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The Bait and Switch
Perfecting the bait and switch will increase your hook-up ratio.
World-record seekers targeting big fish on light tackle came up with the bait-and-switch technique, also called "switch-baiting." The technique involves trolling teasers, either rigged baits or lures without hooks to raise fish. When a billfish shows up in the spread, the crew teases the fish close to the boat. At this point, the angler drops back a live or dead bait on gear matched to the size of the fish. Once the teaser is pulled out of the water, the marlin switches over from the teaser and hits the bait. Story and photos by John Ashley.
Live baits often out-fish dead baits when using the bait and switch. However, if the billfish is really fired up, it will eat just about anything you put in front of it. A live bait tank with good seawater circulation is essential to hold large, live mackerel. Tubes are also great to keep rigged baits alive and close to the action to deploy at a moment's notice.
Once a marlin appears in the spread, the crew does not have much time to complete the bait and switch. To maximize on time, rig a live mackerel on a circle hook and place it in the bait tube for quick deployment.
Here's a handy little trick to stop the live-bait bridle from coming off of the hook: Wrap a short piece of copper wire around the bridle to keep it tightly secured to the circle hook.
You can also use a rigged dead bait with great success when switch-baiting. A rigged ballyhoo and even lures can be used for the pitch bait, but most crews prefer a rigged mackerel. For the best hook-up percentage, place the circle hook in front of the bait. When dropping the bait back, hold it in position just beyond the prop wash and keep your eyes on your bait. Resist the urge to look around the spread. Focus on your bait so you're ready for the big bite.
This pitch bait is rigged and ready for rapid deployment. The dead bait rig is set in a tube with ice and water to keep it out of the sun, which will turn the bait to mush. A 50-pound stand-up rod is placed in the holder on the fighting chair and the leader is coiled and secured with a quick-release rubber band so the angler can get the bait back to the fish in a manner of a few seconds.
The last thing you want is your leader getting wrapped up or tangled when you need to drop a bait back to a teased-up fish. Coil the leader neatly and attach it to the rail with a rubber band and plastic sleeve for a quick release. Having different setups ready for action helps the angler use the best gear for the size of the fish. You may want to have 20-, 50-, 70- and 100-pound setups ready for action, or heavier, depending on where you're fishing.
A 400-pound blue pounces on the teaser as the crew winds the lure closer to the boat, and the fish follows it like a hungry dog after a bone. The hookless teaser is pulled away from the marlin once it's time to pitch the mackerel bait.
The now hungry (and lit-up) blue marlin crashes the rigged bait immediately after the teaser is pulled away.
The switch is made and it's time to set the hook on the 50-pound outfit.
The perfect hook-up. The circle hook can be seen in the corner of the jaw of the jumping blue. This turned out to be an exciting half-hour fight by switch-baiting the fish and using the lighter 50-pound tackle.
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