So much has been written and said about the effectiveness of fishing from jets-kis and the number of fish that can be caught. But after having bought your jet-ski and then gone off to the local tackle store for everything you need to catch the fish, you find you have so much stuff and have no idea where to start. You have questions like: What lures do I use? What speed do I troll? How far out do I let my lines? How long must my leader be? And so on.
Most of these questions can’t be answered by the tackle store guys because 99% of them have never been out on a ski before and, although it’s like fishing from a boat, there are some very important differences in techniques.
Let me start off by saying that every spot has its locals who have spent countless hours perfecting techniques for their specific area. Getting them to share this knowledge is, however, an entirely different scenario. This article isn’t aimed at guys who have done all that; this is an article aimed to help people get into the sport of jet-ski angling and enjoy some success without going through a painstakingly long learning curve.
Jetski fishing can be very harsh on your tackle as everything gets wet. Your reels also consistently handle significant drag pressure from pulling lures at such high speeds. It’s not a place for cheap and nasty, but it can be very costly if you don’t look after your tackle. The trolling reels you use should be something in the Shimano Tyrnos range. There’s nothing in its price bracket that even competes, so don’t go less than that. While a TLD 25 can work, it’s very slow and its drag isn’t as consistent when pulling lures at such high pressure. Rod choices vary greatly but I tend to look for a slightly longer rod, like the 7’, with a strong backbone and a slightly softer tip. The backbone gives you the pulling power and the tip allows a bit of give when the fish shakes its head, and so prevents the hooks on the lure pulling out. The extra length lets you get the line around the front of the ski with ease when you get the fish close by. The Shimano Tallus 7HA is my all-round rod of choice, but there are a number of other very good options available. Spooled up with line between 0.50mm and 0.55mm (which equates to 35lb to 45lb) you’ll be ready for any adversary. A leader, joined to the mainline with a bimini twist, of 5m to 7m of a clear mono in the 70lb range is generally the standard. A handy trick is to put two different-coloured lines on your reels so if you get a tangle you can see what’s tangled and where.
Lures are a massive topic of debate. There are no hard-and-fast rules in fishing and this is only a guideline to lure choices. Everyone has their own favourite and their own style that works for them; hopefully, this will just give you other options while on the water. The speeds and depths given are only a guide and are accurate when using certain parameters; your main line on your reel isn’t thicker than 0.55mm and the lure is further than 50m behind the ski. Leader thickness also plays a part and these tests are done with a leader of 0.80mm or less. The lower the diameter of lines and leaders, the truer your lures will swim. Here’s a breakdown of the most popular lures that jetski anglers use:
X-Rap Magnum 15: These lures can swim at up to 20km/h. Best trolling speed is around 15km/h and the lure dives to a realistic depth of 2m to 4m. These lures are great for catching all the pelagic fish that occur in our waters. They come in a large variety of colours to suit every situation. X-Rap Magnums are part of a much bigger family and have big brothers such as the 20s and 30s as well as smaller ones like 10s and 5s. All these lures have their place in your tackle box. The colours I always keep with me are RH (Red Head), S (Silver), YFT (Yellowfin Tuna) and CG.
Halco Laser Pro 160DD: These lures swim true at 25km/h and are probably the most stable of the lipped lures available. They swim at 1m to 2m below the surface, and catch everything, but are especially deadly for yellowfin tuna. This lure is rigged with a split ring on the nose point and I advise that you put a power swivel on that and tie it to the swivel instead of the split ring. This lure can also be pulled with small Konas or feathers as it swims at those higher speeds. There is a Laser Pro 120 too that is a great favourite amongst kayak anglers. It is also good on the jet-ski but can sometimes be a bit sensitive at high speeds and you will probably need to slow down a bit when using one. Top colours are R15, H53, 1039, H50 and H68.
Rapala CD Magnum 11 and 14: These lures are from the ‘old school’ but are still favourites among many anglers. They can swim up to 20km/h but work best at 13km/h to 15km/h. They sometimes need tuning after you’ve caught some fish on them, so don’t just throw them out if they stop swimming! The bright silver lip acts as a magnet to hungry fish and is one of the lures you just have to have in your box. If you’re unsure how to tune them, have a look at the end of this article. The most popular colours are RH, SM and CG
Williamson Speed Pro 160: This is a new lure from Williamson Lures and dives to around 4m to 5m – slightly deeper than the lures mentioned above. They run to speeds in excess of 18km/h and work best in the 13km/h to 15km/h range. This lure features a self-righting lip to ensure the lure always tracks straight, which is very handy. There is a big brother, the 180, which will be great when the bigger fish are about and it can run at speeds in excess of 20km/h. Like the Halcos, it also has a split ring on the nose and I suggest you put a power swivel on there before tying it on. They have some special colours that I really like, such as the HP (Hot Pink), BF (Bruised Purple) and AYU.
Williamson Diamond Jet Feather: This is the only feather-type lure I’ll talk about in this article as it has a very unique feature: the sonic strip. Besides the jet head, it has a rubber strip that adds vibration and can be set to give off more or less vibration depending on what you want. This allows you to customise it on the water to suit conditions and the speeds you’re trolling at. Wahoo love this thing if you pull it very fast, so you may want to put some wire on if you intend doing this. The colours you want are Red and White, Pink and White and Blue and White, and then I’ve also seen many fish caught on the Blue and Pink one too.
A point that a lot of angers aren’t aware of is the balance of the treble hooks on your trolling lures. After you have caught a fish, carefully check that all points of your hooks are not bent or opened. An out-of-shape treble hook will create an immediate unbalance and make the lure ‘jump’. If a hook is damaged, you have to change it in order to get that lure swimming correctly. At the same time, check the anchoring points of the hooks as they may become twisted or bent. You will need pliers to put them back perfectly in line or you won’t be able to troll at the desired speed. If the anchor point is bent on any plastic lures, such as X-Raps, Halcos or Williamsons, then I suggest you put a little Superglue on the anchor point once you’ve straightened it to prevent any water getting inside. Water in your lure is almost impossible to remove and has disastrous effects on its swimming action.
Now you know what lure does what, it’s time to swim them. I usually fish one lure around 50m from the ski and one about 70m back. Realistically, that’s a very long way back (like half a rugby field) but it seems to be the most successful distance. You’ll thank me for suggesting Tyrnos once you’ve cleared lines from that distance a few times in the morning, especially while you have an angry gamefish tearing line off the other reel.
Although it is possible to swim a deep-diving and a shallow-diving lure at the same speed, the truth is that one lure will be performing well and the other won’t. So what happens is that you get more bites on one than on the other. Rather pull two deep divers or two shallow divers and pull them at the appropriate speeds.
That doesn’t mean that you have to use the same lure shape on both your rods. There are combinations that perform well together. Laser Pro 160DDs (further out) and X-Rap 15s (closer in) work well together when fishing at a speeds of 16km/h to 18km/h, while the Williamson Speed Pro (closer in) 160 or Halco Sorcerer 150DD (closer in) and Rapala CD Magnums (further out) work together at around 13km/h to 15km/h.
There are no rules for what will work and what won’t, but there are some guidelines. Dark colours work well for dark conditions (early morning, late afternoon, off-colour water or cloudy days). Bright or natural colours work well for bright conditions (sunny days or clean water). In lower visibility conditions, it is advised you slow down a little or use lures with more vibration and/or rattles. The next point is often vital to success: if there are fish around and you’re not getting bites, take off any wire leaders and fish with your leader straight onto your lures. Even if there are wahoo, couta or snoek, you will still catch 90% of them on lures without wire, but it will at least triple your overall strike rate on everything else.
I feel I haven’t even scratched the surface as far as lures go but I hope it’s given you a starting point from which to build. Just remember that there are no hard-and-fast rules and often you need to experiment a little to find what’s working best on each particular day.
How do I tune a Rapala CD Magnum?
I get asked this question countless times and I’ve decided to put it in this article for all to see. If your Rapala is not swimming properly, meaning it keeps going to the side or jumping, then it means that the metal lip is no longer in line with the body of the lure. You will have to fine-tune the lure by hand.
Have a look at which direction your lure veers off course, and very carefully twist the metal lip in the same direction. For example: when you look towards the back of your jetski or boat and you see the lure veer off to the right and jump, you have to very gently twist the metal lip clockwise (to the right), as this will produce more pressure on the lip and will bring the lure back to swimming perfectly straight. This exercise is not easy, as the amount of pressure required is very hard to define. The adjustment of the lip is often less than a millimeter, even on a large lure. On most occasions, we over-twist the bib, creating the opposite effect by making the lure veer or jump to the left. Never use pliers. If you do you will definitely over-twist the lip.
The best way is to use your thumb and index finger like pliers. If you feel that the bib has moved, it will probably mean that you have gone too far. The best tune is when you feel as if you have done nothing, and by magic your lure will come back perfectly in line at a very fast troll. You might have to do it two or three times to achieve a perfect tune.
The CD Magnums are most effective when the line enters the water at a 90-degree angle. The tuning of the lure must be achieved perfectly in line with the lip. If the metal lip is bent up or down, it will be very difficult to bring the lure back on track, and you will probably end up having to buy a new one.
For more information on tackle for jet-skis, don’t hesitate to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.