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January 04, 2011

Pitch Baits Right!

Try this proven strategy, and boost your offshore score.


This is not to imply that fish read magazines and therefore know which side of the bait spread to favor, but rather that successful big-game captains often design their spreads to attract specific fish and then back them up with the appropriate pitch-bait outfits. When a fish rises on a teaser - or even a bait - but doesn't strike, out goes a pitch bait. It's a thorough and aggressive way of fishing, and it creates positive results.

It must be noted that these individual pitch baits are rigged on appropriately sized hooks and leaders. That is, the blue marlin baits are on 300-pound-test leaders and hooks with enough bite and strength to latch onto and hold these fish, whereas the smaller baits are on leaders varying from 130-pound-test down to 80-pound-test for the smallest ballyhoo. This way, should a small white, sail or dolphin come up, the light leader shouldn't interfere with the bait's action. Try that with a larger bait and heavy leader, and the results will likely disappoint - hence the variation in bait and leader sizes and tackle.

Teaser Component
Teasers establish the foundation for pitch-baiting. The objective is not only to create more commotion and perceived panic among the baits in the wash but also to draw fish close to the transom, where they can be pitch-baited. And if a fish refuses the pitch bait and falls back, the close trolling baits and the far and center rigger baits may elicit a strike. So in essence, you still have several possible shots at that fish if you first lure it up close.

Using teasers can be as simple as cleating off a large hookless lure at each corner of the transom. Aboard my center console, I run a large Bost Americano teaser off the starboard side and a Williamson squid spreader bar off the port side, both of which are controlled by T-top-mounted teaser reels. I run the teaser lines through all three eyes of my outriggers to get the teasers working in the clean water, well outside the prop wash. The drags on those teaser reels are set to where they just hold the teasers in place, yet not firm enough so a fish crashing and running with a teaser will buckle an outrigger.

A pair of 96-fish Stripteaser dredges rides from each transom cleat. Between the surface teasers and dredges, along with the flat lines and short outrigger baits, there is a lot of commotion behind the boat. In short, it's a good recipe for raising fish into pitch-baiting range.

Think Variety
As I mentioned earlier, pitch-baiting is primarily a billfishing tactic, but it certainly isn't limited to these fish. I've used the method to score plenty of dolphin, and occasionally for casting small ballyhoo and baits into busting fish such as blackfins, skipjacks and even yellowfins.

There's no denying its effectiveness. I know. I've caught fish this way while traveling and fishing aboard big boats and even while aboard my own center console. If you're looking to ramp up your trolling game, this is an excellent tactic to incorporate ASAP!