Tackle and Tactics
Mike Ladle

Information Page.

Whangamata monster.

While I was on holiday I had another fishing email from my pal Alan in New Zealand.At least it's reassuring that I'm not the only one who's lost a good fish recently -

Hi Mike,

Trust this note finds you and Lilian in the best of everything, fully invigorated from your Tobago sojourn. You sure picked a great time to be on holiday in Tobago, given that the UK got hammered by a decent storm while you were in absentia. I spent last weekend in Whangamata and managed to fit in three short angling sessions. The results were concomitantly fantastic and disappointing. Determined not to lose out again to a large fish, I opted to use the ML 4SureSpin in tandem with 20lb braid. The braid is multi-coloured and changes every 10 metres. The trace was 15 lb. clear Amnesia. A veritable pole and rope by comparison with my normal set up.

Saturday 26th October

We travelled down to Whangamata early on Saturday morning. Picture postcard day, fine, cloudless and warm. Low tide was at 7.00 pm and the wind gradually built up during the day to reach an apex of around 10 knots as I ambled out across the flats at 5.00 pm. It was blowing steadily from W though which meant it was hitting me in the middle of the back and aiding casting distance. Primo. The estuary was clear and alive with fish. Small kahawai were evident in the margins, darting in and out of the channel to harass the tiny bait fish which were quivering in fear. I started out targeting the “honey hole” where I’d struck pay dirt on my last visit and opted to attach a Bento Sassy Shad on ¼ oz. jig head. The tide was not that strong so the lure did not bounce along the bottom seductively. It was also hard to mend line with the longer rod and keep in touch with the lure as it tracked in an arc shoreward. I hooked and landed an 8" kahawai within 3 casts. Nothing else for next 45 minutes, even when changed to lighter 1/6 oz jig head.

In desperation I switched to Clown Yo-Zuri 3D Vibe and worked downstream towards the main side stream. I immediately started to hook fish more regularly as got close to confluence, especially downstream of a moored yacht. It was blue riband fishing and I hooked 8 fish in 45 minutes. The highlight was spotting a large kahawai harassing baitfish close to the far bank and lobbing the lure close enough to elicit a strike. Strike would be an understatement as it absolutely slaughtered the lure and immediately set sail for Argentina. It jumped 15 times before I was able to gain a modicum of control and draw it into the shallows using the powerful ML 4SureSpin, 15 minutes later. Four pounds of fast twitch muscle fibre. For the record I was using a standard medium retrieve with occasional rip with tip of rod. The large kahawai had heavy bruising and scale loss behind its head on spine where it had obviously been recently caught in a maw of a sizeable kingfish (see photograph). This got me thinking that it was a large kingfish that smoked me earlier in the month.

Sunday 27th October

Low tide was at 7.10 am so I was up the next morning with the birds as they competed for ascendency in the dawn chorus. It was a cool start to the day but there was no cloud and it was fine and still. The heavy panting of amorous birds insufficient to ripple the mirror like surface of the estuary. I started fishing at 6.20 am near the main confluence where I was successful yesterday but gave up quickly as this required wading and my PVC waders were as water tight as a colander. I opted to back track, cross the side stream and work my way back up to the “honey hole”. I’d attached the ever reliable Clown Yo-Zuri 3D Vibe but it only snared one small kahawai in 30 minutes. By now the sun had just breasted the brow of the headland and started to warm the surface of the estuary. Sheets of steam flashed from the surface and tracked skyward like mare's tails. It was glorious and I was operating on auto-pilot.

First cast in the “honey hole” and the lure paused slightly on the retrieve. I struck hard and the rod was wrenched into a tight fighting arc as it felt solid, vitriolic resistance. The power was unbelievable, the intent undeniable. 7 colours (70 metres) of braid evaporated from the spool in the initial run. It paused and then surged ahead another 30 metres to show it meant business. I had to act quickly else I’d have been spooled or wrapped around a channel buoy so I thumb locked the spool and retreated as fast as I could. Thankfully this turned its head and it came back into the clear channel. This lasted for about 2 minutes. Tiring of the game it sped off towards the harbour mouth at an incredible rate, me in hot pursuit. I was almost running to keep up with it and stop it motoring out deeper into the channel. Eventually I caught up 150 metres downstream and managed to turn it all the while panting heavily. It was a battle of attrition thereafter. Four strong 30 – 40 metre surges, mostly away from me out into the middle of the channel. This was not ideal at all as I could feel its tail thwacking an angry tattoo on the line. Somehow I managed to turn it parallel to the shore again and it headed back upstream with fierce resolve. This is when it all turned pear shaped. I felt one treble pull out, followed by a second and then the inevitable happened and the line went slack. “Golly I’m terribly annoyed” I uttered through clenched teeth. I then reeled in the line despondently to find that the trace had actually broken where the tail had rubbed it through rather than the lure come free. It was as if someone had spent 10 minutes sanding the line with coarse grit paper. Total fight time was roughly 25 minutes. Only two fish fight like this, XOS trevally (double figure) or kingfish. The long rod and 20lb braid worked for a while but ultimately the weakness was the 15lb trace. Calming down I replaced the trace and fished on, heading back downstream to main confluence. Hooked two small kahawai and eventually beached a fine 3lb trevally on silver Yo-Zuri 3D vibe as a consolation prize. Fantastic session.

Determined not to lose another leviathan in the evening session I spent all day replacing split rings on my lures, checking the braid for weaknesses and then attaching a 25 lb. shock trace. Low tide was at 7.40 pm and I started fishing at 5.30 pm. Again it was gloriously fine but I had to contend with a strong wind gusting 15 knots from N initially. Fortunately it died completely as it neared low tide. Long story, short I fished unsuccessfully for 1.5 hours all around Honey Hole with 3D Vibe, then a Bento soft bait and finally a large Mepps lure. Not a touch. In desperation I then decided to move to near the confluence and winkled out two 14" kahawai in quick succession. The first managed successfully to transfer the tail treble from its mouth into my hand. Perfect hook up, all three points buried up to the barb. Fortunately it was in a bony part of my hand (left index finger) so the treble came out easily. I was watched by a local man and his two children for last 30 minutes. I’m sure that I would have probably touched more fish if had persevered for another ½ hour. So there you have it. Three sessions totalling 5 ½ hours.16 fish landed and one major loss. Great sport. I’ve come home, licked my wounds and tied on 20 lb. traces on all my spinning reel spools. Still using Amnesia but may move to Maxima Chameleon if this does not do the business. I reckon that I’d have landed the leviathan if the trace could have stood another 5 minutes of torture, or at least I would have seen my adversary. My gut feeling is that the unseen monsters are all kingfish in the 75 – 90 cm long bracket.

Tight lines and best wishes,

Alan Bulmer

What a battle! I can't say anything after my own losses in Tobago but there's no doubt that if you want to land the really big fish you have to sacrifice a bit of finesse in the gear. I'd be using 2x or 3x trebles and 20-25lb nylon traces if there was a chance of mighty kingfish. Anyway - "Well done mate - next time!!!"

If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you.'get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to - docladle@hotmail.com


A nice fish but not the monster.'


What a beauty.'


Perhaps a kahawai livebait is the thing to try????'