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When seas slacken and lie flat, “you want a lure with more ac­tion on the sur­face,” says Ber­muda cap­tain Allen DeSilva. He prefers a light lure, such as those from Fathom, in­stead of a heav­ier Black Bart lure he’d troll in nor­mal to rough con­di­tions.

“When it’s calm, mar­lin are more likely to check out a lure, then move to an­other, or maybe give one a lit­tle tap,” he says.

When mar­lin won’t eat, DeSilva en­tices bites by turn­ing the boat left and right so lures cross the wake. “If you get a bite and not a hookup, wind the lure in fast un­til it pops on the sur­face,” he says. If that doesn’t work, free-spool so the lure sinks back 20 feet and quickly wind it in again.

When it is re­ally calm, it’s hard to get tuna to bite, says DeSilva. He uses fluoro­car­bon lead­ers and nearly dou­ble the trolling dis­tance — at least 100 yards aft. Try dif­fer­ent lures and trolling lengths too.

“Here in Brazil, tuna are more com­mon dur­ing calm seas,” says Tuba Amaral.

“I re­duce lure size and in­crease speed.” For flat-sea mar­lin, in­crease speed or use a more ag­gres­sive lure with a greater face an­gle to achieve more at­trac­tive ac­tion.

When it’s par­tic­u­larly calm, tour­na­ment and pri­vate cap­tain Ron­nie Fields switches to small spreader-bar teasers in­stead of squid chains for both bill­fish and tuna, rigged with three 6-inch squids on each side and six down the mid­dle, plus a chas­ing mack­erel.

“I’ll skip one bait when it’s calm,” Fields adds. “That makes a lit­tle rip­ple, just some­thing to at­tract at­ten­tion, and it’s dif­fer­ent from the other baits.”

Most often he runs the skip­ping bait fairly close to the boat from the cen­ter rig­ger, to keep it on top, with lit­tle or no lead. “We’ll crank it away if a white comes up,” he says. “It makes a good teaser, but we’ll put a hook in it for a blue mar­lin or wa­hoo.”

Louisiana cap­tain Da­mon McKnight bump-trolls to keep baits away from the boat, but he often can avoid that prac­tice with bait se­lec­tion. “Threadfin her­ring swim away from the boat as fast as they can.”

New York’s Capt. Scott Leonard sim­i­larly uses spot or scup, which swim to the bot­tom with lit­tle or no lead, in­stead of his typ­i­cal bunker, which tend to stay on the sur­face.

“Cut a cou­ple of inches off each fork of their tails so they can’t take off like a rocket,” says Leonard.

“When the boat is not mov­ing fast enough,” he adds, “reel in at a steady, slow pace, or try 10 or 15 cranks on the reel, then put it in free-spool. Bam, you’ll get a fish on! On some calm days, that’s half the fish we get.”

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