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Get your fix on some of the best fishing tips and DIYs for your next offshore fishing trip.
July 8, 2015
Do-it-yourself mudflaps are easily made from your own fish pattern on neoprene sheet rubber (1), cut out to optimize space (2) and finished with a grommet kit (3).
For a fraction of the tackle-shop prices, and with a little eBay shopping and time, you can manufacture and customize your own mudflap teasers. Go on eBay and search for neoprene sheet rubber with a thickness of 1⁄8 inch and a durometer of 50, the most flexible grade for optimal action. The material comes in rolls and sheets with a variety of widths (3 to 36 inches). I use the 3-inch sheet most of the time, and you can make the teaser as long or as wide as you wish depending on the material you can find. You will also need a ¼- or 3⁄8-inch brass or stainless grommet kit. For the shape of the fish, either come up with your own pattern or, if you have a store-bought mudflap, trace the pattern out on the neoprene material. On my pattern, I do not add the pectoral fins on the sides of the flaps because I can fit more flaps on the material. Plus, you never see tuna swimming with their fins out when they’re being chased; instead, they fold them back to swim faster. Once you have the outlines, cut them out with a good pair of scissors or a razor knife. With a razor knife, remember to use a disposable piece of wood for a cutting board because you will definitely damage the surface you are cutting on. Once you have all your custom mudflaps cut out, take the grommet kit and use the tools provided, along with a hammer, to punch a hole in the front of the new flap and add the grommet. I use the custom mudflaps on dredges, rigged in tandem to replace a squid-chain teaser or behind a Hawaiian eye on the back of a chain teaser. The best part is that they are one-fifth the price of buying them at the tackle store.
Capt. Pete Rae, Wilmington, North Carolina
No More Cutouts
Installing a pulley on the brow rail allows for outriggers to be lowered and raised without a need for cutouts.
All sport-fishing boats sport a pair of outriggers in order to widen the spread and get more lines trolling behind the boat. Most serious sport-fishers now come with a set of triple-spreader outriggers if the boat is over 50 feet or so, and it requires quite a bit of effort to raise and lower such long and heavy outriggers each day for the runs out and back. With the longer riggers comes a more forward placement, causing the locking arm and lifting rope to sit about halfway up the flybridge. Some guys will put a U-shaped cutout in their curtains to get to the lifting rope and locking arm. On Dirty Business, Capt. Newt Cagle doesn’t like the look or lack of efficiency of the cutouts. Instead, he mounts a pulley on the brow rail above the flybridge and runs his lifting rope through the pulley and down to his rigger. With this setup, he doesn’t have to unzip anything or have an unsightly cutout in his curtains.
Dave Ferrell, Orlando, Florida
Scrubbing your boat’s bottom monthly, and in some locales even more frequently, is part of the never-ending maintenance routine necessary to keep a boat running at 100 percent efficiency. However, after several months in the water, the screens for through-hull openings become quite dirty and are often clogged with marine growth, even after a good going over with a wire brush and poking at the holes with an ice pick. For this reason, I carry a spare set of screens that I swap out every three to four months. I spray the spares with Pettit Prop Coat Barnacle Barrier 1792, a gray spray paint that comes in 16-ounce cans. I also replace the stock brass Phillips machine screws that hold the screens in place with stainless hex bolts. Hex heads make it easier to remove growth-covered bolts underwater. I use a fresh set of bolts, with a little Tef-Gel (tefgel.com) on the threads to help them come out easier later on, when swapping out screens. After removing the old screens and bolts, soak them in Barnacle Buster overnight, then clean with a wire wheel. Repaint the screens a day or two prior to swapping them out to make sure the paint is at its freshest.
Capt. Randy Baker, Destin, Florida
Simple Bimini Indicator
We all look forward to that moment in a long fight when the double line appears. When fishing tournaments, it is also crucial that when the wind-on or swivel touches the rod tip, the fish is counted as a release. The Bimini can be hard to see when backing down and white water is being thrown everywhere. Consequently, I have begun wrapping my Biminis with red waxed floss to aid in seeing the double line. It’s bright enough to where I can see it from the bridge and my mate can identify it in the white water and ready himself for the leader. To do this, simply take 12 inches or so and whip the Bimini with a series of half hitches. It also helps to hold the tag end flush with the knot.
Capt. Woody Woods, Orange Beach, Alabama
Keep the Rust Off
When I live-bait for blue marlin in the Gulf, I like to use Eagle Claw tournament circle hooks because they are chemically sharpened. The average size I use is 20/0, but I also use anywhere in the range of 13/0- to 24/0-size hooks depending on the size of the bait. Those specific hooks are susceptible to rust after being in the water soaking with a live bait. If we need to swap out a bait because one dies, I go ahead and swap out the hook as well. To prevent any kind of rust on them between uses, I paint the entire hook, not just the tip, with a permanent marker. I find that a broad-tip black marker works best to get the job done. The hooks aren’t cheap, so keep them painted!
Capt. Stan Blackman, Destin, Florida
Easy-Does-It Halyard Replacement
Over time, your halyards will start to deteriorate from the effects of the sun and the wear and tear of going up and down through the pulleys and/or rings. You need to watch your halyard condition carefully; you don’t want to have to restring them while fishing, and it is much easier to do the preventive maintenance at the dock. If you are just replacing the halyards midseason, or you think one is going to break soon, here’s an easy way to string your halyards without bringing the outriggers down. Cut the halyard you are going to replace, and attach the ends securely to something that won’t let them fall off the riggers. Take your package of new halyard material and locate both ends in the package. Put a loop in the end toward the outer edge, and then poke a hole in the center of the package. Pull the end that’s in the center out of the package, and then secure it to one end of the halyard you are going to replace, using some waxed thread and a series of half hitches. Make sure it is tight and secure; you don’t want it to come apart as it goes through the eyes on the outrigger. Now, pull on the other end of the old halyard, and it will bring the new line with it. Your feet never have to leave the deck, and once you re-secure the halyard, you are ready to go.
Capt. Stan Blackman
Capt. Stan Blackman
I recently modified the stainless rings on our outrigger halyards that my bridge teasers run through. To deal with line twist in the monofilament halyard line, you must use high-quality ball-bearing swivels or snap swivels on both sides of the rings. In the past, I’ve used snap swivels crimped onto the halyard or had plain swivels crimped in line and then crimped again to the ring with another short piece of mono. However, this method means that you have to use three crimps on each side; with either the snaps or plain swivels, that’s something extra that lines could hang up on or get wrapped around. To get the sleekest ring setup possible, I held the ring in a vise and cut it open with a hacksaw. Then I slid my swivels onto the ring and had the ring rewelded. Now, I have a cleaner, sleeker halyard line with just two crimps holding my ring in place.
Capt. Randy Baker
Ready-Made Bait‑Rigging Station
Rigging baits while on the fishing grounds is an inevitable part of every fishing trip, and on
, we use this simple bucket system for rigging swordfish baits. For a secure base and working surface, we added a nonslip ring for the bottom of the bucket, as well as a cutting-board lid that fits on top. Several different manufacturers make these, and you can pick one up at most tackle shops. Next, cut a piece of hose (I prefer polyester-reinforced clear PVC tubing) and through-bolt either end onto the inside rim of the bucket to create a place to stow your knives. By siliconing a piece of plexiglass on the inside of the bucket, the blades of the knives are protected, preventing you from getting cut. I also added an old outrigger tip to hold a spool of floss to have handy when rigging, and you can even melt or drill holes in the top of the rubber hose for your rigging needles.
Capt. Jeff Wilson
Do Them All at Once
Putting new line on your reels always starts by taking off the old line. Because you don't have to be as careful with the old line, and to save time, you can run all of the lines from each of your reels through one central location to help you remove it all at once. On
You Never Know
, I attach a dog clip to a tether and tie it off to a cleat on the transom. I then run all the lines through the clip, put the reels in free-spool and dump them all at once. If you want to do this on the run in from fishing, you can forget about the clip and run all the lines through the gimbal on the chair and pull the line off while standing in the back of the boat. Now, you just need to figure out a way to get eight guys cranking on reels using one spool of line to fill them all up in one shot!
Capt. Stan Blackman
We are all going to lose fish at some point in our careers. Many times, though, mishaps in the cockpit can be avoided. It amazes me to see how cluttered most boat’s cockpits are at any given point, especially while fighting fish. Upon hookup and clearing lines, I make sure all rods are placed well out of the way, either in the rocket launcher or on the flying bridge rod holders. They should not be placed in the port or starboard gunwales because they will prevent a leader man from walking a fish up the side. Teasers should also be secured and put away, not left hanging from outriggers where a dredge weight could possibly crash into the salon window. Raw-water washdown hoses should be coiled up and stored under the gunwales. Rod leashes should be organized and hung under the fighting chair. The deck should also be rinsed clear of any fish slime or blood that could cause an angler or crew member to slip. Every person in the cockpit should be wearing appropriate deck shoes. If a mate or angler trips and loses a fish, it should not be because of a lure, leader line or safety leash carelessly left on the floor of the deck.
Capt. Woody Woods
__Orange Beach, Alabama
Stop Propellor Singing
If you ride around on boats long enough, chances are you run across a set of propellers that will “sing.” Singing props make a sound similar to the one made when running a finger around the lip of a wine glass. A number of factors can create these strange harmonics, including propeller size, engine revolutions per minute and boat speed. Asymmetry of the prop, a difference in the prop’s shape between the front and back, creates vortices and eddies that create sounds. If changing your revolutions per minute and speed do not eliminate the noise, you have to add what propeller professionals call an “anti-singing edge.” To add this edge when you are in the field, take the largest mill bastard file you can find and add a 40- to 45-degree angle on the forward side of the prop, extending from around the middle of the blade out to the end. You can’t balance the prop perfectly in the field, but if you count the amount of strokes you make as you take off the metal, you will keep the balance close, which, for some, is far better than hearing the singing.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Capt. Marty Bates teams up with Capt. Olaf Grimkowski on the 36-foot Hatteras
in Horta, Azores. Between the two of them, they have led many of their clients to record-breaking captures, including the recent pending women's International Game Fish Association 16-pound world record claim for Sherrell Carter of an Atlantic blue marlin weighing 532 pounds. I was fortunate enough to watch these guys use their neat switch-and-bait techniques. They had cleverly modified the livewell to store a couple of big slimy mackerel in tubes, which not only keeps them alive but also provides quick access to the baits for the switch. They screwed two 4-inch diameter plastic tubes, long enough to hold these big mackerel, into the livewell. They wired a 1,500 gph bilge pump into the bottom of the well and ran a length of hose off the pump under the tubes to constantly circulate water through them. The system worked great, and the baits stayed alive for hours. The other little trick Bates came up with stopped the bait from coming off the bridle after it’s been wiggling in the bait tube for hours on end. Bates winds a short length of fine copper wire onto the circle hook where the bridle is attached. When the bait is rigged and the end of the bridle is slipped back over the hook, he twists the copper wire tightly around both ends. This stops the bridle end from going anywhere.
Blackout Railing Cuts Down the Glare
When targeting billfish, it’s always good to see the fish before it eats the bait. If the angler is ready and waiting for the bite with rod in hand, your hookup ratio goes way up — if you have good anglers that is! So it’s imperative that the captain — usually standing at the helm on the flybridge — gets a clear, unobstructed view of the entire spread. One of the main offenders that can limit the captain’s view is the glare that bounces off the polished aluminum aft bridge railing. It not only blocks his view of the spread, but when the captain is standing and facing aft at the helm with a fish close to the boat, the sun’s glare can get especially bad. To reduce the glare bouncing off the railings, I had just the inside forward half of the horizontal pipes painted black — just wide enough to cover the view of the cockpit. The tubing was prepped, taped off and hand brushed using Awlgrip primer and paint. From the cockpit or the dock, you can’t see it at all. Our boat has a center tower ladder, which I had painted 360 degrees around from hardtop height down to the railing height. Now I don’t have to worry about any extra glare, and the pipes still look great from the dock.
Capt. Randy Baker
Big Boat Kite Tips
Everyone knows that fishing a frantically kicking live bait under a kite is a surefire way to target — and catch — a whole lot of sailfish. A lot of small center console boats that measure fewer than 30 feet use kites to spread out their live baits and cover a wider area, flying two kites with three or more lines under each kite. Larger boats can do this too; however, a big sport-fisher blocks a lot more wind than any center console, so there are certain tricks that you can use to make the job of flying and fishing kites from big convertibles a bit easier. Recently, while kite fishing with Capt. George Sawley on
I noticed a few tricks that I thought I would pass on. When launching a kite from a convertible, you normally have the mate stand in the corner of the cockpit with the kite rod raised high to get the kite out of the turbulent air that is disrupted by the boat. The bigger the boat, the more you have to contend with this disturbed wind. On
, they connect a 2-inch stainless steel ring to the outrigger that's big enough to let the release clips on the kite line pass through. After passing the kite line through the ring and connecting it to the kite, they keep the kite pulled up close to the ring during the launch. The mate simply raises the rigger halyard and pulls the kite up and away from the boat in the undisturbed wind. At the same time, the clips are safely stuck between the ring and the kite rod, so the wind can't blow them up the line where they can sometimes be unreachable. Most kite fishermen use swivels between braided line to separate the clips — usually about 75 feet apart. The clips have holes that are drilled out to accommodate certain size barrel swivels, and as the kite goes out, the swivel that is too big to pass through the hole hits the bottom of the clip and sends it up and out. On
, they use 50-pound monofilament for kite line and use a section of wax twine (attached in a series of half hitches to the mono) to catch and raise the clips instead of swivels. The section of half-hitched wax twine is about 3 inches long, so jamming the clip on the twine prevents the wind from blowing the clip up or having a feisty baitfish drag the clip out of position. If the bait can drag the clip, it can get away from a sailfish easier or even get wrapped up in the other baits. Also, everyone knows about adding a helium balloon to the kite on days with little wind to help keep them flying, but the boys on the Stalker tie a regular balloon, sans helium, to the back of every kite they fly, regardless of wind speed. They tie on the balloon in case the wind dies, the kite line breaks or the boat is backing down on a fish and the kite hits the water. If the kite does go down, the balloon keeps the kite on the surface and makes it much easier to see.
Not all outriggers are created equal. With the different sizes and styles of outriggers around today, you run into a lot of different options. On certain boats, the way the riggers are mounted can cause the folding arm to rub against the lower inside spreader bar. Eventually, this rubbing chafes both the folding arm and the spreader, leaving an unsightly gouge in both parts. In order to avoid this, first try every combination of adjustments to your folding arm to see if you can keep the pieces from touching. If that doesn’t fix the problem, you have a couple of different options. Capt. Miles Stamper, the first mate aboard Got’ M On from Texas, likes to tie a long series of wax line half-hitches about 4 to 6 inches long to the spreader bar. This allows the folding arm to ride on the wax line cushion as opposed to scratching up the spreader bar. For a less attractive yet still effective fix, split and attach a piece of clear hose to the spreader bar with either a couple of zip ties or tie it on with some rigging floss.
Hawaiian Eye Care
Almost every single billfish boat on the Eastern Seaboard from Florida to New Jersey pulls at least one blue-and-white Ilander lure/ballyhoo combo or one of its clones. (The original Ilander lure is known as the Hawaiian Eye.) These simple, bullet-head lures with a double row of hair skirts account for a good number of blue marlin (and other species) catches every year. You’d probably get kicked off the boat if you tried to fish a marlin tournament without one in North Carolina. One of the shortcomings that comes with pulling Ilander lures is that their hair skirts, which add so much life in the water, get tangled up and matted if they aren’t cared for properly. Recently, Capt. Brian Speedy from Speedy Dredge Systems showed me an excellent way to care for tangled Hawaiian Eye lures. First, he soaks all his lures in scentless Downy fabric softener for a day. Then, while the lures are still wet, he combs the knots out of each lure with a thick hair comb. He then places the lures in the sun to dry completely before stowing them away. If you follow this procedure after every trip, your lures will look brand new for many trips to come.
Capt. Jason “Tiny” Walcott
West Palm Beach, Florida
Dropping Back and Marking Lines
When fishing with the bait-and-switch method, it’s imperative that the angler gets to the rod before the bite, so he can drop the bait back into the fish’s mouth in perfect free-spool once the fish eats. Believe it or not, if you are fishing on a larger boat with long outriggers, the captain can actually help the angler make a smoother drop back. When fishing with bait, I routinely help out our anglers by turning to the side that’s getting the bite. With my triple spreader outriggers and power steering, I can drop the bait back an easy five feet before the angler even gets to the rod — if I see the bite first. Also, I keep getting mates that don’t know how to take a marker pen and mark the lines once they get the baits in the proper positions. Marking the lines sure helps anglers onboard get the baits back out in the right spot in a quick manner. As an added bonus, if the baits are backed out in the right spot, they will not get tangled during turns. I also don’t like to have to search the spread looking for the bait; if they mark the lines, the baits are always in the right spot. When a fish comes up on a bait that’s in the right spot, I can tell the angler what bait the fish is on so he can get to the right rod faster. Marking lines also helps when you have swimmers out way long that you can’t really see. Marking lines also allows both the crew and anglers to get the lines back out faster after a successful release. The faster the baits go out, the faster I can make a turn and get on the baitball or structure I am working, and that lets me cut off the other fellows trying to get on my spot. In short, if you ask me one more freaking time if the bait is in the wrong spot … I’m going to kill you! Mark it!
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
While fighting multiple fish at the same time, getting the lines crossed or wrapped around each other happens quite a bit. When you have two fish stretched out in generally the same direction and the angles are getting closer and closer together, that’s a good indication that the lines are crossed or wrapped up. Before it’s too late, have each angler stand in opposite corners of the cockpit — or as far apart as possible — with their rods and bodies pointed at the line and the rod tips at shoulder/head height. Have the anglers turn their upper bodies and rod tips toward each other, bringing the rod tips down a little below shoulder height and about a foot apart. If the lines are crossed or wrapped, the “twist” will come up the line to the rod tips, similar to the effect you get when tying a Bimini twist. It may take a moment or two for the twist to come up, depending on the amount of line out, sea condition, angles, etc. When the twist does appear, have a mate or another angler look at it closely to determine which rod to pass over which. Be sure not to touch the lines or rods if you are in a tournament situation — in that case, you have to let the anglers do it themselves, making sure they do not touch each other’s line or rod and reel.
Capt. Randy Baker
Fish the Baits In
One of the things we always tell our students when they come to
is that once you get a bite, always assume there are more fish back there — especially when targeting sails and both white and striped marlin. All three of these species like to hunt in packs, so if you get a bite, there's probably another one lurking around back there as well. Also, nobody ever catches a doubleheader of blue marlin by reeling all of their lines in at the first sign of a hookup! Any mates clearing baits after a hookup — or just changing them out at the first signs of washout — need to make sure to fish the bait all the way to the boat without taking their eyes off it as it comes back. I can't tell you how many times I've seen an overeager mate reeling a bait away from that second sail or marlin just because they are trying to clear the lines as quickly as possible. Slow down to get that doubleheader.
_Capt. George Sawley
Fort Lauderdale, Florida _
Always in the Same Place
Working as a freelance mate during college found me jumping on as many as four different boats in a week between Venice, Louisiana, and Destin, Florida. Many times, boats would lack everything needed to have a great shot at whatever our intended quarry would be. As a result, I made sure I didn’t step on a boat without my two gear bags filled with an arsenal of offshore tackle and a label maker. The label maker can be a mate’s best friend not only to help you stay organized, but also to help others in case they need to locate something for you. This is important when I am busy rigging baits or prepping the spread — I often find myself asking for an item that someone else might or might not know about. We all have our own way of organizing, and not everyone knows the difference between various hooks or which box contains the wahoo rigs or bridling needles. Labeling the boxes and compartments cuts down on confusion and possible frustration. It is more handy than one might think, and anyone who goes through my bags can quickly find anything I need. In a sport where conditions can change in an instant, there is a lot to be said for an extremely organized gear bag, tackle center or cockpit. It can truly make the difference in having a great day on the water.
Capt. Woody Woods
Orange Beach, Alabama
Clean Lines Make A Happy Boat
Since you spend quite a bit of hard-earned money keeping your sport-fisherman shipshape and ready for action, why would you tolerate tying up with a set of crusty, dirty dock lines? And since a good set of new lines can cost a pretty penny as well, why not do what you can to prolong their life and keep them looking brand-spanking new? We’ve found that the easiest and least time-consuming way to clean dirty dock lines is to throw them in your washing machine like a pair of jeans. Run them on a high-agitation level with hot water and a normal dose of detergent. If you are using white lines, throw in a bit of bleach to brighten them up as well. Don’t forget the fabric softener because it makes the lines come out of the washer clean and soft, just like new.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Give Your Shore Cord a Face-Lift
After my last trip to the yard for an annual haul out, my shore cord was in need of a good cleaning. Years of sun and weather seem to make it harder and harder to keep them looking good, and they require more frequent attention. A friend and I were talking about how to better protect our cords and talked about covering them with split-loom tubing. During a trip to the local electronics store, I found a 50-foot section of white 1¼-inch split-loom for $25. They also had various colors and sizes of split-loom available should you need them. I chose to use the 1¼-inch split-loom on my 50-amp cords because it fits well and leaves about a ¼-inch gap on the bottom of the cover, allowing for any condensation to drain out. Now after four months, the white split-loom tubing still looks good, and the shore cord under looks as good as it did after I last cleaned it. The shipboard CableMaster cord only takes a couple of minutes to reinstall after a trip and looks great on the dock.
Capt. Dāv Carpenter
Newport Beach, California
Securing Your Teaser Rods
we do quite a bit of teaser fishing, pulling both bridge and cockpit teasers on every trip. After trolling a lot of miles, we've encountered a couple of problems that required some attention while using our cockpit teaser rods. While teasing a fish on the cockpit teaser rod, the rod sometimes tried to lift up or jump out of the gimbal pin in the bottom of the swiveling rod holder, especially if the mate is -reeling hard on a hot fish, or trying to reel with one hand and work the rigger halyard with the other. When the rod pops up, it makes it difficult to work the rod or tease the fish, and it causes the mate to stop winding while the rod is re-secured into the gimbal. Any pause while trying to tease the fish could cost you the shot. To help hold down the teaser rod, we installed a Rupp rigger-halyard fair-lead next to the rod holder, with a cam cleat mounted below just like a regular outrigger halyard system. We then use a swiveling snap shackle to attach the tie-down to the reel harness lug. This allows us to release the snap shackle quickly, even when under load, in case we need to move the rod in a hurry.
Capt. Randy Baker
Capt. Randy Baker
Prevent a Mess in the Microwave
We all get hungry on the way to the fishing grounds or when headed back to dock after a long day of fishing. However, cooking while underway is not always the cleanest endeavor; most of the time, it means using the microwave. Items other than bags of popcorn and Jimmy Dean sausage biscuits slide around on the microwave turntable when cooking and create issues for obvious reasons. Items spilling and or flying out all over you when opening the microwave door is something none of us wants. To remedy this, I picked up a silicone baking sheet and cut it to fit the turntable plate in the microwave. Not only does it work very well for keeping items from sliding around, it also keeps food from getting all over the turntable and is much easier to clean if there is a spill.
Capt. Chris Hood
Orange Beach, Alabama
Controlling Your Plugs
When fishing in places that require the use of live baits, you’ll often find yourself pulling plugs festooned with sticky-sharp treble hooks. While these trolling plugs wreak havoc on mackerel and small tunas, they can also be a pain in the butt to store. Ever reach into a tackle box to remove one plug and wind up pulling out 10 more that are stuck to it? To eliminate this disastrous clumping, the boys in Australia hogtie the hooks on their trolling plugs after each use with a couple of small rubber bands. They align both hooks alongside the body of the plug and then wrap the band around the first hook and then back around the second, securing it over the back hook when snug. This little trick goes a long way toward eliminating sticks in the cockpit and makes the plugs much easier to store. Mates should also use a large, heavy de-hooking device to keep their hands away from flailing hooks and sharp, snapping teeth.
When Naked Ballyhoo Won’t Get a Strike
Running the boat Tressell in La Guaira, Venezuela, we encounter blues, whites and sails almost every day offshore. While they might not be the biggest in size, you can’t beat the variety, and we usually fish with light tackle. My favorite bait for these species is a naked ballyhoo rigged on a circle hook. However, I have found that on some days, the naked, chin-weighted ballyhoo that generally work well and attract plenty of fish get out-fished by a ballyhoo rigged with a chugger head. I don’t know if the perfect swimming of the naked ballyhoo seems too challenging for the fish, but the chugger-and-ballyhoo combo seems to elicit a lot of excitement from a predator due to the large bubble trail it creates. However, one of the downsides of using the chugger-head combo is that you are putting more plastic between the bait and the bite. I personally think the fish can sometimes detect the plastic or rubber skirts, which causes the fish to let go of the bait, resulting in the dreaded sancocho. As a result, I started thinking about how I could tweak the lure to make it softer with a more lifelike feel, while keeping the same style and swimming characteristics. My first thought turned to the pile of inner skirts that I’ve accumulated after pulling them out of Mold Craft Super Chuggers and Hookers. I took the inner skirts and modified them a bit by snipping off the nipple end with a pair of heavy scissors and then removing every other strand of the skirt. This flattened the face a bit, still allowing them to pop in the water and cut down the bulk of the lure. With this small modification, I am getting stunning results with a far higher number of strikes and successful hookups, especially during those days when the naked ballyhoo just doesn’t seem to cut it.
Capt. Mario Elaluf
La Guaira, Venezuela
Cut the Frustration
Here in the Florida Keys, the sea of scattered sargasso grass and weed lines, it is almost impossible at times to pull lures without constantly snapping rubber bands or heavy-set clips to remove grass from lures with conventional tag lines. Pulling weeds off your baits all day can be frustrating, so I have found a solution to solve this problem. The simple setup consists of an
Aftco Roller Troller release clip
, 3 to 4 feet of 400‑pound mono, and a large snap swivel. Clipped directly to your existing outrigger clip, you can simply crank the lure forward to clear it of any grass that is fouling it. This tag line allows for quick and easy tuning of the lure position or angle by simply raising or lowering the existing outrigger clip on the halyard, and it also eliminates the slack that occurs when doing tight maneuvers with conventional tag lines. The length of the mono may need to be altered to fit your boat's configuration, depending on where you fish your rods in the cockpit. With a little fine-tuning, I can guarantee you will find this trick saves time, cuts down on frustration and keeps your baits in the water where they belong.
Capt. Steve Liberatore
Key West, Florida
Don’t Stick Yourself
You never want to see someone get injured on your boat, especially by a billfish tag. They are important tools for conservation, but the needle is extremely sharp and needs to be handled with care in the cockpit.
The Billfish Foundation
recently received a photo and note from one of its members about their son tagging himself in the foot. The tag stick sat loaded in an upright rod holder near the ladder to the bridge. As their son came down the ladder, he misplaced his foot on the tag stick instead of the rung of the ladder. Needless to say, he required 45 minutes at the emergency room to remove the tag successfully. There's a simple solution to keep the tag stick safely loaded and available while also reducing the possibility of someone being injured: Grab a tennis ball and cut roughly a 2-inch-long slit in the ball. This creates an opening that flexes open enough to easily remove without pulling off the tag, and it will also stay secured when not in use.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Feel Your Way
Just about every serious sport-fishing boat sports a pair of electric teaser reels in the overhead on the flybridge to allow the captain to retrieve and deploy teasers. Most captains use their hands to bring the teaser in once a fish is on it, working slow and steady to bring the fish up to the pitch bait. Once the fish makes the switch and eats the bait, the captain hits the auto-retrieve buttons on both teaser reels to suck up all the loose line and get the teasers up and out of the way for the coming battle. The most commonly used teaser reels are ones like the Miya Epoch Command AT-3S 12V. These powerful reels come equipped with software that remembers the distance to the correct spot where you want to work and the spot where you want them to stop when you retrieve them. They come with a waterproof control panel with the push-buttons barely sticking out of the reel or even under a plastic film on some models. This keeps the water out, but the smooth surface doesn’t give any tactile feedback to the captain, so he has to look up and find the right button. While fishing with Clay Hensley on Chupacabra in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, I noticed a couple of weird-looking bumps on the teaser reels. I asked Hensley what they were, and he said that they were stick-on furniture pads used to keep furniture off of hardwood floors. Hensley was placing the tiny, clear stick-on buttons over the retrieve and deploy buttons on the teasers reels so he could reach up and operate the reels without having to look. You can buy different sizes and shapes of these little stick-on buttons, so you mix and match them to fit different buttons such as a bigger button to retrieve and a smaller one to deploy.
Heavy Wind Kite-Fishing
I have noticed when running the charter boat
out of Miami or fishing aboard other tournament boats that even experienced and well-oiled teams get a little rattled when fishing in heavy wind conditions. Typically most mates and anglers will get fancy firing out a spread on a regular day, but when the wind starts cranking greater than 25 mph, things get a little chaotic and the basics become even more important. As the captain, I have found it extremely important to pay extra attention to what is going on in the cockpit and to speak up since communication becomes more difficult, the harder the wind blows. I have found the following tips extremely useful when kite-fishing in heavy wind. If the wind is over 20 knots, we go with a Lewis Gale Force or an SFE Force 5. These kites have holes in them to reduce pressure on the kite reels and we always put a small balloon with a rubber band on the back of the kites just in case they decide to go swimming. For rigging, we use 80-pound braid for our kite line and pre-rig floss loops with decreasing diameters set at equal distances to “catch” the clip. We also find that jamming the clip on the floss keeps them from getting blown toward the kite. Because static electricity from storms can break kite lines with little or no pressure, we always have at least two pre-rigged 80-pound monofilament kite lines handy as well. When it comes to baits, I have found that smaller baits don’t draw as much attention when the seas kick up and are far more difficult to fish. Goggle-eyes and large threadfin herring should be the go-to bait if possible because they last longer and are more willing to stay in the water. If they are not available, blue runners, large pilchards or Spanish sardines are the next best bet. Because multiple hookups are the norm rather than the exception on rough days, we make sure our reels are freshly spooled and don’t skimp on backing. We have over 1,000 yards of line on our 20-pound-class reels with 500 yards each of 30-pound braid and 20-pound monofilament on top. Also when putting together rigs, don’t be shy with lead; we have found that 2 to 4 ounces under the floats might be necessary when it’s rough.
Capt. Nick Gonzalez
Double Threat Charters
Stay Organized With Your Old Pill Bottles
Crimps are an essential piece of rigging, and keeping them organized is often a problem. No matter whether you are rigging a lure for a grander blue marlin or a hundred leaders on circle hooks for pitch-baiting sailfish in Isla Mujeres, you cannot go anywhere without both your crimper and an assortment of crimps. I don’t know about you, but it is hard for me to distinguish between crimps of a similar size unless I have them right next to one another, and there is nothing worse than a crimp failing because the wrong size was used. I also cannot stand an unorganized tackle center. To remedy this and to keep them straight, I have found that used pill containers work like a charm for storing crimps, among other things. It keeps the crimps organized in a tackle drawer and also allows them to be identified quickly when you write the size in permanent marker on the lid. The pill container also keeps things handy in the cockpit by easily fitting into a cup holder in case you need to rerig chugger heads on circle hooks in the middle of a hot bite.
Capt. Chris Kubik
Oregon Inlet, North Carolina
Dredge Rod and Reel Storage
Some of the most common obstacles facing crews these days revolve around using, storing and caring for dredges and the rods and reels we use to deploy and retrieve them. Pulling dredges is a must these days, and they require a pretty big investment and a bit of know-how to operate properly. But storing and protecting these necessary tools when not in use creates quite a challenge. To solve this problem, a good friend of mine built some custom cradles for my rigs out of ½-inch Starboard. With this setup, we just remove the butt from the rod and set the reel into the cradle. The weight of the reel keeps the rig in place. The cradle is screwed down to the deck. You can modify it to fit any reel.
Capt. Randy Baker
A Safe Home for Crimpers
One of the greatest challenges in the cockpit is to keep needed tools handy without scratching valuable surfaces like fighting chairs, rocket launchers or mezzanine tackle stations. One of these tools is your crimpers, which are vital for rerigging when on the fishing grounds. I store larger crimping pliers inside a silicone oven mitt. It works wonders. It not only prevents the pliers from scratching delicate surfaces found throughout the boat, but it also keeps them from sliding while using them to rig while underway. The best mitt I have found to do the job was picked up during an afternoon shopping trip at Bed, Bath and Beyond, but you might find something similar at any home-goods store.
Capt. Chris Hood
******Orange Beach, Alabama **
For those of us who like to fish with live bait, a cast net can be an indispensable tool. It pays to invest in a quality net, and most pros prefer a so-called “panel” net, one in which several triangular monofilament panels are sewn together to form the circular net. A quality panel net will provide you with years of service, given an appropriate level of care, provided you don’t end up throwing it over too many rocks. But too many people neglect nets, thereby shortening their useful life -considerably. Cast-net care really is a simple matter and usually involves hanging the net from a fence or tree to spread the mesh, then washing it thoroughly with pressure from a garden hose to remove salt, slime, scales and other debris. A common mistake involves leaving the net hanging in the sun for too long, however. Many a tired mate has -forgotten to store the clean net when finished, leading to premature aging. Nets should be stored dry in a five-gallon bucket or other similar container, and they can be soaked in those buckets with fresh water and a cap full of Downy fabric softener to restore the net’s flexibility from time to time as it ages.
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Out of the Way
Even on the big boats we fish these days, space in the cockpit can still be a problem. We fish mostly stand-up tackle with our rods at the ready in the aft rod holders on the chair arm and with the chair’s footrest removed. The problem with this setup comes into play once we get a fish on. The two chair rods could impede the angler and crew from moving from side to side between the chair and transom while fighting a fish because they sit at a pretty low angle. To keep these rods out of the way without moving them to another location, I use a trigger snap and some bungee cord looped around the forward end of the chair arm. To make the rig, form a loop in the bungee using a stainless-steel hog-nose ring. Loop the bungee around the chair arm and then pull the rod to the upright position. Adjust and cut the bungee to fit, then attach the snap with another hog-nose ring. After we hook up, the crew simply pushes the rod upright and snaps it in place. A quick opening of the snap puts the rod right back in place after the release. The bungee and snap hang harmlessly out of the way on the chair arm while not in use.
Capt. Randy Baker
Waxing a Nonskid Deck
One way to keep a boat looking new is to maintain its nonskid deck. Shurhold Industries shares the basic steps needed to wax, seal and protect your delicate nonskid surface (check out a video showing these tips in action
). This process requires Shurhold's Pro Polish, Dual Action Polisher, Brite Bonnet Microfiber Pad Cover and the Soft Dual Action Polisher Brush. Start by setting up the Dual Action Polisher with the Soft Brush. This brush is designed to work polymer-based wax/protectants into the nonskid. Only one brush can handle the entire project. Work in small 2-foot-square areas,
moving on as each spot is finished. Next, apply the Pro Polish in a ring pattern directly to the nonskid deck. Place the brush face on the surface, and turn the polishing machine to a low speed: two on the dial. Place the brush on the surface before turning it on (to reduce slinging and messiness.) Work in one pattern, and then move the machine in the opposite direction, in a side-to-side overlapping pattern, until the product has almost totally disappeared. Then move onto another area, overlapping a few inches to ensure complete coverage. Finally use the Brite Bonnet pad to hand-wipe the area and buff up any excess material. In both steps, try not to use too much product to avoid creating a mess. Use just enough to cover the area needed. Always apply the product to the deck, not the polisher. Also, the machine should never be turned on unless it’s in contact with the surface. Shurhold’s Pro Polish is like a -sunscreen: Two or three coats at a time will not make it last longer. The company recommends applying one coat about every four months. For more information, visit
Save Your Back
Many of us have suffered from an aching back brought on by spending hours rigging baits while seated on a bucket or other makeshift arrangement in the cockpit of a boat somewhere. Even the largest boats offer only medium-size rigging areas and, inevitably, you wind up with your rigging gear spread out far and wide. How many times have you reached for that one piece of gear you need to finish off something, only to realize it’s lying somewhere across the cockpit from you? You’re forced to put down what you’re doing, retrieve the required item, and resume rigging. Professional traveling crews now lug along cheap folding tables that can be bought at almost any hardware store, strictly for rigging purposes. These tables enable riggers to have all the gear they need spread out at their fingertips, so there will be no need to stop and start the rigging process, and they provide the added benefit of allowing those working on baits to do so standing up, thereby warding off potential back problems created by bending over. A third benefit comes from the social aspect created by setting up one of these improvisational bait-rigging -stations on the dock; everyone who passes by stops to chat and see what you’re doing, possibly adding constructive commentary on your rigging skills and techniques. Folding tables at the dock take a lot of the burden out of the daily chore of rigging multiple baits.
Keep It Clean
Throwing away oil filters while they are still full of oil allows that oil to find its way into the ground water, one way or another. Instead of tossing still-full filters into the trash, first drain the oil into a bucket, and recycle it along with the rest of the used oil. I came up with this simple drain system the other day while I was doing my oil change on the mains and generators. It’s a clean and easy way to drain filters prior to disposal. At a hardware store, I purchased some buckets for the waste oil and a paint roller screen that fits a five-gallon bucket. I bent the corners of the screen to fit inside the bucket and then again to support the edges. While I’m pumping out the oil, I place the filters upside down on the screen so they drain into the bucket.
Capt. Dave Carpenter
Newport Beach, California
Air filtration on any engine is important to keep it running efficiently. These days, most boats use Airsep air filters manufactured by Walker Engineering. Walker recommends cleaning the filters once every season, but on Stalker, we clean the filters every few oil changes, which is about every 600 hours. Unlike most fuel and oil filters, you can clean, dry and oil your used air filters and then reinstall them. Over time, however, excessive cleaning can wear out the element, and the whole filter needs to be replaced. The manufacturer recommends replacing filters after three or four cleanings. A new set of Airsep filters on Stalker costs around $1,000. Between our two sets of engines and thousands of hours of fishing and traveling, we have gone through a number of air-filter sets. The last time we needed to replace our old filters with new ones, Scott Benford of Global Marine Solutions (225-665-3451) recommended we add a pair of filter socks from FilterEze over our new air filters. These socks just slip over the top of your air filters and add an extra layer of protection. Each sock costs about $14. I’ve kept the socks on for about 400 hours now, and our air filters are still clean, which is going to save our operation a lot of time and money.
Capt. George Sawley
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Oldie But a Goodie
Since we fish in places where we get a lot of bites and (hopefully) catch a lot of fish, we tend to go through tackle at a tremendous rate during a hot bite. When fish start popping up in the spread every 100 yards or so, there’s no time to spend completely rerigging a whole new leader system. To cut down on the chaos, we rig up hundreds of different-size leaders and hook-sets before the season even starts. Although this gives us a good jump on things, it also creates a bit of a storage issue. A lot of crews coil the leaders up in large, gallon-size Ziploc bags and write the details (100-pound leader, 6/0 hooks etc.) on the bag. This works well, but they can be a pain in the butt to get out of the bag and unwound in a timely manner. Instead, I like to use empty line spools to store my leader sections. After taping the first leader’s loop end to the spool, I put the hook through the next leader’s loop and wrap it around the spool. After chaining all the leaders on the spool in a similar fashion, we can just unwind a complete leader from the spool and quickly attach it to a rod that needs a new one. You can store quite a number of leaders on a big spool depending on what pound test you are using for leader material. A quick glance at the top of the spool tells you what pound test leader you’re using.
Capt. Stan Blackman
Wide Range Flier Covers
We are always looking for ways to keep things operating smoothly and safely on board
You Never Know
, and this little trick is both smart and frugal. A lot of fellas use a tennis ball or small softhead lure to cover up the pointy ends of their stick gaffs to prevent accidentally sticking someone. I don't really like the look of a bunch of tennis balls on my flying gaffs and tiny super-chugger heads couldn't cover them up, so I turned to using an old, wahoo-eaten Wide Range to cover up the heads on my fliers. This turns out looking a lot sportier than the tennis balls do, and I never run out of chewed-up Wide Ranges!
Capt. Joey Birbeck
Two Guys, Two Knots
When two or more crewmen share accommodations on boat for a while, they tend to come up with little tricks that make living so close to each other a bit more bearable. One of the bigger problems we’ve run into is that since we are all about the same size and like the same kinds of clothes, we are always getting our laundry mixed up. Although I like the guys I work with, I’m not too keen on sharing a pair of fishing shorts with any of them! We recently instituted an easy way to identify what shorts belong to whom simply by tying overhand knots in the drawstrings. My shorts have one knot, and my mate has two.
Capt. Joey Birbeck
We like to keep things shipshape and looking good on
because a clean and shiny boat catches more fish! The same goes for all of our tackle. After several world tours, our rods were starting to show a little wear and tear, so I decided to take them to LMR Tackle (
) for a cleanup and new coat of epoxy. This marked the third time I've re-coated these rods over the last 11 years. As usual, they came out looking brand new, but the guide frames looked beat and worn against the gleaming rods. Even though we’ve caught thousands of billfish on these rods, the SIC guides still looked perfect, so we did not want to go through the expense of putting on new ones. The guys at LMR recommended touching them up with a black permanent marker. After two or three coats, they almost look new. Not only are they black once again, but the permanent marker acts as a sealer to block future corrosion.
Capt. George Sawley
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Keep It Steady
A five-gallon bucket performs a variety of uses, but this common cockpit staple can create issues when it slides all over the deck. Shurhold Industries’ new Bucket Base is a sturdy ring designed to minimize bucket sliding and toppling, helping prevent the creation of new scratches on the deck. This nonskid, nonmarking ring prevents scratches in fiberglass and teak, while keeping the bucket in place. The ring works so well that it even prevents your bucket from tipping over when it contains mops or brushes. UV resistant and durable, Shurhold’s Bucket Base fits most five-gallon buckets. For more information, contact Shurhold at 800-962-6241 or visit
When making long-term trips to remote fishing destinations, you need to bring enough gear to keep your boat fishing for months at a time without the need to visit a tackle store. Since everyone has to eat, you can pretty much find groceries anywhere, but not every village you pull into has a ready supply of 12-pound waxed thread or a skeen of 300-pound mono. Since not being able to find a piece of gear is equivalent to not having it all — organizing all of your tackle is key. I like to organize all of my prebuilt leaders in large zipper bags. I then load them into milk crates with cardboard partitions labeled with whatever pound-test or rigging setup I’ve got in the bags. Whenever I need to reach for a new leader, I don’t have to go searching all over the boat for the right one — or worse, have to take the time to build one from scratch on the fly. Capt. Stan Blackman, Destin, Florida
One of the essential tools on any big-game boat, a good set of rigging needles makes any rigging job easier — from splicing a wind-on loop in a section of Dacron, to stitching up a dead mackerel. Most of the needles you keep on board should be razor sharp; just like when using a dull versus sharp knife, a dull needle will make you have to push harder, and an unexpected pop through can give you a nasty poke! Other needles need a soft, round head for splitting the fibers of Dacron or a superbraid for splicing. No matter how sharp they are, you want to keep them in a dry place, which also keeps you from getting an accidental jab when reaching into a drawer. I’ve found that the long tubes you get with long copper rigging wire can make excellent needle containers. And since most needles are prone to rust — even ones made from stainless steel have some carbon in them — a quick shot of your favorite spray lube down the tube doesn’t hurt either. **- Capt. Stan Blackman, **Destin, Florida
We pull a lot of lures and teasers while fishing in the Gulf of Mexico on
You Never Know
, so the crimping tool is never too far out of reach. We use crimps to secure all of our hook-sets, and also use them to attach lures and/or squids, etc., to our teaser lines. One little trick you see a lot of guys do is to "ball up" the tag end with a lighter or other heat source when crimping monofilament. The reasoning behind this is that if for some reason your crimp starts to slip, or if you even fail to crimp down to secure the hook or lure, the hard mono ball won't pass through the loose crimp, and it's possible keep your fish on the hook. It does work. You can actually pull pretty darn hard on an uncrimped crimp with just the ball of mono keeping it tight. The downside of this is getting a heat source too close to your leader material. If you heat the leader while trying to melt the tag, you can weaken the leader without even noticing it. This is especially true if you are putting something together on a heaving deck. To eliminate the possibility of damaging my leader but still keep the advantages of the bulging mono, I use a crimping tool to flatten out the tag instead of melting it. The flat tag won’t fit through the crimp either, and I don’t have to worry about accidently burning up the mono.
Capt. Stan Blackman
Handling fish at the boat is the funniest job in any sport-fishing cockpit. Whether handling the leader for a release, or wielding a gaff to take a tournament-winning fish or just a good night’s dinner, these are the moments that most mates fish for — they usually couldn’t care less about reeling one in. Most gaffs you get at the store do not come with any friction tape on the handles, and that’s not a good thing. Although a couple of foam handholds might be nice as well, some additional friction tape added to the handle of any gaff does two things: One, it keeps your hands from slipping when they are wet; and two, you put the tape only as far down the hook as you want to reach. The end of the tape tells you where to stop choking up.
Capt. Stan Blackman
Trolling dead, swimming ballyhoo rigged with circle hooks is a deadly effective way to target every species of billfish. Large or small members of every species can suck down and dink ballyhoo in an instant, and many thousands do so every day all across the globe. Most of these baits are rigged with a 1⁄8-ounce lead under their chin to make them swim like a live fish — upright and pumping strong. One of the problems that comes with using these leads is finding a way to store them that provides easy access but doesn’t allow them to spill everywhere. Chasing down 500 lead marbles that have rolled into every crevice and cranny in the cockpit isn’t my idea of a fun way to start the morning. While fishing with Chuck Gregory and Capt. Tim Richardson down in the Dominican Republic, I saw Gregory use a cool trick to make a water bottle into a perfect lead holder. He simply cut a star shape in the bottle cap with a series of slices with a razor knife. Then all he had to do was press the weights through the cap to store any spent baits, and then simply spin off the cap to extract the exact number he needed when rigging up new ones throughout the day. _
— Dave Ferrell
Threading a Softhead
There’s no doubt that the Mold Craft Wide Range is one of the best lures in the world. Everyone fishing for blue marlin usually has at least one out in the spread, either as a teaser or rigged as a lure. Its soft head and straight running action keeps blue marlin coming back for more, but have you ever tried to thread your heavy mono leader through one of these things? I can’t tell you how much time I’ve wasted trying to poke a piece of 300-pound mono through the head of a Wide Range. The problem lies in the large, empty space in the lure’s head. It’s hard to keep the mono going completely straight and bridge the gap between the leader holes at each end. In order to make it easier to thread my leader through the Mold Crafts, I inserted a section of stiff chaffing gear into the lure head that would bridge the gap between the leader holes. I first used a large rigging needle to stretch out the leader holes, and then inserted the chaff tube over the needle and through the lure. Once I secured the chaff tube with couple of drops of super glue, I could then thread my leader all the way through the lure head with ease. _
— Capt. Stan Blackman
Helpful Internet Weather Tools
The premium version gives you a seven-day marine wind and wave forecast for any lat/lon location. The site also offers sea-surface temperature, ocean currents, chlorophyll charts and simple-text forecasts. You can name and save these spots into the site’s favorites for recall at any time. The graphics and detail are superb. The flexibility to click in three-, six-, 12- and 24-hour increments (plus or minus), and even animate the sequence are valuable tools.
Naval Oceanography Portal
This unclassified government site has a plethora of information. Click on Oceanography Products, then the Global & Regional Ocean Wave Prediction Charts (WW3). There are four tabs: Global Areas, Tropical/WW3, Regional Models and Ensemble Models. Click the Ensemble tab and then the GOMEX picture. There is a list of options that forecasts out 10 days. One of the most useful lines is the Probability of Significant Wave Heights > 4 feet. Click “all” and scroll down to view each day. You want to see lots of white. Keep in mind that the time stamp is GMT. You can also find lots more information on other tabs, including surface wind streamlines, -significant wave height and direction.
Radiofax Charts, New Orleans
This section of NOAA’s website provides the old weather fax paper charts in TIG and GIF format. Click the GIF of each WIND/WAVE chart to see the trending conditions currently out to 72 hours. There are other places to visit on NOAA’s site to see satellite imagery, weather buoy analysis, and coastal and offshore forecasts in copy form as you would hear on the WX channels on your VHF radio.
This name speaks for itself. Click on the interactive map to access wind and weather forecasts around the world.
Windguru is available in two versions: Windguru (free access) and Windguru PRO (paid access). Most forecasts and information on this server are free, but some require the PRO fee. From the homepage, find the Spot Menu tab to access the choices for Geographic Area, Country, Region and Spot.
Capt. Dean Adler
Palm Beach, Florida
Cheaper Line Tensioner
It’s not easy to spool up a big reel by yourself, and since I wasn’t willing to spend close to $200 for a spool holder, I came up with a homemade version that works. I put this timesaver together using a 1⁄2-inch-by-12-inch carriage bolt, a $2 spring, a couple of plastic washers cut from my recycle bin, a wing nut, a 3⁄8-inch-by-1⁄2-inch copper reducer, jamb nut and cap nut. To mount the carriage bolt, drill holes on the -opposite sides near to the top of a bucket — you will need to oblong the bucket for the bolt to reach. Fill the bucket with water to just below the spool to dry pack or let the hose trickle over the top to wet pack. Make sure to remove the label from the spool before you start. You can adjust the tension with a few turns of the wing nut.
— John Bunton,
Rope Grime Is Gone
When dock lines and ropes get grimy and grungy, they’re not always easy to clean. With Shurhold Industries’ new flexible rope and cord brush, the process just got more convenient. This new brush is the best way to clean ½-inch- to 1-inch-diameter rope. Simple to use and easy to store, the flexible rope and cord brush is ideal for use on twisted and braided lines, and other tubular items, such as rub rails, hoses, and shore power cords. Just wrap the flexible rope and cord brush around the rope with the bristles facing the rope. Then hold the brush firmly to get contact completely around the rope, and brush along the length of the rope to remove debris, dirt, and mold. To get one, contact Shurhold at 800-962-6241 or visit
Another cleaner, stronger improvement I made to my outriggers was changing the way we attached the bitter end of our dredge line to the lower portion of the outrigger. Before we did like most crews: wrapping heavy monofilament around the rigger tube twice, crimping it tight, and then crimping a loop in the mono to attach the dredge line to. This works, but it’s not the best-looking solution. It also scars the anodized finish on the rigger tube over time, and the loop wears out, needing constant checking and -periodic replacement. Failures in this setup send dozens of dredges to a watery grave every year. To achieve a better, more-bulletproof attachment point, I changed out the ¼-20 machine screw that through-bolts the bottom collar — where the bottom spreader cables end — through the rigger tube with a ¼-20 stainless eye bolt. To do this, you will need to pull the outriggers off the boat and lay them down on the dock. Next you have to get the tension off the bottom set of spreader cables. I find it easiest to put my foot on the main rigger tube right next to the spreader bar facing me, grasp the cable on both sides of the tip, and pull the cable out of the spreader-bar tip, sort of like cocking a crossbow. You might want to wear cotton gloves or use a couple of rags to protect your hands, since the bottom cables have quite a bit of pressure on them. After removing all four cables, leave the cable ends in the collar, and you can now change out the bolt. If it’s hard to turn or seized up from corrosion, spray it with penetrating lubricant, and then carefully strike the head with a hammer. If it’s a screw head, use a large screwdriver and crescent wrench or channel-lock pliers to get additional leverage on it. Your new eye bolt will probably be a little longer than the stock bolt; either cap it with an acorn nut or cut it off with a hacksaw. Be sure to remove the eye bolt and grind/polish the fresh-cut end smooth. Replace the cables onto the spreader bars the same way they came off.
Always trying to improve our halyard setup and keep things clean and simple, I recently modified the stainless rings on the outrigger halyard that my bridge teaser line runs through. You need to attach high-quality, ball-bearing swivels or snap swivels on both sides of the rings to deal with line twist in the mono halyard line. In the past I’ve used crimped-on snap swivels, or had the swivels crimped in line and then crimped to the ring with another short piece of mono, which means you have to use three crimps on each side. Either setup comes with an extra crimp for the line to hang up on or get wrapped around. To get the cleanest setup possible, I held the ring in a vise and cut it open with a hacksaw, slid my swivels onto the ring, and had the ring rewelded. Now I have a cleaner, sleeker halyard line with just two crimps in it. **— Capt. Randy Baker, **Destin, Florida
Capt. Randy Baker
Bridge Teaser Line Clip
During the fight, it sometimes becomes necessary to pull in a bridge teaser that was hanging from the rigger to turn and chase a fish or tackle a double-header. After the teaser is pulled in, we clip the end of the teaser line to the halyard rope, using a rigger-clip lashed to a snap swivel that hangs from the halyard pulley. The halyard ring is then run back up to trolling position, and the chain/teaser is carefully placed on the covering board. If there’s a natural bait at the end, it’s checked/changed out. Clipping the teaser line to the halyard rope keeps it tight and out of the way of the angler, and keeps slack line/leader from falling down the side of the hull. On really rough or windy days, you have to be extra careful that nothing falls over into the props! With this setup, as soon as the fish is released, I can get the boat going ahead again, grab my bridge teaser line and pop it out of the clip, which pulls the chain/teaser into the water. It’s then free-spooled back out into position within seconds. **— Capt. Randy Baker, **Destin, Florida
Line is expensive and the most fragile connection to the fish, so I like to use a top-shot system on all line classes that I fish. For 80- and 130-pound line, I fill the reel with Dacron backing and splice in a mono top shot, changing out the mono as necessary and leaving the Dacron in place. On 50-pound class and down, I fill the entire spool with straight mono, usually a high-visibility color, to start. After using the line some and cutting it back around 100 to 200 yards, we strip off another 100 to 200 yards of line and cut it off, leaving the spool two-thirds to three-quarters full, depending on the size of the reel. I then tie one 2- to 3-foot Bimini twist on the line from the rod and one on the spool of new line. Pass the loop from the rod through the loop on the spool and all the way around the spool, forming a loop-to-loop connection, then pass the rod loop around the spool again to double it up. Put a little spit on the loop connection, and carefully pull it tight while holding the Bimini knots, making sure both loops are even and centered. To mark the connection, use a black marker pen and color one of the Biminis black. As you start to fill the reel, place the black Bimini around the center of the spool, and watch it disappear as the spool fills up. Now as you use the line and cut it back, you will start to see the black indicator around the spool’s center, and you will know how close you are getting to your top-shot connection.
— Capt. Randy Baker,
Heat Up Your Skirt
New rubber skirts are sometimes difficult to size to a lure head. I use a heat gun and warm up each skirt to get a perfect custom fit. This is done by slipping the skirt over the shank of the lure and heating the skirt on low before folding it back and tying it in place. The heat makes the skirt material much more pliable, so you position it much easier after a brief heat up. As the skirt cools, it will shrink tightly around the lure shank. Also, a few squirts of Pledge helps the skirt to slide easily onto the lure head and will help preserve the finish, color and texture when stowed.
— Capt. Jason "Tiny" Walcott,
West Palm Beach, Florida
Custom Rigging Tables
One of the unsung skills and jobs that takes up a large portion of a working mate’s day involves the care and rigging of dead baits. Crewmen spend long hours either sitting on a bucket or hunched over a low table rigging endless numbers of dredge mullet, mackerel or ballyhoo. Each night, they cut out the sinkers and wire rigging from the left over mullet and the chin weights from the unused ballyhoo and start setting up all over again. Many crews will rig more than 100 mullet a day and start out with 50 or so pre-rigged ballyhoo — even more if the bite’s been hot. It’s a lot easier to rig them back at the dock than it is on a heaving deck with a bunch of anglers scrambling around the cockpit. A lot of crews haul along a portable folding table that they can set up on the dock to rig baits. These lightweight tables don’t take up much space when folded and can be stored easily for long hauls. Unfortunately, they are made for people to sit down and eat, which is too low for most mates standing up while rigging baits. Hunching over a low table for a couple of hours can wreak havoc with the lower back, even when you’re a young guy. While fishing down in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, in February with the crew on
You Never Know
, I noticed that first mate Stan Blackman had customized a portable table to make it a bit more rigging-friendly. First, he raised the table height by cutting four sections of PVC pipe to fit over the table legs. He cut four sections of PVC to equal lengths, raising the table to match his working stance, and he then slipped them over the legs. Because the table was bit unstable at that height, Blackman secured the table to the dock using a cleat and section of line. He screwed the cleat into the wooden dock under the table and tied the line to the table’s undercarriage. He then pulled the line down tight on the cleat and secured it with a couple of half hitches. Now anyone can lean on the table without sending the whole thing into the drink. He now has a stable workspace that matches his height perfectly. While this solution works quite well, if you really want to get fancy, you can build a custom table from scratch, as Peter Gudaitis on
Blood Money _did
._Gudaitis had his boat docked right behind ours, and I have to say I was smitten with his rigging table from the get-go. Gudaitis had one of his employees design and build a rigging table from Starboard and aluminum. The Starboard top has three five-gallon bucket-size portholes in the top and a rail system underneath that allows you to slide three five-gallon buckets into the table itself. You can thaw, eyeball and store your baits in an assembly-line fashion with this setup. After the rigging is done, you just reinsert the starboard cutouts over the bucket holes, and you have a flat surface for any other chores. The entire table breaks down and fits into itself when it's time to travel — the only big, solid piece is the tabletop. Gudaitis is thinking about making them to order, so if you are interested in one of these beauties, contact him at
By Dave Ferrell
How-To: Rubber Biscuit Rig for Ballyhoo
While there are as many ways to rig a ballyhoo as there are mates doing it, some of the methods always seem to rise above the rest in terms of effectiveness on the bite and ease of rigging. For many years now, anglers fishing with circle hooks in South Florida and elsewhere have used the swivel rig to arm their ballyhoo baits. The swivel rig is made by attaching a small barrel swivel that matches the outside diameter of your circle hooks to a piece of rigging wire, passing the wire down through the bait’s upper lip and nesting the top end of the swivel on the top of the bait. The wire is then brought around the backside of both gills, through the eye sockets and wrapped down around the protruding swivel. Once you have a bunch of these rigged up, you simply make a bunch of leaders with the circle hook snelled on the end. When it’s time to rig up, you just pass the circle hook through the swivel and start trolling. The problem is that sometimes it’s hard to get swivels to match your hooks, and you sometimes have to modify the swivel with a pinch to make the hook stay in place. The one-size swivel also means you are stuck using the hooks that fit it. It can also be a chore for a newbie to get the hook through (or out) of the swivel when changing baits. Nowadays, I see crews abandoning the swivel and instead using a small, strong rubber grommet in its place. The little rubber doughnut can accommodate several different hook sizes, and it's much easier to get the hooks in and out of the grommet when necessary. The rest of the rig is virtually the same as the swivel setup; you just replace the swivel with the rubber doughnut. Grand Slam tackle in Jupiter, Florida, carries the grommets (Ballyhoo "O" rings). For more information, call 866-592-2824, or visit
How-To: Trim It Up
After purchasing a new lure or reskirting an old one, it’s always important to trim the ends of the new skirts. The ends of rubber skirts come out much thinner than the rest of the skirt because of the manufacturing or extrusion process. This can cause the skirt to form a knot around the point of the trailing hook after being trolled around for a while. This knotting can hinder the lure’s action and hookup ratio. I prefer trimming the skirt about half an inch. This keeps the point of the trailing hook clear of the skirt so it cannot impede the point on a hookup. You also have to remember to keep the eye of the trailing hook — whether a single- or double-hook rig — inside of the skirt for International Game Fish Association and tournament rules. Once the lures hit the water, check them hourly to make sure the skirts are free from tangles, that the hooks are in the right place and the lure is free from floating debris.
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