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Experts Weigh in on the Best Baits for Big Marlin

We asked four pros for their top picks

June 7, 2021
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Collage of four boat crewmen.
What’s your preferred bait for giant marlin? (from Left): Courtesy Nick Bovell, Courtesy Jake Flynn, Courtesy James Nantz, Courtesy Garrett Penley

Nick Bovell, Crewman for hire, Trinidad, West Indies

A man wears sunglasses and a hat.
Nick Bovell, Crewman for hire, Trinidad, West Indies Courtesy Nick Bovell

Giant marlin always get the blood ­pumping, and anyone who fishes for them wants a grander; it’s why we do it. I’ve been very lucky to fish some of the best big-fish destinations and learn from, and see, some of the best crewmen in action. My favorite bait for a giant blue or black marlin is a circle-hook-rigged tuna—yellowfin, blackfin or bonito. It’s pretty simple why: Because that’s what they eat! I’m not saying that you can’t catch them on other baits, but I am saying that I haven’t seen too many big marlin turn down a properly presented tuna.

Watch: Learn to rig a swimming mackerel here.

Jake Flynn, Crewman for hire, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

A man wears sunglasses and a hat.
Jake Flynn, Crewman for hire, Fort Lauderdale, Florida Courtesy Jake Flynn

Different fishing styles across the globe naturally call for different baits and lures to get the attention of any large prowling marlin. However, the tuna fish always seems to end up with a home in the spread or pitch tube. Readily available in almost all big-game destinations, tunas are fairly durable, which makes them the best bait for big marlin in my mind. The bites that tunas produce only add to their value. Whether it’s pulled in the short-rigger position while rounding the corner at the No. 10 Ribbon, or being pitched to a blue switching from a teaser, I promise it will be a bite you won’t forget.

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James Nantz, Crewman for hire, Pompano Beach, Florida

A man wears sunglasses.
James Nantz, Crewman for hire, Pompano Beach, Florida Courtesy James Nantz

Whenever I’m asked which bait is the best for big marlin, I tend to think natural baits—dead or alive. After seeing many spreads from Bermuda to Australia, the most memorable fish always seem to appear behind a tuna or mackerel. I can’t help but think that big bait equals big fish, however, elephants do eat peanuts, and I’ve seen some nice fish behind a simple 15-inch Spanish mackerel. As for my favorite, a nice tuna of any species will do just fine. Don’t let the bait’s size intimidate you. It’s a big ocean; you just have to get out there.

Read Next: Build a tournament-winning team with these tips.

Garrett Penley, Tradition, Cairns, Australia

A man wears sunglasses and a hat.
Garrett Penley, Tradition, Cairns, Australia Courtesy Garrett Penley

In Australia, the best bait for big fish is what they call a mack tuna, but it’s basically a big bonito. When prepped correctly, they can last a full day—or more. If we find a spot where they’re thick, I capitalize on it and catch as many as possible, because the big marlin—especially the blacks—rarely turn them down. This is a hardy bait with lots of color, but even when they turn gray, they are still very likely to get piled on, as long as they aren’t soft. I think these baits produce a more aggressive bite, because once the marlin figures out it’s a tuna, it wastes no time eating it.

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