How we rig our light tackle kit for bigger flats species
Updated: Feb 11, 2020
Flats fishing from a skiff or wading is some of the best fishing an angler can experience. That is a sentiment felt by every angler that gets the opportunity to take a shot at a tailing Bonefish in skinny water or feel their legs grow week at the sight of a school of Permit charging down a flat, casting shock waves of nervous water in every direction. My particular favourite is the sight of a big, black, paintbrush looking tail that waves around carefree near rocky outcrops and shallow coral flats signalling the presence of the always exotic Ocean Triggerfish.
These species are great to target and provide the angler with a wide range of different scenarios and experiences. That said, however, our average Bonefish run at 3-5 lbs, Triggerfish a little bigger, and while we do see big Permit out there, we generally get most shots at smaller fish sub 12lbs. These species put up a great fight and test an anglers gear on lighter setups when rigged appropriately. However, they are easier to subdue then some of the other species we encounter out there. As a result, I wanted to write a blog about how we rig for these bigger species as a continuation to a blog I wrote about my quick change leader system (click here).
Now it is important to state before I go any deeper into this, that there are no right or wrong ways to kit yourself up for these bigger species; however, this is just something that I have been playing around with for a while, and it works well for my clients and me.
So what species am I talking about when I mention these bigger species? Namely, I am talking about Barracuda, Jacks, Tarpon, Snook and Sharks. These species can and do grow much larger then what I would class as a more light tackle gamefish like the Bonefish, Permit, etc. These species are capable of explosive battles with long hard runs and impressive acrobatics. In addition to this, some species like the Jacks and Barracuda often hit a lure very hard, putting a great initial strain on your kit. As a result, you are looking for a way of rigging your gear so it is solid, durable and won't let you down. Secondly, for me, I am looking for a connection that can go through my guides smoothly to allow me to fish a slightly longer leader to cope with any damage caused during a fierce battle. The final point is that I am looking for a way to have a standard set up that is customisable to the situation I find myself in. For example, It would be very inefficient to have a 6ft long leader of 25lbs and then tie it to a lure and fish.
That way of rigging works for Jacks and larger snappers, however, if you have a big Cuda cruising down the flat and you pitch that lure up to him, expect the Cuda to bite through your leader as if it was cotton. It is also a similar situation with the abrasive nature of a Tarpon's mouth. It would be very tricky to have to clip off the lure and then tie on some wire or a section of 30/-40lbs bite tippet for Tarpon and expect that fish to be there still after you finish. Don't forget that these fish are, for the most part, continually moving, and in this game, it is all about the small advantages you can get to help raise your odds of success.
As a result, this is the system I have designed to give my clients the best chances for anything that may swim past:
( short video )
As you can see, I rig my heavier setups on a 20-50 gram fast action rod and 3000 size reel, with 25lbs braid. This setup is more than enough to cope with any of the bigger fish we come across. To this, I attach a section of 3-4 ft (depending on your rod length) of 20-25 lbs fluorocarbon for the leader. I like a fluorocarbon which maintains a reasonably thin diameter to breaking strain but is stiffer than a standard spool of fluorocarbon. I am a big fan of the Hatch range of leader material for both my light tackle and fly fishing needs.
I use an FG knot to connect my braid mainline to leader material (I like to finish the knot with a couple of half hitches and then a Rizzuto finish) which proves incredibly strong and very thin, allowing it to pass through the guides easily. On the end of this, I will tie on a lure clip (I like the Agraffe tidal clips in 29 or 35 lbs). This serves a really handy purpose as the lure clips are small and very strong, yet allow you great versatility.
Following this is the crucial part. I have several pre-tied 'bite tippet' leaders tied and ready to go. I prefer to have these around 18 inches - 2ft and I opt for leaders in a breaking strain of 25, 30 and 40lbs to cover anything you will encounter. I will then have a set of wire leaders of the same length that are ready to go. I like to have a stock of 3 of each leader ready to go and then replenish as and when needed. I will tie one end of my' bite tippet' to a 40lbs micro swivel and then the other end to another lure clip via a loop knot (I have mentioned it before, but I love the Rapala loop knot). I feel this allows the most movement to fish a variety of lures, yet remove a lot of the clunky metal work out of the fish's view. All that I have left to do is clip my desired 'bite tippet' onto the leader (via the lure clip to swivel) and then finally clip on my desired lure.
The beauty of this system is you shouldn't need to replace your leader as often and so save more of your braid from constantly cutting it and retying leaders. Furthermore, it keeps your all-important braid as far away from snags as possible. The final benefit is the sheer ease of use and versatility, which I don't think can be matched in any other set up.
Thank you for taking the time to read this rather lengthy blog, and I hope you have found something interesting to take into your own fishing.