Joel Ryan caught more fish last year than most of us could dream about catching in a lifetime. His 2017 hit list includes jumbo bluefin off Sydney, double digits of marlin and swordfish, and he’s even put Tait Missen, his good mate’s son, onto an Aussie junior record with a 119kg swordie out of Lakes Entrance in Victoria. So, what’s his secret?


I’m lucky enough to fish with some of the best anglers in the country. The thing that sets them apart from other fishermen is not their boat, sounder or even their Maori bloodlines. Nope, it’s something you and I can easily do. It’s the attention to small details. In footy parlance, they call them one percenters.






Most of us have the right gear or can get our hands on it. But how many of us could pack the rods tomorrow morning at 3am if we get a call tonight, for that once-in-a-lifetime bite? There’s no time like right now to rig your game-fishing gear with fresh lines, new leaders and terminal tackle. Sharpen those hooks, too. There are thousands of things you can’t control when targeting game fish so make sure you control the things you can. Prepping your gear is one of them.




I make a big effort to keep in touch with people from different ports and backgrounds. Sure, we talk about ending world poverty, but we also share information about bait and water temperature — or even fish that have come through the commercial boats. They can be a key indicator of an imminent hot bite. Remember, though, it’s a two-way street. If you want the good oil, maybe you should think about returning the favour when the time comes.






Getting the inside word on a hot bite is one thing, but dropping everything to get there is another. When you hear the fish are running hot, get your arse there! Now! Call in sick to work, abort on the baby shower and drive through the night if you have to. The fish won’t hang around until you’ve finished your Michelle Bridges 12 Week Body Transformation. (Although, I’d be keen to see how that works out for you.)




Facebook has its pros and cons, but one thing you can’t deny is that fishing memories from 12 months ago are highly likely to be repeatable, given the cyclical nature of fishing. It’s a great way to pick up seasonal trends and a damn sight easier than trying to find that fishing diary your grandma got for your 16th birthday. Just last month, Facebook reminded me we’ve caught jumbo bluefin in Western Victoria during the same week for the past three Octobers in a row. Guess where I’ll be mid-October 2018?




One thing that sets the pros apart is their commitment to catching a certain species. Sure, they may change plans when on the water — and that’s a skill in itself — but too many anglers go out into the deep blue hoping to catch anything. Instead, filter, and focus on something.




We’ve all done ’em, The Captain’s crew more than most. Joel reckons they’ll cost you the fish of a lifetime. Here’s a list of game-fishing habits to avoid.


  • Sleeping in: The name of the game is catching fish, not zeds.
  • Leaving the bite zone: You see birds and you’ve marked fish — so don’t leave.
  • Going in under-gunned: Don’t think about anything less than 24kg for big blues.
  • Not having a plan when hooked-up: Avoid the chaos by having a military-like plan when the Tiagras go off.
  • Not staying focused: Stopping at your favourite FAD to fill a 44-gallon drum with dolphin fish won’t help you land that big blue.
  • Leaving the spot early to make the pub meal: Once all the boats turn and head for port, the fishing can come alive and save the dreaded doughnut.