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May 01, 2013

Dredge Fishing from Center Console Boats

Small-boat fishermen take a tip from offshore captains for more fish in the spread.

Rapid Deployment

A trolling sinker typically escorts a dredge into the depths, its exact weight hinging on preferred depth placement and trolling speed. An easier setup for small and midsize boats is to replace the trolling sinker with a large-lipped, hookless trolling plug. This not only takes the dredge into the depths, but it’s easier to handle, and easier on the gelcoat and deck than a heavy trolling sinker.

Rigged with a Mann’s Stretch 40, or Rapala X-RAP Magnum 30 deep-diving plug, the dredge can attain a depth well beyond sight. Before deploying the system, tie off the end the dredge line (roughly 30 to 40 feet of 400-pound-test monofilament) to a transom cleat; tying in a three-foot section of nylon rope at the end of that line makes for easy handling. Next, put the boat in neutral, lay the dredge and swimming plug in the water, put the boat back in gear, and maintain a slow crawl until the dredge is in position. Then cleat the line, and resume trolling speed.

The drag created by the dredge can make handling it at normal trolling speeds dangerous, hence deploying it at a slow clip. When retrieving the dredge to fight a fish or head back in, you’ll need to break its drag by ­shifting into neutral.

With the dredge far enough back and still in view, deploy a second dredge from the opposite transom corner. From there, strategically position flat-line baits at the surface, or just beneath and a few feet beyond the dredge. This creates the illusion of a baitfish that has fallen behind the school — an easy mark for game fish.

Here’s the Pitch

Dredges and pitch baits go hand in hand. Keep two outfits, one heavy and one light, ready to take advantage of whatever comes up on the dredge. For example, a 30- or 50-pound outfit with a large bait (horse ballyhoo, mackerel, mullet) will take care of blue marlin, whereas a 20-pound spinning ­outfit with a small ballyhoo will handle ­sailfish, white marlin and dolphin.

Don’t neglect the role of the flat lines. On several occasions, I’ve seen big dolphin come up on the dredge while ignoring the flat-line baits. To score, we had to reel up those flat lines, aim the rod tip at the water, and free-spool the baits so the baits drifted just beyond the dredge. In every instance, those baits were devoured.

Rig the Swimming Plug


The dredge and swimming plug will ride independently of each other, with the dredge swimming behind the plug. This setup leaves the plug free to swim, dig in and run deep. What’s more, the plug swimming in front of the dredge acts as yet another teaser, providing a more realistic illusion than a trolling sinker. 

1) Select a long-lipped, deep-diving plug, such as the Mann’s Stretch 30 and 40, or Rapala’s X-RAP ­Magnum 30, and remove the hooks.

2) Secure the plug to 20 inches of 920-pound cable crimped around a thimble to the split ring or eye of the plug.

3) Crimp the opposite end of the ­cable onto one eye of a 500-pound-test, three-way swivel (two interlocked swivels are pictured in the gallery above).

4) Attach the 300-pound-test ball-bearing snap swivel on the dredge line to the eye adjacent to the one carrying the swimming plug.

5) Secure a 30-inch length of cable to the third eye, and crimp another 300-pound ball-bearing snap swivel to its opposite end, and fasten this to the dredge.