three of us onboard and I was at the wheel. We were trolling along in some very calm seas and bang, the portside rigger went snap and the 24kg rig howled – we were on! I kept trolling hoping to induce another strike and within an instant, bang, the short corner outfit was also hooked up. I maintained the trolling speed hoping to secure the trifecta, but after another 30 seconds or so I gave up, put the motor in idle and went down the back to clear the other lines. As I went over to start winding in my 8kg outfit, I was shocked to see that the reel was two-thirds empty!! Apparently, my fellow crew member had set the spread, but somehow forgot to put the ratchet on and the drag was only just above free-spool! I quickly pushed the lever up to strike and felt that lovely feeling of weight at the end – somehow I was on too!

With the other two guys hooked up on the heavier line classes, it was pretty clear that our plan would be to get those two fish onboard first and then concentrate on mine. And within 10-15 minutes, both of my friend’s fish were lying on the floor of the boat. Surprisingly, this pair of SBT were noticeably bigger than the vast majority we had caught previously – certainly not barrels, but easily 30kg+ each. I became a bit more excited at this point, because it was very likely that I was hooked up to a SBT of a similar size and I knew in the back of my mind that the IGFA world record for SBT on the 8kg line class at that time was at a fairly low benchmark of 32kg. I could be onto a world-record fish – how often does someone get that opportunity?! Suddenly, the fight had taken on a new dimension.

Thanks to a well-emptied spool, I was forced to spend much of the first part of the fight regaining a most of my line. Luckily the fish didn’t give me too much trouble during this period and it didn’t take me too long to get the tuna within about 100 metres of the boat. Knowing what I was potentially hooked onto, I made the decision to take a conservative approach to begin with and then basically see what happens. The fight was a slog from this point on and as the first hour of the fight ticked over, we eventually saw a silver flash circling beneath the boat. ‘I’m nearly there’, I thought to myself. But alas, I was sorely mistaken.

Half an hour later the fish had barely budged, it was still circling stubbornly below, it’s shining silver flank only just visible. We had tried a number of boat maneuvers to try and lift it from below, but nothing seemed to be working and I was becoming increasingly desperate as a result. If tuna had a middle finger, I have no doubt that this one’s would have been directly pointed at me. It was now an hour and 40 minutes into the fight and our ideas were drying up. ‘Ok’, I said to myself, ‘it’s time to go’. I gritted my teeth and pushed the lever drag up to maximum sunset (~5.5kg of drag) and went for broke. What happened next changed my view of sunset drag forever. I leant back on the rod and contrary to my expectations, the line didn’t break, no line slipped off and consequently, I was able to retrieve a valuable metre or so of line back on the reel. Another stroke of the rod, another metre of line retrieved, and then another metre, and another. After such a long fight, I now found myself virtually skull-dragging this fish to the surface and suddenly, it was in reach of the gaff within just two minutes! Why didn’t I increase the drag an hour ago?! Oh well, high fives all around, a photo session and another lesson learnt. The fish later weighed in at 34kg and is still the current world record on 8kg line (perhaps a benchmark to be broken by someone else out there?).

Only a couple of weeks later we were out on the SBT again. I had decided to replace all the line on my spool again, since I figured it would have been pretty stretched out and fatigued from the last epic fight. On this particular day, there were school-sized fish of around 18-23kg everywhere, and we had little trouble landing our bag in a quick morning session on heavy gear. I didn’t put out my 8kg outfit until after we had our bag onboard, but it didn’t take very long for me to hook up once more. Given that we had our bag and this was clearly no record fish, I was more than willing to go for broke with this one from the outset. Initially, I let the fish carry on and take its first couple of runs, but then I pushed the lever up to max sunset and went as hard as I could. Similar to the last two minutes of my previous fight, this fish was literally being skull-dragged and within just five minutes, I had a 20kg SBT boat-side ready to be released! Five minutes on 8kg line! Obviously, this fight gave me a much greater appreciation of the overall pulling power of this ‘light’ line and made me think about how much I had underutilized this gear’s potential in the past, simply because I was fearful of sunset drags and snapped lines.

To prove it wasn’t a fluke, I used the same approach on a number of other similar sized SBT and came back with very similar results. They didn’t all behave themselves like the previous one did, but the longest fight I had was still only about 15 minutes long. In more feisty fish, I found that when they went for a bolting run mid-fight, it would be necessary to back the drag off to strike. But as soon as they were finished, it was back up to sunset and the hurt was back on.

I believe that this active changing of the lever drag throughout the fight is important in maximizing the hurt on the fish without snapping the line. It requires the angler to be very alert and ready to lower the drag when the fish decides to bolt, but the advantage of having a lever drag reel is that it allows us to quickly switch down to their desired and pre-determined drag settings anytime throughout the fight, perhaps down to low sunset or further down to strike drag.

This is also where the quality of a lever drag reel also comes into it. When you are in a situation where your gear is being tested to the limits, the last thing you want to happen in the middle of a fight is for your pre-determined drag settings to be altered without you knowing it. As many of you might already know, physics will tell you that the amount of drag being pulled from the reel will inevitably and unavoidably increase as line empties from the reel and the diameter of the spool decreases. In these situations, it is always recommended to back the drag off slightly (to strike or below) to compensate for these increases in drag (as well as to compensate for the increased strain of water pressure when dragging 100s of metres of line through the water). Unfortunately, these laws of physics are an unavoidable fact of life that are largely out of your control and something you simply have to adjust to. However, something that can be more easily controlled by the angler is the quality of reel that you bring to the fight.

Preparing for a long and extended fight when you need the drag to be regularly working within the sunset zone is a hell of a lot of pressure for a little piece of machinery to withstand over long periods. As a result, poorer quality reels with lesser quality drag designs are much more prone to let you down in crucial moments of the fight because of a fatiguing drag system (e.g. overheating, cheaper drag plates, inferior design, etc). Drag failure doesn’t always mean that the reel completely seizes (although this can happen of course), but failure can also mean that you’re pre-determined settings may gradually be increasing throughout the fight without you knowing about it. So say for example that you have been hooked up to a barrel on a 24kg outfit for an hour, you have the lever drag up to sunset (let’s say 15kg of drag), but then the fish suddenly makes a rapid bolt towards the ocean floor. You do the right thing a back the drag back to strike point, but rather than the 8kg of drag you are expecting, you cop 12kg of drag instead! At this time you won’t have time to have worked out what is happening, the fish has bolted, the line has parted, and you are left to stew in your misery for years (or decades) to come. Maybe it would have been worth paying a few more hundred for a Tiagra after all?

Of course, the situation is never as black and white as this. There will still be plenty of times where the drag on a TLD will hold up admirably and will catch you a giant. However, just like those 20kg fish I was skull-dragging in on 8kg line with a nearly locked up reel, you need a very high level of confidence in your gear to want to do this, particularly with a fish-of-a-lifetime. And this is what I think good quality and well-prepared gear offers you the most – the psychological confidence to go for broke and as a result, the ability to maximize your gears potential and minimize the risk that you’ll lose the fish. This includes not only reels, but also the rod, line, gimbal setup, terminal connections, everything. I think I’ve offered enough suggestions in regards to reel choice, but I will cover the other components in my subsequent posts.

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Sinsemilla
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Re: Portland Tuna -What I've Learnt

Postby Sinsemilla » Thu May 11, 2017 5:31 pm

Now that's a good read. Good work mate.

Just another thing on being confident in your gear and using it to its full potential, Set-up your outfits at home and test them. Strap yourself into the gimbal and get a mate or a post to hang on and give it hell. See what the gear can handle and get used to how everything works and what it feels like. It will give you more confidence once out on the water.

Anth

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Re: Portland Tuna -What I've Learnt

Postby frozenpod » Thu May 11, 2017 6:33 pm

Also keep in mind as the spool diameter changes so does the drag.

Smaller spool more line in the water the stronger the drag. Typically the change in drag from full spool to empty spool is 3 times.

One of the key advantages of usjng braid backing it more line capacity so less spool diameter change throughout the fight.

The best way to deal with drag changes is a combination of experience and knowing your gear. Tip monitor the bend in the rod and spool height.



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Re: Portland Tuna -What I've Learnt

Postby frozenpod » Thu May 11, 2017 6:48 pm

Also turn up the drag upto max ie sunset as soon as the hook is set.

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Re: Portland Tuna -What I've Learnt

Postby 4liters » Thu May 11, 2017 6:49 pm

frozenpod wrote:Also turn up the drag upto max ie sunset as soon as the hook is set.

Is that to ensure a really solid hookset?
2015/16 Species comp total: 289cm
Brown Trout: 37cm
Flathead: 51cm; Squid: 36cm; Australian Salmon: 51cm; Snapper 46cm; Silver Trevally 23cm; KGW: 45cm

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Re: Portland Tuna -What I've Learnt

Postby frozenpod » Thu May 11, 2017 7:41 pm

To provide maximum pressure of the fish right from the start of the fight.

Tires the fish faster and keeps the fish closer.

But also remember if the fish is taking large amounts of line to start reducing the drag.

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Re: Portland Tuna -What I've Learnt

Postby Blueyed1 » Thu May 11, 2017 9:20 pm

Wow NCR1 that is a great write up! I've been out there and your article makes me feel I'm out there right now! So true to use your gear to full potential and to just use trolling lures rather than deep divers when it's just not happening to cover more ground! When things are just not happening I tend to caress the dropoff especially where the floor shows tighter lines on my platinum card. That's always where we mostly bag out.
I look out for birds and not just necessarily the birds swirling and diving but I also look out as to what direction they are flying in. On one occasion leaving Port Fairy and heading to the shelf I followed 3 birds bee-lining towards the shelf. There was perhaps a 1/2 metre of swell an almost no wind. It was like glass - no waves - almost surreal. I kept up and followed them straight to the diving flock. It was just unbelievable. We arrived and were straight into a quad hookup....Just love tuna fishing!!!

Joe



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