Tips and Tricks for Fishing with Lures.

Over the years we have fished on many different vessels on various continents worldwide. Every team (captain and crew) had its own style and techniques – irrespective of whether local hand-liners, commercial tuna fishermen or professional charter boat skippers were involved. Based on this multitude of different techniques and tactics for lure fishing we have always attempted to take the best gear along with us and to develop balanced and effective techniques to best suit our all-round needs. 

First of all: there is no such thing as a one hundred percent standard for lure fishing, or an ultimate unique master plan. What really distinguishes a successful angler is his flexibility and knowing how, where and under which circumstances certain methods will work. The key word is flexibility. Every day at sea is different and it is frequently minute details and little things that determine success or failure. Why is it that in the same area where a number of charter boats fish over comparable periods of time some vessels frequently catch more and certain boats regularly less fish? It’s not always a question of one skipper being jammy and the other unlucky! 

We would like to give you a couple of tips and a bit of advice. These are based purely on experience and are recommendations but my no means the last word on the subject. At the end of the day, every angler must make his own mind up as to which lures he wants to use. In general terms there are no bad lures, either – every lure on the market will catch fish. It all depends on how, where, when and for which purpose you use it.

Catching Fish with Lures

We can make our own decisions on locations, dates and boats but daily conditions out at sea are factors over which we have no control. Currents, water temperatures, wind conditions, moon phases, tide differences and piscatorial bite habits cannot be influenced. There are days when fish attack our lures aggressively and days when they just seem to ignore them. Every day is a new day, another day. However, we can adjust to prevailing daily situations and adapt our techniques and tactics to meet local conditions. 

Whenever fish attack lures aggressively we have an excellent chance of a high hook-up rate. On days like these almost any lure will more than likely catch fish – regardless of how it is rigged.

On other days when the fish are not so aggressive this knowledge makes all the difference. If you then know how to fish a lure and which rigs, distances and strike settings are best suited to it you will frequently be rewarded by the end of the day. One basic rule that applies to every angler is a very sharp hook. 

On difficult days like these it is enormously important to position the lures to get the best out of their individual running properties. There are models that run better, more effectively and aggressively when fished short and others that perform better fished steadily far behind the boat just under the surface. If you know which lures work best in which positions under different weather conditions you will attract more fish to the lure and will be more likely to get a strike or two on these so-called bad days. 

I personally fish my large aggressive models close to the boat on such critical days – one to the left and one to the right: one lure with a sloping head that keeps breaking out sidewise and the other with a concave head that keeps running straight, leaves a wide wake of bubbles and dives and surfaces every two or three seconds. 

Grander 1238, Big Smoker, Conan, Mr. Big

I fish two medium-sized models off the outriggers: one lure with a slightly oblique head that runs aggressively and the other with a concave head. What frequently happens is that the fish will first surface behind the aggressively running lure but will then bite the lure with the concave head which stays under the waves for longer periods.

Softy, Striker, Superjet, Honey Hooker, Little Grander.

True to the saying that elephants love eating nuts I fish a small bullet-head model in the fifth and final position. I let this lure run from the shotgun position as a last option.

Bullet-head lures swim just under the surface without causing too much commotion and are genuine alternatives to the big models depending, of course, on which baitfish the hunters have on their menus at the time. On days when the going has been tough this kind of lure has frequently caught a surprise fish. 

Magic Shot or Chuggy

What is the right way to rig lures?

Now that we know which lures to use and where to position them comes the next difficult decision – single or double hooks? It is important to prevent the hook selection from impairing the lure’s running properties. Lures with oblique heads usually have aggressive running qualities and react very sensitively to the way they are rigged. If you don’t want to fish exclusively with single-hook rigs I would recommend attaching double hooks and rigging them at a 180 degree angle – the hook facing the head of a so-called J-hook pattern and the rear one a southern tuna hook pattern.

I usually rig lures with concave heads stiff-rig style with single hooks attached to the lure as far back as IGFA rules allow. I have achieved my highest hook-up rates with this rig. The hook is frequently embedded in the outer part of the fish’s mouth or is wrapped around its bill. Many professional skippers maintain that they generally get better hook-up rates using single hook rigs. By the way, in this day and age of catch & release single-hooks are also “fish-friendlier” and easier and safer for the crew when releasing a billfish.

The old rule of thumb (hook size should equal the diameter of the lure’s head) is one we threw overboard long ago. In recent years we have scaled down to smaller and tougher patterns (maximum size 10/0) and optimized our hook-up rates. We also make every effort to keep hook rigging as simple as possible and to use hooks with small eyes to prevent additional “obstacles” when a bite occurs.

Clips or rubber bands?

Lures often run better with rubber bands which tend to offset the effects of the waves. And if a fish does take a tentative bite at the lure the rubber will not snap, the fish will get more aggravated and strike again.

If I do fish with clips I try to set them as tight as possible so that the clip does not fly open on the initial strike, thus giving the fish another opportunity to take the bait. 

The second strike is frequently much more vehement and chances of a hook-up improve.

Drag Settings

As I have been fishing exclusively with single-hook rigs for the past few years it has been my experience that the hook-up rate is mostly higher at lower drag settings than when the friction brakes are clamped down tightly.

A lower setting for 50, 80 and 130 lb. line classes would in my opinion be between 8 lbs. and a maximum of 20 lbs. 

In most cases a fish will first attack a lure with its bill. The clip or rubber band then releases the line which creates the drop-back effect and the fish then grabs the lure in the middle of the skirt, turns away and then swims off with the lure diagonal to its mouth. When this happens, the hook automatically slides into the jaw scissors or the outer part of the fish’s mouth. It does not panic at this stage because it feels only minor opposing pressure. It does realize that something is not quite right and starts jumping wildly but does not crash-dive and set off on long runs. By using this method you can bring the fish to the side of the boat relatively quickly and then release it in a healthy condition.

If the drag setting on the reel is very tight (20 to 30 lbs.), the hook will often be pulled straight out of the fish’s mouth the moment it strikes. If the hook does in fact hold after the strike, the fish will panic and set off on a searing run into deep water. It usually takes considerably longer to fight a fish that has gone down deep and then get it alongside the boat. Many of these fish are then completely exhausted and their chances of survival are drastically diminished. 

But in spite of all this let’s not fool ourselves: Basically we are trying to catch a fish that has no intelligence to speak of – whereas we have turned angling into a gigantic science. 
Essentially fishing, let’s take marlin for example, is very simple and a bit of luck also plays a significant role at the end of the day. 

In this vein
Tight Lines! Your BluewaterFishing Team