It’s always refreshing to get back to basics, and that’s exactly what this article is all about! Whether you need a quick brush up or are trying to get started, keep reading if you want more ‘keeping-it-simple’ information on targeting the razor gang.
Growing up, mackerel fishing was one of my favourites as it was my first ‘big fish’ on a lure. Trolling for mackerel and other members of the sharp-toothed razor gang (such as wahoo) not only puts a feed on your table but it also provides you with a chance encounter with many other species, including billfish. For instance, once when fishing wahoo waters I hooked and landed a 650lb blue marlin.
There are quite a few lure types for razor gang trolling, and I recommend a cross section of each type for your tackle box.
A five lure spread should have a deep diving minnow, such as a Rapala CD18, a shallow running minnow, like a Bomber or Bill Norman, a bibless minnow, like a Halco Trembler, and at least one, maybe two, lead-headed feathers.
Most of these lures will catch fish when trolled at a comfortable 4-6 knots. Even though the feather and the bibless will like more speed, it isn’t always a critical factor.
I prefer to fish one feather close to the boat right beside the prop wash and the shotgun feather I troll a long way back. When the lures close to the boat start to get hit by fish, I jump on the shotgun reel and start cranking the handle in order to rip the lead-headed feather back to the boat at speed. As the feather zips through the surface water at warp-speed towards the back of the boat, the biggest of the razor gang will try to run down the feather and demolish it in one bite. This simple little trick is a great way to catch big pelagics.
A common method is to store your lures in an one-type-per-tray concept: one tray for deep divers, one tray for shallow runners, etc. But my preference is to store a pattern on lures per tray. Thus each tray has a deep diver, a Bill Norman and Rat-L-Trap and a couple of feathers. This means that when you are starting out for the day, you only have to get one tray out.
I run braid most of the time these days as my mainline, but mono will certainly do the job just as well for most trolling applications. Something between 30-50lb line is accepted as the appropriate range for ‘fishing for a feed’ trolling.
To the mainline I attach a leader of between 100-150lb mono-type leader material, which is attached by an improved Albright knot or alternatively a Yucatan knot. At the other end of the leader I’ll tie a snap swivel (or swivel) by using a Uni knot.
From the swivel I run a wire trace, which is crimped at each end. For maximum simplicity try the packs that include the wire and their matching crimps – you buy it and someone else has done the matching up for you. At the business end of the wire trace is your lure.
The length of this wire trace should be such that with the swivel just short of the rod tip, the tail hook on the lure attaches to the eyelet on top of the reel. This is the simplest way to store the outfit fully rigged ready to go in your boat’s rocket launcher.
For eons, a star drag reel and a 6-7’ rod using ring guides has been the simplest outfit for razor gang trolling. Set the star drag (clutch) on the reel to between one quarter and one third of the breaking strain of your mainline and you’ll be ready for anything.
Troll your lures in areas where bait fish are known to congregate in the vicinity of headlands, exposed reefs, submerged reefs and reef edges.
I set the boat up and my tackle to run a ‘W’ pattern, although there are many options for a trolling spread. The ‘W’ pattern has two lures close to the boat, two lures run about say 30m behind your transom and the fifth lure down the centre as far back as you’d like.
When keeping it simple I don’t use outriggers and I don’t use downriggers, although in tournaments with my experienced crew I’ll certainly use the ‘riggers.
Once you hook a fish on one of your troll outfits, keep the boat running ahead for around 30 seconds in the hope of hooking some more fish. Do the high speed crank on the long (shotgun) feather and then you can slow the boat, pull the lures in and get on with the business of fighting and landing your mackerel, tuna or wahoo.
A crew member of mine recently stuck his hand in a dead mackerel’s mouth and the result was a lot of blood loss and a high speed run back for medical help. Gaffing fish in the head, delivering the last rites with a fish-waddy and stuffing the whole fish, head first, into an ice slurry will keep the razor sharp teeth out of harm’s way.
When gaffing the fish stay away from the line, keep behind the angler, aim for the shoulder until you hone your skills to headshot accuracy and you’ll look the part of an experienced crewman.
Now off you go and catch ‘em.Reads: 2479