Thinking Outside The Box : TOPSHOTS AND SPECTRA
The action really begins when you get a bite when talking about fishing for larger tuna. So whatever tricks and techniques I can find to accomplish that feat more often, I am all ears, eyes and mind open.
Frank Zappa was quoted as saying: A mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work if it's not open. SOLID SPECTRA
My mind has been on the subject of solid spectra for quite some time. A very good friend of mine fishes a long trip on the Royal Polaris every year. On that particular trip, every year, an angler named Francois, seemed to get more bites than anyone else, year after year.
So, as they traveled back to Cabo San Lucas for the fly back option, Gary pinned Francois down, and asked him what he was doing different that allowed him to get more bites than even the hottest sticks on the boat (and trust me, that particular trip carries some horsepower)
Francois then explained to Gary that he has been an advocate of solid spectra for quite some time, and feels it goes through the water easier, thus resulting in more bites. I at first was extremely skeptical, thinking no way can solid go through the water that much easier than hollow spectra.
Then I remembered the Frank Zappa statement, DOLT!
So, Gary and I set off on a bunch of testing connections between hollow and solid, because most of my reels are full of hollow, and I only want enough solid in the water to do the longest of long soaks I do, somewhere in the neighborhood of 120-150 yards. Gary is a huge fan of the nub and nail knots for connecting hollow to fluorocarbon, so we started off there.
We tried several ways, most of which utilized the doubled up solid spectra being dragged inside a short piece of hollow for a connector sleeve. It seemed to me if we tied a bimini, got the knot portion of the bimini up inside the hollow, and used that as our nub, we would be golden. NOT!
That failed miserably testing wise.
You see, I felt we had to have a great connection between the hollow and solid, as now we were going to have two connection points that we never had before, thus two more spots for potential failure.
We stayed with it, and found the best connection was the one I used years ago when the only hollow we had was 200# hollow! I learned that in Yo's Custom Rods, where I cut my teeth on long range. The best connection was to simply drag the solid spectra in doubled up, maybe 3-5 feet, and secure with either Sato crimps or nail knots, and glue of course. When making this connection, and before securing with your crimp or nail knot, just check to make sure you have a good Chinese Finger Cuff action going. I slide a pair of the smallest two Sato crimps I can slide over the hollow sleeve and the doubled up solid. Most times it seems like a 60# crimp works best, and Gary's nail knot is a "one size fits all" deal!
Using a quality braid, such as Tufline shown here, makes this work easier, and is reliable which provides you with confidence to pull hard. I prefer white, it's much easier to see at all hours of the day.ON THE WATER TESTING
My first trip using the solid showed some promise, as I was having a tough time getting a bite. So I remembered I had brought two "Stealth Outfits" using the solid. I pulled one of my outfits with the solid, and it was less than ten baits later, I got a bite!
And it's not like we were hooking them at will- it was a tough lower banks bite, the type where it's mostly show, and very little go!
I went on to land two more that afternoon using the trick solid spectra. I knew I was on to something.
After 4 trips chasing big fish, I'm of the belief that it has it's time and place. And most of the differences I see between the hot sticks and the anglers who are just watching are very subtle differences. Bait selection, bait presentation, proper length top shot for the current conditions, reel with excellent free spool, spool as full as possible to make it easier for sardine to travel to "the zone", pre-stretching of the top shot to eliminate and memory coli, etc, etc.
My biggest Yellowfin Tuna using this setup weighed 274, caught earlier this year. ADVANTAGES/DISADVANTAGES OF SOLID
Obviously, more connections equal more chances of failures. Some might view this as a big disadvantage and want to shy away from these extra connections. So, when making this connection between solid and hollow, make sure you test for a good finger cuff. If you use the Sato crimps, the proper sized crimp will require you to slide the crimps down to their location using the crimping tool. If you nail knot, make sure you tighten the nail knot properly as well.
Here shown is good quality needles, and the Sato crimps securing the hollow to the solid.
A closer view. I found it much more economical to buy the whole set of DaHo needles.
Whether you opt for the latch needle, or loop puller version, it's all personal preference.
One of my problems I have with spectra is the fact it is very difficult to spot bad, or weak spots in the braided line. These can be a result of a needlefish nipping at your line, a bird getting tangled in the line, a tangle, a hook fraying the line, bump against a sand paper skinned shark, or many other ways the line can develop a weak spot. Sometimes I spot the frayed area, and I carry a Sharpie in the little tool pocket in my Fishworks shorts; when I see the fray, I mark it. Trust me, the fray has a way of disappearing to the human eye. Here is where I feel the use of solid is a huge advantage.
On the one hand, hollow to hollow splices are clean, 100% success rate, very simple to splice out these bad areas, sometimes even while fighting a fish! But I am still very convinced I get a better presented bait using the solid.
I figure most the damage that is going to occur in the first 100-150 yards, thus changing that top 120-150 yards of solid spectra I have on the reel makes this very simple. I buy in bulk, and it ends up costing me somewhere around $13-$18 to just dump the solid from one trip, and replace with brand new solid. This gives me a big boost in confidence, and I feel confidence is a great thing to have on your side in fishing.
It's a little time consuming to do these connections, but I feel it pays off huge dividends in terms of bites. HISTORY OF SOLID TO HOLLOW
As stated earlier, we only had 200# hollow spectra in the beginning years of using spectra, and we used that only for our connections using the Pandeles crimp system. Our reels were filled with solid, and just a short piece of hollow for our smooth splices into our top shots.
And we managed to catch a lot of big fish that way. Granted, we had some failures, a majority of the time due to "operator error", but we didn't have glue yet, were using only one crimp, and we experienced some losses.
But I think this (using solid spectra) is a trend that will get us more bites. LAST LICKS
A couple more items that have come up recently as topics amongst friends I trade ideas with. One of which I wholeheartedly agree with, and another one that I think is way out there. But I liked Frank Zappa's music, and I appreciate his quote way up above there. So I'll try and have an open mind.
1) Sometimes a bit longer top shot of fluorocarbon is in order. You notice the tuna boiling around, but no one seems to get a bite. We feel it looks a lot like a purse seine net over their heads, and they might be hesitant to bite a bait that is very close to a white rope of spectra.
Maybe we are thinking too much about this, but we have experienced these tough times of getting a bite, put on a longer top shot, and got bit.
2) Along the same thought process, a few friends have suggested a very long mono top shot, saying the bait even further away from the opaque white spectra will work much better.
I shudder to go back to the long mono top shots myself, but will if I see an application for it. The anglers who suggested this are sure it will work better in scratch conditions.
Along these same lines, anyone who has some ideas about how to get more bites, I do fish a bit more than the average angler. I am open to discussion to improve our chances, feel free to shoot me a message on some of the fishing message boards on the internet.