What are the most important things to know when you set out to match tackle and wits with the ocean's most tempermental big-game fish?
The ABCs are the PPPs.
The basics are prep-aration, presentation and penetration. You check your rods, reels, main line, double line, swivel connections, leaders and hooks for the slightest compromise they might offer a fish during battle. You pre-set your drags and check them, so they operate properly from free-spool, to strike, to full.
But just what is a "correct" drag setting? You'll hear a lot of advice on the setting to use for lure trolling. If you could troll with your drags in free-spool without back lashing on the strike, you might be surprised at how many marlin you would hook. You'll catch more fish with drags too light than too heavy. You can get solid hook-ups, all the way through the bill, even with the lightest drags. Blue marlin strike so savagely, they do it to themselves.
When the hook is not penetrating, just lodged in the roof of the mouth or the jaw hinge, a steady pull without a hard jerk will keep it lodged until the fish settles down or goes down.
A drag that is too light can't hurt you, but by the time you've figured out your drag is too heavy, you are usually waving goodbye to the broken end of your line. The light settings are good to start with and stay with until the fish goes down. When the line is angling down, you can increase the drag until you start winning, but never increase it more than necessary. If the fish comes up jumping again, get off the drag.
Penetration, or getting a solid hook-up, is only partly a matter of sharp hooks. The real key to a good hook-up is getting the fish to hit solidly.
The best hook-ups come when your lures are working right. A marlin will get curious about anything it sees going by in front of it and make a half-hearted swat at anything that catches its interest. But the marlin you hook are the ones that want to destroy your lure.
Make sure it isn't spinning, it is attacking the surface and making a continuous bubble stream, and that it is riding on the face of the wave, so the marlin can come out on top of it and cruise down the wave to grab it. Only then will the hook point matter.