Sim­plify your setup for bet­ter bites


I am for­tu­nate to live and fish on the west coast of Costa Rica, where we are blessed with four dif­fer­ent bill­fish species that can show up in the spread at any mo­ment. Each one will re­act dif­fer­ently, and our method of teaser-fish­ing isn’t ap­pli­ca­ble in ev­ery lo­ca­tion in the world, but it does have some sig­nif­i­cant ad­van­tages.

Pa­cific sail­fish are our bread-and-but­ter species, and while we catch a lot of them, I tend to con­sider sails a by­catch. Sails will tease fairly eas­ily, but when a blue or striped mar­lin shows up, it’s a dif­fer­ent sce­nario. They are much faster and more ag­gres­sive, so it is vi­tal to keep that fish hot and fo­cused all the way to the boat. We’ve sim­pli­fied our teaser setup in order to make things as easy as pos­si­ble for my deck­hands to tease in a fired-up mar­lin on the first try. The first tease is the high­est-qual­ity bite and comes from a flaw­less read and ex­e­cu­tion, no mat­ter which bill­fish species shows up to play.


We fish a fairly stan­dard teaser spread, with two dredges clos­est to the boat fol­lowed by a pair of bridge teasers, then an­other set of long teasers, which my crew runs in the short-rig­ger po­si­tion from the cock­pit. We then add bal­ly­hoo on the long rig­gers and flat lines, and we’re fish­ing. It’s with the long teasers that things can get hec­tic, es­pe­cially when a blue one shows up.

For our day-to-day and tour­na­ment fish­ing, I pre­fer 80s for teaser reels, mounted on stubby 3- to 4-foot teaser rods (if we are fly-fish­ing or chas­ing world records, we use a com­pletely dif­fer­ent setup). The 80s have the power and speed you need to keep the lure away from a blue mar­lin, and weigh enough that they aren’t jump­ing around in the rod holder as the

mate is crank­ing hard on them. These are spooled with 250- to 300-pound monofil­a­ment, which is run di­rectly to the teaser lure with no leader. When the main line gets chafed up, we cut it back and re-crimp.

On the out­rig­ger hal­yards, rather than us­ing a stan­dard Roller-Troller re­lease clip, I pre­fer to run a 6-inch sec­tion of 60to 80-pound monofil­a­ment with a small Harken roller block, at­tach­ing it to the hal­yard with a small swivel and crimps. The 300-pound monofil­a­ment teaser line is run through the roller block, and the teaser is at­tached to it. The back side of the short rig­ger hal­yard has a small wax loop flossed on the hal­yard with a Blacks clip at­tached to keep the hal­yard from creep­ing down. If you get a pile-on bite, the clip will re­lease and the roller block be­gins com­ing down the hal­yard slowly as my crew fo­cuses on the fish.


The first is­sue with the Roller-Troller is that if a mar­lin or sail grabs the lure on a blind strike, the clip re­leases and the fish gets a face full of teaser and leader. Some­times this is enough to spook them en­tirely, but even if they stay with it, they aren’t nearly as hot as when they first showed up to eat. By mak­ing it a solid setup with no drop-back, the mate can now keep the teaser in front of the fish all the way to the boat. The pres­sure from the teaser will also start to bring the hal­yard down to­ward the cock­pit and in the al­ley be­tween the white wa­ter and prop wash — this means the mate can keep the re­trieve steady. You never want the teaser leapfrog­ging out of the wa­ter, which is a def­i­nite turnoff for any bill­fish. Con­tinue wind­ing un­til the mo­ment of truth: the ex­change where the teaser is snatched away and is re­placed by the pitch bait.

A se­cond is­sue with the Roller-Troller is that once the clip opens, the hal­yard has to be pulled all the way down, the teaser line rein­serted in the clip and then hauled back up into po­si­tion, pretty much miss­ing any chance at a re-tease.

With this sys­tem, just put the reel in free-spool, raise the hal­yard a cou­ple of arm lengths and re-tease the fish. Keep in mind that you don’t have to drop back very far, just some­where around the same wave or dis­tance be­hind the boat where your fish dis­ap­peared is fine. If you mark the teaser line with a per­ma­nent marker, you can in­stantly re­set it to the same spot ev­ery time.


The teaser can also be wound all the way up tight to the block to clear it, lift­ing the teaser com­pletely out of the wa­ter. Be­cause there is no leader, there is noth­ing to hang up. When you’re ready to re­set the spread, just free-spool the reel and the teaser de­ploys eas­ily. And there are also no swivels or crimps. I first started us­ing this sys­tem in the Co­cos Is­lands, where the frigate birds and boo­bies were a con­stant prob­lem, but by elim­i­nat­ing all of the ter­mi­nal tackle, we greatly re­duced our is­sues with the birds and dis­cov­ered the added ben­e­fits.

We use 60- to 80-pound monofil­a­ment to con­nect the Harken block to the hal­yard as a kind of safety valve. If things re­ally get out of hand and a mar­lin gets bill-wrapped or hung up in the teaser, the lighter monofil­a­ment will break away be­fore any­thing truly dis­as­trous hap­pens.

Pitch-bait­ing is a tech­nique that works in­cred­i­bly well. It’s one of the most ex­cit­ing and dy­namic ways to fish, and the adren­a­line rush of the bite is in­cred­i­ble. Be­ing able to choose the tackle and pre­ferred bait is a great ad­van­tage as well. Teaser-fish­ing is the purest and most in­ter­ac­tive way to tar­get bill­fish any­where in the world.

A mar­lin will al­most al­ways be more ag­gres­sive on the first at­tack, so keep that fish hot all the way to the boat.

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