As a caravanning fisho, it doesn’t matter how much fishing tackle you have, you will always want more. I have no doubt that even with the best advice you’ll arrive at a spot with a pink lure only to find them biting on blue, or take a bunch of worms for bait and find out you need yabbies for success. Such is the nature of fishing, and hence the huge variety of tackle presented in every local fishing shop.
Let’s start with just one basic: there isn’t really a ‘general purpose’ fishing rod and reel combination that will suffice for your trip, yet many novice anglers ask for it. Most of us travel with at least three to five rods, and even that is minimal for a serious angler.
You will definitely need a light threadline outfit for the bread-and-butter species such as bream, trout and flathead. This one outfit can double as a casting outfit for small soft plastics, lures and squid jigs. A reel in the 2500 size range loaded with around 3-5kg line is ideal. It’s your choice if you like braid or monofilament, and for all the benefits of braided line – thin diameter and strength – it does require a little extra skill in rigging knots and leaders, etc.
You’ll also need a heavier outfit, in the 6-10kg class, for larger prey such as snapper, barra, queenies and mackerel. A ‘snapper style’ outfit comprised of a 7ft rod with a flexible tip for casting will do the trick. A matching threadline reel in the 5000-6000 size range can double as a surf reel, and a two-piece beach rod is worth its weight in gold, especially for salmon, tailor and mulloway off the sand and rocks.
Throw away your ideas about a solid tackle box and consider a tackle bag or even a back pack with removable trays. You will often need to walk over rough terrain, so something with shoulder straps is advisable. Soft-edge bags also pack more conveniently into confined spaces and if you pack correctly you may find that you might only need to carry a small tray of specialised tackle into each spot. Tackle bags usually have numerous pockets, which you will find convenient especially given the vast quantity of small items we carry to our fishing spots.
The big question is what to put in the tackle box/bag to be prepared but remain compact? Lures, hooks, sinkers and accessories can be frightfully expensive and no matter where you travel it is always worth visiting the local tackle shop for expert advice. It’s not only about what you present to the fish, it’s where and when.
Four essentials for fishing include a knife, scissors or line clippers, a net, and long-nose pliers. I can’t tell you how many fish-of-a-lifetime have been lost at the final moment because the fisherman didn’t have a net.
The internet is full of helpful information on destinations and likely species. For bait fishing, you simply need to get a suitably-sized hook down and out to where the fish are. Do some homework on your likely quarry, their habitat and their feeding habits, and make some selections to suit. You can often catch a big fish on a small hook, but not often the reverse.
Even if you wish to specialise on big fish, you will need some smaller hooks for catching live bait. Start with a selection of hooks right down to size 12 for garfish, tommies, herring and yakkas, and work through the range from there. The average fisho targeting bread-and-butter species will need a selection from size 8 to 4/0 hooks. You not only need to select the correct hook size for the fish’s mouth but also for the bait. It’s no good throwing a large bait and hook at a fish with a tiny mouth, such as a luderick.
Bream, whiting and many other bread-and-butter species will require size 4-8 hooks, and I have a preference for the “baitholder” style that have little barbs on the shaft to stop slippery baits, like mussels and pippies, from slipping down in a clump at the gape. For pinky snapper (squire), Australian salmon and a host of other species, 1/0 “suicide” hooks work fine and I use this style predominantly up to 5/0 on larger snapper, flathead, Murray cod, yellowbelly and for general bottom bashing, even in the surf.
Circle hooks are terrific if you wish to catch and release your fish as they do little damage. Once you leave southern climates, beach fishing for tailor becomes a major attraction and hence some ganged hooks are ideal. These come with open eyes than can be crimped closed around the gape of the next hook. Most use three ganged hooks to bait a full pilchard in the surf – a very effective method that will also catch a range of species, including salmon, sharks and many toothy critters.
I travel with a range of sinkers, from tiny split shots for light-weighting under floats, to drop sinkers for offshore bottom rigs, a few star sinkers for the surf and a wide range of ball sinkers for just about everything else. A couple of different sizes of swivels are needed, mainly for light line classes, and some larger ones for surf and heavier applications with thicker leaders. Get the black ones as aggressive fish like barracoota will often bite a shiny swivel and cut your line.
Short wire traces are essential when targeting the “razor gang” and some fluorocarbon leader in perhaps 3kg and 20kg creates thin diameter, yet very wear-resistant, terminal traces.
Float fishing can be terrific fun in the right conditions and will keep you and the kids mesmerised for hours. Pack a couple of light quill floats, maybe a bubble or two, a larger ‘glitterbug’ style for squid jigs, snook, dollies and mackerel, and why not try party balloons to get that larger livey out to the strike zone for tuna or kingfish?
Squid has become a major target species. These delicious cephalopods are easily caught with a well-presented jig and can be targeted from most pars of our coastline. They also make terrific fresh bait for just about everything. Buy a couple of jigs starting at 2.5 grams for casting from the rocks, or drifting in the roof topper.
There’s a colour for every fisho and success will vary from day to day, but I will never travel without a couple of 2.5-gram blue-bodied jigs with the flashy reflective undersides. I only use the cloth-covered style as they easily absorb the smell from rubbing it with a bit of bait.
The big revolution in fishing in past decades centres on lures and jigs. Lures, whether soft plastics, spinner baits, hard and soft bodies, poppers, fizzers and a vast array of other piscatorial contraptions, have been the focus of the industry for many years. Lures have evolved from bits of twisted metal and tubing into a specialised field incorporating highly developed technology.
A properly presented lure will catch everything from whiting to marlin, and it is amazing how a small fish will hit a large lure, and vice versa. The revolution was led by bibbed hard bodies and followed quickly by soft plastics of every size, shape, colour, texture and combination. Travel with some small grub and worm styles of plastics for the bread-and-butter species, and some larger 50-100mm models for the larger flathead, barra, and a plethora of larger-mouthed and pelagic species.
Your local tackle shop should be able to offer you plenty of advice on lures, but leave some extra funds in your travelling budget for that hot tip at the local shops when you arrive at your dream location – it will be worth it.