long distance fishing
The ability to pursue really big fish like blue marlin on varying line classes, and using really heavy tackle when targeting giant bluefin tuna, represent two of the greatest angling experiences our sport can offer up. I cherish the many opportunities I get to travel with my crew to exotic (and sometimes not-so-exotic) locations to chase the species of our choice. Sometimes we travel by boat; other times we fly or even drive to our destination. You can be ready for all of it, provided that you are organized, do the necessary scouting and homework and make ample preparations prior to the journey.
I’ve written a lot about keeping the boat ready and how to eliminate and prevent as many potential disasters as possible. Mechanical breakdowns are, at times, unavoidable, but I still firmly believe that you can reduce your exposure to problems by being on top of the ship’s mechanical systems and cosmetics. Forward-thinking, and staying diligent with preventive and routine maintenance, remain key to your success.
For all trips, especially long-distance journeys, making a travel list well in advance really helps you focus on the essentials, so that you’re not carrying unnecessary weighty or bulky items. During the trip, you should take notes and keep records of what you’ve used, what you might need more or less of, and the items that need to be replaced, so that you are stocked up and ready to fish for the next trip.
Traveling by air comes with its own set of challenges, but you’ll find many great solutions to keep your gear organized and safe. Rod and reel carriers, as well as tackle-bag organizers, have come a long way in helping to get your gear to its destination safely — provided that the carriers can get it there in the first place!
For certain expeditions, it may be wise to put small shipping containers together or lockable dock boxes on pallets, so you can ship them ahead of time and pick them up upon your arrival. This tactic comes in handy when you’ll be fishing in a location for a long period of time and need to have enough gear to get you through, with an ample stock of consumables such as line, leader, crimps, hooks, swivels, spare rods and reels, and parts for quick repairs. However, it’s always more expensive and problematic to ship supplies to your locale — especially if they have to go through customs.
When we shipped the 58-foot Brier Patch to Europe to fish Madeira for the season, I hung a huge chart of the eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean on the overcounter galley cabinets so that, while my deckie Ben Brownlee and I were working, we had our eye on the goal and stayed focused on what promised to be an incredible season. We went through everything. Every mechanical system, drawer, container, cabinet, bilge, stateroom drawer and closet. You name it — we checked into it and we cleaned, organized and inventoried all of it. It turned out to be a fairly easy task, since we already kept things very organized.
We kept track of our spare parts, tackle and provisions on spreadsheets inserted into a three-ring binder that we constantly referred to. We not only knew where everything was — we knew the part number, quantity and where we could procure the part should we need more. I still use the same system today, and it’s very easy and incredibly handy to have all that information at your fingertips. It helped us most with our tackle.
Since we mainly fished in Florida, the Bahamas and Isla Mujeres, Mexico, we were well equipped for light-tackle fishing, but we knew we would need to fish 130-pound outfits on our eastern Atlantic journey. Making inventories and putting together lists of necessities helped us stay within our budget and made sure that our stock of gear matched our actual need.
Since we would be doing a bit of baitfishing, we pretty much had everything we needed for that — plenty of leads, wire for teaser baits, waxed line of several sizes, spools of Monel wire in varying tests, rigging needles, bait knives and everything we needed for our daily fishing.
We also bring along a digital Chatillon force gauge on every trip to set our drags and an IGFA-certified IWS Scale Master fish scale to weigh any catch that might be a potential trophy or record.
To prepare for our lure fishing, not only did we need a wide selection of lures, but also a good supply of hooks of all sizes, stainless rigging cable and the crimps to fit it, chafe gear, crimp covers and heat shrink of varying sizes that we measured per lure to figure out how much stock we would need.
This past summer and fall, as in the previous few years, we traveled up to Canada to experience the incredible heavy-tackle giant bluefin tuna action. This year, I was booked for nearly a month of fishing days, so I made the decision to drive up and take everything we would need — everything and then some, including a Bluewater Chairs fighting chair. With the quality of heavy-tackle action there, it was important to have the right rods, reels, line, leader material, crimps, hooks, tags and tag sticks, and tools to be successful, as well as all the video- and still-camera gear to capture the action. Loading up the truck and driving was the best way to get all that gear up there.
Probably the most important thing you can do for any expedition is prepare, either by probing those you know who have fished that location before, or by gleaning information from the locals. Without question, the guy who has worked the hardest and done the most to promote the eastern Nova Scotia giant bluefin tuna fishery is James Roberts. When it came time for our extended Canadian trip this past season, the information from Roberts proved invaluable, and pretty much ensured a successful trip. We compared notes on how much of everything we needed as well as where to purchase it at the best price. Again, when buying so many items in large quantities, it pays to do your homework and procure the best quality at the best price. I even took our 130- and 80-pound mono to the IGFA to pretest it and make sure it would not overtest in the event that we hooked a record fish.
The worst thing that can happen on a costly and time-consuming expedition is some common scenario for which you didn’t bring the right gear or a plan of attack to handle swiftly and decisively. The weather and the fishing are the only two things that you can’t do anything about. If you do all the little things right, and you come to the game prepared, just let the weather happen and hope the fish are there — when the opportunity presents itself, you’ll be rigged up and ready.