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Who Dares Wins

Heading down to the South Western corner of Australia in search of hard pulling pelagic’s from the stones is an expedition often fraught with danger. Heavy lines, heavy fish, slippery rock ledges and large crashing swells all play their part in ensuring this hard core style of fishing is definitely not for the faint hearted.

Safety is of main consideration when fishing from dangerous rock locations and certain precautions need to be taken to ensure your expedition is not only enjoyable but also safe. Rock hopper boots enable anglers to securely plant their feet on the slippery stones with their strong, sharp metal spikes penetrating the soft, slimy stuff and offering a good solid hold on most common surfaces. PFD’s or personal floatation devices are also a must and should be checked and maintained to a fail proof level. Never fish alone and make sure someone at home knows where you are and when you are expected back. Respect the ocean and all of her power and never risk rescuers lives!

Trying to stop large, hard pulling pelagic and seriola species from the slippery southern stones is hard enough without having to haul them up onto high rock platforms for filleting or photos. Long, strong rods and large heavy reels full of ridiculously thick line are all the norm down here and totally necessary for any angler who wants to have a serious crack.

Ballooning live baits such as squid and herring is a popular technique for calm conditions when the wind is at your back and is probably the simplest method of feeding live bait to a large rock dwelling predator. (for full large float rig details click here…) Twelve to thirteen foot rods rated at 15 – 24kg coupled with large spin or overhead reels loaded with 30 – 80lb nylon lines are needed as are heavy leaders of 80 – 120lb. Hook sizes vary depending on target species and bait size but average between 7/0 – 12/0 with the number one rule being the stronger and sharper the better. Swivels also need to be super strong and capable of handling the pressure placed on the heavy lines and leaders.

Slide baiting is another popular technique for delivering large dead or live baits out into deep water from shore and is best suited to rougher conditions when ballooning winds are unfavorable. This tricky little technique is one of my old favorites and has accounted for many memorable land based captures for me over the years. (for full slide bait rig details click here…)

Firstly cast a large grapnel styled sinker out and allow it to settle into the sea floor, then you simply attach your live bait and slide bait clip to your main line and slide the lot down and out towards the stopper clip and sinker like a flying fox. A piece of sacrificial 30lb leader of around one meter in length is tied between the sinker and stopper clip, this is designed to snap during a strike leaving the angler to freely battle the fish without the worry or risk of the heavy grapnel sinker snagging.

There are two different styles of slide bait clips generally used, the uni directional clip which as its name suggests will only slide in one direction and eventually end up at the stopper clip. And the dual directional clip which obviously swings both ways and is very handy for suspending baits in mid water and white water strike zones. These clips also need to be heavy duty to cope with the brutal punishment our magnificent southern ocean is capable of delivering at times. The Richter brand of slide bait clips are the best I have found available and are made from high tensile stainless and top quality components to ensure success every time.

This hard core form of rock fishing would have to be one of the most difficult forms of fishing imaginable and it is not hard to see why so many anglers risk life and limb each and every year to do it. The rewards are definitely there for those prepared to put in the effort with species such as tuna, groper, king fish, Samson fish and snapper just to name a few. The lengths an angler generally has to go to in order to achieve such captures is more often than not bordering on insanity, but you know what they say, Who Dares Wins.

For instance this trip I was fishing a brutal 13 foot, 50 – 80lb graphite, low mount 3 piece Loomis and Franklin rod coupled with a Shimano Torium 30 overhead reel and a Shimano 13 foot Revolution Coastal 15 – 24kg rod with Shimano Spheros SW 20,000 spin reel. Both reels were loaded with 200 meters of 30lb nylon line top shotted with 80 meters of 80lb nylon shock leader joined to 25 meters of 120lb wind on leader. Seems excessive I know but believe me if you weren’t rigged this way you weren’t even in with half a chance!

The 30lb nylon main line is thin enough to get plenty of capacity on the reel yet strong enough to put some serious hurt on a big fish when it runs wide and the 80lb nylon shock leader comes in real handy when line starts coming into contact with rocks in close. The 120lb leader comes into its own when big kings and sambos play dirty and also during landing but is a bit of a bitch to cast. It certainly casts easier and further from an overhead reel for those with the skill to do so. The boys and I managed some very nice blue fin tuna, Samson fish, snapper and salmon over the 2 days of fishing before the weather turned and sent us packing.

The ledge we fished this year was around 10 – 15 meters above sea level; it was sloping, steep and extremely dangerous. All safety precautions were in place and everyone there had plenty of experience when it comes to this sort of thing. Seriously do not attempt this style of fishing unless you are totally confident and prepared to do so as this is generally how most anglers are killed each year. Mind you it is also one of the most exhilarating yet exhausting forms of fishing I have ever experienced and certainly one I look forward to experiencing again very soon.

Calm seas, clear skies

Nick Hocking

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South West Sojourn

The 2017 west coast salmon run is shaping up to be an absolute cracker once again with smaller, fast moving schools of between 10 and 100 fish starting to make their way gradually north to spawn already. The salmon over here are notoriously fussy at the beginning of their run and the locals down in the SW were very surprised to see me catching fish on plastics when they were apparently not taking any lures. They were giving me heaps about my squidgy lure choices to begin with remarking that only certain lures were working, smiling jacks hard bodies, Richter plugs, 40 – 55g gold Halco twisties and white McArthy plastics.

The 1st school of around 100 fish slowly made its way up the coast hugging the shore line to avoid predation giving me and the 20 or so waiting anglers a nice shot as they passed. An array of metal, plastic and baits were cast at these wary looking fish with only 3 anglers eventually hooking up, two on live baits and mine on the squidgy 140mm slimey that I’d earlier coated in S factor.

The style of fishing down that way is to all hang out in the likely locations like a pack of hoodlums waiting and scanning the shore line and horizon for approaching schools whilst constantly sledging shit on everyone for everything. The boys were all eventually impressed by the squidgy wrigglers and my confidence in using them, there were no more smart remarks about the plastics they had never considered before but I am sure certainly will now.

Very interesting how even the faster moving, smaller schools were still falling victim to well presented casts and S factor. Once the salmon were cast to the scent and slick left in the water was enticing the super spooky salmon into feeding and were even circling around in the slick for a minute or so whilst I was fighting my fish before moving on again. The squidgies also gave me the flexibility to chase the schools as they moved and saved me the hassle of gathering and storing live baits.

My outfit of choice was Shimano’s Revolution Coastal rod, 9’ two piece rated at 6 – 10kg matched with a Shimano Stella SW 5000 spooled with Shimano 20lb power pro braided line. This outfit was not only ideal for pitching well presented casts to very spooky fish but also extremely handy when it came to controlling the big salmon around difficult landing zones.

Squidgy soft plastics were coated in S factor catch scent and fished on ½ ounce jig heads with 6/0 hooks attached to 40lb fluoro carbon leaders of around one meter in length. A loop knot was used to connect the squidgies to the leader allowing them greater movement and delivering a more natural swimming action and overall presentation. Shimano 20lb Power pro braid was joined to leader via Bimmini twist double and improved Albrite knots.

Shimano’s power pro braid is smooth and supple allowing for long casts and sensitive feel with the added bonus of not slicing through fingers during long casting sessions! The Revolution Coastal rod is sensitive enough for fishing lightly weighted plastics yet also beefy enough to pitch metal slices and weighty surface lures out of sight. Its solid carbon graphite design produces amazing strength throughout the entire blank allowing anglers to control hefty fish during difficult landing situations with ease.

The performance of Shimano’s Stella SW5000 was again flawless with its silky smooth drag system and various high tech features proving it to still be the number one anglers’ choice in reel for many applications and for very good reason! Flagship model reels such as Shimano’s Stella SW really come into their own when it comes to superior quality, performance and reliability.

For instance, try casting lightly weighted soft plastics around in windy conditions before changing to heavier metals or stick baits and watch the wind knots created by cheaper or inferior reel and spool designs. This annoying problem and many frustrating others can be eliminated by simply fishing with superior quality tackle making reels such as the Shimano Stella well worth every cent.

The 2016 west coast salmon run was certainly one that will be remembered  for many years to come with fish making their way up and into Perth’s Swan River and even as far north as Learmonth jetty in Exmouth. The larger schools of Australian salmon will begin to show during the next couple of weeks with the quality of the run being totally dependent on the Leeuwin current. Hopefully we will have a slight Leeuwin current pushing well out to sea allowing the salmon to lazily make their way to where ever they please.

Calm seas, clear skies

Nick Hocking

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