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Gear Up for Marlin

Having the proper tackle sets the table for success

December 14, 2016
gear for marlin fishing offshore
The right gear will help when fishing for marlin. Mark MacKenzie

Fishing for marlin sits at the top of our sport in terms of challenge, excitement and satisfaction. Marlin fishing is a game of variables, and the more you can eliminate, the greater your chances for success, the more effective you’ll be and the greater the thrill in battling one of the hardest fighters in the sea.

The heart of the challenge and the secret to arming yourself with the winning edge lies in the tackle you select for the chore. Depending on the size of the quarry, most anglers opt for 30- or 50-pound tackle.

Conventional marlin tackle consists of a single or dual speed lever drag reel as a starting point. Lever drag reels offer a drag system that is infinitely adjustable, from freespool to full drag, which is usually set at 30 percent of the break strength of the line. These reels also allow the lever to be advanced beyond the “Full” position, to lock down the drag, or increase it incrementally toward the end of the fight, such as when the leader (usually 25 feet of 200- to 400-pound mono) is on the reel. This is when the angler needs to control the fish so the mate can grab the leader, and a point at which the break strength of the main line is no longer a concern. Should the fish break away for another run, the lever can be reset instantly and accurately to an acceptable level of drag.


Accurate control of the drag is essential to effectively fighting marlin, and it is here that a high quality, machined lever drag reel makes the deciding difference in who wins the battle.

While the reel dictates control of the fish, proper line creates the connection, and it’s important to keep the reel filled with fresh line in good condition. Quality monofilament is the choice of pros, as it offers both high strength and elasticity, and enough stretch to absorb the impact when a fish makes a sudden turn, or a jump, which can instantly increase pressure on the line. Quality line and a completely filled reel spool provide the essential link between angler and fish, and function hand in hand with the reel and the anglers skills during the battle.

While the reel and line work together keep the angler hooked up, it’s the rod that provides the variable pressure that ultimately subdues the quarry. Marlin rods need to have plenty of backbone, and the ability to bend to the pressure of the fish, yet recover quickly. A softer tip section allows for instant shock absorption, while a stiffer butt keeps the anger in control and pressuring the fish during the fight. Rods fitted with roller guides offer a smoother fight and help preserve the integrity of the line as pours off the reel and as the angler retrieves it. Roller guides however must be maintained so the rollers move freely, without binding. Ring guides have their place too, though they do prove more wearing on lines and should be reserved for times when smaller fish are anticipated.


Stack the odds in your favor by getting the right gear for the job now.

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