Throwing a Circus With Offshore Trolling Lures and Trolling
by Dave Reed
Fishing and Offshore Fishing are Two Entirely Different Animals!
With many new
anglers trying offshore fishing every day, often these newer
anglers ask me some of the same basic questions. First they
tell me that they were pretty good freshwater fishermen but
now they want to try those same skills in the offshore game.
Their questions almost always lead into to same discussions.
Just how can their freshwater fishing skills translate to offshore
The answer isn't always one that they are comfortable with. A
really great freshwater fisherman has honed his skills to a
razor fine point. He knows all the quiet and most carefully
prepared presentations. His lures look and act like perfect
imitations of the real thing because they are exactly what
his quarries are used to seeing. His line is the lightest he
can intelligently use for the conditions he is fishing. His
hooks are the smallest and least visible he can use. In
short, he is a "stealthy fishing machine". With that same
mindset the freshwater guy attempts to make the transfer to
offshore fishing. He quickly becomes frustrated. In reality,
offshore fishing is going to be that much harder for a really good freshwater angler. The reason is because it is a
180-degree change in principles.
I like to compare
offshore fishing to the old days when the circus would come
to town. The first thing the "carnival folks" would do was to
unload their tents and animals. The very next order of business
was to put on a big parade right down the middle of the main
street of the town. The reason was simple. They had learned
over the years that they would attract the very best attendance
when everyone in town knew that they were there.
It's the same
thing in offshore fishing. Remember, you are trying to draw
fish to your trolling spread from great distances and sometimes
from great depths. You are often competing for the attention
of the exact same fish that have already seen many other boats
and many other decent presentations. So just how are you going
to get the fish's attention and turn those difficult odds in
The best solution that I have found is to create your own "offshore
circus". Yep, that's right! If it takes dragging the kitchen
sink or the hubcaps from my old Buick to get me some attention
then that's what I'll do. Thankfully, it's not quite that extreme.
Leader Is An Important Element
Before I get any further into the trolling, I need to discuss
the main aspect of why I developed this system. Several years
ago a Japanese manufacturer first introduced and patented Fluoro-Carbon
leaders. The manufacturer realized that this new line was proving
incredible fishing success among their own commercial fleet.
If you are not familiar with this product, you should be. Fluoro-Carbon,
unlike glass based monofilament, is a manufactured from hard
plastic that is said to have nearly the same physical density
It sinks faster and is thought to be less visible to fish. To
me, its low visibility is only a secondary factor. Its extreme
strength and its abrasion resistance make it the only choice
for offshore anglers like me that don't get a lot of trips and
really need to produce the best possible results every time
we go out.The only problem when using Fluoro-Carbon is that
it is very expensive. It can range in price from 50 to 75 cents
per foot. If you are making 15 foot long leaders with Fluoro-Carbon,
it can be a very a very expensive proposition.
That is why
I devised my "offshore circus" which is centered around a two-leader
system. My front leader is made with my favorite Tuff Stuff
200# monofilament leader material. My rear leaders are normally
three feet long with 130# or 150# Fluoro-Carbon. With this system,
I can get a bunch of three-foot leaders with a bag of Fluoro-Carbon.
I connect the two leaders the same way you already connect a
leader to the line off the reel. The front leader has a loop
on the front and a swivel at the rear. The rear leader has a
loop protected connection in the front that would connect to
the front leader's swivel and has my lure/rig. Now since I have
a front leader, I figured it was time to also put that leader
to work for me. I added an in-line series of any number of small
You can use small squid, tiny king dusters, octo skirts, small
birds, dropper loops with small Zingers to simulate jumping
baitfish or whatever suits your fancy. This front leader is
just going to look like small prey being pursued by your bait
on that rear leader that is rigged on Fluoro-Carbon.
If you are using this two-leader system on all of your lines,
You're going to notice a lot of neat little advantages. First,
when you have a frisky fish in the box, you can just unclip
your rear leader and clip on another and your back in the water
in seconds. Note that you will only need a few extra front leaders
made up in case of break or bite-offs. If you normally troll
five lines, you should probably carry about eight or nine front
Another advantage of this system is that with such short rear
leaders your bait box with all its pre-rigged lures will benefit
by becoming more manageable. I usually carry about two dozen
rigged lures with rigged ballyhoo in my box. With these short
rear leaders I'm not spending valuable minutes untangling leaders
just to get my baits out of the box.
My goal with
my offshore circus is to get as many lures and teasers in the
water within my spread as I possibly can manage effectively.
Teasers are another very critical element. I have written another
complete article on the importance of good teasers in offshore
trolling. Good teasers are more important in offshore trolling
than good lures/bait! Yep, you read that right! Teasers draw
curious and instinctually competitive predators within the strike
range of your spread. This is the best way to increase your
catch. Teasers are the very best way to attract predators!
Let's compare a normal spread to my circus spread. Your standard
everyday spread might have five lines and maybe a single teaser
pulled off the transom. That would be six things in the water
covering a large visual area of about 150 square feet. When
you think of it, that's actually very little activity to try
to get a fish's attention in such a massive area.
Advantages To The Two-Leader System
Now let's look
at my standard circus spread. I always pull one teaser from
each corner of the transom. I am currently pulling two of my
Eye Catcher Extreme Teasers in the dolphin colors which each
orbit two magnum lures behind a large splashing bird. It gives
the appearance that a school of dolphin are having a feeding
frenzy at the transom of my boat.
Next, I usually
fish about seven lines. My flat lines are run right behind the
Extreme Teasers. These baits have a chain of small lures in
front. These look like small and vulnerable predators that are
participating in the feeding frenzy. The other flat line can
also be a teaser spreader bar with about 10 dolphin colored
squid and a hooked lure running close behind. It will usually
be the same colors as my Extreme Teaser to complete the illusion.
The rest of
my spread is carefully staggered using the front/rear leader
system and incorporating my favorite lures in the better proven
locations. If you're counting, here is the incredible tally.
Between lures and teasers, my spread will have as many as 75
lures and teasers effectively doing their jobs at one time!
Granted, most will be the small baitfish looking items but to
a predator this circus of all these things going on around him
is an invitation that his competitive instincts just can't resist.
Be Afraid To Tell The Fish That You're There
you are fishing from a small or large boat, in order to be more
successful with offshore trolling you need to learn to announce
your presence to all the local predators. Stealth just doesn't
work well. Offshore species are curious, ferocious and competitive
predators. They have to be in order to survive. They live in
a remarkable cruel and predacious environment. If you want to
increase your success rate, I suggest that you create a circus
of your own.
Editor's Note: Dave Reed is the former owner of Eye Catcher Lures and Hatteras
Lures for nearly 20 years and specialized in innovative
and unique custom hand made offshore lures, teasers and rigs.
Currently Dave is working as a designer and advisor for
Pursuits and East of Chatham Offshore Lures and Teasers.