Updated: May 1, 2019
Most can relate to a desire of capturing that fish of a lifetime in amongst the hustle and bustle of everyday life, but the reality for many however is that opportunities of tangling with such beasts are relatively limited amongst work, family and social commitments. When that prized fish eventually makes an appearance many are left unprepared with no substantial plan of attack in place and a fair majority of fish win their freedom as a result. A bit of luck is always welcomed when chasing big fish that can potentially take line at will or change direction at speed, but ideally you want to be in control of both the situation and the fish to direct things in your favour which is more than an achievable feat through trailerboat tactics.
The prime angler position when fighting big fish out of a trailerboat is without doubt the rear corner on starboard side. This side of the boat is significant as the driver has near full view of the action, most importantly line angle and direction, and can thus change the boat position quickly as needed. Fishing out of the port side means verbal communication between driver and angler is the only way to keep a link and things can easily get lost in translation here. Keep the starboard side positioned to face up-wind to ensure that in periods of drifting the boat won’t be travelling directly over the fish, thus ensuring the line is kept out and away from the boat. The ideal line angle to fight a fish at this point is around the 30-45 degree mark. It’s acceptable to get directly on top of your fish during the fight but this is not preferred as there’s a greater chance of it swimming underneath the boat towards the other side. Tuna in particular are one such species that frustrate many anglers towards the latter stage of the fight as they pulse down deep with their stubborn circle work. The amount of pressure exerted on gear at this stage of the fight, not to mention the wear and tear where the hook has found its mark, means that this has the potential to end in disaster especially, even more so when big tuna are involved. The best thing to do in this instance is to put the boat in forward gear and plane the fish up towards the surface, minimising the pressure on both the fish and your gear and breaking up the tuna’s rhythm in the process.
Shallow water and structure provide perhaps the most challenging big fish environments and in these situations it pays to keep the engine running in and out of gear as quick direction changes are often required. Again keep an angle on the line away from the boat but don’t let the fish get too far away as the more horizontal the line gets in shallow water the more chance it has of finding bottom structure. You’ll likely need to chase down fish in this situation to gain line back quickly and get back in control. If a fish is also heading directly for structure sometimes it pays to cut it off with the boat before it gets there and send it back in the other direction rather than locking up the drag and trying to lead it away.
When fish decide to play dirty and swim underneath the boat you’ll need to quickly assess the situation and make an appropriate decision. One of the first things I do is place the rod in the water and back the drag off but leave enough pressure to keep the fish hooked. This will ensure the line is kept away from the hull and the chance of it busting off if the fish bolts is lessened, particularly with braided fishing lines. Depending on your position one option is to use the rod to pass the line under and around the outboard leg. Tilting the motor up at this point will also assist with this. If this is not an option the next port of call would be to instruct the driver to put the boat in gear and reverse backwards with a slight downturn of the steering wheel towards the angler. This will direct the line towards the bow of the boat where there’s less chance of it finding any obstacles to tangle with. Avoid driving forwards at all times in this situation as it is likely to end in tears by not only losing the fish but the thought of fishing line wrapped around the prop isn’t great either. Once the fish is back under control then you’re free to re-adjust your drag and continue the fight.
Speaking of fighting, the old pump and wind technique is by far the best way to go about getting your fish up to the boat. Don’t get hung up on getting as many turns of the handle in as possible with each drop of the rod, as sometimes a short sharp lift coupled with half a turn of the handle is enough to turn a fish’s head and mess up its rhythm. Once the head is turned keep it coming towards the boat with a swift but smooth action. If the fish is intended to be kept then a quick gaff shot will save a lot of stuffing around at the side of the boat. If fish integrity is to be preserved however then always aim to use a suitable landing net and direct the fish in head first. Either way whichever technique you choose make sure you make it count as the last thing you want is a fired up fish hell bent on making one last ditched effort for freedom. Sharks are the only real anomaly and the landing technique really needs some consideration here. Tail ropes are great to gain control but use your common sense and if it’s too big to be brought on board then it may be best left in the water for a quick happy snap before release.
So the next time you’re out chasing big fish from your own pride and joy take some time to consider a plan of attack for when that prized fish eventually makes an appearance. Avoid succumbing to the chaos that often ensues which grossly leaves your chances to lady luck. Instead turn the situation to your advantage by utilising the trailerboat tactics on offer in order to help land what hopefully may one day be that quality fish you’ve spent all those years chasing. With the hustle and bustle of everyday life you may only get one shot, so make sure it counts!