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Dropping Back

Old 05-22-2019, 12:43 PM
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Default Dropping Back

I am fairly new to targeting Marlin and trying to get some clarification on when/ how to “drop back”.

While trolling I typically have a 5 line spread with single line to each outrigger.

My question is when getting a knockdown (line comes out of the rigged clip) do you always drop back (free spool) the line even if a fish hasn’t taken off with the bait? Or do you typically wait After the knockdown to see if the fish has taken the bait to drop back?

I understand from reading that you drop back different time lengths depending on the bait your trolling.

Any help clearing this up is appreciated.
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Old 05-22-2019, 12:51 PM
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With any billfish taken with bait, you will want to drop back, especially when using circle hooks. This gives the billfish time to turn the bait and swallow head first. Sometimes it feels right at a five count, sometimes you wait more. Top billfish anglers seen to have a second sense that they know when the fish has turned and running with the bait. Engage the drag slowly, point the rod at the fish and wind slowly to plant the circle hook in the jaw.
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Old 05-22-2019, 02:23 PM
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Okay that makes sense. I just know there are times the slap your bait with their bill and it knocks the line out of the rigged, but fish hasn’t actually ate the bait yet. Once it’s knocked from the rigger in this instant do you drop back or wait for more of a bite
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Old 05-22-2019, 02:38 PM
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Yes always drop back when using circle hooks , it will increase your hook up ratio . If the fish only gets half of the bait , it will usually come back and take the other half if it is dead in the water . You need your bait to look wounded at this point , half a bait swimming at trolling speed will not get hit again .

With marlin you will know if they took the bait , they will take it and turn outside of the spread before swallowing . In free spool , no clicker hold rod up high and watch your line . We get a few green guys that fish with us and I usually tell them to count to ten and take their time , which usually works out well . You will get a feel for it after some practice .

Fish with reels that are barely out of freespool with clicker on , just enough to keep from backlashing , wind line a few times before putting into clip . When you get a hit pick up rod , go to freespool and switch clicker off . You don't want the fish to feel any pressure or it will drop the bait . By holding rod high you can watch your bait or the direction the line is going .
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Old 05-22-2019, 05:15 PM
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Solid advice above. Only time you don't drop back is if you are fishing lures. If thats the case, crank it up after a hit.
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Old 05-22-2019, 05:19 PM
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Originally Posted by jwmd2010 View Post
Okay that makes sense. I just know there are times the slap your bait with their bill and it knocks the line out of the rigged, but fish hasn’t actually ate the bait yet. Once it’s knocked from the rigger in this instant do you drop back or wait for more of a bite
first you have to understand that when a billfish whacks a live bait (not beying pulled by a boat) the live bait is stunned or killed & the billfish then eats the bait when trolling & the billfish whacks the bait but the boat pulls it away which is unnatural & confuses the billfish that's looking for the bait it just killed. this is where the dropback is essential so the bait is not being pulled away. perhaps this explains it to ya
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Old 05-22-2019, 07:21 PM
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Thank you for the help in clearing this up. I haven’t done much live bait fishing mostly just trolling ballyhoo naked or with a skirt.
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Old 05-22-2019, 07:52 PM
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Where are you fishing ?
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Old 05-23-2019, 01:41 AM
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All this talk of "whacking" baits is erroneous, mostly, according to the marine billfish biologists. While some billfish will, when attacking balls of small bait, lash their bills to stun then pick up the cripples, it is different when they attack a larger bait. They grip and crush, wait for the prey to stop moving, then turn it around and swallow. The apparent "whacking" action you can see, particularly with sailfish on a skipping bait, , it just the natural movement of the bill due to the swimming action. All this makes sense if you watch tow-cam footage. But this doesn't change any of the above advice --the drop back is to let the marlin get the bait around and start to swallow it. Whether it has "whacked" it, or grabbed it.
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Old 05-23-2019, 06:11 AM
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Any "pro" will tell you if the fish has hit the bait, and the rod is not already in your hand, your chances of a hook up drop dramatically. What this means is, an immediate drop back when dead bait fishing is the key. The top billfish boats will have a person on each rod, with their finger under the line, (just above the reel), to feel the slightest pull or strike on the bait, (especially when tournament fishing). Once that happens, the drop back is immediate, while pulling the rod out of the holder, and pointing the rod at the fish. While fun fishing, (or with green horns), this is not practical, but you need to get to the rod as quick as possible, as the drop back is key. The best in the business are like lightning to the rod, and it does make a difference in your hook up ratio. As mentioned above, once a billfish feels any resistance, they are more apt to drop the bait. Light drag is the key, (for white marlin and sailfish), with the strike lever set with just enough resistance to insure the bait does not free spool at trolling speed, (again you want to make sure the fish can't feel any resistance). Personal preference, crew experience, (and type of reel), will dictate whether you like the clicker on or off. On our Talica 20BFC's the clicker is so light, that it is not an issue, but when tournament fishing many pro boats don't even want a clicker engaged. Again, resistance.

Another important tip: if your bait is being trolled in an outrigger clip, and the initial strike does not take the line out of the clip, do not whip the rod to disengage the clip. Drop back immediately, pull the rod out of the rocket launcher, and point the rod at the clip/outrigger to allow the line to payout freely on the drop back. Then slowly engage the drag lever, which will pop the clip if the fish is on. Then point the line at the fish and begin reeling.

In my opinion, there is no hard and fast rule about how long to drop back. Each hook up is different. With practice and experience you will get a feel for when to finally push the strike forward. But even the best in the biz miss fish. But that is the challenge, and the thing that keeps us coming back. It all sounds easy, but it take years of practice, patience and repetition to increase your success rate. Go get 'em.
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Last edited by cobraarvey; 05-23-2019 at 07:22 AM.
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Old 05-23-2019, 06:26 AM
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Originally Posted by ranmar850 View Post
All this talk of "whacking" baits is erroneous, mostly, according to the marine billfish biologists. While some billfish will, when attacking balls of small bait, lash their bills to stun then pick up the cripples, it is different when they attack a larger bait. They grip and crush, wait for the prey to stop moving, then turn it around and swallow. The apparent "whacking" action you can see, particularly with sailfish on a skipping bait, , it just the natural movement of the bill due to the swimming action. All this makes sense if you watch tow-cam footage. But this doesn't change any of the above advice --the drop back is to let the marlin get the bait around and start to swallow it. Whether it has "whacked" it, or grabbed it.
This is spot on.
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Old 05-23-2019, 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by cobraarvey View Post
Any "pro" will tell you if the fish has hit the bait, and the rod is not already in your hand, your chances of a hook up drop dramatically. What this means is, an immediate drop back when dead bait fishing is the key. The top billfish boats will have a person on each rod, with their finger under the line, (just above the reel), to feel the slightest pull or strike on the bait, (especially when tournament fishing). Once that happens, the drop back is immediate, while pulling the rod out of the holder, and pointing the rod at the fish. While fun fishing, (or with green horns), this is not practical, but you need to get to the rod as quick as possible, as the drop back is key. The best in the business are like lightning to the rod, and it does make a difference in your hook up ratio. As mentioned above, once a billfish feels any resistance, they are more apt to drop the bait. Light drag is the key, (for white marlin and sailfish), with the strike lever set with just enough resistance to insure the bait does not free spool at trolling speed, (again you want to make sure the fish can't feel any resistance). Personal preference, crew experience, (and type of reel), will dictate whether you like the clicker on or off. On our Talica 20BFC's the clicker is so light, that it is not an issue, but when tournament fishing many pro boats don't even want a clicker engaged. Again, resistance.

Another important tip: if your bait is being trolled in an outrigger clip, and the initial strike does not take the line out of the clip, do not whip the rod to disengage the clip. Drop back immediately, pull the rod out of the rocket launcher, and point the rod at the clip/outrigger to allow the line to payout freely on the drop back. Then slowly engage the drag lever, which will pop the clip if the fish is on. Then point the line at the fish and begin reeling.

In my opinion, there is no hard and fast rule about how long to drop back. Each hook up is different. With practice and experience you will get a feel for when to finally push the strike forward. But even the best in the biz miss fish. But that is the challenge, and the thing that keeps us coming back. It all sounds easy, but it take years of practice, patience and repetition to increase your success rate. Go get 'em.
Thank you for all the feedback and this really clears a lot up for me. I am fishing out of Orange Beach Alabama. I have been fishing for a long time, but never really targeting Marlin, which I am now starting to venture into.
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Old 05-23-2019, 03:40 PM
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The drop back is not just for marlin. It's an extremely effective tactic for numerous species. Now having the knowledgeable anglers that know how to effective do it is extremely rare.
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Old 05-23-2019, 03:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Ironworker View Post
The drop back is not just for marlin. It's an extremely effective tactic for numerous species. Now having the knowledgeable anglers that know how to effective do it is extremely rare.
take the anglers out of the equation. Extremely effective when tuna fishing is turning the wheel hard over opposite the strike. Speeds up the spread on one side while slowing the spread on the other centers keep on tracking.
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Old 05-23-2019, 04:18 PM
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Originally Posted by ranmar850 View Post
All this talk of "whacking" baits is erroneous, mostly, according to the marine billfish biologists. While some billfish will, when attacking balls of small bait, lash their bills to stun then pick up the cripples, it is different when they attack a larger bait. They grip and crush, wait for the prey to stop moving, then turn it around and swallow. The apparent "whacking" action you can see, particularly with sailfish on a skipping bait, , it just the natural movement of the bill due to the swimming action. All this makes sense if you watch tow-cam footage. But this doesn't change any of the above advice --the drop back is to let the marlin get the bait around and start to swallow it. Whether it has "whacked" it, or grabbed it.
I'm a meat fisherman not a billfisherman but they do seam to like my boat - spread or perhaps I just end up over them cause I get my share of em. but many years ago before I realized what was happening we'd be pulling mostly skirted ballyhoo & pop either a flat or short rigger then the next bait would get hit then another & nothing would come tite & your thinking what the hell. we'll it was white marlin wracking the bait then the next one would come by & it would hit it & so on it wasn't until I fished on a billfish boat that I figured it out. & as I said I'm a meat fisherman but I know how to hook billfish when they get in my spread & now iv added a 2nd stearing station & I'm sure I'll be surprised at what I've been missing
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Old 05-23-2019, 04:54 PM
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Originally Posted by ranmar850 View Post
All this talk of "whacking" baits is erroneous, mostly, according to the marine billfish biologists. While some billfish will, when attacking balls of small bait, lash their bills to stun then pick up the cripples, it is different when they attack a larger bait. They grip and crush, wait for the prey to stop moving, then turn it around and swallow. The apparent "whacking" action you can see, particularly with sailfish on a skipping bait, , it just the natural movement of the bill due to the swimming action. All this makes sense if you watch tow-cam footage. But this doesn't change any of the above advice --the drop back is to let the marlin get the bait around and start to swallow it. Whether it has "whacked" it, or grabbed it.
I'm a meat fisherman not a billfisherman but they do seam to like my boat - spread or perhaps I just end up over them cause I get my share of em. but many years ago before I realized what was happening we'd be pulling mostly skirted ballyhoo & pop either a flat or short rigger then the next bait would get hit then another & nothing would come tite & your thinking what the hell. we'll it was white marlin wracking the bait then the next one would come by & it would hit it & so on it wasn't until I fished on a billfish boat that I figured it out. & as I said I'm a meat fisherman but I know how to hook billfish when they get in my spread & now iv added a 2nd stearing station & I'm sure I'll be surprised at what I've been missing
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Old 05-23-2019, 07:09 PM
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I am far from an expert, but what i know was taught to me by someone who has many tournament wins and has raised a lot of billfish over his career. Step 1 - if you are TARGETING marlin - in other words you aren't running a mixed spread with marlin baits in it but are really looking for any bite then you should reduce the number of hook baits you have in the water. Pitch baiting almost guarantees you hookups. Marlin are erratic and with a lot of baits in the water, he has the opportunity to wack at a bunch of them and become uninterested and peel off.

My marlin "targeting" spread is very simple :

A big dredge off each corner close to the boat
On the surface behind the dredges are squid chains, no hook bait
(2) long rigger naked ballyhoo

I will have 2-4 rods rigged with naked circle hook ballyhoo, sitting it a bucket of slush/brine.

You want to raise the fish with the boat or the dredge. The idea is he will come up to the dredge, then drop back and wack at your surface teasers. When that happens, you free spool one of your pitch baits and essentially forcing him to eat the bait you want him to eat, and not allow him the opportunity to wack at multiple baits in your spread.

For the long rigger ballyhoo - i set the clips light and i leave the reels in free spool with the clicker on. If a marlin hits it you will usually here a short "ZZZZZZZZZZ" from the reel. When that happens pick the reel up, turn the clicker off, free spool. Give it an 5-6 count, push the drag forward and reel slowly. If he's on, it'll pop the clip and youll come tight. As a backup, have one of your crew ready to drop back one of your pitch baits in case you don't come tight on the long rigger.

This style of fishing has been a game changer for me. A boat with a tower helps alot but isn't absolutely essential.
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Last edited by mrobertson; 05-24-2019 at 07:43 AM.
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Old 05-24-2019, 12:59 PM
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This is very helpful info
sure would love to hear what kinds of spread and how fast y'all are pulling them with dead bait
we pull for mahi and have hooked a few marlin
to me it is unreal how fast some of the sport fishers pull for marlin
? When they are pulling that fast are they pulling live or dead bait or just lures
Can someone tell me what to pull to have a chance to hook them
wheather it dead bait or just lures
thanks
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Old 05-26-2019, 03:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Nathan livingston View Post
This is very helpful info
sure would love to hear what kinds of spread and how fast y'all are pulling them with dead bait
we pull for mahi and have hooked a few marlin
to me it is unreal how fast some of the sport fishers pull for marlin
? When they are pulling that fast are they pulling live or dead bait or just lures
Can someone tell me what to pull to have a chance to hook them
wheather it dead bait or just lures
thanks
I would love to hear what’s in people’s spreads along with speed pulled behind a CC.
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Old 05-26-2019, 04:27 PM
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We have been using a slightly different technique on live baits and pitched dead baits although we mainly live bait and swim lures where we are. We fish the baits bridle rigged on ringed circle hooks. When we get a bite and the fish has the bait in its mouth we hand feed line to the fish by pulling it off the rod tip with the rod in the rod holder, clicker on and just the lightest drag to stop an over run. Wait until the fish has properly turned ed away and had time to eat and then slowly bring up the drag. Has been almost perfect for us so far
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