Gt Dreaming – Dan Bowater September 16

Its that time of year when the local fishing reef and game fishing competitions go into full swing as thousands of hopefuls travel to the Innisfail area. These kinds of events are great fun with the social aspect and invariable downing of amber being good enough reason for many to turn up. So what about the other more normal non-competition weekends?

Seeing a small window of light sou-easterlies appearing on a recent Friday afternoon was enough for me to start preparing my offshore gear. I sent off some messages to the local decky candidates with (I think) four accepted and declined invitations in the space of about two hours. For many boaties this inconvenience would be enough to cancel the trip but over the years I have honestly cared less and less about it. In fact (my opinion only) there are probably more incentives to do the solo offshore trip when all is considered. Now for the social crowd this might seem like a very borderline choice and is the total antithesis of the kind of competitive activity that is currently happening all around my home town. The irony of going out solo is that with less anglers onboard the fishing is often more productive. Now why is that? The fishing methods are more arduous and presumably better approached in a cooperative manner. All things considered the choice of taking it all on solo really makes little sense. In this story I’ll elaborate on my three favourite single-handed fishing strategies and some reasoning behind why they can be so rewarding.

GT Dreaming

It’s worth mentioning that many of the local fishing styles are centred on bottom bashing for table fish like coral trout, red emperor and nannygai. These are undoubtedly great target species (who doesn’t like a feed of trout?) and deserve that reputation. By the same token look at the guys who pay thousands specifically to chase GTs in remote Pacific Island locations. The value of the target species is really in the eyes of the individual. There’s plenty to be said for chasing a fish that can belt a lure off the surface, tear a hundred meters of line from your reel, and grow to epically huge sizes. That certainly ain’t boring! For me that is the appeal with going after inshore giant trevally that thrive in the waters in the shipping channel and Islands off Mourilyan. It’s that amazing moment when your lure is annihilated and your entire body feels the shockwave from the thunderous opening run. Of course the GT is just one of many local trevally species but is also the biggest and most renowned. Call me crazy…I like em’ all! Now let’s explore some of the key factors involved in getting amongst these line burning oceanic brutes.

Contrary to some common trains of thought there are numerous ways of hooking giant trevally that extend beyond poppers and other popular top water methods. Through the early 2000s the GT popper craze took off and a percentage of the remaining popping gurus certainly have kept the flame alive. However, the notion that GTs can only be targeted on poppers and not other lures (or baits) is completely false and cannot be discarded quickly enough! It’s actually the opposite way of thinking that can turn things around when the chips are down. Keep your options wide open; this is not only in regard to lure types but also in relation to methods used to present those lures.



My most successful GT sessions have unfolded from an anchored position. From a static position and correct use of your sounder it means you can work lures in a very potent way in flushing out GTs and other trevally species from pinpointed structure. This is where soft plastics and metal lures really enter the equation. In previous editions I’ve outlined the importance of matching certain techniques to SP’s and metals as, at the end of the day, the best lure is completely useless in the wrong set of hands. Time on the water, more specifically solo time, allows for hours of refinement and discovery with these techniques. In my recent expedition I actually learnt a new retrieve style by accident- a pity they don’t print this info on the lure box! In basic terms a fast ‘wind like hell’ retrieve suits metal slugs while a slower rhythmic jig and freefall suits the deepwater plastics. Anchoring down current is a great strategy in attaining hook-ups with both SPs and metals since these presentations tend to be more effective when cast against the tidal flow and retrieved back with it. Many new lure anglers quit before learning this neat trick. Down deep the difference is enormous. You want a well presented lure that remains enticingly low in the water column rather than one that is unceremoniously swept to mid water soon after touching bottom.

The downfall of anchoring is that, once hooked, your GT has you at his mercy since you are locked in position. One good run at structure by old mate will see you cursing a frayed length of slack line in the breeze. It’s surviving that first barnstorming run that is crucial, and obviously anchoring slightly down current of structure helps tip the scales more in your favour. I even go one step further by tying a small buoy to the very end of my anchor rope. If I’m in a perilous location I untie the rope via a slipknot or fixed loop. Then once the madness begins I try to coax the fish to deep water using the engine or just by drifting off the structure. If you see guys on television driving while fighting fish this is often the reason why. It’s a proven formula. For your weekend angler you could say most are happy to just let everything boil down to luck of the draw. For me personally I would rather not make half baked attempts when it comes to the best percentage of my captures. Converting solo GTs this way certainly isn’t a knock-over task, but it’s really a fundamental skill for any offshore angler.



Drifting is my next favourite strategy when chasing GTs especially if a patch of shallow reef or broken bottom structure spans over a workable area. Drifting tends to draw out fish rather than give them a chance to analyse your offering. One peculiarity with GTs is their intuitive nature. If they refuse a lure or bait a couple of times they will rarely be any more forthcoming. Drifting creates a quick fleeting chance to fish that are less accustomed to you presence. It’s that creation of a split decision that will sometimes provoke a strike. It’s like igniting a fuse especially when done with the traditional top water casting methods. On calm mornings using blooping poppers and stick baits is very doable in the inshore locations and often since these locations are in yellow zoned Island groups you are limited to one rod anyway. Each strike from an enraged dawn GT is the stuff of dreams and many I’ve been lucky to capture on film. When the day wears on surface bites diminish and action in general regularly changes for the worse. Some mackerel anglers follow a theory that pelagic species alter their depth according to light penetration through the water column. Whether the GT moves in a similar fashion or whether it’s a combination of other factors it is definitely worth considering using subsurface lures as a front line choice. The soft plastic methods outlined earlier were focused on fishing deep but SP’s are also great in covering the top too. In my opinion you can’t go past a big paddle tail plastic like the Berkley ripple shads, or even the newer 16cm Westin Teez. Match to a 1-1.1/2 oz jig head with ultra strong 8/0 hook and you’re away. Some of these newer plastics track incredibly well at high speeds too. Those of years gone by would fall apart or tear after a couple of casts. Nowadays the options are a bit better, so again experiment with a range of big paddle tails and jig head combinations. This method has produced solo GTs on stale days when everything else hasn’t!


Trolling is the final method and my least favoured but it still has a place. For example during the dry season the early morning can be characterised by a stiff westerly breeze that swings sou-east through the day. Things can be pretty uncomfortable in a four meter tinny any more than a kilometre offshore when that land breeze influence intensifies. Therefore anchoring and even drifting are not only tough options but also sometimes a bit unsafe. A slow trolling speed with a deep diving hard body minnow is a great option in these circumstances. Of course this method will provide not only other trevally species but other pelagics like mackerel and tuna. I like using just one troll rig when venturing solo as a second outfit becomes a massive hindrance during a fight. My old TLD25 spooled up with hi-vis yellow platypus pre-test in 50lb is my go to troll setup. It’s my only outfit still spooled with mono! (apart from another old TLD15 with 15kg). That hi-vis line is really helpful in setting your lure at specific distances and judging your line movement in fights. I like the Halco laser pro 190 in gold but the dearer X-Rap and Rapala CD18 are similarly effective choices. I prefer to upgrade all my GT lures to Owner St-66 including the laser pros. The big 190 laser pro takes size 1/0 owner trebles and size #7 ‘hyper wire’ rings. On several occasions I’ve had doggy mackerel take the laser pro only to then become engulfed by a big pursuant GT during the fight. Substandard terminals will get exposed in such events! Around the Barnard Islands GTs and longtail tuna seem to feed in a similar manner moving with current lines and shadowing bait schools over reefy bottom. It’s really not a bad back-up option!

Quit or Conquer?

Over coming months the inshore waters off Mourilyan will provide the best fishing of the year. Lower rainfall, variable winds, soaring temperatures, and huge tides will be par for the course. It’s really the stuff of dreams for the small boat owner! From September through until the beginning of the wet season the inshore action will duly intensify with GTs forming a significant portion of the captures. In my opinion it’s the best time of the year for fishing as school/summer holidays allow the majority of folk an added chance at hitting the water. However, it’s also a very busy time with many televised sporting events, work Xmas parties and associated booze inevitably flowing. Past years have shown that fishing accomplices peel away at the last minute when these non-fishing commitments enter the fray. If your original fishing plans are hampered by such occurrences don’t let it totally ruin your chance at chasing some GTs or other pelagic species. It might not have the splendour of competition trophies or other prizes but solo fishing has its own priceless rewards. It’s a unique personal challenge that refines and enhances your abilities to a new level. Your mates might even be a bit surprised at your ‘luck’ on the next group reef outing.  By all means take every safety precaution possible and apply some of the mentioned techniques over the months ahead. Do it with confidence because you can bet old mate GT will have plenty!