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.”