My bait preference is and always will be fresh mackerel. I’ve found anything fresh can give you that extra bit of attraction but you will still catch on frozen baits. I’ve fished next to some of the boys who haven’t caught any fresh yet and are using frozen mackerel, I’ve put out a fresh mackerel and after 10 minutes the frozen bait has screamed off and not the fresh. But 90% of the time I will fish frozen until I get fresh without a touch, and then within 10 minutes of a fresh bait being out there it screams off, whether that is coincidence or not I’m really not sure but it’s what gives me that extra bit of confidence and if you’re fishing with confidence it usually pays off. But don’t think it has to be fresh mackerel, as pollock, Whiting, garfish etc is just as good.
I have never used bream myself but I know it can be a very good bait on the boats for tope on the south coast. It’s not a fish which is in abundance in the area I fish so to get it to use as a fresh bait is very difficult and time consuming which is why I prefer mackerel.
I wish the bites were always screaming runs! Unfortunately they can be very timid and finicky at times. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve sat there watching my rod tip twitch thinking it’s a dogfish playing with my bait, then all of a sudden the line hits the floor or the rod doubles over and starts peeling line off the reel. If they are in a big pack then 9 times out of 10 they will compete for food and that’s when they scream off and that’s the part of tope fishing I enjoy the most. But the bites can be anything from timid to screaming so don’t just expect the reel to scream at a rate of knots.
I honestly think the 80lb barrier will be broken for a shore caught tope. The rods, reels and tackle we use these days are far more advanced and making it easier for us shore anglers to target them. The boats, nearly every year, get 1 over 80lb so I don’t see why it isn’t possible to get one off the shore.
I personally don’t see the need to gaff them, if you can get hold of a decent net and pole it’s much easier and a lot safer for the fish to be landed with a net. My feelings are if you can gaff a fish then you can get close enough to net it with out doing any unnecessary damage to it and it’s much easier to get it in a net than gaff it.
The landing nets we use range from about 2 feet wide by 3 feet long depending on whose net we use. The deeper the netting the easier it is to get the tope in and to stop it falling back out. A lot of the big salmon nets are very good and a decent size but the only downfall can be the poles so we get them made up to suit our needs.
My choice of hook used to be the Varivas bmx but now I have gone to the catfish pattern and find it’s a lot better hook up ratio to the bmx. I’ve personally never used the circle hooks. I’m not keen on how they sit in the bait but that’s my personal preference and I know a lot of boys who target the tope and use a circle hook with very good success rate with hook up and landing.
The ground I fish varies from clean sand to quite mixed, though even the mixed ground has sand patches in between or around the reefs and it won’t put the tope off over mixed ground. I’m assuming they are over the mixed ground chasing the Pollock and pouting. I have even had a tope take a conger bait casting no more than 30yds in very rough rock and kelp.
As I said in the previous question I’ve had tope in as close as 30yds in water no deeper than 15ft. If the food source is there the tope will come in very close to the shore so don’t be afraid to put a bait in close. I would say most of my bigger fish have been about 50-60yds out but a lot of the rock marks I fish are quite deep so even at that distance i could be in 30-50ft of water. I try to vary the distances but I would say most of the tope I’ve caught have come at distance, I would say that on shallow beaches that extra distance would be a big help, especially in daylight but then in darkness it’s not essential.
My set up is Zziplex xtr rods and Daiwa saltist 30s. I prefer a rod with a softer tip but plenty in the mid section. I find the softer tip helps absorb the head shakes when the tope are in close which in theory should give you less chance of a hook pull at probably the most crucial time of the fight and when most fish are lost. A heavier stiffer rod for casting big baits out will work just as well but they are not for me anymore, I’d have joints in agony and screaming no more!
I use the Varivas sport 25lb mono line, again this is just my personal choice and you could get away with going lighter but as I said above some of the venues I fish for tope are quite mixed and I feel a lot safer with that extra bit of abrasion resistance. I spend many hours chasing tope and to lose the fish because I am under gunned for the places I am fishing wouldn’t be the best feeling in the world knowing I should have been properly equipped. If I’m fishing off clean beaches, 15-20lb is ample for any tope in our waters.
For me it has to be wire, again this is my personal choice and mono and circle hooks work very well for some. But I’ve seen 250lb mono bitten through on more than 1 occasion and I don’t have to be told twice that wire gives you a better chance of landing tope with the rig and hook set up I’m using. I would dread to think how many hours I’ve put in over the years targeting tope and I want to increase my chances of landing tope as much as I can and from what I’ve learned over the years wire is the best for me. I also disagree that wire does more damage to tope than mono. I’d say they both can do equal amount of damage. I’ve seen tope wrap up in my rig and shockleader and the mono can do a fair bit of damage as well as the wire.