Introduction to GT Popping
Introduction to GT Popping
GT popping as a sport is getting more and more popular as the day goes by. Where it all originated is still a debate. Some say in Hawaii, some say the Polynesian Islands. However the people who took it to the current level of technical finesse are undoubtedly the Japanese.
Why this could be the most exciting way of fishing is very easy to see. The GT hits the lure on the surface with a most explosive and aggressive take followed by screaming runs, pulling insane drag setting as the angler connects with a fish that pulls you and in an instant, the hunter becomes the hunted.
There have been many changes to the way people fish for GT over the last 15 years or so ,with changes in tackle such as rods, reels, poppers , stick baits , lines , leaders, knots, hooks , other gear like fighting belts, gloves, knot tying tools, terminal tackle tools like split ring players, braid cutters , knot tighteners … the list is endless. Here, I will try to briefly dwell on the various aspects of the sport split into tackle, technique & locations.
Now that GT fishing has boomed into a growing industry, and thanks to the playing field of major tackle manufactures the selection of an ideal GT rod has become more and more difficult.
Ideally a typical GT popping rod is between 7’2” to 8’3“. It should be strong enough to load and throw lures from 120gms to 200gms, again and again, from day break till sunset. Let me tell you here that this is no easy sport, it’s very hard on the body, and you may hook a fish on your first cast or on your 100thcast. Invariably, you will probably end up hooking a decent fish at your 100th cast with very little energy left to fight the fish. This calls for a light rod which is easy on your body, strong enough to hook and keep the fish hooked, and a rod blank that makes it a bit less painful when you are pumping the fish near the boat to bring it up. This is the most painful moment of the whole fight. Since GT fishing is all about hooking and landing the fish for a quick photo and release , the fight should ideally not last too long so as to facilitate a healthy fish release.
This being the case the high end GT specific popping rods don’t come cheap, and you are looking at something between 600 to 1000 USD. Major players are Fisherman, Carpenter, Ripple Fisher, Smith, to name a few. There are also a few budget rods made by Shimano called Caranx Kaibatsu, Xzoga taka-pi & some very good rods made by Saltywater tackle called race point.
GT popping as the term implies is not all popping with poppers. More and more fish are caught these days on stick baits. The stick bait is a lipless plug that mimics a wounded fish. Since the stick bait does not face the resistance of popping a wide mouthed popper, the stick bait rods are a bit less stiff and ideally a little longer than your popping rod. These days there are a few rods made by the manufactures I have mentioned above which can be used for popping poppers up to 150gms and sticks up to 200gms.
Here there is not much choice for the angler. It is between Daiwa Saltiga, Dog Fight or a Shimano Stella. The key that decides the limited choice is the tough treatment that the reel has to face up to cast after cast, popping big poppers and stick baits, a smooth drag that will not seize, burn up or explode in your face, stand up to saltwater environment, and have a high gear ratio to take in the slack after every pop or rod swipe you use to move the lure. These reels are also pretty dearly prized around 1000$.
A typical GT popping reel should hold about 250 meters of PE 8 (roughly between 90 to 100lb braid), 200 meters of PE 10 (130lb), or 350 meters of PE 6 (70 to 80lb). Another thing to be noted is that it’s always advantageous to have a pre loaded spare spool for your reel in case you are busted off or if you want a quick change to a lighter PE rating. Daiwa : Saltiga 6500 or Daiwa dog fight, Shimano: Stella, 10000, 18000, or 20000.( new reel size of 14000 is to be launched soon) are the only models which can withstand the rigor of GT Popping.
Poppers & Stick Baits generally range from 100gms to 220gms. There are tons of poppers/ stick baits available in the market. There are some very expensive lures and other reasonably prized lures also. Most rod manufactures make poppers and stick baits. The expensive players are Carpenter, Fisherman, craft bait, shell shaped etc. The less expensive ones are the Skip jack, Halco, Jai poppers,etc.
The best line to use for fishing GT in one word is braid. The makes one can choose from are Varivas, sunline, power pro to name a few. These are the only lines which can give you a good fis.
The choice of leader will depend on the PE rating of your main line. For PE 6 it is best to use 100 to 130lb supple Mono , PE 8 :-170 to 200 lb and PE 10 :-200 to 300lb.
The choice of PE line rating that you put on your reel depends largely on the size of fish you might encounter, and the terrain you will fish in. Generally GT fishermen who fish Lakshadweep (Lakadives) fish with PE 6 as the fish are generally around 15 to 25 kg, PE 8 is recommended for Andaman where the fish are larger and PE 10 in Southern Oman and New Caledonia where a 50 Kg GT is seen more often. Also the thinner the braid on your reel, the longer you will be able to cast.
But then again this being an evolving sport, more and more people are going for lesser PE rating and they compensate with technique and specialized custom made tackle to land monsters on thinner lines.
GT fishing is all about having the ideal rod, reel, choice of lures and not the least, the terminal connections, knots from the main PE line to the leader & Leader to the popper or stick bait.
Common knots used to join the leader to PE are the PR Knot and the FG knot (needs some practice) or the Uni to Uni Knot which is simple and yet strong. It’s also important to have a knot that is strong as well as a small profile, so that it will cast through the guides without catching on the guide footing.
Below is a link to learn tying some of these knots.
The leader length is about a rod and a half in length, or say, a couple of turns sitting on the spool at the cast. But then, if are using a Uni to Uni, the leader is shorter with the knot outside the rod tip at the cast. Thus the leader length is now a matter of choice. However most charter guides will be thank full if you have a longer leader thus making it easy for them to leader the fish at the boat. And believe me, you will be more thankful to finish the fight that much sooner, than bringing the fish up to the shorter leader.
Connection of leader to Lure is with a Swivel to split ring. Knot of leader to swivel are more common knots like the clinch knot, figure 8 knot or in certain cases crimping. Alternately some are seen connecting the leader directly to the lure without a swivel-split ring connection.
Hooks: - Generally 5/O treble hooks are most effective. The popular brands are Owner, Gamakatsu. These trebles are attached to the lure via size 11 H split rings. This brings you to the split ring player, strong enough to open a size 11 ring to put in a 5/O hook. Most people prefer to crush the treble to make it barbless which makes hook removal easy. The traditional method is to attach two trebles to a lure but nowadays people are increasingly shifting to a treble on the belly and a size 7/O or Size 9/O single to a tail.
Gloves:- They are helpful in preventing your fingers from damage following incessant casting and also help you leader the fish while landing.
Fighting belt: - Helps you to pop with rod butt in the belt or eventually pumping the fish up while fighting.
GT fishing is becoming more and more technical, with new ideas and learning from experience. There are tons of you tube videos on GT popping and one can see many expert fishermen working their poppers and stick baits. Casting distance is very important. Most scenarios will see you required to cast a minimum of 60 to 70 meters. The more you cast for GT the better you get at this sport. Once you hook the fish, the first thing is to remain calm and let the fish pull your pre set drag till it stops. But then here again the drag setting depends on ones physical limits I personally set the drag to about 10 kg and
maybe go up to 12 or at the most, 15kg during the fight. There are again people who set near locked or 20 kg drag to muscle this fish away from rough terrain. Experiment with the drag setting you can handle and then go up if you need it. Posture and stance is also very important as you lean away from the fish during a fight. Plant your feet slightly apart, bend your knees and lean into it, but at all times, stay focused so that sudden line breaks or a swell doesn’t knock you off your feet. Another point is to have your breathing in rhythm. Most often you forget to breathe when you are pulling against the fish and thus get fatigued or weak in the legs. Brace yourself at all times. Also if it’s a big fish don’t try to gain line in a hurry, you may not last the fight, keep it slow and steady and hope for the best.
GT popping is a tough sport in tough terrain. Number one, always watch out for flying poppers if you are fishing with friends. Please see that you don’t hook somebody while you cast and also ensure that you are not in your partners casting arc. Mind that you are using very expensive gear and see that you don’t hit your rod tips on the boat’s canopy or other structure. It pays to scan your surrounding before you make each cast. Also hang around on the deck for a while and get used to the rhythm of the sea, this will eventually give you the” sea legs”.
Locating Fish: -
These days the charter operators are your best bet as they know where the fish are holding. But then if you are popping virgin waters, GT like to hang around currents close to the reef’s edge where the shallow meets the deep, sea mounds (areas where the sea floor rises up like a table top) or if you see a school of bait fish like fusiliers or mackerel shimmering nervously on the surface you will not go wrong if you cast, not into the school, but along the edges of these bait balls.
GT also love to hang around in the wash just behind and in front of a wave break.
Incidentally when you are popping for GT you are bound to hook up to other species. This list is endless, red bass, groupers, bluefin trevally, coral trout, barracudas, wahoo, kingfish etc. This is what keeps the sport going. On a slow GT day you have these fish to rescue you. There are some experienced GT fishermen who believe that if you are hooking too many ”other” fish , then , the GTs are not playing. “The GT being the king of the reef does not tolerate any competition”.
Happy Fishing and go Hit It!!