I was in Wales for the SWKA Kayak Fishing Tournament and thoughts turned to what to do on the Sunday. I had hoped to try for Tope, a long term target of mine as I had caught small ones but never been in the right place at the right time for the larger beasts, but talking to some of the Welsh guys it would mean another 2 hour drive to get to a decent venue and after a Saturday night socialising following the competition this didn’t seem very likely.
Fortunately Stuart took me to one side on the Saturday evening and told me he had been catching tope at this very venue a couple of weeks earlier. He couldn’t guarantee they were still there but he was going to give it a go and we were welcome to join him. No more needed to be said and Sunday morning an ever growing group of Kayak Anglers were up early with anticipation. None of us had caught a tope before and talk soon turned to what we would do if we caught one. These fish get to over 70lb in this area and the general consensus was that although a big one would be nice a smaller fish would be good for starters. In reality none of us expected a great deal and if any one of us hooked a tope, let alone landed it the day would be a success.
Fortunately also at the event were Lozz Taylor and Gareth Bowen who between them have probably caught more kayak tope than the rest of us put together so we had plenty of advice at hand.
I had with me a selection of Tronixpro Bite Nylon coated wire trace in 50lb and 100lb weights with crimps, some Tronixpro Rolling Swivels in size 2/0 and a selection of Tronixpro O’Shaugnessy Hooks in a 6/0 or 8/0. With a bit of tuition the rigs were very simple to make.
The wire trace only needs to be around 12 inches long. At one end the swivel needs attaching. This is done by passing the wire through the crimp, attaching the swivel with a Flemish loop and then pass back through the crimp. Push it down as tight as possible to the swivel and crimp it tight. On the other end do exactly the same to attach the hook. Once this is attached to a length of 100lb rubbing leader you are ready to go.
There was some discussion re the merits of wire re strong mono. Interestingly Gareth preferred Mono, but that was because where he fished he occasionally hooked into Porbeagle Sharks whilst on the kayak and if fishing wire he would basically just watch a spool of expensive braid peel off in seconds. If fishing Mono he was confident a Porbeagle would eventually bite through it and he would at least be left with his reel line.
On the day we decided to experiment. Myself, and a couple of the guys made some wire traces. Snapper and a couple of others used the same Tronixpro O’Shaugnessy Hooks and Tronixpro Swivels but with strong Mono traces.
On launching the sea was perfect and the first job was to catch the bait. In the event this turned out to be the hardest part of the day. Mackerel was the sought quarry but like the previous two days they were very hard to find. Ideally you would go out with a dozen mackerel each but I spent two hours trying and only caught one small mackerel, the others were also struggling but eventually everyone had at least one and there were a few other small fish caught and kept as well.
Stuart directed us to the mark past the headland, nearly two miles out. There is quite a tide rip here so we needed to be very aware all the time of how the tide was working with the wind. Myself and Martin tied off to a buoy on the drop off where Stuart had caught the week previous. Snapper and Shaun went another half mile out onto the sand while Si and Stuart drifted the whole area. Martin tied off to the back of me and we both dropped our half mackerel baits down with the expectation of hearing the click of the ratchets at any moment.
What we heard instead was the radio break into life and an excited Snapper shouting ‘TOPE ON….TOPE ON ‘ Unfortunately the fish spat the bait, but as soon as he dropped another down the reel screamed into life as a tope picked it up and ran. No mistakes this time and after a spirited fight Snapper had his first tope of around 25lb. Shaun was also in the action with instant bites as soon as his bait hit the bottom, whilst myself and Martin sat there without a touch. It looked like the fish were in deeper water so we unclipped and headed out.
By the time we were there Snapper and Shaun had had multiple runs and landed one fish each. I dropped anchor and sent the bait to the bottom but it was just assaulted by smaller fish and I soon brought up a dogfish trying to eat bait larger than itself. This was kept as emergency bait as my last half mackerel was lowered down. This had a couple of knocks as fish played with it but no screaming runs expected from a tope. Soon enough that bait was also destroyed and I was reduced to using the dogfish as bait.
In the meantime Shaun had managed to catch another mackerel, he dropped it alive to the bottom and instantly it was taken and he was playing another fish. Tope number two on board for him. Snapper also managed another on a fresh bait landing the biggest of the day at around 30lb plus.
All too soon the tide started to rip and 10 oz of lead wasn’t holding the bottom. It was time to head in whilst it was still safe.
Back on the beach everyone was reflecting on a fantastic session. These last minute decisions are always the best, guys from a number of the kayak manufacturer’s teams in the UK sharing information, support and Tronixpro tackle and going out more in hope than expectation. It would have been fantastic if any one of us had caught a fish but in the end Snapper and Shaun had two each, Si had a dropped run and Stuart lost a fish. Just myself and Martin didn’t connect with a tope but plans are already been made for a next time.