The Green Machine

Lenny Rudow

The Green Machine

Learn how to rig this iconic lure for tuna and more.

By Lenny Rudow

If you've fished for tuna in the Northeast, you've undoubtedly pulled a Green Machine.

The Green Machine is a classic offshore trolling lure which tempts virtually every pelagic in the ocean.
Some lures earn epic success through the years and become true classics, and for many offshore trollers, the Green Machine tops the list of immortal winners.

Pull a Green Machine in the spread and it will bet attacked by every species of tuna as well as billfish, mahi-mahi, wahoo and virtually every predator sitting at the top of the food chain.

The original Green Machine offered by Sevenstrand consisted of a clear plastic bullet head with green beads inside, followed by a green glitter-flecked skirt. The company changed hands several times and there are a million knock-offs out there today. You'll find versions ranging from eight to 12 inches, but ask just about any old-timer and he'll tell you that the original is still the best.


Green Machines can be purchased rigged or unrigged. Pre-rigged versions typically come with 200-pound test or heavier line, and the thick monofilament slows the lure's action. Rigged with 10 to 15 feet of 125- or 150-pound soft mono or fluorocarbon leader, the lure's wiggle and waggle is greatly enhanced. But don't just crimp a hook on the end of the line. The chain of red beads running from the back of the Green Machine's head to about two-thirds of the way back in the skirt is a critical component. These beads keep the hook in the correct position, while adding a splash of red as the lure swims. After threading on the beads, crimp on an 8/0 to 10/0 J hook.

Green Machines can be rigged as single lures and are often pulled in single form particularly when albacore tuna are in town. Many anglers who target this species in specific will tell you that when it comes to longfin, no other lure will out-catch a bare-rigged Green Machine. Quite often, however, anglers will add a ballyhoo to the hook to increase its appeal when they're after yellowfin and billfish.

Another popular way to rig Green Machines is on spreader bars [LINK]. Some anglers like to use these lures for the entire bar, while others will rig a Green Machine on a short leader and use it as the hook-bait. This type of set-up is commonly effective for yellowfin and also gets blasted by bigeye on occasion. It's important to note, however, that if bigeye are in the area you may want to up-size the leader a bit.

One of the most common set-ups is the triple Green Machine with a bird rig. In some areas, you'll actually have a tough time finding a boat that doesn't have one.  This rig starts with a foot-long green Style 44 Boone Bird, followed by a short daisy chain of three Green Machines. The first one runs 10 to 12 feet behind the bird, the second trails by about three feet, and the final hook-bait is another three feet back. While virtually all tuna species and many billfish will attack this rig, it's a hands-down winner for yellowfin. In fact, John Unkart, a retired full-time professional mate and author of the how-to fishing book Offshore Pursuit, says that the bird/Green Machine rig "probably put more tuna in the box for our customers than any other single rig we ever pulled."


With your Green Machines rigged and ready for deployment, there are a few specifics you need to know about fishing them. First off, this isn't a lure to add to a slowly-trolled ballyhoo spread nor a high-speed wahoo mix. They perform best at speeds of six to eight knots, appearing rather flat at slower speeds. They're also too light to troll much faster, or they begin skimming on the surface with vastly reduced action.

Once trolling at an appropriate speed, a single-rigged Green Machine will provide plenty of action on its own, especially when rigged with the lighter leaders we talked about earlier. That doesn't mean, however, that you can't increase their effectiveness a bit. When the bite is slow, jigging the rod rhythmically will give a single Green Machine some extra zig and zag. Don't jig too hard or it can skip, don't jig a lure on a spreader bar or with a bird rig.

Another interesting oddity about the Green Machine is that it usually seems to perform best when there's a bit of distance between the boat and the lure. It doesn't shine as a flat-line bait. The Green Machine likes the long rigger and shotgun positions.

If you haven't towed this classic producer in the past, give it a shot. I have a feeling you be seeing green in no time.

Green Machines make excellent hook-baits for spreader bars.
This yellowfin just couldn't resist the zigging and zagging of a Green Machine; note the red beads inside the skirt, which are an important part of the rigging.

Some anglers believe that adding a ballyhoo to a Green Machine enhances its appeal, but others feel the lure does its best work all alone.
Bird-rig - The triple Green Machine/Bird rig is a well-known producer, and is pulled by countless boats up and down the coast. Photo courtesy of John Unkart

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