With all the grace of a welly booted Ballet dancer, the Skipper guided the tail of the writhing Conger into the fishhold… with a well practiced flick of the gaff and a strategically placed seaboot, the long black body slid through the aperture, to join a couple other weighable eels in the cool darkness below decks.
After stowing the gaff, the skipper picked up the anglers trace and showed it to him. The hook was well out of shape and the nylon was chewed to nearly half its original diameter. "You were lucky" the skipper said "another minute or two and that eel would have got off!!"
Fishing for Conger and Shark are events which demand an exercise in logistics, some experience in choosing the best tides and not a little luck with the weather. Getting it all together is an event which doesn’t happen that often, even for those with ready access to good boats and an eye for when a skipper has found the fish.
"Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance" is commonly known as the "6 Pee Principle" and it is true to say that should you find yourself over a wreck and the fish come on the feed with a vengeance. Then that is not the time to have to go to your mates or the skipper, begging for a new trace, because the one or two that you purchased at the dockside tackle shop have been cut off by the skipper and now reside in the jaws of a very angry fish below decks.
It is common practice on deep water charter boats that when the fish are coming thick and fast, for the skipper to grab the sinker and put a knife through your line above the leader swivel before sliding the eel below decks.
With the new season just around the corner and if you are even contemplating the idea of a deep water Conger trip, half a dozen good traces is the minimum that an experienced angler would take.
Good Shark traces are another type of leader which are expensive to buy, but like Conger traces are relatively easy to make, once you have assembled the components.
So, if you are planning to tangle with some hefty denizens this season, give yourself the best possible chance of getting the fish to the side of the boat make your own traces.
All of the shop bought traces that I have seen over the years have been put together by outworkers or Far East sweatshops who have never even seen a big fish, much less understand the trauma involved in losing a fish of a lifetime to crap tackle.
The manufacture of heavy duty traces such as these described here, is totally uneconomic from a profit making point of view. I reckon allowing normal tackle trade markups they would have to be sold for at least a tenner each!!
So if you want the best, DIY is the only way. Look at it as a measure of your commitment, then if it does go pop you will have learned a lesson and you have no-one to blame but yourself.
A good scheme would be for two or three of you to get together and share in the expense and the labour involved. Besides, there is considerable quiet satisfaction to be enjoyed when a good fish is landed on gear that you have made yourself.
So what goes into a good trace, first of all the hook. Mustad make the best Conger and Shark hooks available to us in this country. Sea Demon and Sea Master hooks are readily available in a variety of sizes to suit personal preference. Sizes 10/0 for Conger and 12/0 for Shark are the norm. I have also taken to using big Circle hooks for conger and will be fishing them for shark this season(weather permitting!).
Second, swivels. There are many brands available, a personal preference is for the genuine, packeted, Berkley or Sampo swivels, so that the quality is assured. Nit picking it may be, but I believe that you only get what you pay for. Size 6/0 Berkley swivels are quite free running and have a breaking strain of 500lb, which it could be argued is grossly over the top. But they work well and are in proportion to the rest of the trace.
Trace Line. Look at the picture showing the monofilament chewed by a conger eel, so OK it was a fairly lumpy eel with a powerful set of jaws. But that monofilament is 400 pounds breaking strain, many shop bought traces are made with 200 pounds or less breaking strain monofilament. So I standardise on 400 pounds monofilament which is about 2mm in diameter, crimping the loops with 2.2mm double barrelled crimps. These crimps and the special "cup to cup" pliers are available from Rok-Max (U.K.) Ltd. PO. Box 30. Brixham. Devon. TQ5 8YL.
Tel: 01 803 883 111. Fax: 01 803 883 222.
Putting it all together
Conger traces. Perhaps one of the great advantages of DIY traces is that you can indulge personal preferences and idiosyncrasies to your hearts content. My preference is for conger traces a little longer than normal, about 40 inches finished length. My chum reckons its a waste and makes his about half that length. He catches just as many as me, so in truth it probably doesn’t make that much difference. But I still prefer the longer traces!!
Start by cutting the 400lb monofilament to your preferred length. If you want 6 traces, just cut 6 lengths, leave the rest in the coil, next time around you might want to do something different.
I like to fit the swivels first. You will notice from the pictures that the swivel loop has a short length of plastic tube or plastic covered coil protecting the loop, this is really not necessary but I put it on anyway. Alternatively you can use the double overhand knot passing through the loop of the swivel, as shown for the hook.
Assemble the plastic tube onto the mono line, slide the swivel into place and bring up the crimp from the other end. Move the components around until you are satisfied that everything is in place and crimp hard to fasten.
Do this on all the traces you are assembling.
At this point you might like to do some work on the hooks gripping them in a vice and using a fine file to enhance the sharpness of the point.
Next working from the other end, slide a crimp up the line followed by the hook.
I use Mustad Sea Demon hooks for Conger traces because they are not offset. I believe that the offset on the Sea Master hooks will cause a mackerel flapper bait to spin as it sinks, just a personal opinion, but not causing a problem means that you do not have to cope with its consequences.
Form the double overhand knot through the eye of the hook leaving a sufficient length of tag end to slide the crimp over. Tease the knot down to a size where the hook has just sufficient room to swing freely, pass the tag end through the crimp and use the cup to cup pliers to crimp hard.
It is a mistake to stow the traces by coiling them up to fit in a leader wallet, because after a couple of months coiled up, they take on a spring like consistency. Hang them up, in your garage or shed, if they show a tendency to coil, hang a sinker from the hook to straighten the monofilament. When you take the traces out to use them, fold them over as few times as possible and put them in the bottom of your tackle box or bag. As soon as you get aboard the boat take them out, give them a good stretch and they will be ready for use.
The form that my Shark traces take has been refined over several decades, from the box wire traces of the fifties and sixties, through to the two part wire and monofilament construction that I use today.
The basic method of construction is very simple, the main body of the trace is made from a fifteen foot length of 400lb monofilament tipped with a detachable three or four foot length of supple wire to the hook. The short wire length is necessary to withstand the sharp, serrated teeth of the shark.
The fifteen foot length of 400lb monofilament is necessary to resist the effects of the sharks sandpaper like skin, should it decide on its characteristic tactic of rolling over and over on the line when it is close to the boat.
I use the 400lb mono purely and simply because I already have it, complete with the crimps etc, for the manufacture of my conger traces.
The fifteen plain length of monofilament is easily made using the same techniques as for the conger traces. Put a swivel at the main line end and either a heavy duty split ring or either a Berkley or Sampo snap swivel at the other, so that the wire tippet can be easily removed.
The wire tippets are constructed using plain brass cylindrical crimps and normal "point opposing cup" crimping pliers. The double overhand knot is tied through the eye of the hook and of the swivel, then secured with either a single or double crimp.
In recent times with the unusual proliferation of smaller blue shark, we have been experimenting with the use of "barbless" Sea Master hooks. The barb is crushed in a vice then smoothed over with a fine file. Very few sharks have been lost, so long as a tight line has been kept on the shark. The shark can then be unhooked at the side of the boat without the use of a gaff and without removing the shark from the water.
The actual manufacture of these traces is not the difficult bit, getting all the bits and pieces can prove a problem because normal tackle shops rarely stock them. But believe me the time and effort is well repaid when you see and use the finished product. Give Paul Bower a call at Rok-Max, it will be very unusual if he has not got all these components in stock.
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