Without a doubt Spanish mackerel are one of my all-time favourite fish to target. Not only are they fast and taste great, but they look mean with a serious set of choppers that can effortlessly slice any baitfish to pieces. There are many ways to catch Spanish, but trolling for them with live and dead bait is the most effective way.
The specific techniques used for catching Spanish mackerel using baits are slowly becoming a dying art with more people opting for the easier option of trolling lures, which can certainly catch them on the right days but is by no means the most effective way to catch a better class or numbers of Spanish.
Trolling baits effectively can take a little time and skill to perfect but there's no better feeling than setting out a perfectly righted bait, locating fish on the sounder then turning back and watching your rods in anticipation before they fold over and the drag starts screaming off.
There are many options when it comes to choosing the right setup to target Spanish mackerel on the troll. In my experience the best setup is a lever drag overhead reel in the 20-30 size range with a high gear ratio matched with a 7-8ft long 15-24kg overhead rod. The benefit of using a longer rod is that you have far more manoeuvrability around the boat - these fish can change direction or power off very quickly when boat side and with a longer rod you can eliminate the risk of losing the fish to the prop or hull of the boat.
Long rods also make setting baits apart much easier and with the added length you get much better shock absorption, excellent when absorbing the lunges and violent head shakes during the fight. I find the use of monofilament line on the reel and the absorption from a longer rod create a nicer take up of pressure to set hooks, allowing the fish to hit the bait and turn before the pressure is applied and the hooks set themselves.
High gear ratio reels are great for Spanish mackerel, as mackerel can swim incredibly fast and change direction quickly; the higher ratio makes it easy to keep up with the fish during the fight and maintain pressure. Also high ratio reels make chasing after the fish with the boat much easier and you can keep pressure on the fish. The combination of a long rod, mono and a high gear ratio reel certainly makes fighting mackerel very easy and effective as you can keep an even pressure very easily throughout the fight, further eliminating the chances of the fish shaking the hooks.
My go-to setup for this style of fishing is a Shimano Tyrnos 20 or 30 reel spooled with 60lb braid and top shotted with 50-100m of 55lb Schneider monofilament on a Wilson Live Fibre M10 10-24kg rod. The reason I use a top shot is so I can change it out to a new top shot when I feel like it and still get enough stretch from the 50-100m of monofilament top shot and lots of line capacity from the braid if I need it.
You can run straight mono if you desire and still have plenty enough line for most fish you encounter. You don't need to use any fancy or colourful mono. I find the cheaper lines like Schneider to be ideal as they last long and are very strong and hard-wearing. The Tyrnos and M10 setup is ideal for trolling an array of live and dead baits effectively and will easily catch the majority of fish you encounter.
I've caught many fish well over 20kg on this setup but if you are purposely targeting larger fish in excess of 20kg with big baits, a heavier 37kg combo comes in very handy; it can handle the big baits you are trolling and help shorten the fight time, reducing the likelihood of your fish being eaten by sharks.
I like to run no more than two setups when trolling for Spanish mackerel, but it's perfectly fine to troll with one setup. The added benefit of running two rods is that you can run two different dead baits or two different live baits to see what the fish are feeding on. As Spanish mackerel school up it's not uncommon to encounter multiple hook-ups and I find dealing with two fish much more manageable than three, especially if I fish solo. It's also much easier to run two baits effectively without tangles; just set them at different distances behind the boat.