With more and more crews releasing fish without sticking them with either a tag or a gaff, the finely honed skill of wiring big fish is slowly fading away. The increase in the use of wind-on leaders - and rightfully so, by the way - didn't help much either. When you add in the trepidation of grabbing hold of the leader on a fairly green 600-pound blue for the first time, without any real instruction, you can see why only the crazy and/or fearless step up to the pumps to give it go. But it really shouldn't be that way.
For one thing, you don't have to be large and strong to wire big fish! Just being healthy, agile and confident should enable you to get the maximum out of your big-game fishing experience by wiring that big fish yourself. Of course, you must learn the proper way to handle the leader and then practice it over and over until you feel confident in your ability. Hopefully, some of the pointers I'm sharing here will shorten the learning curve for beginners and improve the skills of those who already know the thrill of handling big fish at the boat.
What You'll Need
I use the term "wiring" because in the good old days the leader material used most often was wire. Few teams still use wire leaders these days, and there is an abundance of different materials employed, but the technique remains the same for each. So for this article, I am using the term "wiring" for handling any type of leader on big fish.
First, you must start with proper equipment, and for this job that means getting, or making, a good pair of wiring gloves. Whichever way you go, your gloves must fit snugly, but not too tightly. They need to have good padding across the back of the hand and around the heel, the meaty portion of your hand under the pinky. The heel of your hand takes most of the pressure, so the padding there should be strong enough to protect your hand no matter how hard you pull.
I have used many different types of gloves through the years, and I now use the AFTCO Bluefever Wiremax glove because it offers protection where necessary yet is still flexible. But choosing wiring gloves can be a very personal thing, and you should pick a pair that you are comfortable with.
Another item of supreme importance is the type of footwear you choose. Many deckhands today prefer to wear flip-flops or sandals while fishing. Being from the old school, I still wear moccasin-type deck shoes. Regardless of the style of footwear you pick, it must come with an excellent nonskid sole. It doesn't take much walking on the cement to ruin the nonskid, so the shoes that I fish with are never worn while I'm off the boat. I try to change into my fishing shoes once I leave the dock and switch back when I return. Sperry Topsider makes a nice nonskid sole, but I'm sure there are other fine alternatives out there as well.