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Brandon Khoo

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Updated as at February 2017

I have written the following guide to assist anglers who are preparing to go on their first GT trip. I get contacted on this question often and I note there are questions regularly being posted relating to this so I thought a high-level guide might be useful.

Please note that none of this is gospel and I want to emphasise that. They are simply based around my personal opinions.

Quality GT gear is horribly expensive. The gear is at the cutting edge of fishing equipment and as a result, is priced accordingly. The features in GT reels are often what ends up flowing through to the rest of the range in time. There will be people who will try to convince you that you can do this sport on the cheap and to a degree, you can but I would suggest to you that these people do not experience seriously sized GTs with that equipment on a regular basis.

Rods

For rods, I am going to refer you to our guide to buying a GT rod on this forum.
 http://www.gtpopping.com/forum/index.php?topic=1374.0
This will provide you with a basic understanding of the type of GT rods that are available, particularly that not all GT rods are the same and the importance of finding a rod that suits you for the type of GT fishing you are doing.

Reels

The very large majority of GT anglers use either the Shimano Stellas or Daiwa Saltigas. There have been endless debates on various forums about which reel is better and you get members from the fan clubs of either reel making quite absurd and unsubstantiated comments. I have never understood this. We pay a fortune for these reels but these fanboys come along to defend the honor of their favourite brands as soon as a bad word is heard. I have no interest in this debate and will simply make the point that both reels are proven performers when it comes to GT fishing. I have used every model of the GT sized reels in both ranges since the release of the F series Stella and what I can say is that all reels break when placed under sustained stress for long enough.

I recommend the 18000 sized Stellas and 6500 - 8000 sized Saltigas on a pretty unqualified basis. These reels have been purpose built for the rigors associated with this form of fishing. In the past few years, however, the 14000 sized Stella has become popular especially when paired with aftermarket 16000 sized spools and I also see the new 5000 Saltigas being used for GTs as well. The 14000 Stella and 5000 Saltigas will do the job but you should not expect that they will be as robust as the larger reels. These smaller reels are more comfortable to fish with being noticeably lighter BUT I would make the point that the bigger reels are purpose built whereas the smaller reels are a compromise. You are pushing the ability of the smaller reel to the limit and accordingly, there will be more wear and tear so ensure that the reel is properly and very regularly serviced.

The 14000 is enhanced with an aftermarket 16000 spool (Studio Ocean Mark, Jigging Master, Nature Boys and others). The standard 14000 is good enough but it has less line capacity. This differs it from the previous generation 2007 10000 Stella SW where the spool simply was not up to the job.

The other topic of interest under reels is whether there are reels that are less costly that will do the job on GTs. The Shimano Twinpower and Daiwa Catalina are mentioned at times. Unfortunately, this is a topic in which I cannot provide guidance as I have not used any other reels for GTs outside of Stellas and Saltigas. My suggestion is that if you want to fish for GTs as a sport, getting a suitable reel is an investment that you will not regret. The worst time to find out that your reel is not up to it is when you are hooked into that fish of a lifetime.

Finally, just because you are spending a lot of money on a reel does not mean it is bulletproof. If anything, these are precision pieces of equipment and need to be cared for accordingly. I have seen bail arms break and drag knobs literally melt under heavy use.

Braid

There are an enormous number of brands available on the market today ranging across a huge spectrum of prices. I don't propose to go through these. Rather, I will simply point out that at the top end of the market, the most popular braid used locally is Varivas GT Max. Some people seem to like the even more expensive Varivas GT Max SMP. I do not eprsonally like this line as I find it a bit too sensitive to shock load. In the mid market segment, there are a heap of options like Jerry Brown, Tufline XP etc. I personally use Shimano Ocea X8 which I prefer over the Varivas GT Max.

There are also a number of other braids that are popular with anglers here. Doing a search on the forum should find you opinions on those. The only thing I would encourage you not to do is to try to skimp on your braid. eBay is covered in very cheap braids with no name or pedigree whatsoever. Please do not go to the expense of buying a Stella and a Carpenter only to try to skimp on your braid.

Lures

Lures for GT tend to fall into three broad categories - poppers, stickbaits and pencils. Some lures sort of fall in between and can be quite versatile.

Poppers come in all shapes and sizes from a huge number of different manufacturers. What distinguishes a popper is that they have a cup-faced front.  The idea behind a popper is for you to "pop" them, creating a commotion on the surface. As you pull on a popper, the cup displaces an amount of water creating a commotion. GTs get attracted to the commotion created by the popper.

Stickbaits have become increasingly popular in the past few years to the point now where for some anglers, they have become the lure of choice. Stickbaits tend to resemble the shape of the fish and attract fish primarily as a result of their swimming action. Stickbaits come in both floating and sinking versions and these days, there are very heavy fast sinking stickbaits available which are intended to get down to the depths to attract fish lurking deep.

Pencils were very popular in the early days of the sport and then they sort of disappeared for a while but are now having a bit of a renaissance. My view is that no kit of GT lures is complete without pencils. Pencils are worked in a way where they are skipped across the surface quickly imitating a feeling baitfish. When GTs are active, few lures are more effective than pencils.

My suggestion is you should have a range of different lures comprising poppers, stickbaits and pencils in your kit. Often, you will face conditions where for some reason, only one lure will work. This is when it pays to have a range of different types of lures.

Lures come at all sorts of prices ranging from giveaway to staggering. We have a guide here on gtpopping on GT lures but it is completely out of date now and there is not a realistic way for me to be fair to all manufacturers. I am still thinking of what to do with this guide.

Just remember that your lures need to match your rod. For example, there is no point buying huge cup mouthed poppers if your rod is only capable of working up to 140g poppers.

Terminals

GTs are very demanding on terminals so it is essential that you opt for quality in terms of your split rings and your hooks. I am not going to go into any detail on specific terminals but popular and proven brands include Owner, Decoy, Fisherman, Varivas, Gamakatsu as well as newer entrants like BKK.

It is important to note though that the terminals you use can have an impact on how well your lures swim. It isn't just a matter of just whacking huge hooks and split rings onto a lure.

Leaders

Leaders act as the connection from your braid to your lures. While there are a number of leader connection systems, some are incredibly complicated and in my humble opinion, unnecessarily so. I would suggest that if you are beginning in the sport, you think about either using twisted leaders or a single strand leader connected by a friction knot. If you refer to the following, this will provide the relevant information on how you make and connect these two approaches.

For twisted leader - http://www.gtpopping.com/forum/index.php?topic=14.0
For friction knots - http://www.gtpopping.com/forum/index.php?topic=1440.0

For the length of your leader, this is very much a personal issues and ultimately, it is a compromise. I personally prefer a leader about 3m in length. That said, the longer the leader, the more prone you are to wind knots. Conversely, a longer leader provides more protection.

For the weight of your leader, again, it is a compromise. The lighter the leader, the better it casts but the heavier the leader, the more protection it provides. I have personally settled into using 170lb leader for single strand leaders and about 100lb for twisted leaders.

Essential Accessories

Gloves - I regard gloves as an absolutely essential accessory for GT popping.  Constant casting with heavy braid will play havoc with your fingers and I am not aware of any GT angler who doesn't use gloves. I am sure there is some ironman out there who doesn't but any mere human being should regard this as an essential piece of equipment.  Do not go on a trip without them!

If you prefer heavily made gloves, I regard the Fisherman gloves as the best in the market but other brands such as Smith and Patriot Design are very good too. If you prefer light gloves, look at Shout, Carpenter or Daiwa.

Gimbal - I regard a gimbal as another essential piece of equipment but over the years, have come upon a small percentage of anglers who actually fish without one. My recommendation is to regard this as an essential piece of equipment if you are new to the sport as the amount of leverage you put on a fish increases almost exponentially.

That sums up the basic guide. If you have further questions, feel free to ask them on the forum.

Last Edit: February 11, 2017, 05:45:27 PM by Brandon Khoo
If it swims; I want to catch it!

luke galea

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Now thats what I'm talkin about - Thanks Brandon

Stuart Kelly

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Thanks Brandon this is going to help me alot to get my set up

Brandon Khoo

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The only other thing I would add is don't rush out buying gear. Take your time, do your research and work out what lures you want.  With some very small exceptions, GT lures are expensive and you don't need 100 of them (coming from someone who can start a shop!) so make sure you get the ones you know will work and are suitable for you.
If it swims; I want to catch it!

Craig Dawson

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Thanks Brandon found this very help as I am just starting to get into popping.... How would you rate the new Daiwa Catalina 6500h as a popping reel ???

Brandon Khoo

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Hi Craig - I have no personal experience with the Catalina. Maybe you should ask this question directly on the forum and some of the members who have actually used the reel can provide you with some views.
If it swims; I want to catch it!

Craig Dawson

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No worries will do thanks mate

Troy Burbidge

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Don't forget the "3B" for the chaffing, Imodiumn and seasick Tablets!!!

christopherhanaghan

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Thanks for all of the great info!!

Thomas Maxted

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Don't forget
*Splitring pliers to change hooks
*Lots of spare hooks and splitrings
* Heaps of leader
* A camera
* Good quality gloves (as mentioned before )
* BIG fish !!! ;)

Trey Epic

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Cheers, this is great information.  Thank You.

Ruben Frank

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thanks for the detailed info, very helpful indeed and much appreciated! Shame I just signed onto the Forum today... just came back from my first GT trip 2 weeks ago  ;)

Trevor Skinner

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Ruben,

It's all in the timing

Regards,


Trev

Ruben Frank

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wise words Trevor  ;) will try to be on time from now on - or as I put it... I learned the hard way LoL

Clem Henry

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Great information.. like you mentioned Brandon, I have also seen a number of people fishing here in NZ without gimbals..at least initially. As most fish here are taken on the jig the fight is generally straight up and down, you can land a few like that but you will be looking for the gimbal as the day goes on..worth finding a good gimbal that is not too shallow in the cup or for those who use the pin make sure the pin fits the gimbal on the rod. I see the gimbal as an integral part of the "fishing system" whichever type or model it can cost you fish (topwater/jigging) if it doesnt work..