A big part of preparing for serious tournament fishing is getting, keeping and rigging the right baits. Whether you’re fishing live-bait sailfish tournaments in south Florida, dredge fishing in the White Marlin Open or pulling lures around Challenger Bank during the Big Game Classic in Bermuda, it’s all about what you’re putting out.
When preparing to fish a tournament season in south Florida, crews spend months catching, caging and feeding tournament baits. I actually know a few guys who have custom-made dip nets constructed out of isinglass so that the net acts as a little swimming pool for each bait as it’s transferred. Whether they’re sardines, threadfins, goggle-eyes or pilchards, I want them to be as strong and healthy as possible come tournament day.
Keeping good dead baits can be just as tricky as keeping live ones, if not more so. You don’t want soft, discolored baits swimming in your spread, and you don’t want dredge and teaser baits that fall apart every 10 minutes either. Using dead baits past their prime can lead to window shoppers, zero bites or sancochos. So whether you’re catching your own dead baits or ordering them from a supplier, taking good care of them is vital.
When tournament fishing for blue marlin with lures, you want your best players in the game. But your selection of what goes out can change by the hour, depending on the sea state and the size of the fish you start seeing in your spread. When I’m dialing in a lure spread before a big tournament, I keep a large selection of lures of various shapes and sizes ready to go. I also keep all of my replacement skirts, hook sets and everything else handy in case I need to rebuild my favorite piece from scratch.