Unhooked! There are lots of ways to lose big fish…

Bobby Byrd
Unhooked! There are lots of ways to lose big fish…
500 pound blue marlin on the leader.
It was a hot summer day with no wind, flat calm seas and lots of bait around the deepwater oil rig about 100 miles offshore. We happened to catch a bonito and put it out for live bait. Not too long after, the bait started acting real nervous and we got a strike. When the line came tight, a 500 pound blue marlin came up jumping. As our lady angler started fighting the fish, the line was very tight and had plenty of pressure on it. We continued to back down on the fish, gaining line quickly, but something was wrong. There was still something on the line but it was not acting like a big blue marlin. After a few minutes we found out what was on the line. We could see the bait and it was still alive, but on the hook was an identical bonito, half-digested! Our fish had swallowed the live bait and when we set the hook, it lodged into a bonito already in the marlin's stomach. This prevented the marlin and, as we applied pressure, we simply pulled both baits out of the stomach and right out of the fish's mouth. What are the chances of that happening? Talk about bad luck! This happened using a J-hook, back before the widespread use of circle hooks became more popular and in some cases mandatory. There is really no way to prevent what happened, sometimes weird things occur and there is just not a lot you can do about it. Other times things happen that can be avoided. Here are a few examples we have experienced that could have been avoided with the right procedures.

Trolling by a mooring buoy near a rig, a blue marlin came up and crashed the right rigger, pulled drag and came off. The captain spins the boat around and makes another pass by the buoy. Here comes the marlin again and crashes the same bait, but no hookup, he continues to chase it and keeps taking the lure but no hookup. What is going on? When this happens, most likely something is wrong with your hookset. Either the hook came off or it is fouled or bent. In our case the initial strike was aggressive and apparently the fish got hooked in a manner that bent the point over where it would have had trouble hooking a piece of cheese. What's the remedy? Always check your baits after a strike. Make sure the hook is not damaged and is still sharp, and then check your leader and rigging. It doesn't take long and can make the difference between catching and losing a fish. This is even more important during a tournament. Also, when using a monofilament leader, rig the hookset with wire or cable. We have seen mono hook rigs get chopped by a wahoo and then a big blue strikes no hook(s) not good!

How about a nice big blue marlin bite. You are fishing the Poco Bueno Invitational and the big fish is cooperating and getting close to the boat. Everything is going great until the leader pops out of the water and you see the snap swivel is open, twisted, and the loop of the leader is barely attached! All of a sudden everyone on the boat starts to panic this winning fish could be lost any second. Not closing a snap swivel properly is common cause, but using quality snap swivels is also required. If the fish gets tangled in the leader or you are using a short leader, a fish's tail or body can actually slap it open. To prevent this, most crews will use just the swivel and crimp the leader directly, bypassing the snap. This is especially important if using wind-on leaders with a short leader attached to your bait or lure.

The splash looked like a depth charge went off behind the boat. A huge fish has just taken your bait and is peeling line off your 80-wide reel. You have never seen a fish this big or a bite like that. The fish jumps fifteen times right behind the boat as the captain pursues and keeps the amount of line between you and the fish to a minimum. Your rod is bent over with 25 lbs of drag and you are getting line back as the fish gets closer to the boat. POW! The line parts and the rod springs back hitting you in the face. There is an instantaneous "exclamation of dismay" from your crew. You are stunned; the fish is gone and you will have a black eye tomorrow. What Happened? One of the most important things you can do when big game fishing is to take care of your line. You must constantly inspect it, protect it, and change it often. Always take care when handling your line; freeing tangles, attaching it to rigger clips, and winding it on the reel. Check your roller guides on every trip. Keep them lubricated and make sure they spin freely. Take care not to let them get banged up, scratched and nicked. Changing your fishing line is one of the cheapest expenses in big game fishing and without a good connection between you and the fish, nothing else really matters.

We hope these examples will help you become a better fisherman and give you an idea of some of the things that are important when big game fishing. Oh and by the way guide the line on the reel properly with your free hand and it will keep the rod from hitting you in the face if the line breaks!

Are you ready for a billfish tournament? Join us in Port Aransas, August 4-8 for the Texas Legends Billfish Tournament. For more information, please go to www.txlegends.com. To learn more about big game fishing, visit us at our Fox Yacht Sales - Seabrook office at Tops-N-Towers. At Fox we have an extensive inventory of brokerage boats and we are the exclusive Texas dealer for Jupiter and CABO Yachts.