Proven techniques for coaxing a shy marlin to strike
Convincing a disinterested fish to attack and swallow a bait often ranks right up there with coaxing an ornery child to polish off a hearty helping of mom’s egg-plant-and-cauliflower casserole. It’s very hard to make any animal eat. You can only do your best to entice it.
When pulling artificials, about all you can do is turn the wheel to change lure action. But that’s a difficult call because the fish has come up to investigate something that attracted its attention. A change in lure action may entice a strike — or it may turn off a fish.
It’s very frustrating to have a window-shopping big, fat blue come right up in the middle of your lures and just sit there. It stays dead center in the spread, paddling along with you at eight knots. You try tricks like turning the wheel jiggle-jaggle, and making inside turns to get the lure down, then turning out to make it pop up, but just can’t get it to convert.
Other blues show a “stalking behavior.” The way these fish act supports the don’t-do-anything-different theory for waiting out a marlin until it’s ready to strike.
Properly rigged and tuned lures should deliver optimum performance when running in a straight line; there’s no need to turn the boat to make something happen. However, a good number of strikes are drawn on the inside lures when putting your boat through a turn. The lure action changes, and you get bit.
But slack line in the water makes it very hard to get a solid hookup when a fish eats on an inside turn. For this reason, try an outside turn to entice bites from lure-following fish. An outside turn usually makes a lure get up and show more action while keeping the line tight for an immediate hook-set.
If your main plan involves drag-and-snag lure fishing, I recommend having a pitch bait rigged and ready to drop back to any undecided fish that checks out the spread. That’s your best bet for getting borderline fish to strike.
When dragging live baits, faster-moving baits appear frightened and therefore draw aggressive strikes. Even though the bridled tuna may swim beneath the surface, anglers must maintain focus on the spread because the bait’s behavior frequently reveals the presence of marlin. Yellowfin get panicky, come to the surface and skip on their side when a marlin comes close. But don’t count on skipjacks to provide warnings of imminent bites. Skipjacks seem dumb and don’t usually care if they’re about to get eaten.
If you have a window-shopping blue come up on a rigger bait, pop the line out of the clip and crank it in really fast to make the marlin think the tuna is getting away, then dump it back into free-spool. This might make the marlin mad enough to attack… and whammo!
If you see a noncommittal marlin shadowing an artificial lure, crank the reel handle three times. Turn it quickly but not fast enough to make the lure jump out of the water, because this can freak out a marlin. Pause very briefly, then crank three more times… pause, then give it another three cranks. Do three of these three-crank bursts even if the marlin starts coming on hard, then drop it into free-spool.
If the fish hits, you’ll feel the rod shake from the bite. Put the reel in gear and crank hard to set the hook. If you miss the hookup or the marlin doesn’t bite, repeat the three-crank-three-times action. This trick usually gives you a couple of chances at a shy fish.
Don’t go into a panicky routine when a marlin starts sizing up the spread. Whether you plan to try to provoke a bite by adding extra action to a lure or dropping back a pitch bait, stay prepared to act quickly and efficiently.
Should you miss the bite or have a fish fade away, mark the spot on the GPS and do at least five 100-yard-long figure-eights over the area in an attempt to raise the marlin again.