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by
Peter Pakula

It's normal in my business to go test lures as soon as the prototypes are ready. On April 1, 1992, the new Mosquito was ready to try. I grabbed one, rigged it and ducked out in "Cockroach" (my 14 1/2 foot Mini Game Boat) to give it a swim. I had made two of them so I left one at home so it wouldn't get damaged.

This was actually the first ever time I had game fished solo. Most of my fishing previously had been club related, and witnesses weresolo.h5.jpg (34299 bytes) always necessary to have tags or captures count. That day was to change my whole outlook on fishing and promote the solo experience as the biggest source of adrenaline.

Within an hour, a sailfish had securely attached itself to the Mosquito on a 12lb outfit. The next hour showed a great number of weak links in what I thought was a highly refined system. That sail stimulated the development of a solo game fishing system that, while sill evolving today, is a lot more reliable than the events leading to the chaotic capture of that sail.

Solo game fishing is nothing new - throughout the world, natives in dugout canoes have been tackling monster fish successfully for thousands of years. Of course, everyone can share the deep feelings for Santiago in Hemmingway's classic "The Old Man and the Sea". Indeed, it's hard to stop scenes from the book replaying in the back of the mind every time a large predator is hooked while fishing solo. Further inspiration came from meeting a chap in his mid teens who had crossed the wild Manakau Bar in New Zealand and returned with a pair of enormous striped marlin while fishing solo.

In solo fishing, there are no points, no trophies and no public acclaim. There is no one there to see how good you are. Nobody to help out in a tight situation. No one to find anything. There's only you. You are the weak link in the system. It is just you, the sea and the fish. The ultimate form of fishing and the ultimate adrenaline rush. This is possibly because in all of my previous years of fishing, I know just how dangerous it can be. Many possible scenarios are lethal ones.

After all, that's what game fishing means - the hunter and the hunted are on a more even playing field. The fish really does have a chance of winning.

PREPARING THE SOLO SYSTEM

When you hook up, it's too late to do any preparation. If the tag isn't in the tag pole and if you can't reach it, you're not going to be able to tag the fish. If you can't reach your pliers, you're not going to be able to when you need them. Is your harness and gimbal set up to fit you? There's no one around to do the adjustments in the heat of battle. If you haven't worked out where the spare rods are going to go while you're fighting the fish, they will surely get in your way. If your tracing gloves aren't within reach, you're in the shit. All of these points have to be taken into consideration BEFORE you even put a lure into the water.

THE BATTLE PLAN

TEST THE SYSTEM

It's important while solo fishing that you're confident that the system will function. The only way to be sure of this is to test it before you hook up.

Ideally, this could be done on the water, however, at least test the system with the boat on your trailer or at the dock. All equipment (such as rods, tags etc) should be placed where they'll be whileou're fishing ……. and one of the rods goes off.

Part of my personal enjoyment of Solo Fishing is following the IGFA rules so once you pull a rod out of the holder with a fish on it, you cannot put it down, so having your harness and gimbal belt fitted before you touch anything else is crucial. The next part of the test is to get all of the other lures, rods and leaders clear and out of the way. Now see if you can actually reach your helm and throttle while harnessed up. In many boats, this will be quite a task. Next, while harnessed up with the rod, put on your gloves, grab the tag pole and then put them away again. Then grab your pliers. If you can do all of that, then you're ready for action.

THE BATTLE

This is not the place to explain all that there is to know about finding fish and hooking them, so let's just assume that you've achieved the state of being connected to a very large and angry fish, by yourself, out on the big blue ocean. What do you do?

The reality is that for the first minute or so, you have no control whatsoever, so you can take advantage of this time to clear some of the other rods. As long as line is peeling off the reel, you can go on clearing the decks, making sure that everything is stored in its pre-determined position. Never put hooks or leaders on the deck and ideally, these should be put where they cannot bounce, roll or fall onto the deck.spearf.jpg (27748 bytes)

Before grabbing the rod with the fish, put on your gimbal and harness, then remove the rod from the holder and clip yourself in. Start the fight by increasing drag and winding the belly (which is sure to be there) out of the line. When the belly is removed, move the lever back to normal strike drag. It is important to keep pressure on the fish at all times.

A great deal of the initial fight involves positioning the boat in accordance with a simple set of rules.

TRACING A 140lb STRIPED MARLINDANGER
One important part that I have left until now is the awareness of how dangerous the practice of solo gamefishing really is. Whenever I have been able to call another boat over to baby-si

SOLO ZEN

It's not that I recommend that everyone quits their gamefishing team and trades the 35 footer on a 20' centre console, but for me, the following is true. Fishing solo does many things; once set up and trolling you have time to yourself - which for me is rare! It's time to work out what you are working towards and really what my life is about. And indeed at times the scream of the reel is a shattering intrusion into this precious time. But who cares….

Because of the complication caused by fishing solo (admittedly easier with the aid of technology) it forces you to analyse what you are doing and elinate inefficient techniques and unnecessary clutter in your boat's setup. That is - keep things simple and effective. It's a way of thought that benefits all fisherman - not just bluewater adrenaline junkies.

It's great to succeed. To work out where the fish will be, trigger a predatory response and then put some the pieces of massive jigsaw puzzle together that results in the tag and release of what is truly some of the ocean's most awe-inspiring animals. The memories of my own solo experiences are etched deep into best-of-the-best memory file that no-one but me can ever know. That's what this is all about. Getting to know yourself, your limits and your abilities

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Please note all lure, code and colour names are TM of Pakula Tackle

Copyright Peter Pakula

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