Using BIG Baits to Target BIG Marlin

How to bridle large tuna baits to catch big black marlin off the Great Barrier Reef.
John Ashley
There's an old saying, the bigger the bait, the bigger the marlin. But it's not as simple as placing a large circle hook on the head of a big tuna and putting the bait in the water. Fishing with big baits requires some extra finesse if you want to maintain a positive hook-up ratio. This article details the tactics used to fish large baits off of Australia's famed Great Barrier Reef - the ultimate big black marlin fishery on the planet.
This yellowfin tuna may be a trophy catch in some fisheries around the world, but here in Carins, Australia, this tuna is bait! When placing a big tuna back in the water be careful as the dazed tuna is going to take off quickly and you don't want the reel to over-run. Leave the ratchet on with a little drag. Let the bait out about 100 yards, then start trolling slowly at two to three knots. Usually the tuna will go crazy when a marlin sets its sites on the bait. When the marlin takes the bait, give the fish a few long seconds to eat the big bait before easing up the drag pressure to set the hook.
When a tuna is caught, it's best to quickly turn it over on its back, which helps to settle the tuna down. In this photo, the deckhand is pumping saltwater through the bait's gills using a raw-water washdown hose. This method is often used to get the tuna into deeper water and away from the edge of the reef where the sharks lurk. Tuna tubes are a great option for storing your live tuna, that is if they'll fit in the tube!
Working with big baits can be a two-man job as these tuna kick their tails at about 1,000 rpm so hanging onto a tuna takes two hands. For the bridle, a length of 130-pound Dacron line is securely tied to a 20/0 hook to form a 6-inch loop. A long, blunt bait needle with a flat hook on the end is used to push the Dacron through the top of the bait's eye socket to connect to the bridle.
We prefer a rig consisting of 29-feet of 700-pound monofilament connected to a 20/0 Mustad circle hook with a crimp. The end of the bridle is placed over the point of the hook. The hook is then turned three or four times, twisting the bridle before the point of the hook is run back through the gap formed between the tuna's head and the twisted bridle. This prevents the bridle from coming off the hook.
This yellowfin tuna lasted about five minutes in the water before getting smashed by an 1,100-pound black marlin. A giant black marlin will suck down a bait this size like it's a jelly bean. Seeing a giant marlin inhale a big bait is one of the best thrills you'll ever experience offshore.
Marlin aren't the only critters that like big tuna baits. The razor gang will claim their fare share of big baits. This tuna was sliced in half by a 100-pound wahoo.
Sometimes a marlin's eyes are bigger than its stomach and smaller billfish will try to inhale a bait that's a bit too big. With the circle hook placed on top of the bait's head, you may still hook these smaller fish, but there is always a chance they will throw the hook as they shake their head.
This giant black marlin managed to get rid of the live tuna bait, but it was too late, the circle hook was lodged perfectly in the corner of the jaw, nice and tight.

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