Saltwater Fishing Tackle Essentials for the Intelligent Angler

So you’ve made plans for the perfect offshore fishing trip you have your boat’s fuel tanks full, now it’s time to motor out to the honey hole and catch some big fish.

Before you leave land though you’ll need to go through a checklist and make sure you’ve got all the equipment you’re going to need for a day on the water.

It doesn’t matter which type of fish you are going after or what techniques you are going to use, there are the essential basics that you need on the boat for every offshore fishing trip.

What are some of the important basics you’ll need for saltwater fishing?

Rods and reels
Fishing line
A gaff
Needle-nose pliers
A good selection of trolling lures
Release knife
Ice bucket or cooler
Lure bag
A good pair of scissors

Rods and reels

I guess it goes without saying that you can’t go fishing without rods and reels. But it’s worth checking your equipment before you go out to make sure that it’s not broken and is in full functioning order. You’d be surprised how much stuff can break when you’re not looking.

Ice bucket and cooler

An ice bucket is an angler’s best friend. There are a tremendous amount of different uses. The question is? Can you even go fishing without a nice bucket? And of course, coolers are good mostly for storing your fish, but also for storing your food and beer.

Needle-nose pliers

You’ve got to get the hook out of the fish that you catch and the best way to do that is with a good pair of needle-nose pliers. Not only that there are also a million other uses that you will find a pair of pliers comes in handy for when you’re out on the water.

Lure bags

Lure bags are critical and often overlooked. The benefits of a lure bag are that you can easily store your trolling lures, which these days can be pretty expensive. They also keep your trolling skirts from getting damaged.

And they are made out of mesh so you can put the lure in the bag, zip it closed. Then rinse it off with fresh water from a hose to keep the saltwater corrosion at a minimum.  There is a company that specializes in sport fishing tackle products called Fathom Offshore that makes excellent lure bags in a variety of different sizes.

Lures and live bait

So you can’t catch a fish without something to lure them in (see what I did there?). You’re going to need a large selection of lures. And it all depends on what type of fishing you are doing. If you are offshore then that means you will be trolling. Trolling for species like wahoo, blackfin, mahi, and marlin all take highly specialized trolling lures.

If you want an great list of the different types of big game fish that you can target, check out this article:

You’ll also want to mix in some live bait as well as some ballyhoo into your spread. Again it depends on the specific species you are attempting to target as to whether you will use artificial lures or live bait.

It’s a good idea to visit your local tackle shop and speak to the professionals there. They can often give you the best advice as to which baits are working especially for the current conditions. And it’s also good if you can speak with a local charter boat captain as they are a wealth of knowledge on the current conditions as well.

One thing that’s important to keep in mind about saltwater fishing tackle is that the tackle takes a tremendous amount of abuse. And this abuse causes your gear to degrade and break down much faster than say freshwater fishing tackle. The sun and the salt are damaging and therefore you will need to constantly upgrade your tackle box.

Your gear such as your rod and reels hook sets and trolling lures will eventually rust and break down but their steps you can take to extend the life cycle of your gear. The best way to extend the life of your fishing equipment is to keep up with the maintenance of it. Basically, you want to wash your gear with fresh water when you’re done with it.

That’s why lure bags are made out of mesh so that they can drain in the lures can be sprayed with water in the bag and then you also want to do this to your rod and reel. And when you are rinsing off the Reel it’s a good idea to spin the wheel to get the freshwater over as much of the moving parts as possible.

Fishing lines

Let’s talk about fishing lines for a moment. There are two main types of fishing lines that you can purchase. They are braided and unbraided lines.

The new modern braid fishing lines are much stronger, which is great for catching fish and getting them on the deck. Of course, these braided lines cost a little bit more than unbraided fishing lines.

You can learn more about braided fishing lines here.

But if you are offshore fishing you don’t want to save a few bucks and go with the cheaper line. There is nothing worse than hooking a beautiful fish and losing it and not being able to get it on the boat because you’re lying broke because it was a low-quality fishing line.

Don’t ruin a fishing trip because you cheaped out on the fishing line.

Saltwater fishing knife

You always need to have a good saltwater resistant fishing knife handy on the boat. You will need to use a knife for many different applications such as cutting bait, cleaning fish, as well as any MacGyver type of situation you may find yourself in.

You’ll want to buy one that’s specifically made for saltwater because it will come with hand grips that are designed to be waterproof and withstand the abuse that comes from sun and saltwater exposure.

And that about covers it for this list. What you are going to want to do, once you gain more experience in offshore fishing, is to create a list for yourself a checklist. You will begin to see what tackle products and gear you use the most.

And then with a checklist, it’s easier to ensure that you have everything you need on the boat so you don’t get deep offshore and realize you’re missing a crucial piece of equipment.

If you have your own boat, you can keep most of the equipment on the boat at all times. Just make sure that you rinse your equipment off with fresh water when you’re done. Even if you keep all of your gear on your boat, it’s still good to go over your checklist before heading out, to one make sure you have all of your saltwater fishing tackle, and two to make sure that it is all in good working order.

Over time as you gain more experience you may not need your checklist, but a list is a great tool for a novice angler.

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Learn About the Work From The Billfish Foundation

Are you familiar with The Billfish Foundation?

If you are into the sport of offshore sportfishing, there is a pretty good chance you have heard of this organization.  There is also a good chance that you have donated money to this great charitable cause.

The Billfish Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.  The goal is to preserve game fish and ecosystem for the future generations of anglers.

The Billfish Foundation has a “sustained emphasis on synthesizing science and policy into effective, yet reasonable, fishery management solutions- solutions that are good for the fish but not punitive to recreational anglers.”

That sounds good, but what does that mean exactly?

One of the biggest things TBF does is the collection of data about the fish.  They do this through an extensive tag and release campaign.  This is very labor intensive but absolutely critical to the mission of TBF because you can’t make good decisions about fisheries if you don’t have good data.

So it all begins with catching, tagging, and releasing a lot of different fish species.

This data is invaluable for determining the value of a fish species.  You see, if they can prove the value of species, they can show that this species helps the local economy and they can use this information to help when it comes to lawmaking decisions.

No one values something that is worth zero.  Of course fish are worth something, and it’s TBF goal to figure out and to explain that worth to interested stakeholders.

The more valuable something is, the more someone will fight to keep it.  Or to conserve it for future generations.

If you click on the tweet embedded at the top of this post, you’ll be taken to TBF website where you can learn about some of the work they have published.  In the last 25 years TBF network of volunteers has tagged and released over 250,000 fish.

They’ve learned a ton about the fish, their habitat, and the oceans in general, and they publish their findings on their website.

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Suitable Baits And Equipment For Boat Fishing

The fishing from the boat with live or natural bait is the most effective method, not only in terms of the number of catches, especially for its quality. It will be very important to choose well the points or areas where fishing is the most suitable for this modality.

The right team

The rods and reels used have to be specific for boat fishing, different from those used on the coast. Although there are some trends among anglers to use short rods, and with a thick pointer, the reality is that to fish thoroughly from a boat, the idea is to use the longer, the better. We will choose the light and with sensitive and preferably interchangeable pointers.

In choosing the appropriate equipment, price, or simplicity should not influence. It is recommended that the spools be fast and wide spool so that the thread exit is more fluid as the equipment will always be close at hand, the stronger and lighter the reels, the better.

Bait on the high seas

As bait for sea altar fishing, we can use live or natural baits. It is common for some so-called “blood” baits, such as the American worm and the thread, to provide a good number of catches.

If we use a large hook and a gamete of greater length below the lead, a piece of sardine, prawns and prawns, they can bring us good results.

A widely used type of boat fishing is trolling. It involves dragging one or more gear, using artificial lures, but imitating the way a small fish swim. In the case of using artificial fish, the colour is important, it has to be dark and at the same time striking.

Another type of sea altar lures are feathers, vinyl, octopuses, spoons, etc., using the most similar to the varieties found in the area where it is fished.

Where to bait? Keep in mind that fish sometimes take their food from the surface and sometimes deeper. If you have a probe, you have an advantage, and if it is not the case, the idea is to cast the caches with different weights on the plumb line. For reference, seeingseabirds eating on the surface can be an indication that there are good fish attacking schools of fish.

Key places to fish on the high seas

Some species of fish live inside or around the perimeter of artificial structures and navigation aid towers, making them a good meeting point between fishermen and their prey. It is best to practice trawling with natural or artificial bait around these facilities; another option may be to send a bait or lure to the bottom that can often attract a reef inhabitant.

Hills and seamounts

The best tactic for fishing in this situation is trawling, using natural or artificial baits.

Remember that seamounts and hills are indicated on nautical charts, so they are easy to find structures and you may have competition.

One aspect to take into account to find fish is to look at the variations in the current or water temperature that intersects the platform, or online satellite images of water temperature are also a source of information.

To end a successful day of offshore fishing, you must take into account five key factors; the structure of the place, the temperature of the water, the current, the climate and the bait to use, and… the tips that we have seen in this article!

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Prepare The Equipment And Launch The Offshore Fishing Tackle

The first thing to do is to fix the rods to the stern of the boat (the number of rods will depend on the size of the boat) but 3, 5 and up to 7 rods can be used simultaneously if the size allows it. You must bear in mind that it is important to leave a comfortable separation between one rod and another to avoid that the lines become entangled with each other, and we have a total disaster.

The rods are fixed in the rod holder, and the lines are thrown at different distances and depths. The objective of this is to attract the largest fish, which swim deeper. So the first line can be launched about 30 meters from the boat and make it submerge about 25 meters deep, the second line about 5 meters less, the same with the third; in this way, the last line should be just 5 meters from the boat and float almost to the surface, where you can have the advantage in the fight to recover very large fish.

With the baits set in the water, it’s time to go. The movement must be slow and constant so that the bait simulates a natural movement well and thus does not scare away the most cautious predators. The recommended speed changes according to the depth of the baits, but is between 2 and 5 knots.

As a fisherman, you must be aware of the tension in each of the lines. When you feel that a fish has bitten one, it is time to disassemble it and begin the battle to tire the fish. The best thing is to let go of the line and use the brake to achieve wear on the hold without the risk of the hook being released or the line breaking.

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The Boat’s Saltwater Fishing Equipment

So what do you need in your equipment for sea fishing from a boat? Let’s take a look at the basics:

Hook Lengths and Leaders: A 9 to 18-pound reel would be a good starting point, is reasonably priced and is better at avoiding tangles than the cheap one. The 18-pound one works best if you use braid on your reel, as well as making a good hook length for fishing.

Hooks: A 1, 1/0, 2/0, 4/0, 6/0, and 8/0 size box will cover the vast majority of situations. Mustad Vikings is a good choice as a general-purpose boat fishing hook.

Pens: Single-function plastic pens 10 to 12 inches long are ideal for most situations.

Pearls: some 8mm pearls are needed to sit between the feather and the pivot to help protect the knot. They are also used above the hook as an added attraction on some flatfish rigs and the like. A bag with assorted colours is ideal for this purpose.

Conductors: a selection of cables from 300 gr to 1 kilo will be needed depending on the depth and the tide. If you are wearing a braid, it will have less weight than with overalls. Some lighter cables will also be needed for the Verdel.

Verdel’s Feathers – A selection of Mackerel Feathers or Lures should be in your box to catch bait on the way out.

Lures: If you are looking for a fish like Cod, you will need some lures. For Haddock or Chickadee, the humble worm is hard to beat. They are also very good for sea bass.

Other equipment: a pair of pliers are useful for unhooking fish and many other jobs. Nail clippers are good for cutting the line. You will also need to consider a fillet knife or bait.

Lures or live bait?

Live bait can be tricky and difficult to keep on board, but it’s good for boat fishing.

For trolling (trolling involves pulling a lure from a boat) lures are better able to withstand the rapid flow of water, while the bait is generally better for drifting or anchoring. There are different coloured lures available, depending on how offshore you are fishing.


The easiest way to catch mackerel on a sailing yacht is with a downrigger.

You can throw it over the stern and forget about it. You should move at 2-4 knots, faster and the movement of the lures becomes unnatural. The line is forced downward, dragging the lures. It’s perfect for relaxing on the stern and works better at speed than stationary. For lures, use brilliants or feathers.


Use a 100 to 200-gram weight rig with feathers or bait, and squid on hooks. Let it sink to the bottom and immediately roll it back up. Repeat the exercise as you go with the tide.

Upwellings, ledges, and sandbars are good places for drift fishing, as are areas near banks and other large obstructions.

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Some Advice For The Practice Of Saltwater Fishing

When you think of saltwater fishing, you think of the smell of seawater, the spray from the foam and the tug on a line when a sharp-toothed predator takes the bait and starts to fight. Freshwater fishing is common and popular, but nothing puts a smile on our face like saltwater fishing.

From skipjack to bluefish, mackerel and grouper, saltwater fishing offers exciting game fish for all ages and abilities. However, there are unique challenges associated with saltwater fish.

Basic items

The harshness of the salty environment can destroy even the best equipment. From abrasive rocks, corals and barnacles to the corrosiveness of salt, it takes specialized equipment to handle these fish.

Saltwater reels should be sturdy. Make sure that any reel used for seawater has anti-corrosive properties and can be rinsed and submerged in freshwater for cleaning. Marine fish are generally aggressive hunters. This means that the best saltwater lures almost always mimic smaller prey.

Adapted clothing

When saltwater fishing turns into extreme saltwater fishing, the discerning athlete knows it’s time to gear up with the right clothing. If saltwater is badass, it is outright murder on a traditional garment.

Nothing can distract a grip like a torn garment or falling pants. Many companies make good saltwater fishing gear, but all have a few consistent properties. Comfort is just as important to the fisherman as having the right equipment for the saltwater terminal. It doesn’t matter how good the hook is if the angler on the other end of the line can’t rewind their catch.

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Case Study in Conservation Decisions

In this document, Downocean Strategies (DS) documents several real-world scenarios for which the Fish Habitat Mapping and Monitoring Support Tool has been utilized to prioritize areas for conservation actions.

Each case study describes the problem or question posed to DS by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the methods DS used to answer the question, and the resulting priority areas.

The first six scenarios deal with the Florida Bay brook trout model while the final scenario focuses on the Great Plains Fish Habitat Assessment.

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About Our Sportfishing Tackle

This tool was created with funding from the United States Fish and Sportfishing Guide Expeditions to provide resource managers and the general public with access to the extensive spatial data and results produced from multiple fish habitat assessments.

Additional assessments performed under funding and guidance from the North Atlantic Oceanic Conservation Group of Folks and the Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Program for Work are also included within the same web mapping application.

Three main analytical tools (visualization, ranking, and futuring) are combined with intuitive basemaps and mapping features to allow users to explore the details of the assessments and perform subsequent analyses

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