I love to fish for anything that swims in salt water, yet I'm an offshore man at heart. And while I've spent decades chasing marlin, sailfish, tuna, swordfish, wahoo and dolphin, everyone has their favorite game fish, including me. If someone forced me to narrow my favorite to just one species, I'd tightly squint my eyes, take a deep breath and say, "dolphin!" I doubt I would be alone in this decision.
There's just something about dolphin that inspires thousands of offshore anglers to buy all sorts of rods and reels, fishing lines, hooks, lures, baits and gaffs in anticipation of the upcoming season. And for very good reasons: Here is a fish that is abundant, comes in all sizes, puts up a great and oftentimes acrobatic fight, commonly blitzes in schools or pairs (larger fish) and is downright delicious to eat. Dolphin are so popular that it is frightening to imagine what our industry would look like if they ceased to exist.
I've taken a deep interest in these fish and have perfected my tactics over the years. When I set forth to target them, the following 10 rigs rank among my most potent dolphin catchers:
1. Large and Horse Ballyhoo
I prefer to headhunt for larger fish when trolling for dolphin and would rather take one 30-plus-pound dolphin than a dozen 3- to 5-pounders any day. Therefore, my spread consists mostly of large and horse ballyhoo, each rigged to several feet of 110-pound-test fluorocarbon leader and a single 9/0 long-shank hook.
The reason I use this rig is that big baits eliminate the smaller fish. You know the drill: School dolphin blitz a spread of smaller lures and baits, and all the lines go down. After the fish are boated, the boat moves along and the lines go back out only to hook up with some more schoolies; you ultimately spend most of your time dealing with small fish. School dolphin are intimidated by large baits. Outside of possibly pecking, they'll leave the bigger baits alone. And this unmolested soak time dramatically increases the odds of attracting larger dolphin, which have no problem consuming big baits.