There’s something about casting poppers & stick baits for GTs that I just cant describe in any other way than an addiction!
GT popping is no place for finesse, you’ll need big reels, big rods, big lures and tight drags then its game on and its you vs them. Your muscles will be burning and every ounce of energy will be needed just to crank your reel and that’s before you’ve even hooked a fish! It’s a style of fishing that will test the best gear to the brink of destruction with smoking drags, striped gears, lures broken, split rings pulled, hooks straightened and to top it off the GT’s will even crush the best of egos. They make you stop and think, did that really just happen? Sounds great doesn’t it? Well it is!
In the tropics GT’s are found in some pretty harsh places. They will do their best to end the fight it quick time, succeeding in a lot of cases. Target areas for these muscular fighters include, deep reef edges, large bommies, boulders, pinnacles, reef gutters and reef pressure points, these areas will be home to some big GT’s. Add some fusiliers into the mix it should be game on, and as the saying goes, no run no fun.
Casting into deeper water is where you need to draw the GT up and try to entice an attack. I choose a more specialized popper that will make noise and really move some water when blooped, sinking stickbaits are also great when there is a good show of bait in the area. Shallow areas can get costly when using expensive lures, so I leave these lures to be used in the deeper areas. Some of the spots I like to fish I call suicide holes, and you can only imagine why, big fish shallow reef and you have a 50/50 chance of landing them. It’s a great challenge and for this reason is why I throw less costly lures. It’s not uncommon to lose 4+ lures in a session. Varying your retrieve cast for cast can prove to be successful, try different styles of poppers, stickbaits and skip baits will show you there’s always room for one more lure in the box.
Being in shallow clear water, GT’s can become shy from bigger profile lures, by dropping down to a smaller profile lure or a stick bait can really work a treat. I always have a Halco rooster 135 rigged with 7/0 decoy sergeants ready for action, this lure punches well above its weight. If you miss a fish or even land a few and the session has gone quiet, cast a different style of lure or colour as this could be the one thing to relight the fire. When a GT hits they hit with force, there is a true art to the hook up sequence. In one motion you need to strike, set the hook, plant your feet and set the rod in a fighting position and get ready to rumble. Not maneuvering the rod in the fighting position can be the difference between landing the GT or getting smoked in a split second. Its quite hard to get the correct rod position when the GT is already reef bound. Having someone ready on the boat to move to deeper water once hooked will prove more than valuable in successfully landing the fish as GT fishing is a real team effort. Even if everything seems to be on your side things can change fast. Just the other day I witnessed a mate hooked up to what would have been a 50kg GT, the power that this fish dished out I just felt lucky just to even be the and be able to see it. They had everything on side. they dragged the fish with the boat to deep water (what they thought was a safe zone ), the GT then ripped 50 – 60 meters of line on a locked Saltiga drag, spooled with 100lb braid, whilst clamping the spool with his hand. Nearly had my mate out the back of the boat with the unbelievable power these fish produce. Along with GT’s as your primary target, the by catch can get pretty impressive too with Coral Trout, Red Bass, Spanish Mackerel, Maori Wrasse, Bluefin Trevally, Jobfish, Cod and Emperors can all be caught in the same areas and aren’t shy of smashing the biggest of poppers.
Getting setup for GT fishing can get costly fast, very costly. Reels like the Shimano Stella 18000 / 20000 or Daiwa Saltiga Dogfight 6500 are really the only way to go if you wanna get serious, loaded with 80 – 100 pound braid would be the minimum recommendation. True casting braids like YGK castman and Varivas GT are beautiful lines with less wind knots and big casting distance but again the price tag is high, really any quality braid will get the job done.
The Shimano Saragosa 18000f is a great entry level reel for GT popping and was the reel I used that first spark my addiction, I landed some great GTs on this reel before I chose to upgrade.
When it comes to GT rods the Japanese really do have it mastered. Brands like Carpenter, Fisherman, Ripple Fisher, Smith, Patriot Design, FCL Labo are all works of art when it comes to GT fishing and are all designed to for the job. Like any tradesman knows, jobs are best done with the right tools. When casting, working poppers/stickbaits and fighting GTs, it will all be made a lot easier with a true GT rod. There is a catch though, they can carry a hefty price tag with most good roods being in the $800 – $1400 range. Rods like Wilson live fibre Venom, Shimano Tcurve GT special and Samurai Reaction popping rods are awesome rods in there own right and are great entry level rods for GT work.
GT lures come in all shapes, sizes and price tags, anywhere from a $15 special up to $150 for a specialized lure (Can be a little excessive at times!). Lures the stables of FCL Labo, Patriot Design, Sebile, Nomad, Adhek, River2sea and Halco Roosters are some of my favorites and have proved successful. Having a good choice of poppers/stickbaits with different actions and sizes is highly recommended. Big fish will still eat a small popper. I prefer medium to large lures but small lures are great when the fish are shy and to give the old arms a rest from working and casting bigger blooping poppers.
Now for the terminal side of things, leader connections and knots everything needs to be in place as GTs will find any weak link. The saying when you don’t know knots just tie lots just doesn’t apply in GT fishing. For the leader look for a supple mono as casting will be made a lot easier. My personal choice is Sunline Big Game Shock Leader in 210lb with twisting and crimping the first 30 – 40 cm of the leader to protect it from gill rackers and reefy areas or adding a hard 300lb – 400lb hard bite leader will have the same effect. Using a swivel to split ring connection is the best way to connect your lures. Leader to braid connection I recommend the PR or FG knot, the knots are among the strongest and very streamline which is a must for casting heavy leader. They do take some time to learn but once mastered you’ll never use another knot. For splits i use size 10 & 11 Decoys ( you will need quality split ring pliers ). Swivels I choose Sasame or NT power swivels in a 2/0 and 1/0 size depending on the popper and size of the fish targeted (great price and power to size ratio is exceptional) . Most GT lures will need hooks & splits or hooks & splits upgraded. I personally dont like trebles and switch all my lures to single hooks, for me I find the hook up better and a lot better for the fish. Crushing the barbs is a great option for an easy and safe release for the fish and fisherman. Owner Jobus, Owner SJ41, Shogun Assassins, Decoy Sergeants and Shout Kukado jigging hooks are all hooks up to the task. I’ve been super impressed with the Shogun hooks, great price and a quality hook. Again decoy 10 & 11 splits are my choice here. There are a few different ways of setting the hooks on your lures, I use a mix between a big single on tail and smaller twin hooks on the belly, large assist hook of the cup of the popper and a large single on the tail. Also an assist hook connected to the tail can prove very effective.
A few other items that are needed include popping gloves, split ring pliers, gimbal and good quality polarized sunglasses.
GT popping is a visual feast for the angler and truly can’t be matched, watching a GT hone in and annihilate a well placed popper is a sight to be seen, and the physical side, well you’ll know you’re alive thats for sure.
If you ever get a chance to try it i highly recommend it, but be cautioned, it is addictive.