by Jack Murphy and Les Fox


I know a fisherman who hooked – and lost – nine marlin before he landed one. Such is the fighting prowess of this sought-after game fishing species that drives fishermen to despair.


When a marlin is pierced by a chemically-sharpened hook, they will fight like a wild brumby on ice, using a raspy sabre to slash fishing lines and smack boats and engines. Their broad sweeping tail fins feature super-car speed, stretching gear and nerves with powerful runs and 'tail walks' (see photo below). They will use your boat like a Swiss army knife, swimming under, around and over your boat to cut their way to freedom.


“They will use your boat like a Swiss army knife”.


Catching a marlin can become an obsession; costing thousands of dollars in gear, charters and fuel. Plus, countless hours at sea (or en route to sea) and the time spent surfing web sites for the optimum destination, weather conditions and sea surface temperature (yes there's websites for that, too). All this for a chance to glimpse those iridescent pectoral fins and big beautiful eyes? Yep.


To help you hook and land your first marlin, we've assembled the top six marlin fishing fails for you to avoid.


FAIL 1. SHARPEN UP An old fishing pro once told me, “we haven’t come this far to fish with blunt hooks”. It seems basic, but there’s no doubt it’s the number one fail when it comes to gamefishing. So get yourself a sharpening stone and sharpen up. When the point of the hook can comfortably scratch the top of your fingernail, you’re there.


Hooks blunt? Big fail.


FAIL 2: BIGGER NOT BETTER Boys, time to park the ego because using oversized lures doesn’t always work. When fishing for smaller black marlin in the southern climates go small. Throw a few ‘Tim-Tam sized lures’ into the spread next time. You can always catch big game fish on small lures, but the opposite is rarely true.  


Oh, Tim-Tam "sized" - I've made a huge mistake...


FAIL 3. DON’T BE THICK I’ve spent some time with the media pros (like Al McGlashan) and was amazed at how light they fish. Their rationale is simple. Lighter leader = more hook-ups and more photo opportunities. Heavy leaders will impede the action of your ‘livie’ or lure – and is more likely to be spotted by a predator. So fish light and get the bite!


You'll get more bites on light leader - just go easy on the drag!


FAIL 4. SNAP, CRACKLE & POP I admit it. I’ve snapped a rod or two. Thankfully not when hooked up to a marlin. But plenty of people have. To avoid it, buy good gear and know your breaking strains by setting your drag with scales – and regularly test your knots by tying off on a cleat and testing. Also, don’t bend your back when the fish is bending theirs. Wait till the momentum is in your favour before pumping hard and winding. This one is a practised art.


Fishing fail bonanza!


FAIL 5. TURNED & BURNED A favourite marlin trick is to change direction and put the boat between you and it. To avoid getting your line cut off on the keel or engine leg drive your trailer boat to one side of the fish and keep it there, in a gameboat keep the fish off the stern. If your marlin does dive under the boat, point your rod tip into the water and lean in as far as you can. If the line fouls on the motor, drop your drag pressure and send in Les Fox (that’s a story for another day).


Gameboats are usually more maneuverable in reverse than trailer boats - fight them straight back.


FAIL 6. YOU SNOOZE – YOU LOSE Don’t be a snoozer. Keep the line tight at all times! If the fish runs or jumps towards you tell the skipper to drive off it and reel like crazy. Oh, and don’t sleep in and miss the boat, either.


Better start winding if your beakie starts jumping towards the boat at full speed.



Is there a fish you want me to attempt to catch? A location I should fish? A photographic challenge? You tell me. Either email fishfingers18@yahoo.com or leave a comment below.


Until next week.


Jack Murphy


© JackMurphy Fishing and Photography



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