LURES OR LIVE BAIT?
Let me make it clear from the start, I learned Big Game fishing
using lures, Pacific style, rarely using anything except artificial
lures. On occasion we would bridle a live tuna and pull him for
Marlin, or rig squid for Dorado and once in a while pull rigged
belly baits if the Marlin were concentrated or we were teasing for
Fly fishermen. But 90% of the time we were pulling artificials. Like
any field of endeavor, if you spend enough time at something, you
are bound to learn what works best the majority of the time, and for
that bring about this particular session were related to me today by
an angler who had just returned from a fishing trip. I have seen
this situation happen before and kept my mouth shut, feeling that as
the new guy in the area and lacking local knowledge, perhaps I was
wrong in my assumptions or ignorant of a local technique. This is as
relayed to me: “We have been trolling for 5 hours and have spotted
no tailing Striped Marlin. Suddenly a Marlin appears in the lure
spread. The fish immediately attacks the lure in the short rigger
position but fails to hook up. The Marlin is lit up and the mate
immediately tosses out a rigged live bait as the captain slows the
boat to allow the bait to drop back naturally. With the boat still
moving from the forward momentum the Marlin ones again slashes at
the lure then disappears into the depths, ignoring the live bait
offering. The Captain and crew both look at me and shrug their
shoulders. The crew then tells me that the Marlin must not have been
Those of you who have read my articles before, or have been
fortunate (unfortunate some would say) enough to meet me know that I
have just started to learn how to use live bait “Cabo Style”.
This is the only fishery I have been involved in where you can spot
a Marlin swimming and toss a live bait in front of it and have a
good (very good most of the time) chance of him eating the bait.
This is a technique that has its own subtle nuances, and I am slowly
learning them and will tell you what I learn as it comes about.
HOWEVER, a few of the lessons I learned very early in my fishing
career are as follows: 1. Don’t leave fish to find fish. 2. Don’t
expect to catch 100% of the time. 3. If you do not give 100%, you
aren’t trying hard enough. 4. If the fish is trying to eat
something with a hook in it, DON’T TRY TO TAKE THAT SOMETHING AWAY
if your customers are happy to catch it on that rig.
All right, I can see the reasoning behind the Captain and mates
actions (in a twisted sort of way). Most of the fish they catch are
seen tailing first, a bait is then tossed and the Marlin then eats
the bait. Therefore, if the Marlin in the lure spread sees a live
bait, he will eat it.
The problem I have with this scenario is that you have two
different fish with two different attitudes. The Marlin spotted
tailing is not lit up and excited so live bait may be what is
required to get him to turn on. Toss that bait in the right spot and
you can watch the excitement build as he first spots the swimming
meal, then decides he has a chance at a quick snack. If the bait has
been bridled or hooked correctly and/or crippled to make it struggle
the Marlin is very apt to just come in and inhale the easy meal.
If a Marlin is already in the lure spread and his attention is
focused on one of the lures, he is very likely to attack, and unless
stung by a hook (and sometimes even if) will continue to attack a
perceived meal. I have often had a Marlin continue to attack a
hookless teaser or a lure where the hooks have been knocked over the
leader until the lure has been lifted into the boat. Now is the
opportunity to drop a live bait into his mouth, or better yet, toss
a fly out!
Two different situations that I feel call for two different
approaches. I say that if the Marlin wants to eat the lure, let him!
This gives me three advantages. #1: The lure has either a larger
hook or two hooks instead of one, and brings a savage attack, with
the Marlin hooking himself. #2: I am able to work with a larger
diameter leader than with live bait, thus giving the mate a possible
earlier chance at the leader, avoiding tiring the fish too much. #3:
The Marlin is extremely unlikely to be hooked in a vital organ, thus
having a better chance of survival after the fight. Although I would
not list this as a point, the use of lures enables me as the Captain
to control the presentation to the fish. I do have a better view of
what the quarry is doing, and can work the throttles and wheel to
vary the speed and action of the lure to match the aggressiveness of
the fish. There is no need for me to try to communicate over the
noise of the engines and the wind to the cockpit. If the fish shows
no interest in attacking the lures and instead just follows them, by
all means toss back a bait! If he disappears into the depths then,
continue to slow troll the bait over the area for 30 or 40 minutes
to give him (or a friend) a chance to come back and eat.
As I said at the beginning, these are just my personal opinions
and observations. I am very open minded and more than willing to
learn, so if someone out there is willing to give me a different
outlook, let me know. Lord willing, I have many years left to enjoy
finding new methods and techniques to make my favorite sport more
enjoyable for everyone.
Any questions or comments can reach me at my e-mail address.
Until next time, Tight Lines!
Good Luck, Capt. George Landrum