Stick Baiting for Giant GTs

Ben Knaggs For all the species of fish that draw anglers from across the country to north-west WA, none seem to generate as much fanfare as XOS giant trevally. The thought of having a monster ‘Geet’ charge down a surface lure gets even the most level headed of us frothing, and can drive blokes to move mountains (well, at least spend a fortune on gear and plane tickets!) just for a chance to live this daydream scenario.
  North-west WA and particularly the Ningaloo/Southern Pilbara region, is renowned for its big, bruising GTs, largely due to the near pristine nature of this coral fringed coastline. For easy access to numbers of true trophy sized GTs there are few parts of the country that can beat it, and GT mad anglers will travel from right round Australia and even the world to fish these waters for whopper west coast GTs.

Stickbaits Rule

SB 6

Long, powerful rods and reels that can deal with redline drag settings are a must for these fish along the coral studded north-west coast.

Now, GT fishing for most means surface luring, and to many anglers surface luring equates to the use of poppers. Big, noisy poppers appeal to these west coast GTs just as much as they do to any other GTs anywhere else around the world, but other than in niche circumstances these lures don’t really suit the environment out here in the west. The need to work a lot of water to stir up a big geet in these parts renders surface stickbaits the go-to lure for west coast GTs. Big floating stickbaits are far easier and far quicker to work than big poppers in situations where covering water is important, and big GTs just love them. I’m not saying a big popper or two has no place in the west coast GT fisho’s kit, but stickbaits will serve you better for 90% of GT luring situations out here.
Big GTs like this live in rough country. Daring boat driving and long casts are needed to get stickbaits in the prime strike zone along the reef edge.

Big GTs like this live in rough country. Daring boat driving and long casts are needed to get stickbaits in the prime strike zone along the reef edge.

It’s no secret that terminal tackle for luring big GTs needs to be as tough as it gets. Stickbaits for this fishing must be quality, through-wired versions rigged with extra heavy duty split rings and hooks. This is so that when a fish – which in these parts could be anything from a 10-15kg rat to a 60kg trophy – monsters the lure in coral country that gives no other option than to lock up and hold on comes along, tackle failure is less likely (but still possible!) to leave you crying. Size wise, casting weight is the critical aspect of stickbait choice. In my opinion, the weightier the better to aid extra long casts on heavy tackle and into stiff breeze. 100g should be a minimum. If you truly desire a really big west coast GT, don’t be afraid to throw really big stickbaits. 30cm+ stickies tend to cut down the instance of little GTs and other by-catch species jumping on, whereas if you’re still happy to hook the smaller than average 5-20kg fish, lures as small as 20cms will likely produce more action across a the full GT size range.

Rough Water Warriors

What all the fuss is about. Dan Peart with a nice Exmouth GT.

What all the fuss is about. Dan Peart with a nice Exmouth GT.

If you’re not fond of rough water and rolling waves, forget about west coast GTs. Other than in a few isolated and semi-secret locations, surface luring big GTs in WA means being right amongst the roiling, rough water of reef edges and rock headlands. This is the water big GTs hunt in, and unless you get right in there with them – at times putting the boat on the thin edge of serious danger – the odds of hooking a few are very low indeed. So then, look for areas of shallow reef or rock that drop near vertically into deeper water and that are washed with plenty of current or wave action. This comes with the obligatory safety warning – if you’re not confident in your boat, boat driving or ability to watch and read the waves, go with an experienced friend or charter skipper.
 Yet another stickbait fancier. Note the deck hose in this fish’s mouth – a good idea when de-hooking and taking pics to ensure these valuable fish remain healthy for release.

Yet another stickbait fancier. Note the deck hose in this fish’s mouth – a good idea when de-hooking and taking pics to ensure these valuable fish remain healthy for release.

If there’s one little tip above all others that will aid finding west coast GTs it would be to seek out current and white water. GTs just love strong flowing current or wave surge, as it’s in amongst this moving water that they can use their prodigious strength to chase down their much weaker baitfish prey. So remember, no matter how good a reef edge or other such structure looks, if there’s no current, wash or tidal surge, there’s not much reason for a geet to be there. Baitfish aggregations are another signpost of where to place a stickbait. Bait to look out for in these parts are fusiliers, mullet and sometimes even packs of flying fish. This sort of activity won’t go unnoticed by big GTs for long, especially if the bait is pinned down by current or surge.

Special Skills for Stickbaitin’

Working a big stickbait well is a real balancing act between getting that nice, injured baitfish-like side-to-side action out of the lure and not moving that lure so quickly that it spends little time amongst the washy, surgy strike zone of the reef edge. The ‘right’ retrieve takes a little practice and some skill to master.
A selection of GT proven stickbaits. It always pays to carry a few different styles to suit changing conditions.

A selection of GT proven stickbaits. It always pays to carry a few different styles to suit changing conditions.

The lazy fisho who isn’t prepared to put the effort in to get that lure grooving won’t catch many GTs. As soon as the lure hits the water it’s important to get it moving, making rhythmical upward pumps with the rod tip up while keeping the reel handle tricking over at a fast-medium pace. This should see the stickbait skating from side to side, throwing a little water and generally making a tempting ruckus amongst the wash. Get this happening and a huge bow wave could appear at any moment, followed by a frightening surface strike. Even with user-friendly stickbaits, it’s hard grind pelting long casts and constantly working the lure from a bucking boat. Pacing yourself and controlling the expectation is a priority, lest you run out of puff in quick time. These fish seem to be able to sense that moment and often crash tackle your stickbait just as you’re broaching exhaustion.

Then comes the real pain!

Ben Knaggs

About Ben Knaggs

Born and bred in South Australia, Ben’s love of fishing developed from a very early age and evolved to become an obsession which would ultimately shape his life. Actively involved in fishing related journalism from his mid teens, Ben has written articles for most Australian fishing titles and served as editor of Saltwater Fishing magazine for eight years.

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