Preparing your Tackle and Gear for Long Range Fishing

For any angler, a long range fishing trip is a special experience to be sure. And to enhance that experience, novice and experts anglers alike will benefit greatly by being prepared for the trip ahead. In fact, part of the joy of a long range fishing trip is the preparation of one’s tackle and gear and fantasizing about the good times to be had and the fish to be caught. Each angler should remember that this special opportunity to go long range fishing should be approached with a positive spirit of fun and excitement. Of course each fishermen will need to do some planning, but it should not be taken so seriously that it puts a damper on the experience.

One must first be acutely aware that each and every trip will present different conditions.

As such, different tackle, rigging, equipment, and fishing methods will be needed for each trip. There are no standard plans or checklists that will work for every trip, even if they are the same length trip or occur during the same time of year. Mother nature, each different boat’s culture, angler preferences, and even political influences will in part dictate what an angler must do to ready himself or herself for the trip.

First and foremost, information, or “Intel” as many refer to it, is an important tool.

Several of the variables that one should familiarize their self with a few weeks out include likely destinations, likely species sought, likely weather conditions, preferences of the boat crew, and any number of other variables that might come to mind. Resources for seeking out information include experienced fellow anglers, top quality long range specific tackle shops, respected long range magazines and websites, respected fishing radio programs, long range boat websites, and of course, crew members from the boat.

Typically an experienced long range angler will already have a good idea of what they might encounter on their trip. They have spent time on the boats and know some of the more common techniques and tackle that will be used to catch the various species often available. They may well also have a pretty complete arsenal of rods, reels, jigs, accessories, etc. This puts them in a good position to use their planning time to really advance their knowledge and consider some of the finer points.

In the early stages of planning, these more advanced anglers should pull out all of their gear and take a good inventory. Any rods or reels in need of repair should be taken care of well in advance of the trip. In addition, any reel that will be in need of line should be put aside so that they can be filled when the time comes. Any jigs that need new rigging should be separated out for new rigging. It is recommended to wait until closer to the trip to rig jigs and fill line. The line and leaders will be fresh and there is less chance of damaging them during storage and transport. Also, this gives the angler some flexibility to react to last minute changes in conditions.

In these earlier planning stages, the less experienced long range angler or first time person should be sure to get some good basic advise about what they could expect. They should be certain to get their information from highly reputable sources. Unfortunately, there are far too many “experts” these days on internet chat sites and one never really knows if the information is applicable or not. Multiple sources should be used and common threads of information will begin to surface.

It is likely that a newer or less experienced long range angler will not have a full arsenal of long range gear. The first consideration should be to take stock of what they do have, if anything, that may work for their trip, and the decide how to come up with the remaining gear. If the fisherman anticipates that they will fish more long range trips in the future, perhaps it is wise to purchase at least some of the more basic and useful gear. These purchases should be made with caution to be sure that the items will have long term core usage on the trip that they are on as well as other future trips. It may make sense to wait until the very last moment to make that decision. Other ways to supplement the necessary gear include renting from the landing or boat, borrowing from friend, or using loaner gear, available on occasion from the boat. All of these things need to be considered fairly early in the game.

As time progresses and the trip draws nearer, all anglers should continue to monitor every piece of information available that might have a bearing on their trip. Often patterns will begin to emerge over periods of time giving clues to what might occur on any given trip once the day arrives.

When the trip is only a couple of weeks or less away, the angler should start to have a solid game plan.

It is not necessary that the angler pulls the trigger until the last moment on some of the decisions, but they should have a good idea of what they need to do. It is common for a long range fisherman to fill reels, install top shots, rig jigs, purchase terminal tackle, and even purchase new rod and reel outfits at the landing the day of their trip. There is no better time to know what is likely to happen than the day the trip departs. In most cases, an angler’s boat as well as others have just returned from the grounds and have valuable information about what is going on.

It should be mentioned that every long range boat carries some basic tackle, including hooks, sinker, jigs, line, etc. In the case of a more beginning angler that is not certain that they will return for another trip, or is intimidated to spend too much on gear, they should consider purchasing a good “starter kit” of terminal tackle and then supplement from the boat if needed. The landings are very expert at setting an angler up for this situation.

Lastly, one of the best places to really understand what is needed on a long range trip is actually on the trip itself. This is probably the best place to start making mental notes about what needs to be carried on future trips. Many a long range fisherman has gone on a shopping spree in the tackle shop the day he steps off of the boat. Of course conditions will be different next time, but a good angler always thinks ahead.

So to recap, every long range trip will be different, which is part of what makes them so special. Keeping that in mind, it is crucial for the long range angler to gather as much quality and pertinent information as possible, and to plan their tackle and other gear accordingly. And a good long range angler never forgets that each step leading up to a trip and the trip itself is supposed to be fun.

Note From Bill Roecker: This was written by Doug Kern of Fisherman’s Landing and first posted by the Royal Polaris, but makes it is a great read for all offshore anglers.

Photo Credit: Bill Roecker, Royal Polaris, and Accurate Reels

Bill Roecker owns, where he posts daily reports from the long range fleet and other sources, and Oceanic Productions, which published his book At The Rail: Long Range Fishing. The book, Bill's Sportfishing Calendar and his Standup Fishing DVDs are for sale on his Website and in mos...