I’ve been doing a lot of solo night fishing the last five months, utilising skills and fishing to the high end of ability. That alone is rewarding, taking time to focus purely on what drive success, what doubles the catch, striving for a 95 to 100% conversion rate on strikes to landed fish.
Results have been great, landing 90 to 115cm wild fish, refining predictability, testing myself in some sessions to a limit of just three casts to nail a 90-100cm barra- and doing it. Many sessions have provided that class of fish in under five
casts and most trips nailing one before a cuppa goes cold. Short hour long trips have been common. Only six to ten individual fish in total may be detected in a session.
There’s not copious amounts of fish or virgin schools of untouched barra, most of the time the style hinges off ‘spot targeting’ singular fish positioned in feed zones, stationed in an area ready to feed. These singular or ‘pairs of fish’ vary in depth from water 3ft deep to 40 ft (12m) below creating perfect brain teasers where mathematics and calculations are required for lure choice, weight, streamlinability, boat position and of course the precise 10 x 10 cm piece of water where the cast must land to have it address the specific fish at depth. Not so easy in fast flow and up to two ounces of jighead.
Throw in line control, body stance, rod position at end of cast, rod position at start of retrieve, rigging, drag setting, hook sharpening, focus, mental disposition, reaction time, and soooo much more and there’s absolutely no time to get bored, have energy spilt or wasted.
I recently spoke to Dennis Millard, a professional trained in psychology and discussed how the brain and body function while in ‘hunt mode’. I can assure you, the level of operation used during the spot targeting of these fish is sharp, where a poor cast isn’t accepted and one mistake is classed as too many. It’s a strict style, self-critiqued, where nothing other than a positive result is needed during a short window.
Serious solo fishing takes us to another level, something I now teach tournament anglers, guides and advanced anglers looking to tighten their game.
An overnight training camp called ‘Masterclass Professional’ encourages ‘Masterclass Students’ to focus on the criticals, things often overlooked or disregarded. These same ‘things’ are responsible for my near 100% conversion rate on ‘bites to landed fish.
Back To The Barra
The detection of fish by sonar is relatively easy once the technology is understood. Next comes picking the stationary fish in a known feed station, in what I refer to as ‘locked and loaded.’
These individuals shift from the depths or break away from schools, moving into prime pressure point locations in front or behind an obstruction – for a sole purpose, to feed. Once in position they hold in near static environments letting the tide flow bring food to them.
This is where the lure comes into the equation. Some of these fish are 15m down – it then takes some knowledge on tide flow, sink rate and cast accuray to place the lure in the exact spot. Random chucking isn’t part of the game here, 10cm x 10cm targets are common, but there’s no X marked on the sea surface at night. This all hinges off sonar interpretation and boat positioning, done by feel and experience. Where the lure needs to land is calculated in the brain by you the master of the vessel, sonar operator, and angler. Multiple jobs, one taskmaster – YOU!
The level of focus has been high, zero distraction, all thoughts on the job, ticking boxes as you go. Mental state, 100% confident and ready for success. When strikes come, there’s no surprise and you simply respond with suitable actions to land that fish.
I’d spotted two 100cm class fish sitting about a metre apart, holding around 11m (37ft) down. The tide was pushing in hard, the boat pushed ahead slighty before choosing to spotlock. I didn’t cast immediately instead allowing the dust to settle before executing a cast out the starboard side. Instinct directed me on where to land the 1.5 ounce jighead/paddletail combo. The countdown began and after the magic number of seconds the bail arm was closed. At this point I knew the lure was approximately four metres uptide of the fish and about three metres outside their position.
The first three winds of the handle would tell the story and pretty well on cue the rod loaded fast- so too did my reaction to wind, pump and wind and drive the hook home under a hard drag. No pussyfooting, dictating from the start!
There is zero surprise on the strike as your focus and precision in lure delivery is refined. You’re expecting a bite, not hoping. Those two thoughts create different mind sets and one leads to failure. I’ll let you think about which one.
A 105cm fish hit the net and was released, and after inspections of the leader and a quick re-tie back to the lure another cast was sent sailing. The cast was abandoned as the lure would miss the target. The next cast looked good and the line controlled smoothly prior to adopting the fighting stance learnt from heavy tackle fishing Spanish mackerel on rope and wire lines and from using 80lb braid on baitcasters extracting big fish from structure. At this point the lure was still sinking and when the bail was rolled closed the mind focused on the lure and in under two seconds the second fish was on, then landed, a 99cm salty.
No more casts occured because there were only two fish, the sonar confirming both fish had now vanished.
Combining mental and physical skills into one package can transform anglers into ‘deadly hunters’. One Masterclass trained angler recently adopted some of these skills nailing a 120cm salty on a solo mission where he entered the right mental zone to become a ‘silent, but deadly hunter’. He will never go backwards from that experience. Once you feel it, see it and do it, you’re hooked as hard as the fish.