Fish Fight Part 2: Fighting Strategies
There are 3 phases in fighting strategy from hooking to landing. With slow-pitch jigging, you pick up so much more bites than the conventional hi-speed jigging. But also you may lose the fish more unless you know what you are doing.
Characteristics of this jigging which affects the fighting strategies are:
- You are fishing with a very light tackle. You can’t overpower the fish to lift up.
- You pick up more bites near the bottom. The fish is likely to be the kind that runs down into the rocks
Phase 1: Near Bottom
up to 20m from the bottom
This is where you pick up the most bites. What you have to watch out for is to avoid rocks. The cods and groupers go straight back down to the bottom. Amberjacks also dive down and run between ridges. So do dogtooth tunas.
If your PE touches the rock, that will be the end. Any friction can easily break PE line, no matter how thick PE line you use. If the fish goes into the rocks and fortunately PE doesn’t touch the rocks, the fish will just stick there and nothing can move it.
Always count your pitches
So that you know how far you are from the bottom when you hit the fish. If you know how much margin you have, you can make decisions wisely how much pressure to put on the drag to stop the fish. You are playing between the risks of letting the fish run too far to touch the bottom and of going over the capacity of your line system.
Focus until you lift up out of this area
Phase 1 is the most risky area. The clutch time. If you parry the first run and second run, and lift up 20m from the bottom, you are pretty much out of it.
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One is to use thumbing to stop the run, and pray that your system, your hook, your knots, your rings, your line and leader, would hold against the power of the fish.
Fight like Tai-Chi. When the fish starts kicking, let the fish run for a moment. Then use thumbing to stop and bring the head around up. Unlike Tunas, most fish cannot run flat-out for a long time. They usually don’t have much stamina and the maximum speed can only last for several seconds at a time. It’s important to know where the bottom is, and let the fish swim and stop.
The other option is, at the moment you figure you are putting the maximum load on your line system and still can’t stop the fish, you can free your drag and let out the line. When PE line is put on tension, a touch of anything edgy will cut the line. But if there’s no tension, it’s not that weak. So set the fish free and if the fish starts swimming.
When the fish reaches the bottom, it will then swim horizontally. Then you can kick in the drag and bring on the battle once more.
When the fish is going toward the bottom, you are in the tug of war in a straight line. All the competitive tension from opposite sides goes directly on the line. But when the fish swims away horizontally, it’s not the tug of war anymore. It’s rather very hard to keep the competition in certain direction. So the fish can’t swim “away” from you, instead, it swims “around” you. There won’t be much tension on your line. Also, the long line catches the water resistance and helps you to wear down the fish. Of course you are taking some risks that the fish might just stick to the rocks while free, or PE might catch the edges when you bring up the fight.
You have to make that decision in a few seconds.
All you can do is to wait. Hold the line in your hand in a way that you are not giving tension but you would know right when the fish moves off the rocks. Sato Sensei says it’s most likely that fish moves off the rocks at least once for a better hiding. And when you feel the fish voluntarily starts moving, reel in with everything you got and peel off the fish from the bottom.
Once the fish is off the bottom, you can take it easy and loosen your drag because your leader has probably been damaged. The fish is probably a bottom fish who could not fight for long but just heavy.
I’ve done this twice myself. When the fish moved and I seized that moment, It’s such a great feeling of success that I couldn’t stop laughing!
Hi-speed lifts also take out the line slack that has been loosened during the drop down, making the next pitch move your jig really sharp. You would want to watch for contacts in the next couple of pitches after hi-speed lifts.
Sometimes as you play your sequence, you feel a fish chasing your jig and trying to bite. When you feel that, gear up to hi-speed for 5 to 10 cranks. The fish is already on the chase. It won’t give up chasing easily. It will keep chasing. It will make the bite. Get your jig to run away from the fish 4 to 8 meters and then slow pitch to give moments for the bite. When the fish does make the bite, you have a substantial advantage with much more margin to the bottom. It doesn’t matter if you misinterpret the fish chase. When you doubt that something is funny with your jig’s movements, like suddenly not following your actions, like the jig suddenly feels light, or clicking to something where there shouldn’t be a rock, gear up for 5 fast lifts and see how it goes.
Phase 2: Mid-Water
Keep reeling steadily and calmly. There is no rocks to cut the line, no gravity to change tensions. No rush. If the fish runs, let out the line. Don’t pull hard. Don’t loosen.
There is a risk that when the fight gets too long, the hook and the knots can become shaky. And with our light tackle, it will take time to reel in a big fish.
Important thing is that you stay calm and steady in lifting, and mindful in controlling your drag, not too tight, not too loose. Visualize Tai-Chi.
Phase 3: Near Surface
This is the second risky area of losing fish.
The line is short. A little movement of the fish sends big impacts to your system. Hooks can go off. Knots can break. Any damaged part can break.
When the fish resists and the part of the body breaks out the surface, that sends tremendous impacts and changes of tensions.
You don’t want to lose the fish here right in front of your eyes. It’s too sad.
If the fish is still active at the surface, or if you think that the hooking isn’t good enough, that the fight has been too long, or that the line might be damaged, you should loosen your drag to the minimum. Changes of the tensions are what you watch out for at this stage.
You also want to be careful never to hold up your highly-resilient sensitive slow pitch rod. It can break easily this way.
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