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November 18, 2013

Tactics for Raising Sailfish and White Marlin on the Troll

Learn from the pros about the tactics of bringing in billfish off the dredge.

Give Them a Taste

In the cockpit, Kubik has a deadly system for ­attracting the attention of passing billfish. “When we light-tackle fish for whites and sails, we usually fish two squid-chain teasers with an Ilander lure and a bonito strip behind it,” Kubik says. “A few years ago, I tried fishing the strip instead of a ballyhoo behind my chains, and I have never gone back. I like the strip because the fish can’t pull it off like they do a ­ballyhoo. They still get the taste, but when they bite it and come away with nothing, it really gets them jacked up.”

Kubik and Gaddy fish four ballyhoo rigged on circle hooks: Two ride just behind the teasers, and two more skip on the long outriggers. Two more pitch baits wait in the cockpit as backup. “When we get a fish on the teaser, I pop my flat line out and, depending on where my teasers are, I either crank it up or drop it back a little in an effort to get it even with the back of the teaser,” Kubik says. “If everything goes according to plan, Fin pulls the teaser away from the fish, and the fish homes in on my bait. Many times the fish does not acknowledge my bait, and continues to chase the teaser closer and closer to the boat. I will crank up my bait to try to get the fish to switch, but I am careful not to reel up too close to the boat. Bites that occur just off the transom tend to be too aggressive, and your percentage goes down.

“If the fish follows up so close that he is next to me, I will leave my bait back there about 30 feet and hold it out in the clean water,” Kubik continues. “When Fin pulls the teaser out of the water completely from the bridge, the fish usually does a 180, and the first thing he should see is my bait.” Kubik adds that backup is ­important.

“This style of fishing is all about backup; you need to have a backup man,” he says. “If the teaser fish never sees my bait, or even if I miss him, you need to watch the long riggers because that fish will fade back to another bait.”

Up and Out

Rod-handling technique at the crucial moment helps too. “When trying for a teaser fish, hold the rod up and out,” Kubik says. “When the fish bites your bait, point your rod at the fish and free-spool. That motion is your shock absorber. You don’t want the fish to feel you.” If the fish feels any tension on the line, it will drop the bait, and when you come tight, you’ll find nothing on the end of your line. It sounds easy, but it’s a technique refined only through lots of practice.

Dredges play a key role as well. “We typically fish two dredges: one rigged with ballyhoo and one with mullet,” Kubik says. “When a fish has its head buried in the dredge, I try to get my flat line about 10 feet ahead of the dredge, and sink my bait and crank up the dredge at the same time. Sometimes I have to do this a few times to get the fish to come out of the dredge.”

Many crews also employ a technique called “prospecting” when fishing dredges. This involves ­repeatedly free-spooling a hook bait over the top of the dredge so it sinks naturally in the wash as the boat moves away. The idea is to simulate a wounded baitfish being separated from the school — the fake school simulated by the dredge in this case — and attracting the attention of a billfish that might be following the dredge, unseen from the boat. Prospecting can be a very effective method for picking off stragglers.

Common Courtesy

Fishing around diving birds is a specialized form of ­sight-fishing, and Gaddy correctly points out some basic rules of the road for success. “Last year it was a race for the birds,” he says. “One day I had numerous boats cut inside my circle when I had yet to catch a fish. People pushing you off birds took away from the joy of being in ­Mexico.”

The same can be true in the States however. “This year here at home, we’ve had boats moving in while we were circling the birds as the cutters were feeding, and start casting from the bow,” Gaddy says. “We go to have a great time, and cutting into someone’s birds without an invitation or without asking is just rude. When we work together, everyone benefits.”

Sounds like common sense, and by employing a little of that along with the tactics developed by the Qualifier crew, you too can become adept at raising a sailfish or white marlin behind your boat. Once you figure it out, you’ll be hooked — just like the rest of us who find this style of fishing so fascinating and exciting