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July 20, 2011

SoCal Thresher Madness

Bait-and-switch helps Southern California anglers punch trophy threshers in the mouth.

Six Steps to Bait-and-Switch
“Threshers attack a bait with their tail, and as long as it keeps moving away from them, they’ll keep whacking at it,” says Elm. “So if you’re slow-trolling a rigged bait or diving plug, they will usually keep tail-slapping it until they get foul-hooked.” When they see the bait drop as if it is stunned, this often triggers them to turn and gulp it down. It’s as if the shark thinks to itself, “OK, my tail has done its job and killed that bait — now I can eat.”

Elm's bait-and-switch techniques are designed to take advantage of this feeding behavior and instinctive reaction. Here’s how to employ them.

1.  Elm slow-trolls a teaser outfit designed to attract — but not hook — threshers with flash, action and the smell of real bait. He first rigs a large 16-ounce Bait-O-Matic with a whole fresh-dead mackerel. After experimenting with different ways of attaching the mackerel to the skirted head, Elm settled on a modified 6/0 snap swivel, passing the swivel clip through the eye sockets of the bait. To accomplish this, he bends the elongated clip of the swivel into a more circular shape. “I tried various ways of wiring or harnessing the bait but found it often couldn’t stand up to repeated tail strikes,” says Elm. “With the bait secured this way, the thresher can whack it repeatedly while I’m getting my hooked bait into position.”

2.  Elm slow-trolls one rigged Bait-O-Matic at 112 to 3 knots. Unlike many anglers who troll Bait-O-Matics with hooks, Elm doesn’t use a downrigger, as it lacks the sensitivity to transmit the thresher’s tail strikes through the rod tip. At slower speeds, the larger 16-ounce Bait-O-Matic should get down to 30 feet.

3.  At the same time he’s trolling his Bait-O-Matic teaser, Elm runs one fly-lined skipbait about 50 to 75 feet behind the boat. This consists of a tail-on mackerel fillet rigged on a 4/0 hook so it flutters as it’s pulled through the water. He keeps this in the water because blind strikes can occur on the bait rather than the teaser. If Elm sees a tail or notices the skipbait getting whacked by a shark, he immediately pulls the throttles into neutral so the bait drops in the water column.

4.  Most times, the first indicators of a thresher shark in the vicinity are telltale raps on the teaser rod. When Elm sees this, he pulls the boat out of gear and has one angler retrieve the teaser at roughly trolling speed. This keeps the thresher interested in and attacking the teaser as it’s brought closer to the boat. A thresher will often whack the teaser right to the side of the boat, so try not to get buck fever.

5.  As this is going on, a second angler slowly retrieves the skipbait until it’s in sight about 30 feet behind the boat. This should be coordinated so the bait gets in position about the time you are ready to pull the teaser from the water. When the teaser comes out, the person working the other rod should give the skipbait a quick twitch and then let it fall naturally, with the reel in free-spool. If everything works right, the thresher will turn on the stunned mackerel fillet and chow down.

6.  Sometimes the shark will bite the bait a few times before really taking it. “Wait till he really rolls away with it, then put the reel in gear and set him up,” advises Elm.



California Thresher Sharks


Rods: 5 1/2-foot stand-up tuna trolling rod for teaser outfit; 7-foot live-bait-action rod rated for 30- to 50-pound-test for skipbait.

Reels: Accurate ATD 30 for teaser outfit; Shimano TLD 15/20 or equivalent for bait outfit.

Lines:  30- to 50-pound-test monofilament for bait outfit.

Lures: For teaser rig, 16-ounce Bait-O-Matic rigged without hooks to hold a whole dead mackerel.

Other: For the terminal rig, use 12 feet of 100-pound-test leader attached to the main line with a snap swivel, with 12 to 18 inches of single-strand wire, and a heavy-wire 4/0 live-bait hook. A mackerel fillet is used for bait.