• Published:November 12, 2019
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Game fish can be successfully caught from all manner of boats.

You can fish from small skiffs up to megayachts over 80 feet, but how the business end of the boat, the cockpit, is outfitted plays a major role in your fishing success.
In part 1 of this series, we addressed outrigger set up, rod holders and fighting chairs. Now it’s time to think about tackle rigging, bait management and storage.


Like the work bench in the garage, a rigging bench or station is the center of bait rigging creativity. Most convertible sport-fishers use the top of the cockpit freezer behind the salon bulkhead, but some boats have a dedicated bait rigging station built in, complete with tackle drawers and even a sink.

A deckhand needs to be able to complete any rigging duties required of him on rough days while still keeping his feet without tools and bait sliding all over the place. A nearby drawer or locker to store crimping pliers, fishing pliers, rigging needles and terminal tackle is also beneficial. Mates carry their most needed tools in a holster on their belt and they often get creative to maximize rigging space on deck. Deep Blue Marine and others make a series of handy Dacron/waxed thread holders and tool caddies that are attached via suction cups, so they can be removed at the end of the day.

Game chairs often have optional rigging benches on the back in place of a backrest, so the deckie is always facing the baits or lures.


Whether used for dicing up pilchards while drifting for tuna, or filleting a couple of mahimai for tonight’s dinner, a well-designed bait board is an invaluable piece of equipment. These jobs are best performed along the transom where any goo can be blasted off with the deck hose.
Bait boards need to be easy to remove, made of a material that won’t render knives blunt, and have drain holes which flow overboard so all that lovely fish juice doesn’t stain the gelcoat or teak. A lip around three sides and some form of recess to stop knives and other fishing tools rolling off is also beneficial. Size depends on storage space and your fishing aspirations. If needing to fillet big wahoo or tuna is a possibility, the bigger the better, but where will you store it?


Bait wells vary in size and location. Most are located in the transom or leaning post, while some are found under the deck. You can also install a free-standing tank on the bow or in the cockpit if your vessel doesn’t have enough bait storage.

The trick to a successful bait tank is good water flow. This means adequate flow via through-hull fittings or transom pickups when traveling, and engine-driven deck wash or a standalone 12-volt pump when trolling or stationary.

As far as bait tank shapes go, circular or oval is probably best as there are no corners for the baits to bash their heads into, but sometimes the shape is determined by where it has to fit. If the transom-mounted above deck tank is an option, a clear window in front is extremely handy for monitoring the health of the bait.

A number of custom-built heavy tackle marlin boats in Australia have underfloor, flow-through bait tanks and these are probably the best bait tanks of all as there’s no plumbing to break down, or hoses that can split or come loose and flood the boat. Just make sure that the water doesn’t drain out when running at speed.


Tuna tubes are a great way to transport baits to the marlin grounds. If the tuna are in good condition when caught, it’s possible to keep them alive all day without a problem. The tubes need to be long enough to encase the whole fish though, as they don’t seem to last as long if their tails are sticking out in the air. A lid is a definite plus, and they’re certainly more lively after being in the dark for a while.

Smaller tubes for keeping a slimy mackerel alive and ready-rigged to be pitched back to a marlin are also handy. The bait isn’t transported in there until you’re ready to fish but is more for stopping them from twisting up the leader, which is what they would do when swimming endless laps in a bait tank. If you have the room, you can incorporate slimy tubes into a bait tank.

Tuna tubes need a high volume of water to keep the bait alive, which can be run off the engine-driven deck wash hose or plumbed with their own pump. Bear in mind though, that depending on where the tubes are mounted and their distance from the pump can have a big bearing on their efficiency. If running paired tubes of whichever size, water distribution from a central point will ensure the baits are getting an equal share of the water flow.

Fabricated 316 stainless tuna and slimy tubes are widely available, but they’re also easy enough for the home handyman to knock up out of PVC pipe and a couple of funnels.


Gaffs are dangerous, cumbersome, pointy things so their storage needs a bit of thought. Tucked away under the coaming is generally safest but protect the tips from damage and humans by slipping a piece of tube, a tennis ball or garden hose over the end. Stainless boat hook holders and U clips are ideal for gaff holders, the latter also being good for storing gaffs in a vertical position.
Cairns boats like to hang their whopper stopper flying gaffs ready-rigged over a convenient part of the tower leg so they’re ready to go when needed. Then they can be tied off around the game chair pedestal. A word of caution here though; if the chair isn’t bolted to the keel and is only held in place by a backing plate, this is not a good place to tie a gaff off to — go for the aft cleats if you decide to stick a big one.


Switch-baiting, where hookless lures or baits are used to tease a game fish into range for a fly rod shot or a hook-up on a specific line class, is an incredibly exciting way to fish. The secret is to not have too many teasers in the water and to recover them at a speed fast enough to keep the fish turned on.

The cockpit crew are usually busy at this point in time, so a bridge teaser reel the skipper can operate from above is a huge asset. Plus, with his height advantage, the captain can better work a teaser according to the fish’s behavior.

The simplest bridge teaser is an old star drag overhead reel filled with 200-pound monofilament bolted to the back railing, with the mono run through a glass ring or pulley half way up the outrigger pole. Electric reels can do a similar job. Alternatives to these are hard-top-mounted manual and built-in recessed electric reels.

They all do pretty much the same job. With a healthy bait, and a solid tease, you are in the perfect position to make a pitch.