Big lures catch big fish. But during the course of the day, the big fish only bite at certain small windows of time. Changing up your tackle by downsizing your outfits can make your session more fun by allowing you to catch fish of different sizes and even increase numbers in your bag. Here’s how to catch more with lighter tackle.
Years ago, I’ve read an article regarding the “Jellybean Theory”, which relates to the use of smaller lures to tempt more fish therefore increasing your chances of success. This theory is based on the fact that the fish won’t always eat big offerings no matter how easy it is to capture and eat the said bigger prey.
“If the area you plan to fish has a lot of fishing pressure and gets hit on the daily, downsizing your gear can help a lot too.”
Like us humans, we don’t always eat half kilo steaks and potatoes 5 times per day. We snack on smaller food items like chips, biscuits and other small meals and snacks throughout the day in addition to our 3 big meals. Also take the fishery into account when planning your day. If the area you plan to fish has a lot of fishing pressure and gets hit on the daily, downsizing your gear can help a lot too. Taking this into account when fishing a full day, it pays to offer smaller lures or bait when the hot bite slows down to allow a continuous stream of action, keeping everyone active and happy the whole day.
How Light is Right?
Your fishing plans will dictate how light you can go in terms of downsizing gear. If you are chasing big predatory pelagics or reef monsters with heavy PE8 – 10 outfits, bringing a few PE4 – 6 rigs can help keep the anglers casting and catching even the smaller specimens. When trolling big skirts with 50w Tiagras for big blue Marlin, it is worth it to have some smaller 16w to 20w trolling outfits with 12 – 15lb test line for smaller skirts to suit a wider range of pelagic species. It all boils down to how you plan your day and where you plan to fish. Let’s dive deeper by running a few scenarios to help you grasp the idea better.
Popping / Topwater Fishing
An obvious starting point as this is one of my favorite angling techniques, topwater fishing for GT and other predatory species is as fun as can be and setting up light tackle backups for the day just puts the cherry on top of an epic session or can save a poor day of fishing.
A normal day of GT popping requires you to bring PE8 – PE10 gear to help stop the bullies of the reef and even large pelagic fish that hit topwater lures like Spanish Mackerel, Tuna, and the odd Billfish. Casting big heavy poppers and stickbaits can take a toll on one’s body and as mentioned above, the predators that we are after only feed aggressively during certain periods of the tide phase. When the bite slows down, I have my guests switch to the smaller PE4 rigs that I prepare beforehand and I bring them closer to the reef or to shallower areas where I know there are feisty species that can keep the rods bent while waiting for the tide to shift again. We can even go lighter with 10 – 15kg outfits for more drag burning runs depending on the structure at hand. Use the bigger PE4 setups for very reefy and rocky areas for more chances of success and use the lighter 10kg rigs when the fish still won’t cooperate.
With the outfits sorted out, you’d also want to match your lures to the outfits in hand. Smaller poppers and stickbaits are great but consider bibbed lures and soft plastics too. This allows anglers to focus on pinpoint casting accuracy, casting into tight areas very close to structure without needing to stress over how to swim or pop their lures correctly. Remember to upgrade your hooks though as stock hooks on smaller lures just can’t take the punishment the saltwater reef gang will put them through. Even smaller tackle is worth using when targeting reef. More about the “all-rounder” setup later on.
Dropping heavy metal down deep is an all time favorite and is also an extremely effective way to catch deep dwelling predators. The usual gear used are PE6 to PE8 heavy jigging rods that can jig up to 500g lures. Action packed fishing when the bite is hot, but tiring and painful when you’re not getting any hits. Downsizing your tackle for light jigging sessions can turn the frowns upside down quickly.
Using smaller jigs doesn’t mean that you will catch only the smaller fish. Ocean Blue Fishing guide and operations manager Jed Hokins knows this as he loves light jigging and micro jigging not only for its effectiveness but also the added fun factor when hooking up to 50kg class specimens on 15kg tackle. The jellybean theory is again at our disposal and using 60 – 80g jigs can up your catch rate fast when the tides are right. We mention tides as you can only effectively jig 60g jigs when the flow is slow, and this is when we bring the “trout” rods out when out on a normal day.
When out trolling for big pelagics, we aren’t all blessed with magic that can bring up big billfish from the depths any time we want. There will be days where you won’t even get a touch. You may not need to bring extra outfits for this scenario as too much gear on the boat can only spell disaster.
Downsizing your skirts or lures to suit smaller targets will hopefully help raise some flags. Once you’ve swapped out your lures, hit the FADs, shallower reef, grass lines and other visible structure for a chance at mahi mahi, mackerel, wahoo and other reef species.
No matter what the planned technique is, I always want to have backups and I make sure to bring one or two light casting outfits in the 20kg range or ask my friends or guests to bring light outfits as backups, with something like a 7ft barra rod with a size 4000 or 5000 spinning reel rigged with a 30g casting jig or GT ice cream to cast when the main techniques won’t work. This all-rounder can be used to cast at schooling fish that are feeding on small bait balls, shallow reef that holds coral trout, jobbies or red bass, and other species. These smaller outfits can be day saver no matter how experienced the people in the boat are. It is always fun to have something at the end of your line. Keep an open mind and experiment with different small lures like blades, bibbed minnows, sinking stickbaits, jigs and soft plastics.
Utilizing the knowledge from the jellybean theory, I hope you consider bringing a light tackle alternative the next time you head out. Freshwater to saltwater, this theory holds true and downsizing your lures and tackle will increase the chances of having a great day out on the water rather than having empty eskies and only sunset photos in your phone’s gallery.