It really is better to be lucky than good, as was proved true again by the boat I was on in a recent trip to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. We tied or beat the other three boats in our gang the first two days! I am not sure how we wound up on the four-day total, but we got skunked the last day after being low boat with two marlin on the second day. One of the boats we had booked for the event had to cancel at the last minute. We wound up with three excellent boats and crews, and one, the one I was on, was a not so hot replacement for a very good boat and crew.
My first hint of problems to come came early the first day, when we hooked our first white marlin. The crew wound in all the baited lines and left out the dredges and daisy-chain teasers. Then the skipper roared back at full throttle, filling the cockpit and sending the bait cooler floating back to the waterfall, which hid the transom. I ran for the ladder to the bridge to keep my feet dry and watched it all unfold. At some point, they slowed to drain the cockpit and then resumed backing up down. (There was no “up” in their backing program.) We got the fish.
Amateurs should not try to emulate real experts. Fishing too many rods and teasers is mistake No. 1. The extra tangles and confusion of an unskilled crew fishing too many rods more than offsets any extra bites that may be gained. There is no way the teasers and dredges we used added to our capture rate. They lowered it! The use of multiple teasers, kites and dredges is for professional experts only. My crew spent more time with our fishing lines tangled with dredges and teasers than we did fighting white marlin.
I strongly suggest not fishing the majority of your baits beyond the range of good vision. Top tournament teams often “prospect” by reeling in and free spooling dead baits over and over again. They may have dedicated anglers holding “way way back” baits between their fingertips, releasing and dropping back at every tug. The rougher the water, the more difficult this becomes.
I have no idea how many bites we had. The lines popped out of the pins a large multiple of the times we saw a fish before it bit. Fewer than 10 times, out of several dozen tripped rigger pins, my anglers had advance warning of what might or might not have been a bite.
From the cockpit, I only once spotted a fish before it struck. The longest baits, ballyhoo, were from 150 yards to over 200 yards behind the boat. The short baits were where I would normally fish an outrigger. Nothing was pulled anywhere near the boat.
I was the only one to ever get in the tower, and I could only see the longest baits if they were spinning or jumping out of the water. With this inability to see the baits well, we had an embarrassing number of tip wraps due to twisted lines.
The deckhand ascribed this problem to the anglers’ winding while the fish was taking line. He did not think that many baits were spinning. (He never came up to the tower.)
I tried to explain the difference between the conventional reels we were using and spinning tackle, but he did not believe it. To him, winding against the drag caused twist in the line — period, end of story.
Some of my friends were better anglers than many crews. I am not sure I can hook more fish than they can. None of them could readily tell if the bait was still there and had major trouble feeling wahoo bites or marlin bites due to the weight of the line in the water.
It was an excellent lesson in what not to do and made for some interesting conversations. I will go there again, but not on the boat I was on last time.