Gar swim bait
  |  First Published: December 2015

With the warm weather upon us, anglers will notice an increase in the availability of pelagic species. While trolling with lures is popular, there is no doubting the success of trolling rigged baits, especially when the bite is tough. In the October issue I demonstrated a skipping gar, and this issue we will have a look at a swimming gar.

The very simple swimming gar rig has been popular for many decades. It is practically foolproof. Key things to keep in mind are that the garfish needs to be limp and flexible before deploying, and the tow point needs to be centred in the head. Add a suitable chin weight plus hook, and this rig is ready to go.

So why should you rig a gar swimbait instead of using a lure? Well, when baitfish are plentiful, or the grounds on which the billfish are holding have been worked over hard with lures, you’ll need a more realistic offering to get strikes. While the swimming garfish requires a slightly slower speed than many lures, it is a lot more enticing in its action, scent and flavour.

Often a billfish will hit or mouth the bait repeatedly before deciding to swallow it properly. If you get a strike without a solid hook-up, it’s advisable to freespool the bait, just allowing it to sink. The predator will think it has wounded the gar and will come back to slurp up its prey. Fish the reel in freespool (with the ratchet on) and allow the billfish to mouth the bait and begin swimming off before you strike.

Even if you don’t use rigged baits all the time, it’s handy to know how to rig them for those times when the bite is tough. These baits can be trolled from any fixed rod position on the boat or from an outrigger. I have also had a lot of success when trolling them from the downrigger, which is very successful when the billfish aren’t rising to surface baits or are feeding deeper.

Quality fresh gar are best and these can be sourced from tackle stores, seafood suppliers or you can catch them yourself. Some good hooks include the Owner Longshank (available in 7/0, 9/0 and 11/0) or the Gamakatsu SL12S (generally 8/0, 9/0 of 10/0), but numerous non-offset hooks will do. I like to add anode tape to chemically sharpened hooks to offset the electrolysis, which can make the points brittle.

Now let’s look at the basic gar swim bait rig. You can adapt the rig by trying different chin weights, adding a stinger hook or adding a squid skirt.

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