Strangest Blue Marlin Bait?

Four captains open up

A collage of four sport-fishing captains.
Four fishermen tell us their “secret” marlin baits (from Left): Courtesy Capt. Ross Finlayson, Courtesy Capt. Kirk Elliott, Cameron J. Rhodes, Courtesy Capt. Greg Graham

Capt. Ross Finlayson, Sea Weez, George Town, Cayman Islands

Capt. Ross Finlayson
Capt. Ross Finlayson Courtesy Capt. Ross Finlayson

While working for Laurie Woodbridge on Sea Baby, I loved making weird baits to catch billfish. While we were catching live baits for juvenile black marlin and sailfish, we would also catch pinkies and whiptails and rig them as both swimming and pitch baits. We actually caught a couple of our winning fish in light-tackle tournaments from Cairns to Innisfail on them in the early ’90s. I have also rigged a swimming coral trout for a big black, but a barracuda chopped it before it got a chance to get eaten. Aussies love a Frankenstein bait—it also makes for a good laugh at how picky we can be. But a hungry marlin? Well, he really doesn’t care what it is.

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Capt. Kirk Elliott, Crewman, Draggin’ Up, Galveston, Texas

Capt. Kirk Elliott
Capt. Kirk Elliott Courtesy Capt. Kirk Elliott

I was fishing the 1980 Masters tournament on my father’s Bertram 31 in Port Aransas, Texas. Mitch Scherfer and I were rigging some wedge-head mullet and swimming mackerel. We also had some speckled trout and redfish to clean for dinner and thought a red with a 2-ounce chin weight would swim forever, so we rigged it. The next day, we had a small blue up on the teaser, and when I pitched that 3-pound redfish, my father started to chew my ass about the size of it. Seconds later, that marlin came out of the water with the bait sideways in its mouth and spit it back at us. Creative bait-rigging; wrong fish to pitch it to.

Capt. Bill Church, Crewman, Big Sky, Georgetown, South Carolina

Capt. Bill Church
Capt. Bill Church Cameron J. Rhodes

I was fishing the Marlin Quay Meatfish Slam in the early ’90s on Good Times. We managed to catch our big dolphin and wahoo pretty quickly but soon found ourselves surrounded by yellowfins. Suddenly, all six lines went down. We landed the first five, but as I was leadering the sixth, a 350-pound blue came up and tried to eat it. Instinctively, I fired the tuna back so she could swallow it. As she mouthed the bait, I realized that yellowfin could win the tournament, so I quickly wrangled it back to the boat. Sure enough, that 46-pounder ended up being the largest of the tournament. The committee almost wouldn’t score it because it was covered in ­marlin mouth marks.

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Capt. Greg Graham, Pisces IV, Sunrise, Florida

Capt. Greg Graham
Capt. Greg Graham Courtesy Capt. Greg Graham

Our most original pitch bait came this past summer while ­fishing in San Salvador, Bahamas. We caught a sand tilefish while deep-dropping, and after coming up from 500 feet, the ol’ boy was pretty spent, so we put him in the box. We’ve been successful swordfishing with them, so we put a hook in it to see if we could entice even the pickiest of San Sal’s blues. Within two hours, we had a lazy bridge-teaser bite, and the fish faded off, just swimming behind the long. The boss was able to get our newfound pitch bait back to the fish, which lit up and piled on it. So now, Slippery Richard is rigged for every trip.

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