THE NEED FOR SPEED

Dredge-fish­ing goes high tech

Marlin - - BEFORE THE STRIKE - BY BILL PINO

I be­gan my ob­ses­sion with sport fish­ing in Ocean City, Mary­land, when the queens of the lo­cal char­ter fleet were boats in the 40-foot range that cruised at just over 20 knots. To­day, a 60-footer cruis­ing at 35 knots doesn’t even get a sec­ond look. Over the years came more de­fin­i­tive trans­duc­ers, higher gear ra­tios on our reels, bet­ter satel­lite im­agery and more. The need for some­thing big­ger, faster and bet­ter has not gone un­no­ticed in the world of dredges ei­ther.

THE EVO­LU­TION

The first sail­fish dredges in Florida were mod­i­fied striped bass um­brella rigs with four arms and a sin­gle tier of mul­let. These were cleated off at the tran­som or pulled from ei­ther a man­ual down­rig­ger or 11/0 Penn Se­na­tor on a broom­stick rod. We’ve pro­gressed to the point where that same mul­let dredge may have three tiers and 50 or more nat­u­ral baits, or it could be a gi­ant mon­stros­ity with 40, 60 or even 100 ar­ti­fi­cial fish or squid. The dredge needs to stay com­pletely sub­merged to work prop­erly, so the weights have also be­come pro­gres­sively heav­ier as well.

Com­pa­nies such as Daiwa, Kristal, Hooker Elec­tric, Miya Epoch and Lind­gren Pit­man have de­vel­oped pow­er­ful elec­tric reels that can re­trieve even the largest dredges and heav­i­est weights with ease. The dredges them­selves have tran­si­tioned from thin wire um­brel­las to more durable stain­less-steel and even ti­ta­nium con­struc­tion.

DI­RECT PULL

There are a num­ber of ways to rig the dredge retrieval sys­tem, de­pend­ing on your ves­sel and choice of retrieval method. For smaller boats, a dredge pulled on heavy cord cleated off at the tran­som or us­ing a down­rig­ger is still a vi­able choice, but larger sport-fish­ers need high-speed elec­tric reels, with Lind­gren Pit­man a fa­vorite brand on most boats.

Ken Cofer, owner of the Que­pos, Costa Rica-based char­ter boat Tran­quilo, has been thor­oughly im­pressed with the new high-speed Lind­gren Pit­man SV-2400 dredge reels. “These reels are so pow­er­ful that we no longer need to use a pulley sys­tem,” he says. “We have switched back to a di­rect con­nec­tion to take ad­van­tage of the faster retrieval speed.” Cofer also men­tioned dis­tance as another fac­tor in the switch. “In the past, the slow rate of re­trieve meant that we couldn’t fish the dredges too far back — we just couldn’t get them in fast enough. There are times when we want to fish the en­tire spread farther back, and the new reels have the speed to let us do that. Now we can drop the dredges back 100 feet or more if we need to and still be able to clear them quickly.” By fish­ing the dredges in clear wa­ter, it’s eas­ier to spot a ma­raud­ing mar­lin or sail and still be able to rip the dredge out of the way to ini­ti­ate the bai­tand-switch process.

The Tran­quilo sys­tem is sim­ple: a short cus­tom bent-butt rod with a sin­gle Winthrop swivel tip-top guide points di­rectly at a heavy-duty pulley that is

crimped to the out­rig­ger at the first spreader. The rod holder has a swivel base to al­low the rod to move as needed. Cofer adds that he had Pipe-welders craft a cus­tom sleeve to beef up the out­rig­ger’s sup­port bar in or­der to han­dle the ex­tra stress.

“In the past, we have snapped some gim­bal teeth on the bent-butt rod when pulling the dredges in, but now with the swivel rod holder the whole setup ro­tates to­ward the pulley, which also cre­ates a straight path for the line from the reel to the pulley,” he says.

THE A-FRAME SETUP

Capt. Tucker Colquhoun has re­cently made the tran­si­tion back to Florida from Costa Rica and ex­plained that his dredge set­ups are sim­i­lar ex­cept for a higher reliance on nat­u­ral baits when tar­get­ing sails in the At­lantic. “We typ­i­cally pulled a lot of red or pink squids on our dredges in the Pacific. The fish are more finicky here, so we tend to stick to mul­let,” he says. He uses the LP S-1200 reels on cus­tom bent-butt rods with Winthrop tip guides, and he also prefers the swivel rod hold­ers in the gun­wales. Colquhoun uses an A-frame sys­tem to lessen the over­all stress on the tackle. The crew at­taches two pul­leys on both ends of the A-frame to utilize the me­chan­i­cal ad­van­tage they pro­vide. A retrieval line is at­tached to the A-frame with a small pulley at the top and a loop at the bot­tom; this al­lows the crew to con­trol the dredge close to the boat and to shake off any weed that gets caught in it. The crew can also pull down the A-frame lines to al­low an an­gler to fight a fish on that side of the turn while still keep­ing the dredge in the wa­ter and raising ad­di­tional bill­fish. My nephew, Capt. An­thony Pino on

Blood Money, a char­ter op­er­a­tion based in Ocean City, Mary­land, uses a sim­i­lar A-frame setup with a cus­tom fixed rod holder on the aft tower leg of the 56-foot Vik­ing. Palm Beach Tow­ers makes a cus­tom rod holder ex­clu­sively for dredge rods, which el­e­vates the setup so that it is in a straight path from the swivel rod tip to the pulley on the out­rig­ger. By hav­ing the dredge rods on the tower legs, it frees up an ad­di­tional pair of rod hold­ers on the gun­wales. “We use our dredges when we’re tuna fish­ing and may have up to 10 rods in our spread,” he says, “so hav­ing all the rod hold­ers free is a pos­i­tive.” Pino says he in­tends to con­tinue us­ing the A-frame sys­tem even af­ter up­grad­ing to the SV-2400 reels. “The load is dis­trib­uted over a greater area of the out­rig­gers, and the A-frame avoids a sin­gle stress point,” he says.

Dredge-fish­ing has been around since the 1980s, and while the orig­i­nal tac­tics and tackle re­mained the same for over a decade, it seems that now more crews are fine-tun­ing their ap­proach to ev­ery as­pect of this sys­tem. The re­sults are im­pres­sive; boats around the world are raising more bill­fish than ever be­fore.

Beefy elec­tric reels are fa­vored for dredge-fish­ing be­cause they have the power and speed to quickly clear even the heav­i­est dredges with the push of a but­ton.

THE DI­RECT CON­NEC­TION The A-frame setup of­fers the me­chan­i­cal ad­van­tage of us­ing a sec­ond pulley, and the over­all stress load is spread over mul­ti­ple points. How­ever, the di­rect con­nec­tion means the dredge can be re­trieved much more rapidly, es­pe­cially...

THE A-FRAME

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