Small Boat Game Fishing

by Dwayne Sweeney
It’s that time of year again people. The warm weather is here but most importantly the water temperature is on the rise and it’s getting bluer by the day. Game Fishing Time!

Yes, the time of year when all of us keen game fishermen pull out the expensive toys, all the favourite lures, and the boat fuel bill gets a hell of a lot higher.

Now I’m no expert and when it comes to marlin fishing but one thing I do well is annoy the shit out of anyone that is. I’m always asking questions and making sure I’m getting all the advice I can from anyone that is willing to share their knowledge with me; probably a trait I have picked up from my career as a professional rugby player, always wanting to learn and be better. For those of you that are new to game fishing or keen on giving it a go it’s not like snapper fishing where you guard your favourite spots or secret tricks with your life. A lot of people are willing to share their knowledge and good areas to fish (some more than others).

In the years gone by, game fishing was only for the rich and famous with their big boats and all the top-end rods and reels but the growing innovation of boat builders and keen fishermen alike has seen a huge shift in game fishing of late. The trailer boats available in today’s market are amazing, giving fishermen the freedom to take their fishing weapon anywhere in the country where the action is hot, therefore increasing chances of catching the exciting marlin!

Now I want to talk about targeting these amazing fish in small boats. When I say small boats they don’t get much smaller than mine. I’m the proud owner of “Mini Chiefie”, an FC465, which has been built to target marlin. Yip, that’s right, a 4.65m which I caught my very first marlin from and, yes, I do get some very funny looks and even funnier comments, but there is no better feeling than seeing those guys back at the ramp with a big striped marlin tail hanging over the back of ya transom.

Mini Chiefie ready for action

I’ll say it again, I’m no expert by any stretch of the imagination but I’m willing to share with you all how I’ve been lucky enough to get out there and experience catching some of these amazing fish in my little boat.

First thing is first is safety! Yes, my boat is very small but it is very safe and a very stable sea boat. I make sure my 60hp Mercury is regularly serviced, everyone is wearing their lifejackets and I have a good UHF fitted. A Coast Guard call on leaving the ramp with the info of where I’m headed, how many on board and a likely time of return (if this changes you should always update the coastguard). I always have my cell phone on board as it’s always good to have two forms of communication and great for sending pics to ya mates when ya catch one!

Boat Set-up and Preparation

Having good gear set up incorrectly is not going to help you catch fish. Little things like rod holder and outrigger placement can make a huge difference to the quality of your fishing. Learning your lure spread is another key. You need to understand what swims well where in your spread. Most lure companies will state this about each lure, and if they don’t, then just run it in a few different positions and you will soon see where it runs best. You want your lures to have as much action as possible.

The other cool thing is to have your boat set up with tuna tubes or a good live-bait tank. Catching Marlin on live baits is very effective and can be a cheaper option for catching them. Same as any form of fishing … “find the food, find the fish!” If you are in an area with a lot of bait then catch one, rig it up and chuck it over. Make sure when you get a fish on you clear all your gear. You will need the whole boat when you’re fighting marlin. Ensure there are no lures and hooks on the floor, as you don’t want one of those in ya foot.

Preparation is another big key. Now, when I say preparation, it’s things like having all your line in good condition, strong knots and crimps, lures rigged correctly, and sharp, sharp, sharp hooks. Good quality rigging is a must, because marlin are an extremely strong, fast and erratic fish (which makes them so exciting to catch) and they will test you, your crew and most of all, your gear! There are heaps of awesome rigging tutorials on YouTube but it is very time consuming and, trust me, it needs to be done right! Any doubts, then just rig it again! For those of you that need to get rigged up and don’t have the time or just want some really helpful advice, then ya need to get in touch with Shaun Thomsen from STBluewater Services. He’s based out of Peninsula Marine in Kopu on the Coromandel, which is also a great place to get ya boat serviced or rigged and set up for game fishing by Shaun himself. Shaun has a wealth of game-fishing knowledge, and has crewed on boats catching well over 500 Marlin from Mayor Island to the Three Kings, and even the Great Barrier Reef catching 1000lb black marlin.

Lastly, Efficiency and Perseverance

When I say efficiency I mean using your time efficiently. Having a small boat you are going to be limited to the days you can fish and you need to be sure you are fishing the right areas, so do your homework, talk to people that have been out recently, or ask about likely hotspots that have always produced marlin in past seasons. In small boats you are going to struggle to cover large distances on the water, so you need to make sure you know where you’re going before heading out. Then you can spend more of your day fishing and less travelling.

Now perseverance; for me this is the biggest key to seeing fish! Perseverance is going to a hotspot which is known to produce marlin or finding nice warm blue water with lots of bait sign and staying there all day. Don’t work the area for 20mins then get bored and decide to head somewhere else. Stay there!! It can be a very boring form of fishing to start with but once you see the results you will quickly forget about being bored! Marlin don’t feed all day, and if the food is there then the marlin will be. Stay there all day if that’s what it takes, or even go back there next time you are out and check if the bait is still holding. They will come on the bite and you want to make sure you are there when they do.

Now something my dad always tells me before I play a big game; “There is no such thing as luck; you make your own luck.”

Couldn’t be more relevant than in game fishing, it just seems to be, the more you prepare and study and pick the brains of the good guys, the luckier you will get.

Tight Lines and I’ll see ya out on the water!

The FC465 built to target marlin, small but very safe and a very stable sea boat.


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