By Capt. Bart Miller
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.
As far back as I can remember, lure designs were very basic: bullet-shaped heads and slant heads. Slant heads fell into two categories, one being a tube-shaped head with a slant nose; the other being a cylinder-shaped, tapered head with a dished out nose. The dished-out shape was simply named a conventional head, and later someone coined the name Kona Head, which described it.
During those formative years the leader tube hole was in the center front and back on all tube-head shapes. The original Kona Head’s leader hole, however, was below center in the front dished out area, and in the back the leader hole was centered. Trolling speeds for these Hawaiian lures ranged from 4 to 6 knots. It wasn’t until several innovative fishermen altered the original shapes that the doors to modern lure fishing opened. These very important changes offered unique and better lure action, and also allowed trolling speeds of 7 to 15 knots which proved to be highly effective.
Another innovation was the cupped head, and cupped heads with jet holes. The always popular bullet lures took on a new fashion as well. They now come loaded with lead, some even with jets, and these new bullet heads add a deadly dimension to a spread.
So which of the two designs is better: Cupped, or slanted?
Let’s start with the slant heads’ preferred action, with the flat line trolled off the rod tip. Our trolling speed will be 8 knots, and the placement of this slant head is on the 2nd or 3rd wave. The slant head should always try to swim left, right, up, down, pop and splash. What you don’t want to see a slant head do is spin, loop or stay on top splashing. Staying down with no undulations, or pop and splash is just as bad.
The best pop and splash pattern occurs every 5 to 8 seconds, the latter being my first choice. When a slant head dives, it should pull with it a long tail of whitewater and bubbles. If the slant can hold the white tail for the full 8 seconds then it is just that much better. When pulling a slant from the rigger, you want the same action, but you’ll probably need to vary your rigger height and boat speed to get it just right.
Cupped lures have a negative lift by comparison to slant heads. Most of the time, they are better run from the riggers, short or long. When they are trolling correctly, the action is much like a torpedo, steaming along just below the surface. Some have a noticeable head shake, and most stay down for a long count of 5 to 10 seconds depending on sea conditions or the speed in which they are being trolled. Rigger lift will also peak the cupped lure’s action. They carry a big bubble trail with plenty of whitewater, and they have minimal splash. Cupped lures don’t dive as deep, or undulate as much as the slant heads. On the positive side, cupped lures are easy to catch, and mixing them with slant heads will give you the best of both worlds. Cupped lures are a must if you are encountering foul weather, big following seas, or pounding head seas.
I’ve had the pleasure and distinction of growing up during both the old and new world of lures, and to this I say respectfully, some are hot, and some are not!
My favorite spread is a pair of slants on the flat short corners, a cupped jet on the short outrigger, slant on the long outrigger and a cupped jet on the center rigger. And there you have it: three slants and two cupped. That’s what works for me.
Capt. Bart Miller