The absolute top-tier target in sport fishing is the blue marlin. The explosive bites paired with the opportunity to effectively bait-and-switch these powerful fish make them my personal favorite to catch. Teasing up marlin and then switching them to a circle-hook-rigged bait is the most popular method used to target blues, and provides the angler with the most fun you can have with your clothes on. And when you catch one, it likely won’t be your last.
Fishing is an addiction, and luckily, blue marlin can be found in many locations around the world. Some hold larger fish in fewer numbers, and some hold many small fish. To explore just how professional captains and crews raise blues, let’s explore a few of the more popular fishing destinations and focus on just how the experts raise (and catch) them in their home waters.
Capt. Michael de Freitas of the 60-foot Viking Magic Lady is based out of Trinidad. Although this corner of the Caribbean doesn’t get a lot of recognition, this team absolutely puts their time into racking up the release numbers in locations such as Tobago, Grenada, Dominican Republic, St. Thomas and St. Lucia. Magic Lady recently enjoyed some incredible fishing in December 2022, with 106 blue marlin releases in just one week.
“For our baits, we use the Mustad Demon 39951NP-BN 9/0 circle hook on a 100-pound leader with a mini chugger rigged with a select-size ballyhoo when we are FAD fishing in places such as St. Lucia and the Dominican Republic. For catching blues ‘in the wild,’ we go with the Mustad Demon 39948NP-BN 11/0 circle hook on a 250-pound leader with a small bonito as our pitch bait of choice,” de Freitas says.
“For teasers, I like a pink squid chain with a blue-and-white GT Whistler rigged over a mackerel for the chase bait on one side,” he continues, “and on the other, I prefer a 14-inch Koya hard head. The Koya is light, pretty, and sheds weed well. I like to think of it as a fancy Wide Range, and we stick with this whenever we are specifically targeting blue marlin.”
Capt. Vinny Delgado has been in the fishing world for quite some time, and is a well-known and exceptional mate from Miami who has spent many seasons catching blue marlin in the Dominican Republic. He is now the captain of the 64-foot Viking Game Time.
“My favorite DR bridge teaser is a squid chain with an Ilander Express over a mackerel for the chase bait on one side, and on the other side, another squid chain with a Mold Craft Chugger over a horse ballyhoo. The fish in the DR love squid chains,” Delgado explains. “If I were to run a cockpit teaser, it would be a Mold Craft Wide Range, Moyes OS Plunger or any hard head. I like something that can shake off the grass because it can get bad there sometimes. And for a pitch bait, I like a small bullet bonito, or even a select ballyhoo with a chugger, on a 100- to 130-pound fluorocarbon leader with a 9/0 or 10/0 Mustad circle hook.”
Nick Bovell is a traveling crewman who has fished all over the world and has likely forgotten about more blue marlin than most people will ever catch. He will, without a doubt, be making the move up the ladder soon, and his favorite spread is based on catching the bigger fish—both tournament contenders and those with grander status—in Cape Verde, where four big teasers are the preferred technique for raising large specimens.
“What worked best for us on Big Oh was the Black Bart Breakfast and the Mold Craft Magnum Wide Range in black-and-green for our bridge teasers, and the Mold Craft Senior Wide Range, again in black-and-green, and the Marlin Magic Captain’s Choice for our cockpit teasers. The go-to pitch bait was a skipping bonito, or any small tuna, rigged on a Mustad 12/0 39948NP circle hook with a 300-pound-test Lindgren-Pitman leader.”
Matthew Milne has also spent quite a few seasons as a Cape Verde mate fishing with various programs, and from his time there, he uses this go-to blue marlin setup: “It’s tough to beat a skipjack tuna rigged to skip on a 12/0 Mustad circle hook with a 300-pound leader. Pitch that on a 50-wide spooled with 50-pound, and you can have a lot of fun. As for bridge teasers, I like the Moyes Papa, Argus, Razzo or Bushcat. Sometimes a Pulsator Dominator for a bridge teaser is a great option as well. For cockpit teasers, I like a Mold Craft Wide Range in black with extra skirts and a Pulsator XL Tube.”
Madeira is all about quality over quantity. While it doesn’t have a lot of blue marlin releases racked up each season, the size of fish the teams do release is quite impressive and tends to make up for the long hours between bites. Capt. Gerard “Frothy” de Silva has spent a lot of time fishing for these giants in Madeira on his charter boat, Pesca Grossa.
“As a result of the size of the fish we catch here in Madeira, I like to use very large teasers,” de Silva says. “I came up with the ‘Marlin Whistle’ several years ago, and it is basically a poor man’s dredge. We snap a 9-foot leader directly onto a cannonball weight with the Meldorado 22-inch mahi. A second one on a 6-foot leader is added 4 feet up from the first teaser, and then another one on a 9-foot leader another 4 feet up. So, we have three Meldorado teasers swimming in line at 8 feet, 4 feet, and the top one on, or very near, the surface. I have one of these fastened to each of my stern cleats, and they work amazingly well. I don’t use dredges per se, but these marlin whistles are quite a similar concept.
“On my bridge teasers, I use another Meldorado behind a squid chain on the left teaser and an XXL Poi Dog on my right teaser. I usually run five marlin lures with hooks in them on 130 outfits; however, when I have clients who want to target world records, or just enjoy pitching a Spanish mackerel or horse ballyhoo on 50- or 80-pound-class outfits, I will run two more teasers in the long riggers and just one Ilander with a ballyhoo in the shotgun position.
“Sometimes we are unable to get fresh bait in Madeira, so we use an actual lure for the pitch. When we are out of Spanish mackerel, I keep a 130 in the chair with only the 30- foot leader and the short Bimini twist out in the water with a Hard Play Special or a Mold Craft Wide Range rigged with a J hook.
“We have teased up many big marlin right to the first wave and had them switch to the lure. When those big girls tease up and are hot on the switch, the hookup ratio is very good because most of them will pile on, head and shoulders out of the water. We literally hand-feed the giants that eat on the first wave, and this bite is as exciting as you will ever see.”
As you can see, there is a fair amount of similarity across the board when it comes to the tools of this adrenaline-inducing trade, especially when it comes to the location, but the best way to find out what works best for you and your program is to get out there and experiment. Or try some of these tactics from the pros, and mix them up with your own ideas. Do whatever it takes to get that blue marlin coming on the teaser. Your tenacity in doing so will likely give you an image that never goes away, but rather begs to be repeated.