Tackle and other Equipment
I use 15kg line for nearly all my fishing at the reefs. I prefer monofilament but know guys do well with braid. Probably the only area I would advocate against braid is when trolling. It can be a little unforgiving in a big strike with it's lack of stretch, plus it's fine diameter can be deadly on other lines in a spread of several lures. It is most unfortunate when someone loses a big fish or expensive lure after being cut by another line.In other areas however, like jigging and deep bottom fishing, braid does have advantages.
I always use 3m or so of double, knotted to 2m of 37kg - 60kg leader. To the end I attach a large (#1 or bigger) snap swivel with either a hawaiian or good coastlock snap to attach to lures. NB wire is optional and may save being bitten off.For bait fishing I remove the swivel and tie on a hook with the appropriate ball sinker. It's a fairly simple system, but because rerigging can be quite frequent it pays to not be over complicated with terminal rigs.
Basic tackle There is no end to the variety of tackle which could be put to good use. In compiling a checklist of necessities to cover general fishing options I have included the following.
Hooks: I prefer Mustad Tarpons (7766) 6/0's for just about everything, usually two-ganged for reef fish. The two hooks allow for better bait presentation and more secure hookups,however they are obviously more costly on snags, lost fish, sharks etc.For drifting whole fish such as gar or pilchards, I use a gang of 4 or 5 of the same hooks, with a barrel or crane swivel linked to the eye of the top hook, for extra protection from biteoffs and moreso to counter line twist if the bait spins in the current.
Sinkers: I carry a variety of ball sinkers from pea size to 4oz, sometimes using more than one in deep water or strong current.
Heavy leader and trace line. I mostly use 37kg (80lb) mono. It is necessary to protect the 'business end' whether dragging fish out of coral or from the rigours of a hard running pelagic ie tuna, GT or wahoo.
Wire (single or multistrand 80 - 180lb) is wise if spanish macks or wahoo are targetted.
Spare line ( being spooled is a big possiblility)
A safety cord and bulldog clip or similar for your rod and reel.
Skirted lures,bibless minnows and bibbed minnows have all been successful. My most successful minnows were Rapala CD18 , big bombers or big halco laser pro's (190DD in most colours are very good, and relatively cheap).Bigger lures and baits definitely produce bigger fish. Billy Bonitos and similar mega bibless minnows are well known producers of BIG dogtooth and wahoo.Ensure the hooks and rings are heavy duty.
'Jigging' with large (125gm/4oz or more) pirks/baitfish replicas is also very effective. (125gm Raiders are popular) It is a good option when trolling from the mothership or dory to have a rod prepared for jigging. When someone hooks up trolling it is often easy to produce another hookup by dropping a jig straight down from the now stationary boat, (keeping a respectful distance from the angler who initially hooked up and his fish) then winding up fast as possible.
Poppers. I havent personally fished poppers but all the tropical reef edge popper munchers are prevalent and I am sure casting large poppers from a dory would produce some excellent results.
In the picture above I have displayed some essential equipment.
A compact tackle bag with shoulder strap, big enough to carry the necessities and allowing free hands when boarding dories, which can be tricky in some sea conditions.
Three very good lures are the Halco Giant Trembler, Halco Laser Pro and the 125gm Raiders pictured. They will take most the species encountered, are sturdy and well priced.
A spool of heavy leader line.
Fishing pliers and belt sheath. I have a pair that has about 6 different functions and I use them all a lot. They also serve well removing lures from big live fish. To try and do so by hand is lunacy, particularly considering the location and distance from medical assistance.
I use a short heavy bladed knife with belt sheath for killing/bleeding fish, cutting bait etc. No need for a filleting knife, the crew do that.
Rod bucket is necessary, obviously you would use a gimbal belt if using gimbal butts. I do use both.
The small hand gaff is not a necessity but I do find it very useful.
Jaw gaffing fish for dehooking, as a second gaff on big fish or to assist holding a fish for a photo, it is an essential part of my kit.
Rods and Reels
After a bit of refining I have found I use the two outfits above for 90% of my fishing. This is only my personal choice, others fish lighter or heavier tackle, baitcasters, fly, game and even handlines successfully. Light tackle can be fun but I found too often I would hook something that made me wish I'd fished heavier, as it either buried in the reef or disappeared beyond the horizon. I avoid the frustrations by mainly fishing 15kg, anything that wipes me out I probably don't want in a 4m boat anyway.
I don't consider these perfect but they are reasonably priced and suit my needs at this point. Above is a Pacific Composites LBJ 15kg, a beautiful rod, light yet brutally strong with Shimano TLD 30 2spd, good for trolling, general purpose. The smaller TLD 20 pictured combines well with the rod and is more versatile (even casts quite well) for fishing the Swains or the medium species of the outer reefs.
Below is my jigging/casting/general purpose outfit of a Penn 9500 Spinfisher with Live Fibre 15-24kg ZWS70XJ. They are sturdy, strong and nice to use but perhaps a bit heavy. Other threadlines and overheads I have seen work well. The high speed of the Shimano Speedmasters and Trinidads can be advantageous.
I have included below some additional items necessary for a charter to the Coral Sea.
Plenty of sunscreen, hat,cool, longsleeved protective clothes, etc.
I would recommend a spare hat and sunglasses, it would be most uncomfortable to lose either.
Travel sickness pills/patches. There are many sheltered anchorages and fishing grounds once at the reefs but there are a lot of miles of open sea to get there. It would be tragic to spend the trip of a lifetime with your head over a bucket. (Note. Some seasickness tablets have caffeine to keep you awake . If you want to sleep on the journey out. it may be preferable to obtain those without caffeine or have a supply of both.)
Ear plugs can be invaluable if you are sharing a cabin with a snorer.
Shoes or sandals