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How To Add Tag Lines to Your Teasers

Improve the effectiveness of your bait and switch program

August 13, 2017
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billfish attacking a teaser
By teasing a marlin to the corner of the cockpit, the pitch bait can be presented in a much more controlled manner for better bites. Chris Sheeder

Capt. Bobby Brown showed me this ­technique for adding tag lines to our cockpit teasers in 2006 while we were working on the mothership operation God’s Will and God’s Favor, which were formerly the world-famous The Madam and The Hooker. Brown was running the boat for a weeklong charter with Fonda Huizenga, chasing the 6-pound-test ladies blue marlin record in Costa Rica.

I was immediately impressed by how much better this tag-line system worked during the bait-and-switch process compared with running the teaser lines through the standard AFTCO Roller-Troller release clips on the outrigger halyards. One of the drawbacks of the traditional system is that the teaser line’s angle increases sharply when the teaser is wound closer to the boat: As this angle increases, the lure is more likely to jump out of the water, resulting in a less-consistent tease that can even cause a marlin to lose interest and fade off. Rough seas greatly exaggerate this problem even more. Another issue is that the teaser is also being pulled farther away from the cockpit as it comes closer to the boat, creating a dead space between the teaser and the pitch bait that can make it harder for a fish to find the bait. Even worse is if the marlin grabs the teaser and causes the line to pop out of the clip: This results in a 20- to 30-foot drop-back as the line falls away, and that can cause the lure to stall out or even get fouled in the fish.

The Benefits

This tag-line setup for teasers allows us to retrieve the cockpit teasers directly to the corner of the transom without having to manipulate the outrigger halyards. It also allows the deckhand to have much more control over the speed and placement of the teaser, which greatly improves the switch to the pitch bait. The angler also benefits because they no longer struggle to span the gap created from the teaser being pulled toward the AFTCO Roller-Troller clip positioned about two-thirds up the outrigger — 20 or more feet between the fish and the pitch bait. And by reducing the amount of time between the removal of the teaser and the presentation of the pitch bait, the crew can greatly improve the chances of the fish behaving in a favorable manner to produce a more predictable and controlled bite.

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The teaser tag-line system greatly enhances our angler’s ability to present the bait in exactly the right spot. The importance of a smooth switch from the teaser is amplified with ultralight line because the angler has even less forgiveness with the tackle. This system has worked just as well when pulling lures with hooks in them because it gives you the option to tease away the lure and pitch a properly sized bait to a smaller fish. For example, if you raise a white marlin to a foot-long lure with an 11/0 hook in it, you can tease in the fish with the lure and switch it off to a ballyhoo pitch bait for a much better hookup ratio. The teaser tag-line technique takes some getting used to, but it runs quite smoothly with a little practice.

Rigging Setup

Start by making the tag lines about two‑thirds the length of the outrigger halyard and attaching a Black’s Release Clip to the lower end through a tag-line return by running the line through a stopper ball, crimp and sleeve protector, and then through both legs of the Black’s clip and back through the crimp.

blacks clip illustration
The Black’s Release Clip set up for tag lines. Kevin Hand

Rig the tag-line system by inserting the tag line through both sides of a Black’s Release Clip to keep the clip facing the spread for a cleaner release.

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The clip can be set to accommodate all sizes of teasers to ensure you have complete control when it releases. Use a Dacron loop to secure the teaser line to the tag-line clip. Once the spread is set, pull the halyard up and lock it in place to prevent it from sliding down during the tease. The weight of the teaser pulls the tag line up the halyard and into place.

Step 1

teasing a billfish
The setup Kevin Hand

Set the teasers in the tag lines using a Black’s Release Clip attached to a Dacron loop on the teaser line. Be sure to lock the outrigger halyard into position to prevent it from sliding down during the tease.

Step 2

teasing a billfish
The tease Kevin Hand

As a billfish approaches, the deckhand winds the teaser to the boat. The tag line is pulled in toward the rod tip.

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Step 3

teasing a billfish
The breakaway Kevin Hand

Because the tag line is shorter than the distance to the rod tip and the Black’s Clip is attached to the teaser line with a Dacron loop, it breaks away when the clip is a few feet from the rod tip. The tag-line return pulls it down along the halyard and out of the way.

Step 4

teasing a billfish
The pitch Kevin Hand

The deckhand teases the billfish right to the corner of the cockpit, where the angler is now perfectly positioned to pitch a bait in a smooth, controlled switch.

About the Author
Capt. Cory Gillespie has fished in some of the top marlin destinations around the world, and he loves bait- and-switch fishing for blue marlin. He currently captains the 60-foot Spencer Lai Day.

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