last updated 11/10/2015
There’s a heap of specialized fishing equipment out there and you can really go to town on buying equipment optimized for each specific fishing application that you may fish. Usually though, you need to compromise. For example when touring around Australia in a vehicle, space is at a premium so you may not be able to take all the specialist gear with you. Or you may not want to spend so much money on highly specialized gear. Or, if you’re like me, you have no space AND you don’t want to spend much money. This is the fishing gear I’ve taken on my tour around Australia. My goal was to bring as little gear with me as possible whilst still being able to target most species of fish and under most fishing environments – jetties, beaches, river banks etc.
Reel and Main Line
This is one of the most important decisions if you’re touring and don’t want to buy special reels. I want to bring only one reel with me, and I want it spooled with line that I can use for all types of fish in all types of conditions. Obviously it’s a compromise. I have a medium sized traditional egg beater reel. A good jack of all trades. Good value, reasonable spool capacity, reasonably compact, ok for accuracy and pretty good for casting distance. Egg beaters are also a pretty tried and tested design. Even the cheap dodgy ones are usually not too bad, simply because the basic design of a reasonable egg beater reel is universally known and cheaply made in mass production factories. My reel is an entry level Penn. Better than your department store brands, but not an expensive designer reel. Middle to lower end of the range. I’ve had it for many years and it’s worked well the whole time.
I don’t want to re-spool my reel. I spool it once, and that is the line I use for everything. Again it’s a compromise. I want a line that is light weight, good for precision fishing, good for casting, thin enough to fit a good amount onto my reel, yet strong enough to endure a fight with some large fish. Braid is the answer. My main line is 20lb braid with a diameter of 0.15mm. It’s pretty thin and it’s pretty strong. In my opinion a good compromise.
Braid has some disadvantages. It has no stretch so is susceptible to high impact loads which can cause break-offs. Its abrasive resistance is not the best. It’s susceptible to forming birds nests, as it’s very flimsy and will curl around itself very easily. To mitigate these limitations, I terminate my main line with a length of mono. I use 12lb mono with a diameter of around 0.2mm. That’s pretty thin for 12lb mono. I bought a good quality ultra thin brand to minimize the thickness. I terminate the mono onto the end of the braid with a low profile knot to reduce catching as the knot passes through the rod’s guides. I spool around 8 metres of mono to ensure the rod is relaxed by the time the knot passes through the guides when casting. This minimizes knot contact with the guides. If the length of mono is too short I can hear the knot bump across the guides during a cast which is no good for the guides or the knot. If the length of mono is long enough, I won’t hear the knot pass through at all. Another reason to have a decent length of leader is so you still have enough left to continue fishing when you suffer a break off.
I used to use a knot called a mahin knot to terminate the mono leader onto the main line. This knot is tapered and both tag ends point the same way, minimizing any catching as it passes through the rod’s guides when casting.
I suffered a few knot failures with the mahin knot. Some of them occurred with a large fish fighting on the end of the line. Major bummer! I did some tests and found out that the braid was actually cutting through the mono when under heavy loads. So I no longer use the mahin knot. Instead I use the FG knot. It’s very strong and extremely compact. It glides through the rod guides very smoothly. There’s some good videos on youtube showing how to tie the FG knot.
Tackle Box and Tackle
I got a small soft bodied tackle box that houses several plastic containers. The plastic containers have many small compartments. This allows me to store a little bit of everything. The plastic containers stack on top of eachother in the tackle box and leave a small amount of space on top where I store some bulky items like spare fishing line, long nosed pliers, a small chopping board and some new lures that are still in their packaging. The tackle box also has pockets on each side to store some extra bits.
I have an assortment of swivels, clips, lures, sinkers, traces, floats and hooks. Important items are pre-made gangs suitable for mullies or pilchards, pre-made arrays of small single hooks for catching smaller fish and bait, a few different sizes of hooks to make my own rigs as required, different types and sizes of sinkers to suit different conditions, and a variety of lures. I have poppers, minnows, soft plastics, metal lures and squid jigs. I always have squid jigs. If I rock up to a small town with a jetty or rocky groyne, if nothing else is biting there’s a good chance of catching squid.
I have two rods. I don’t think it’s possible to get away with one rod if you want to do both beach and river fishing. I have a big 12ft beach rod and a 6ft river rod, both two piece.
My beach rod is a Wilson carbon fiber rod with oversized guides. I got this rod during the peak of my Australian Salmon chasing days so that I could cast further to reach far away salmon schools. It was expensive but it’s a good rod. The size of the guides means less friction as the line spools off the reel during a cast. Also the design of the guides is better than on a cheap rod. The guide supports are arranged completely out of the way so that there is no chance that they will interfere with the line during a cast. On my old al-cheapo beach rod I actually had the line pinch into the guide supports and snap the line during a forecful cast. Apart from that I think the cheap guides generally created a lot of friction during a cast. The Wilson is much better at casting and is many years old now but still going strong. There are a few scuffs on the carbon fibre. It got beaten around pretty bad when I used to thread it through my camping stuff packed in the back of my old Suzuki Sierra. Offroading in the Sierra was nothing short of a severe pounding. I’ve heard carbon fibre rods are less resiliant to physical damage when compared to fibreglass rods. I worry that it may break one day due to the abuse it went through but so far so good.
My river road is a 6ft two piece silver series Penn. Nothing special about it, but it’s probably around 10 years old now and still going strong. It’s been loaded pretty heavily from me getting snagged nearly every time I go river fishing. If you’re going to fish around vegetation, along river banks etc then you need a short rod. It’s almost impossible to cast a big rod in thick vegetation. A shorter rod also provides greater casting accuracy. Of course the compromise is casting distance.
I have a Cold Steel Bushman survival knife that I use for everything from carving and shaping wood, kitchen work, cutting bait and processing fish. Apart from being really sharp, it’s super durable, tough, easy to sharpen and can take serious abuse. One thing to watch is, because it’s carbon steel, it can rust if left wet or dirty.
As well as the Bushman, I have a Gerber folding knife for more intricate work. This knife is strong and sharp and can easily fit in your pocket.
Big stiff knives are no good for filleting. I got myself a filleting kit from Kmart. This is before Kmart got super cheap and super crap. The quality is actually ok. Apart from two filleting knives, it’s got gloves, a sharpening rod, a chopping board, scissors, a measuring tape and hanging weigh scales. All items that are useful to have when touring and camping.
The bum bag is a recent enhancement to my fishing kit. It came about in my pursuit for barramundi. If you’re restricted to land based fishing, then chasing barra often entails trekking long distances along river banks looking for spots to fish. It also entails almost guaranteed snags and losing your rigs and lures. So unless you want to wonder back to your car or camp every time you lose a rig, you need to carry some with you. So when I go bush bashing along a river I load a few spare lures into my bum bag, along with some steel traces, long nosed pliers, a leatherman, and a measuring tape to check if a landed barra is sized.
Hooks tend to get stuck in the bum bag and are a major pain in the butt to extract. My solution is a plastic lining for my bum bag. I’m currently using the plastic packaging I got from a pack of processed ham. Is Don, is good.
You can’t travel around Australia without targetting mud crabs. They’re an iconic species of Northern Australia. I have drop nets which work ok. Much better are traps. With a drop net, the crabs can leave the net once they’ve had their feed, and there’s also a chance of losing them when retrieving the net. A trap solves both these issues, but is bigger and takes some time to set up. I need to invest in some traps.
I also have an oprah house net. I use this to catch fresh water prawns – barramundi bait. Lures work pretty good for barra but live prawns are even better.
I chuck my nets on the roof rack, out of the way. Hopefully the sun doesn’t ruin the netting. So far I haven’t had a problem.
If you’re targetting big fish, then you need a gaff. Whether it’s dragging a huge fish up the beach, up a river bank or up from a jetty, a gaff makes it so much easier and improves your chances of actually securing the fish.
A macho guy like me targets big fish. Gigantuan fish of ridiculous proportions. So I need gaffs. A lot of them. Actually it’s very rare for me to require a gaff when fishing. I mostly don’t catch anything. Still it’s good to have a gaff for general purpose duties – unsnagging a lure, poking around mangroves for mud crabs, pulling fruit off trees, etc.
I have two gaffs. I got the big strong single piece gaff initially, but found it was too big and cumbersome to take with me when I had the Sierra. So I got a telescopic gaff. It works ok, but the plastic fittings are a bit dodgy. Now that I have the Hilux, why not bring both gaffs? The big gaff goes on the roof rack, a convenience I never had with my soft top Suzuki Sierra. The telescopic gaff gets chucked in the back.
Spear / Gidgy
I rarely use the spear, but it’s good to have. Apart from fishing, you could use it on land in a survival situation or in self defence against giant crocodiles. Haven’t you watched Bear Grylls Man vs Wild? My spear / gidgy is a two peice aluminium type. Pretty light and easy to store.
The cast net is another recent addition I purchased whilst in the Northern Territory. The amount of baitfish swimming around up there is ridiculous. They’re all over the place. Every river, creek or sheltered bay is full of life. A cast net makes sense to catch some of these little guys to use them for hunting big barra. Despite being everywhere, the bait fish can be hard to catch depending on their mood. Often they notice you approach the shore long before they’re in casting range.