The Wanganella Banks was always a place that I, as a marlin fisherman, wanted to explore, but with the destination being over 350 nautical miles offshore, it remains out of reach for most. In recent years though, I have been lucky enough to fish this location.

I have now made four trips to the Wanganella Banks, racking up over 250 striped marlin releases and catching those fish on a quite few different methods, one of which is stick-baiting.

Stick-baiting is a technique I have been interested in since the first time I heard about it. These days I spend most of the spring targeting kingfish on surface lures.

From the very first Wanganella trip we tried casting stick baits to the large striped marlin that live on the bank, but to begin with we didn’t have a lot of success in landing any of these fish. We did, however, notice that they loved chasing and eating stick-baits and for us watching 100- 140kg striped marlin eat stick baits was something we had only ever dreamed about. Now, with a few trips behind us, we have begun to get an idea of the rigging and set up necessary, not only for hooking these fish, but also to successfully bring such a large fish to the boat on spinning outfits.

Pack-Attacks
We don’t get a lot of chances to cast to fish, but on most days on the bank we get pack-attacks with upwards of 10 marlin in the gear eating all our lures at once. This is the perfect chance to cast a stick-bait.

With most of the pack-attacks we get, we try and hold the boat in a wide turn in an effort to get all the rods hooked up. Once all the rods are hooked up we stop the boat and start fighting the fish.

In some instances, one or two marlin fall off and this is when we take advantage of the stick-baits. Since we know we raised more marlin than actually ate the lures, while the other boys are fighting their fish on conventional gear, anyone who isn’t hooked up can walk around the boat and cast a lure in the hope of raising another marlin.

This is where it gets exciting, as unlike trolling, the boat isn’t moving. Everything happens in slow motion. Right in front of your eyes the marlin rises to the lure, crash-bites and then turns the water to foam as it feels the hooks, before starting its run for the horizon.

Reel Capacity
The first problem we ran into was the capacity of the spinning reels we used. Destiny is a single-screw vessel that weighs over 100 tonnes, so she doesn’t have the best manoeuvrability.

Marlin

Also, with other fish hooked up at the same time, it’s not possible to chase down the fish hooked on the casting set-up, which means we need good line capacity and very powerful rods to slow and stop the running marlin.

We now use Shimano Stella 18000 and Daiwa Dogfight 8000-size reels which we spool with 400m of Varivas Casting PE8, which breaks at 112lb (50.8kg).

We have found this line to be thin enough to give us good reel capacity but also strong enough to put up with the fishes’ blistering runs against high drag pressure over a long 8-foot (2.44m) casting rod.

Destiny is a large vessel with very high sides, and because we cannot back down on fish, we actually fight them off the bow of the boat. This presented a new challenge, as the bow of the boat is over three metres above the water, so we realised we would need to use a very long leader so we could leader a fish safelywhen we got it close to the boat.

For the leader we would tie a 5-6m length of 170- 200lb (77-91kg) casting leader to the main line with an FG knot with a small, strong swivel at the other end. For the bite leader, to handle the abrasion from the bill, we use a metre of 300lb (136kg) leader from the swivel to the front of the lure. This helps with abrasion and also with handling the marlin at the boat, giving us something strong to hold onto.

The only down-side to this set-up is that you have to be very calm when making your cast, because if you try to over-power it, the long leader can wrap around a guide, or worse, make wind-knots.

As for the hooks on the lures, we have tried single in-line hooks but didn’t have much success using them. We now use barbless trebles similar to those we use for kingfish. So far this has been giving us an over 50% hook-up rate, and since the hooks are barbless, we find it very easy to un-hook fish at the boat. Catching marlin on stick-baits is a work in progress and we are continuously working to improve our methods.

Five in a day
On one of our four-day trips, we landed five striped marlin on stick baits, ranging from 100kg to over 140kg. The fight times ranged between 20 minutes up to just over an hour.

Stickbaiting

These are brutal fights with only a gimbal belt to help the angler. To our way of thinking, if you put a harness on a spin rod you might as well use a conventional overhead set-up.
For anyone interested in targeting striped marlin on stick baits around the coast of New Zealand, there are plenty of opportunities to do so. We have found the marlin react very well to stick baits and we often had them eat a stick bait over a live bait. In one case we switched a marlin that was tailing a live bait onto a stick bait and then caught the marlin.

This style of fishing works very well when you come across marlin feeding on a bait ball near the surface, whether a ball of mackerel or fleeing saury. Tossing a stick bait can get a lure right in front of the fish without disturbing its natural feeding behaviour, so there’s an excellent chance of a bite.