By Peter B. Wright
Most amateur anglers and crews would be much better off not using dredges or multiple teasers, even though many of the top professional teams pull them most of the time. Teams that consistently win tournaments almost always have expert professional captains and deck hands. These crews have skills and abilities that most amateurs will never develop. Amateur crews who pull multiple teasers and dredges may have forgotten one basic truth. Teasers and dredges do not catch fish – at best they can only help attract them. Baits and lures with hooks, however, can and do catch fish.
Fish Baits with Hooks in Them
The first thing deployed upon arriving to the fishing grounds should have a hook in it. So should the second and the third thing tossed over the transom. It is amazing how often the first bait or lure dropped into the water will get bit. Why does this happen? Boats themselves will and do attract fish!
Three’s a Party
Three lures or baits is the optimum number for beginning teams to pull, especially from a center console or express boat. This is due to the relatively small beam of these boats. If this is the case for your team, first deploy two, relatively short baits fished from outriggers. They should be the same distance behind the boat and close enough to be seen from the deck.
One longer bait can be added, pulled down the center of the boat’s wake. A decent rule of thumb is for the shotgun to be at least half or even twice or three times as far from the boat as the two closer baits. The shotgun bait will be hard to see but will get plenty of bites. Gamefish of all kind frequently pile on the shotgun. I prefer a soft lure, fished from a clip allowing a small automatic drop back, especially if the target is a billfish. I usually use a small length of nylon coated cable as part of my leader to guard against bite offs.
Adding a fourth bait does not get one-third more bites! This can however more than double potential problems including: tangling/breaking lines or having a fish disqualified by eating multiple baits. Even fishing just three rods, a triple header can require some advanced angling and boat handling skills.
The complications from dredge fishing are not limited to amateur crews. I have frequently watched professional mates not get multiple hookups from fish that were eager to eat, because the only thing available to the fish was a dredge or teaser. By getting carried away attracting them, nothing had a hook in it when the second fish—or school of fish – showed up. I have seen this happen with highly regarded crews in some of the world’s best billfishing hotspots.
There also exist differences in skill levels, even between crews that may be highly regarded in their region. Fishing where there are high densities of fish — where almost anyone with modest skills can catch a lot of fish — is not the same as being highly skilled! Even in Australia and the U.S., there is a huge gap between the best and the “pretty good” crews!
How do crews from different regions develop unique skillsets? Florida and North Carolina charter captains are particularly well versed in the boat handling skills needed to catch multiples. “Bailing” dolphin or meat fishing for tuna or king mackerel on charters gives mates the knowledge needed to catch multiple billfish hookups in tournaments.
Simplicity in Action
A few years ago on a trip to Mag Bay, the bite was really hot. We could catch more light tackle striped marlin by only hooking two at a time than we could when hooking triples or quadruple headers! On this trip, if you could hit the water with a live bait, you had a bite. If we threw out four baited hooks, we hooked four striped marlin. The key to our success was simple geometry.
With a double, I could always help two anglers fight both of their fish by backing or running the boat forward toward the midpoint of an imaginary line between the two marlin. With three or more fish on, we always had a lot of line out on at least one fish. This scenario took quite a while to get them all close enough to tag or release. Catching a pair then hooking two more was our best choice! Two, two, two, two, was the quickest way for us to catch eight marlin!
Teasers and dredges are useful tools in some situations. Remember, however, you can catch fish without teasers and dredges, but without a hooked bait or lure you can’t catch anything. And besides with really big fish—I only want to hook one at a time anyhow!
Good fishing! – Peter B.