Make them want it
When a marlin wants something, you can’t take it away from him. The problem can be making him want it. If a marlin doesn’t hit solidly, don’t just give up and wander off with your baits or lures.
When you get a strike on a bait and the line is knocked out of the clip, but the fish is not on, a good deckhand should already be at the rod trying to bring the fish back to the bait. Some deckhands will jack around trying to get the line up into the clip or start cranking on the reel. That wastes valuable seconds.
The crew should grab the line with his hand and raise it up over his head to get the bait back up on the surface. Just make sure you don’t have any wraps around your hand or that the rest of the line isn’t tangled around your body, your fighting chair or your charter party.
If the fish comes back up behind the bait, you can drop it right back into its mouth. The hand-feeding gets it back into place really fast – gets the line up high to where the angler, captain and deckhand can watch it. You can actually drop a bait right back into the mouth of a trailing marlin if you are alert.
What happens if the fish still doesn’t come back up for that bait? Dump the spool. Let the bait sink instead of trying to keep bringing it back up into the spread. Drop it back for a count of ten, so the bait acts like a stunned fish waiting to be eaten. A lot of crewmen will pull that bait in to see what’s happened to it, but remember that nine out of ten times, that fish is still trailing back there.
The same concept works with lures as well as with bait, but the faster pace of lure fishing makes “hand-feeding” more hazardous to fingers, ears and any other appendage looped by a line attached to a fish. Don’t give up if a striking fish misses a lure. Assume it is always still out trailing and still interested. Reeling the lure back into its original position to duplicate its original action will sometimes draw a second strike.
Watch the lure for signs of a following fish and check to make sure the hooks have not been flipped around each other or around the leader. A hook-fouled lure is only going to be a distraction. Reel it in and get it out of the fish’s face, so the marlin can switch to another lure.
Sometimes a marlin will trail a lure for a half-mile without taking it. Free-spool the lure to drop it back into the marlin’s face to just under its chin, then advance the striking drag and crank the lure back into position, expecting a strike at any time.
Never give up on a missed strike without one final try. When all else fails, free-spool a flat-line lure until it drops back behind all of the other lures in the wake. Then reel it back up through the pattern as fast as you can crank it without making it cartwheel.