In early 2018, sportfishing legend Capt. Bart “Black Bart” Miller passed away. Bart left behind a lure company bearing his name and a list of marlin fishing feats that will likely never be duplicated. Miller was a veritable legend in the sportfishing industry and InTheBite is proud to have published some of Miller’s perspective. Here, from the archives, is one such piece.
Is a single hook rig better than a double? Is my trolling speed too fast? Can tag lines improve my hook up percentage? These are just a few questions most of us immediately ask ourselves when we miss a marlin bite and our hook-up percentage is not what we think it should be.
Let’s begin with what is a good hook up average, when lure fishing for Blue Marlin. If you average 50 percent or better you should be writing this article. Catching 1 out of every 2 marlin bites with your lures is above average. The reality is most of you average closer to 33 percent on bites to catch ratio.
Here are some basic options to consider if you want to move up to 40%, or better with your hook-up ratio.
- Trolling speed and lure behavior. This is probably one of the most important factors—making sure your lures are running right. The biggest tip I can offer here is to keep your lures swimming smoothly, avoid letting them get out of control such as spinning or jumping out of the water. Skipping them just under or on the surface is good. Each lure will have different running characteristics but your mindset should be so that you are giving the marlin the best chance at attacking your lure spread as possible. If you find yourself trolling along in choppy water, find a speed that will keep the lures in the water—this usually means slowing down, or trolling a weighted slant or 90-degree head. On slick calm days you will have a wider range of trolling speeds as well as a larger variety of lure heads which will work.
- Finding the best hook rig. One trend is using single, semi-stiff hook rigs with a tuna bend hook. Matching your lure with the proper size hook and placement can make a significant improvement in your hook-up percentage. A good rule of thumb is to choose a hook size that is similar to the lure head—making sure the hook width is not larger than your lure head width. Position the hook so that it is as far back in the skirt as legally possible.
- Improve your lure spread. Choose lures that have a history of being successful in a particular area that you are fishing. Use colors for example- in the Bahamas, pink and blue is a productive combination. In the Carolinas blue and white is historically the locals color of choice, and in the Virgin Islands, black and purple is a favorite. Basically, you need to become familiar with what has worked in the different regions you are fishing. Be sure to ask around the dock, sometimes a particular lure will seem to outperform all others. If you are lucky enough to be “in the know”, you can benefit with more releases at the end of the day and a higher hook-up percentage.
After you gain enough experience you will become the expert and know of other ways to increase your own hook-up ratio. And as always—a little luck never hurts along the way.
—Great fishing, Aloha, Capt. Bart Miller