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.
WHY IT WORKS
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.