I’m often asked what I would bring along, in terms of tackle and boat gear, on a trip to someplace or another that I’ve never been before. While this is a pretty loaded question, I started thinking about the things that are most important to me on a fishing boat. So here’s my list of things that you shouldn’t leave home without — along with that American Express card, of course!
10. A large assortment of hooks — You can’t have too many kinds of hooks on board. You should carry circle hooks in light wire for small billfish and the largest models available for targeting big marlin. You also need an assortment of J hooks for lures in sizes 7/0 through 14/0, both straight-style and curved-in tuna bend. You also need some needle-eye hooks for pulling cedar plugs.
9. Dedicated bait rods — I prefer to use short “kite-style” rods with 50-pound-class reels, filled with 60- to 80-pound clear mono. It’s also good to carry along a couple of medium-size spinning rods and reels filled with 30- to 50-pound braided line.
8. Tackle to catch live bait — You should take Clark RBM spoons in several sizes; planers in sizes 1, 2 and 3; small- to medium-size trolling feathers, such as Pearl Babies; double-style hooks in different sizes; a variety of lead-head feather- and buck-tail jigs; and sabiki rigs in several sizes.
7. Rigging needles — You’ll want to take closed eyes for dead baits in different lengths and diameters and open eyes for live baits, with streamlined eyes and dull points.
6. Crimping tools — You need both a small-size tool for light leaders and a large Nicopress-style tool for the heavy stuff, along with all the proper sizes and styles of crimps. Be sure to keep tabs on the adjustment of the large crimping tool; with heavy use, they can loosen up and not compress the crimp enough.
5. Cable cutters — Buy a good pair. Don’t go cheap; they’ll give you sloppy cuts with frayed-out ends. I prefer Felco.
4. Heat gun and heat-shrink tubing — You’re going to be making hook-sets, so bring the right stuff. I like to use the heavy-walled heat shrink with adhesive to make mine.
3. A wide range of lures — I like to have a lot of lures on hand, rigged and ready to use, in all sizes from small to extra large. And carry different head shapes in both hard- and softhead varieties — you never know what the fish are going to like from day to day.
2. Gaffs — It’s good to have fixed-head gaffs (all with 8-foot handles) with a 3- and 6-inch bite for small- to medium-meat fish and an 8-inch-bite tuna gaff. And I always like to have at least two, but preferably four, flying gaffs on board with a 10- to 14-inch bite — you never know!
1. Large set of bolt cutters — This is the one item that every boat fishing for big game should have on board — and one that you never want to have to use! But if someone accidentally gets stuck on a big hook, these could be a godsend.