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Hooked on the Gold Coast

Hooked on the Gold Coast

From the brilliant beaches to the bountiful Broadwater, there are many reasons to love the Gold Coast. But one lure you may not be aware of is that its waters are among the best in the world for capturing the elusive blue marlin.

Father-and-son Garry and James Holt have a swag of record catches under their belt, and have fought marlin throughout Australia and across Asia, including Fiji, Vanuatu and Malaysia. But the long and generous marlin season on the Gold Coast led them to choose Paradise Point as their fishing home base.

For Garry Holt, racing is very much a part of his DNA. He owns Eastern Creek Karts, Australia’s biggest kart business, with over 100 hire karts. When he is not racing for work, he is doing it for fun, having an impressive record of four Australian car-racing titles and winning two Bathurst 12 hour races. Garry is also an avid yacht racer. He has competed in more than a dozen Sydney to Hobart yacht races. He was a multiple Australian snow skiing and grass skiing champion, representing Australia in both Europe and United States in the ‘70s.

But if there is one thing he loves more than racing, it is driving the boat for marlin fishing with his son, James, as the angler.

Currently a builder by trade, James Holt says he never has any trouble getting the day off work to go fishing because his boss joins them on the boat. Talk about living the life!

James began fishing at a young age, catching his first marlin when he was just nine years old. He then went on to win scores of Australian titles, especially for striped marlin in Port Stephens in NSW. The record he is most proud of is a 62kg-striped marlin that he caught on just a 2kg line, giving him a ratio of 30:1. However, he knew the size of the marlin he caught in Port Stephens was not big enough to go for the world record he wanted.

This thirst for international titles led the Holt men to look for bigger game in a range of marlin fisheries throughout Cairns, Exmouth and Port Stephens. But the Gold Coast was always their favourite location. James explains, “I’ve fished all over Australia, and the Gold Coast is the best place because the black marlin fishing is just brilliant, and the blue marlin fishing is world class. You get multiple shots a day, which is massive! It’s pretty much an all-year-round fishing. In any month of the year you can catch a marlin off the Gold Coast.”

Trying to tackle fish as large and aggressive as marlins in a tinnie would be like bringing a water pistol to a gunfight, so the Holts were determined to track down a world-class boat. They found it in French Look III.

Specifically built to back-up on marlins at exceptional speeds, French Look III can power along at 17 knots in reverse, making it one of the world’s fastest boats in reverse. While many other boats run into trouble with their cockpits sinking down in reverse, French Look III has no trouble keeping up with the nimble and aggressive marlin.

If there is one thing better than having one world-class marlin boat, it is having two world-class marlin boats! Garry recently bought his second boat, Chasin Tails, an American craft that was the biggest he could tow, at 4.5 tonnes. With Chasin Tails, he and James can follow the marlin around Australia to ensure they are always there when the fish are biting.

Equipment will only get you so far though. The Holt men credit their success largely to their teamwork and technique. Unlike less experienced marlin anglers who will start off with baited hooks and very heavy-duty lines, the Holts use a complicated bait and switch tactic.

Garry explains how they do it. “We only have two lures out the back. We don’t use any hooks because the sting of biting down on a hook can scare them off. That’s the intriguing part. Not many people can do it this way. Marlins are scavengers and they’re very aggressive. So we tease them in with the lure, then we rip it out of their mouths, and they think it’s a fish. They really want that fish and they jump towards us chasing the lure. They’re just a couple of metres behind the boat. That’s when James gets the bait with a hook in it, and I have to get the boat out of gear at just the right time as we throw the bait to the marlin. That’s why they call it ‘switch baiting’.”

Such a challenging method of fishing requires fantastic teamwork. The team needs to be able to react instantly to what the marlin is doing. And this challenge is only intensified because the Holts use very light lines, which are only a thirtieth of the marlin’s weight class. Within seconds of spotting a marlin going for their lures, James sizes up the marlin at a glance and estimates the lightest line he can use to give him the best chance for a record weight ratio.

James sums up his love of the sport. “Marlin are at the top of anglers’ catch lists because of the way they fight. They never fight the same. And on the light line we use, it’s more of a challenge because you can’t wear the fish out. You’re constantly trying to outsmart them. That’s why I love it! It’s the adrenalin rush!”


By Narayan Pattison