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Trolling lures for Marlin

Old 08-11-2019, 05:09 AM
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Default Trolling lures for Marlin

In the northeast US it's fairly common to troll for billfish (white marlin mostly) with naked ballyhoo rigged with a circle hook. Under those circumstances, it's standard practice to have very light release clips and your drag set at 1 click above free spool. When a fish comes in, you need to free spool and "feed" the fish to get a hookup.

My question is about trolling lures. When trolling lures for marlin, do you set your drag at strike and tight up release clips OR light drag and light clips still?

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Old 08-11-2019, 06:00 AM
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If you are trolling lures they pop/dive etc and light clips will not hold them.

The "experts" set the tension on the rigger clip to the same as the strike setting on the reel so there is not a drastic difference between the initial bite> rigger clip tension> drag settings on the reel.

But to answer your question, the release clip needs to be tight.

I fish a plug on the left short in my every trip marlin spread, the clip is tight, the drag is set just below strike. The clip has to be tight especially if you want to crank it away from a little whitey, or make fine adjustments in position. Hook up ratio with lures will drive you nuts!!!!! Best of luck.
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Old 08-11-2019, 12:44 PM
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There has been a lot of study and discussion here in New Zealand about this subject. Some people run light drags etc with a stiff rigged single hook and other runs drags close to strike with double hook rigs. I run a bit of both and there isn't a lot of observable difference in hook up rates. Single hook rig is safer and easier to rig so if you choose only one setup I would pick a stiff single hook rig on light drag.
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Old 08-11-2019, 01:44 PM
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circle hooks are required in tournaments using dead baits and j hooks are acceptable with lures , totally different ways to fish
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Old 08-11-2019, 03:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Aliboy View Post
There has been a lot of study and discussion here in New Zealand about this subject. Some people run light drags etc with a stiff rigged single hook and other runs drags close to strike with double hook rigs. I run a bit of both and there isn't a lot of observable difference in hook up rates. Single hook rig is safer and easier to rig so if you choose only one setup I would pick a stiff single hook rig on light drag.

i think his question was more in regards to the release clip tension.
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Old 08-11-2019, 04:26 PM
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With baits you want the fish to swallow the bait with minimal resistance until the circle hook is set.

With lures, the fish strikes at the lure aggressively but doesn’t swallow it so you need a higher drag setting to set the J hook when they strike. Typically 5-8kg is plenty.
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Old 08-11-2019, 06:51 PM
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There is a light drag theory for lures that says set the drag as light as possible on strike so that the fish can turn away before you lift the drag and set the hook. Works as least as good as a hard drag. Not sure if it better though.
With baits and circles we actually try to hand feed the line to the fish rather than them pulling even a light drag. Pretty sure that it helps when we are livebaiting at least.
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Old 08-12-2019, 02:47 AM
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Your clips should be set at the tension that you would set your drag at if was running in a flat line.

The top marlin guys over here (Western Australia) use about 5-6kg drag/clip setting regardless of line class.
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Old 08-12-2019, 06:37 AM
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When you have your lure spread set as you want it to be, we use wax thread loops on the line and that attaches to the release clips. The release clips are set fairly heavy so that if the fish misses the lure, it will not pop out of the clip. Strike is 24-28 pounds of drag and normally set the lever @ 18 pounds for the initial strike.
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Old 08-12-2019, 07:20 AM
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I've been running a stiff rigged single hook rig with my clips and drags set very loose. We had some success last week during the white marlin open. 2 of my crew released their first ever billfish. The next day we got bites on the lures but didn't come tight - thats what sparked my question.

i think i might try to run with drag set at strike and clips set to release at the same weight
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Old 08-12-2019, 07:52 AM
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The drop back from the riggers and light drag with lures will cost you fish almost every time , you want to hook them as soon as they turn out of the spread . You never want to feed a lure to a billfish , less chance of gut hooking or having them drop the lure because it doesn't feel right . Hook positioning and tag lines will increase your catch ratio when fishing for marlin by making an instant hook set .
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Old 08-12-2019, 07:58 AM
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The only time I have a light drag is on the ballyhoo behind the teaser. Everything else is at strike. White marlin are a little more finicky to hook and can make even the most seasoned angler look like a fool or a tool or a googan.
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Old 08-12-2019, 02:04 PM
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If you weren’t already aware, a word of warning - hookup rate on lures will never be as good as baits.
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Old 08-13-2019, 02:42 PM
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If you want a marlin hook up trolling set your release clips and drag tight. Getting the hook in the Marlin is not easy they have tough mouths and bills. I set the drag to 25-30lbs if we want to actually hook a marlin and that usually does the trick you just let them run, and run they do, its like freight train if it is of any size. Usually we don't want Marlin they can beat your boat and tackle up, take a long time to deal with, and they are not particularly tasty with the exception of some striped marlin. We generally set the release clips and drag looser and the Marlin will shake the lure so the opposite is true as well.
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Old 08-13-2019, 06:14 PM
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Originally Posted by mrobertson View Post
I've been running a stiff rigged single hook rig with my clips and drags set very loose. We had some success last week during the white marlin open. 2 of my crew released their first ever billfish. The next day we got bites on the lures but didn't come tight - thats what sparked my question.

i think i might try to run with drag set at strike and clips set to release at the same weight
That way you have been fishing is maybe the most common way on our big Stripies here New Zealand. There has been a heap of testing, debate, and even books writing about this. As I mentioned above we run some lures like that and others with a 180deg double and swinging rear hook on hard drags. Over many years I have not seen any big difference in hook up rates. Smaller whites may be different, but no drag or hook arrangement catches a bill wrapped fish before it shakes off. With our stripies I can predict a bill wrap at least 75% of the time in the first few seconds after the strike. A bill wrapped stripey will mostly run underwater for s good distance before leaping and shaking free. A hooked fish will usually come to the surface much earlier. Check your leaders after a jump off and if they came off on the first jump or two you will likely find bill rash on the leader ahead of the lure. They were never even close to the hook.
Sometimes you get a series of bill wraps in a row and then I try changing things. Different lures with a slower or lazier action, different colours to mimics a different bait, or sometimes drop the lures all back a wave. Sometimes the next bite is a good one and sometimes it makes little difference. Moving to tease and switch can be your best option if you have the crew and setup to do it.
When changing things while marlin trolling it genetally takes years of observations rather a few fish to really say whether anything is better or worse.
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Old 08-13-2019, 06:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Aliboy View Post
That way you have been fishing is maybe the most common way on our big Stripies here New Zealand. There has been a heap of testing, debate, and even books writing about this. As I mentioned above we run some lures like that and others with a 180deg double and swinging rear hook on hard drags. Over many years I have not seen any big difference in hook up rates. Smaller whites may be different, but no drag or hook arrangement catches a bill wrapped fish before it shakes off. With our stripies I can predict a bill wrap at least 75% of the time in the first few seconds after the strike. A bill wrapped stripey will mostly run underwater for s good distance before leaping and shaking free. A hooked fish will usually come to the surface much earlier. Check your leaders after a jump off and if they came off on the first jump or two you will likely find bill rash on the leader ahead of the lure. They were never even close to the hook.
Sometimes you get a series of bill wraps in a row and then I try changing things. Different lures with a slower or lazier action, different colours to mimics a different bait, or sometimes drop the lures all back a wave. Sometimes the next bite is a good one and sometimes it makes little difference. Moving to tease and switch can be your best option if you have the crew and setup to do it.
When changing things while marlin trolling it genetally takes years of observations rather a few fish to really say whether anything is better or worse.
Stripeys have got to be the most frustrating billfish I've encountered for trying to hook on a lure. Most guys on the east coast of Australia don't even bother with lures unless there is absolutely no bait around.
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Old 08-13-2019, 06:35 PM
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Originally Posted by KonaCat View Post
If you want a marlin hook up trolling set your release clips and drag tight. Getting the hook in the Marlin is not easy they have tough mouths and bills. I set the drag to 25-30lbs if we want to actually hook a marlin and that usually does the trick you just let them run, and run they do, its like freight train if it is of any size. Usually we don't want Marlin they can beat your boat and tackle up, take a long time to deal with, and they are not particularly tasty with the exception of some striped marlin. We generally set the release clips and drag looser and the Marlin will shake the lure so the opposite is true as well.
You shouldn't need that much drag to hook a marlin. For smaller fish we use lighter gauge hooks like Gamakatsu SL12's or the BKK Kajiki. Better than 70% hookup rate with only 5kg (10lbs) of drag.
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Old 08-14-2019, 12:48 PM
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in not a billfisherman I meat fish (but) billfish like my boat spread or I just end up over them ? I set my drags by line stretch not #s I couldn't tell ya what # my drags are I set my drag to start slipping right when the mono stops stretching if that makes sense to ya. it has served me well...I ALWAYS. pull pink squid chains with a green squid hook bait. between my flats & shorts & I pull 2 islander seastar blue-white with hoarse or select ballyhoo from rodtips 1 wave behind the squid chains. & my intention is to bring all fish to the boat not billfish but marlin love it we get I lot of suicide white hookups on the squid chains & blues like the seastar sometimes the whites will start popping clips & of course we drop back to them. but the majority hook up on the strike
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Old 08-14-2019, 05:01 PM
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Originally Posted by mrobertson View Post
In the northeast US it's fairly common to troll for billfish (white marlin mostly) with naked ballyhoo rigged with a circle hook. Under those circumstances, it's standard practice to have very light release clips and your drag set at 1 click above free spool. When a fish comes in, you need to free spool and "feed" the fish to get a hookup.

My question is about trolling lures. When trolling lures for marlin, do you set your drag at strike and tight up release clips OR light drag and light clips still?
We pull our single hook blue marlin lures with a #64 rubber band on a tight clip or tag line. Drag is set at 12 lbs.
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