This Is the Best Handline Fishing Kit for Sailors

by Owen James Burke

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Many sailors find fishing to be a nuisance or a waste of time, but it doesn’t have to be. A fishing kit for a sailboat can be relatively cheap, effective and compact. For those who don’t care to spend time greasing fishing reels or scrubbing guides clean, there’s a better, ancient and timeless, alternative. Here are the few things you’ll need, which you’ll have no problem storing in a hatch or locker.

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Cuban Yo-Yo Handreel, $10

I like a Cuban Yo-Yo handreel — for a sailor on the open seas, a 9″ or 10″ diameter will suffice, but if you’ve got the room, go larger. You may want two or three of these, with backup lines as well.


100′ 400-pound test monofilament, $10

If you’re sailing inshore, you may want to consider a lighter line in the 40-100 pound test range, but the heavier the line, the easier it is on your hands. If you’re in waters with larger pelagic fish, you’ll probably want 100 feet of 400-pound test. Some people follow up their monofilament with a backing of 5mm nylon chord, which is never a bad idea.

When trolling, have your line tied off to a stanchion (either with a sail tie, bungee chord, a rubber band, or any combination of the three) and have an auxiliary spool loaded onto another Yo-Yo with a swivel prepared in case you’re taken on a long run.


Snap Swivels, 450lb test, 4 for $11

You really don’t want to try trolling without snap swivels unless you’re in a survival situation and you must. They prevent your line from getting twisted, which is very important. Twisted lines make for knots which need to be cut, rendering lines useless. Save yourself the frustration and stock up.


Fluorocarbon Leader, 175lb test, 25 yards, $42

If you’re fishing offshore, you’ll really want to spend a little bit of money on leader material (otherwise you’ll be throwing your lures away). Fluorocarbon leaders are tough, less visible underwater, and don’t absorb moisture and degrade like monofilament. Use this stuff sparingly — 10 feet ahead of your lure should be plenty.


Trolling Weights, 2-6 ounces, 2 for $9

One big mistake many inexperienced anglers make is positioning their bait or lure at an effective depth. Sometimes you want your lure skipping the surface, as is the case for mahi mahi, for example. Other times, you want to submerge your lure a little bit, and for certain species, you’ll want to nearly drag the bottom. This is often the difference between catching and not catching. Adjust your weight depending on your lure and your sought species. You’ll probably want something between 2 and 6 ounces.


Barrel Swivels, stainless steel, 411-pound test, 50 for $11

Uses these to attach your main line to your leader line, and to incorporate a trolling weight into your rig.


Rapala X Rap Sardine $23 each

Rapala lures are not cheap, but in comparison with other trolling lures on the market (easily several hundred dollars), they’re about as cheap as any high-performance diving lure will get. These dive down to 25 feet, and will serve you well when sailing at higher speeds on clear days. When visibility is up, you want to get your lure down deeper so fish are less likely to see your line.


Diamond Jigs, $3 each

You can spend heaps of money on lures, but if I’d recommend one, especially to back up more expensive lures, it would be a diamond jig with a bright surgical tube tail. They’re cheap and they’ll catch just about any species of fish big enough to fit them in their mouths. Silver-hammered diamond jigs are about the most versatile lure a fisherman can own.


Gamakatsu Octopus Circle Hooks, 8 for $3

Gamakatsu hooks are the only hooks I was ever allowed to tie on while working on one charter boat. They’re extremely sharp out of the factory and hardly produce any rust at all. Order as many of these as you can store. Hooks are kind of important for fishing, and much, much cheaper in bulk. Order a variety of sizes and shapes starting at 6/0 and up. You may want to consider switching out cheap factory hooks on lures with these, too. They can also come in handy if you happen to pull in smaller fish and want to send them out as bait.


Sea Grip Gloves,  $5

Lastly, this is a small price to pay to save your hands.

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