By Captain Chip Van Mols
Kona, Hawaii, as most know, is considered to be the birthplace of the modern trolling lure. Trolling a spread of lures armed with hooks is now the most popular method of fishing here. Our mostly calm water definitely allows for a nice presentation of your lures and also allows you to cover a lot of ground while hunting all the pelagic species that are available at any given time.
Most importantly to me is the Pacific blue marlin, some of which can be as big as the species typically gets. While we wait for a Large Marge to appear, a well-tuned spread of lures will allow you to catch the small marlin, spearfish, mahi, wahoo and tuna you will inevitably encounter along the way!
When I started here in the mid-80s, a four or five lure spread starting on the second or third pressure wave and staggering back a wave alternating from side to side was the norm. That hasn’t changed really except for the addition of bridge teasers and most recently dredges.
My Spread Placement
These days, we typically run dredges on both sides of our boat. Dredges are positioned below the trough between the first pressure wave and number two. My short corner is on the face of the 3rd wave on the starboard side; the long corner on the 4th wave port side. The short rigger is on the starboard side on number 5. The long rigger is on the port side on the 6th wave and the optional stinger or shotgun lure would be on number 7 down the middle (When a fish comes up in Hawaii, it is called out as “short rigger” or “long corner,” etc., rather than “right long” or “left flat,” etc.).
Size, Shape and Location
On my shorts, I like to run very aggressively, showy lures that are extra-large or large—typically 14-16 inches in length. I rig these lures with 11/0 or 12/0 hooks. From there, I’ll taper down in size and aggressiveness the further back we get. I figure it’s easier to set my biggest hooks close to the boat with less stretch in the line.
My riggers are usually both 12-inch lures sporting 10/0 hooks. For the shotgun, I usually employ a 9/0 on a nine-inch jet or bullet. We use tag lines off of our outriggers to elevate and spread out our lures. The tag lines are personal preference—I’ve lure fished plenty running the corners and riggers straight off of blacks clips on the outrigger halyards… horses for courses, as they say.
I like slant face lures on my corners. Generally, a slant face or straight cut “Hard Head” on the short rigger, a 12-inch bullet on my long rigger and a nine-inch bullet down the middle. As a matter of practice, I try to create a spread that utilizes variety of shapes running in a variety of ways. All of this talk brings me to color—more variety.
In Kona, I would say blue is the home color. Black combos, blue-green or green combos, and pink all work, too. Whether the fish really care about color or not, I do! My usual starting lineup color-wise would be a blue-green vinyl short corner, black vinyl long corner, and blue vinyl short rigger. For the long rigger, I prefer a blue silver 12-inch squid skirt over orange. White and pink goes on my 12-inch large bullet.
The stinger bullet can be a blue/silver flying fish combo or a pink squid combo. I prefer to employ a variety of color to start—from there I will let the fish pick. If my black one starts getting it, I will add another black combo and so on. I always want two blue combos out there. Just a me thing—I don’t feel comfortable putting all my eggs in one basket!
Hooks, Rigs, Etc…
In slant face lures, we point the hook down. In flat face, symmetrical, cup face or bullet-shaped lures, we point the hook up. Bang!
If you were to troll a single hook (run by itself with no lure) which way would it run? The hook always runs face up—we have underwater film to prove it. This is great for your symmetrical types of lures.
As I moved from double hook rigs to single, I found that my normally very straight running slant faced lures would have an annoying side to side action—with the point of the hook facing up when single rigged. I’m pretty sure it was Gene Vanderhoek that figured out if you pointed the hook down the lure would then run straight and have the same action we were used to in our favorite slants. It works!
There is one word of caution: the heavier the gage of your hook, the more likely that the hook will flip your lure upside down at times. To combat this tendency to invert, we’ve incorporated belly weights in the versions most of us pull. Single hook rigs are by far the safest option for all on board, and I have achieved a much higher hookup to landing ratio on billfish than I ever did running all double 180% rigs.
My rigs are made long enough that the point of the hook should just clear the end of the skirts, but the eye of the hook will always be inside the skirts per IGFA regulations.
The calmer the sea, the higher you will be able to pull your lures from the outriggers. Also, the higher up on the pressure wave you can run them. As the sea conditions deteriorate, we will lower the angle of attack by winding down the tag line to keep the lure from hopping out of the water. We may also move the lure a tad closer to the boat which will place it lower on the face of the pressure wave making it easier to keep them in the water.
When the sea is rough, I generally choose lures that run well in those conditions. Rough water favorites include the classic plunger style shapes, flat faced lures (think mold craft wide range type), jets and bullets. Cupped or funnel face types also do well in the rough. I always avoid trolling directly into the sea or directly down sea, as this makes it the most difficult to keep the lures in the water.
If you must pound into it or surf down sea, then lower the angle from the outriggers and position your lures low on the pressure wave to keep them in the water and running smoothly. When fishing in a crosswind, which will probably be the case if you are quartering up or down sea, I will lower my upwind side and raise my downwind side. If you are working a small area this will keep your crew from falling asleep, too!
My usual spread of Tantrums on an average day in Kona.
Captain Chip Van Mols was born in Michigan and graduated high school in Southern California. Van Mols moved to Hawaii in 1982, chasing the big waves on the North Shore of Oahu. It was here that he discovered marlin fishing. In 1988, Van Mols moved to Kona and has been chasing blue marlin as a vocation ever since.
Van Mols caught his first grander (1,165) as a crewman with Capt. Jerome Judd aboard the Jun Ken Po in 1994. He would go on to four more granders—1064 in 2009, 1062 in 2011, 1226.5 in 2015, and a 1,305 in Ascension Island in 2015 with Captain Brian Toney.
All of these fish were caught on lures! Beyond his Kona exploits, Van Mols has fished extensively on GBR and many other hot spots on Australia’s east coast, Ghana Africa, Venezuela, Guatemala, New Zealand, PEI/ Nova Scotia, Samoa, Fiji and a few other spots. His daughter Jada holds the IGFA woman’s Atlantic Blue Marlin record with the 1,305. She also holds still holds the junior Pacific blue marlin record with a 514 she caught with her father in 2003.
Do you have any comments or questions for us? We’d love to hear from you.
Check out our Editor’s Choice of the latest new products at the annual ICAST show. Each year we attend the show to stay informed on the latest news, trends and equipment in the fishing industry. You’ll see most of the new products start to hit the shelves this fall and early 2020.
Live at the 2019 ICAST in Orlando, Florida – John Drouet shares with us the new product line of Diamond Fishing Products and maker of Hi-Catch monofilament fishing line. Diamond Fishing Products is dedicated to providing Fishermen and Women with the highest quality materials engineered to exceed the demands of fishing.
Eyewear – Costa Del Mar, Inc.
Clarion Marine Systems
Live at the 2019 ICAST – Steve Martin shares the latest and greatest coming from FishRazr Teasers.
Bubba – Fishing Net
Shimano – 2019 SpeedMaster 12 LDII & 16 LDII
Decorative Concepts – Supreme Canvas Line
Live at 2019 ICAST – Mike Milford, Owner of PlayAction and Braid Products, shares the newest products with a shoulder harness and HD rod belts.
Gerber Gear – Saltwater Fishing Tools & Knives
Bote – Inflatable Chair
SubSafe – Because nobody likes a soggy sub sandwich!
Luna Sea – Cushit Rod Butt and Floater
White’s Tackle is a full service tackle store located in Ft. Pierce and Stuart Florida. The staff are knowledgeable anglers who’ve fished the globe learning the secrets from the best captains and crews, and will be glad to pass them on to you. For over 90 years White’s Tackle has been outfitting inshore and offshore anglers from all over with the best tackle and service imaginable. If you have any questions feel free to call the Fort Pierce Store at 772-461-6909 or the Stuart Store 772-266-4010 or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you ever wanted to know the most popular lures used around the Bahamas, the Gulf of Mexico and the Mid-Atlantic? Take a minute and listen in to Grand Slam Sportfishing Supply owner Jim McGrath as he showcases the best lures for 2019. Lures include the recent World Cup and the Mid-Atlantic winner. Don’t wait and order yours today!
ITB-Digital contributor Michael Marks of Hawaii was nice enough to write out an account of an epic, unexpected run in with a pack of ravenous bigeye. Check it out… Thanks for the story Michael and keep em coming!
By Michael Marks
The anticipation had been building for a few weeks as a plan was hatched, and the moving parts all started to come together. The crew was solid and consisted of Captain Cyrus Widhalm, part owner of Honey – a beautiful custom 40-foot Buddy Davis, co-owner of Honey Mark Rodrigues, deckhand extraordinaire Nick Watson, owner of the tournament winning El Jobean, Larry Peardon, Brian Cibulka, owner of Relentless and yours truly.
The 4:30 wake up and raw anticipation that comes with the pre-dawn loading up of the boat for a 2-day-overnight trip down to South Point had peaked at about 6 am….and slowly given way to a lot of blue water and zero action.
The opelu at the secret submerged bait buoy were essentially unattainable. They were everywhere, but getting decimated by predators as soon as they bit. An hour and change of work turned into two measly baits.
We resorted to running south for a bit and jumped into ono lane. The run proved to be scenic and beautiful as we skirted alongside the prehistoric looking cliff filled shoreline, but the onos refused to play ball as well. Four hours and not a touch.
As we continued to push south, Captain Cyrus made the call to head outside to “B” buoy. There were some skiffs around, scattered birds and little tunas breaking water occasionally. The general liveliness of the area gave us renewed hope.
We busted out the small gear, rustled up a 4-5-pound aku (skipjack) for bait, bridled it up along with an opelu and sent them back out for a swim. The fish finder showed some serious signs of life. Consistent stacks of medium sized marks down deep that looked like potential tuna, and some big solo marks that looked the part of marlin.
We worked the area. Hard. And after a few hours, and a number of tricky tactics to get the opelu down deep and face to face with the tuna when we marked them, we had nothing to show for it.
The excitement we had first thing in the morning pretty much left us. Frosty IPAs and an assortment of other adult beverages were the only things driving the positivity at this point. All of the other skiffs that were dropping bait at the buoy for tunas seemed to be striking out as well, but Captain Cyrus was convinced that there was just too darn much life underneath us for nothing to happen. Finally, after a number of hours turning fruitless laps around the buoy, he finally proved to be right!
Out of nowhere, a blue marlin showed up directly behind the boat. I mean directly in the props, lit up bright blue and trying to put his bill in the exhaust pipe. Captain and deck hand Nick quietly slid down from the bridge trying not to spook the fish and brought the baits right to it. It turned, ate the port side bait, and then spit it back at us as soon as he felt any pressure, and promptly left. SHIT! Now we had proof there were hungry fish around, but it definitely stung to see one just feet behind the transom and not get bit. [Read more…]
OFFICIAL ICAST 2018 “BEST OF CATEGORY” WINNERS
Earlier this month sportfishing legend Capt. Bart “Black Bart” Miller passed away. Bart leaves 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 his passing was met with sadness from the many whose lives he touched. InTheBite is proud to have published some of Miller’s perspective. Here, from the archives, is one such piece. Rest in Peace Capt. Bart Miller.
There is a gofundme account set up to help Miller’s family with costs associated with his medical care. Should you wish to contribute, it would be greatly appreciated by those who feel his loss most directly. https://www.gofundme.com/captbartmiller
Color–does it matter?
By Captain Bart Miller
This age old question may never be answered scientifically, as it is far too subjective & intermingled with personal superstitions & general preference for one color versus another.
For example, nearly all men like the colors blue, black, white, purple, silver, green and gold. Is it any wonder that these very same colors are popular when choosing fishing lures and skirt combinations?
It is also apparent that fishing destinations have dominant color choices that are shared by the vast majority of captains & crew’s; Green in the canyons, blue & white in the Carolina’s, blue & pink in Hawaii, black & purple in the Bahamas, petrolero brown, silver, black & orange in Mexico etc… Many of these color combinations, while proven in one area, can also work well away from home.
When I first started trolling in Hawaii, there weren’t a lot of choices. I used a white plastic outer skirt, and later, white strip skirts with either black or a rusty red rubber inner skirt. These base colors, while very plain, worked just fine; but no one seemingly trusts such a limited selection of color options these days.
Fishermen world wide have their special color favorites which become trusted standbys, each earning their place in the spread, whether in tournament competition or just out for a friendly troll. So it really boils down to what you truly trust and are comfortable trolling vs. some unknown combination that leaves you with a measure of negative feelings.
So did vast color options become the fashion because they are now so readily available or because they really make a difference? My first thought was that the action of the lure superceded color importance, and later I began to value the concept of incorporating the use of proven color combinations.
Years ago, I tried something I had never tried before. I called this combination the invisible man. I poured a clear head with no color and no insert, then I skirted this clear head with clear skirts. Once deployed into the water, you could see motion, but not shape or color. This no-color lure is once again a part of my arsenal today and proves the age-old adage that color really matters in the eye of the beholder.
Marlin are now believed to see certain colors where once they were considered to be colorblind. Two theories come to mind as being valid in determining your final color selection and they would be to “Match the Hatch” and to consider having the proverbial oddball combo in the spread.
In conclusion, my favorite colors would be Pearl shell heads because they match all skirt combos, and my favorite skirt combinations would be, black & pink, black & purple, blue & pink, black & rainbow, blue & white, and pink & red. Sometimes I go beyond that color palate but not very often!
Great fishing, Aloha
Captain Bart Miller