Rigs & Knots
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Pitch Bait Tips
Increase your hook-up ratio on marlin using the bait-and-switch.
Experienced crews improve their catch rate on billfish using bait-and-switch techniques. The process is also ideal for fishing light line classes. Using teasers, the team can draw billfish in close to the boat and pitch them a bait. It sounds simple, but takes a lot of practice and a good team. Text and photos by Pat Ford.
There are a number of different rigs you can use for a pitch bait. In the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean most crews use a horse ballyhoo. This particular bait is rigged with a Mold Craft Chugger head and a circle hook. To effectively use a circle hook and lure, the hook must run in front of the bait. Let the fish eat the bait for at least a long five count before you begin to turn the reel handle.
The deckhand uses heavy rigging floss to close the gills of the bait and attach it to the circle hook. A Mold Craft Junior Super Chugger is slid onto the floss before tying the bait to the hook. Note the one-inch space between the bait and the hook. You want to place that hook way up front to get a solid hook-up in the jaw of the fish.
Dredges run off of each side of the boat draw fish up to the spread of lures and teasers. The typical pitch-bait spread includes a dredge off of each corner, a bridge teaser on each side and two to four hook baits in the outriggers. Set one angler on each rigger rod and have an angler ready to pitch a bait.
A squid chain is one of the most popular bridge teasers run in the Caribbean. This particular chain has a plunger-style lure with a bait set behind the squids for some extra splash.
When fishing tournaments, you can't afford to miss a fish. Top crews always have an angler at the ready on the outrigger rods (right) and a pitch bait rigged and ready to drop back to fish that pop up on the teaser or dredge. Keep the leader for the pitch neatly coiled and attached to the reel handle for easy deployment. Some crews run a short flat bait and use that as their drop-back or pitch.
There are many advantages to fishing the bait-and-switch. You improve your hook-up ratio, can select a line class that's perfectly matched to the fish and perhaps the best part of all is that you get to see the bite.
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