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June 25, 2010

Guatemala Bait-and-Switch

Captains along the Pacific coast have bait-and-switch fishing down to a science...

Keep It Simple

The simplicity of bait-and-switch fishing makes it so brilliant. You troll several hookless teaser baits, with or without a hook bait or two in the spread, and keep rigged hook baits ready to drop back when a fish pops up.

Most captains in Guatemala rig a pair of 30-pound conventional rods with ballyhoo on circle hooks for sailfish, with a 50-pound outfit rigged with a small tuna in case a marlin rises to the teasers. By using this method, you make sure you're neither overgunned nor undergunned, no matter what fish shows up.

When trolling in the conventional manner, i.e., with hooks in everything in your spread, you're stuck with the tackle you have out. If a large marlin jumps on a 30, you could be in trouble. Conversely, if a sailfish eats a bait on a 50, the fight is boring. Bait-and-switch allows you to perfectly match tackle to fish. This is especially true if you want to use light tackle or fly-fish.

Bait-and-switch has almost limitless applications, and if you're after billfish, especially Pacific sailfish, there's no better place to try it than the Pacific coast of Guatemala. Both Hamlin and Capt. Chris Sheeder, whom we fished with as well during our trip, work out of Casa Vieja Lodge (see the SWS Planner), which has quickly become the top fishing outfit in this part of the world. As we relaxed around the Casa Vieja pool one afternoon, I asked Hamlin and Sheeder to discuss their respective bait-and-switch philosophies.

Pull the 4-Eyed Monster
Both Hamlin and Sheeder like Mold Craft lures for their teasers. "I pull nothing but Mold Crafts, but the color doesn't really seem to matter," Hamlin said. "The standard 9-inch 4-Eyed Monsters work great, and I raise as many blue marlin as anybody using larger teasers." Hamlin goes on to say that the lures play a secondary role in raising fish, however. "The boat is the teaser, not the thing dragging behind it," he said.

"I fish two baits with hooks in my riggers and run two bridge teasers about as far back as where my flat lines would be," Hamlin continued. "Then I put a third teaser down the center, midway between the bridge teasers and my long rigger baits. My two flat-line baits are sitting in pitch-bait tubes with water in them so the baits don't dry out and get stiff but are ready to be put in use at a second's notice."

Note that Guatemala has long been ahead of the rest of the world in terms of conservation, and circle hook use is mandated by law, as is the release of all billfish.