Most anglers know that teaser chains are effective fish attracters, but they’re many times more effective when the teasers are real, live baitfish. Build one of these chains and you’ll find that kings, Spanish, bonito and dolphin not only come close to your boat, they stay there, where you can catch them on flies, lures or live bait.
Building the livebait teaser is easy, and a variety of components can be used depending on the size and swimming strength of the baits. In most cases, I prefer threadfins, sardines or menhaden (bunker), but blue runners and mullet can be used with excellent success.
Start with a leader coil of 40-pound monofilament. I’ve used line as light as 12-pound and as heavy as 80-pound, but found 40-pound is strong, durable and is less visible to the fish. Tie a 1/2-ounce barrel sinker on the terminal end of the coil. The sinker keeps the baits from swimming together and tangling the chain, and also encourages them to swim down. Other styles of sinkers may also be used.
About 12 inches above the sinker, start tying dropper loops every 12 to 16 inches until you have six or more loops in your chain. The dropper loops should be roughly six inches long when folded.
Using the same copper rigging wire commonly used for wrapping the bills on ballyhoo, insert a strand a few inches into the loop, bend it back and make several twists with both strands to make them fast to the loop. That should leave 8 or 10 inches of wire trailing off the loop. Do this to every loop in the chain. The teaser chain is now ready for the baits.
Starting at the loop closest to the sinker, take a threadfin and push the tag end of the copper wire through the clear spot in the nose of the bait. Pass it through about two inches, bend it back and twist it tight. Then drop the bait into the livewell. Follow the same procedure for the other loops and baits until the chain is completely filled, then lift the entire chain out of the livewell and place it in the water off the stern.
As soon as the baits hit the water, they’ll try to swim off, effectively spacing out the chain. The leader coil allows the teaser chain to be placed at a variety of distances from the boat. In clear water, I like to keep the bait chain right in the propwash or just to one side of the wash so the moving water pushes the chain from one side to the other, giving it more action and flash. In off-colored water, letting the chain out away from the stern will allow fish to see it from more angles and gives the appear-ance of a school of fish drifting off floating structure.
Be sure you can see the teaser chain at all times. Not all striking fish will blast a bait on the surface, and if you can’t see your teaser chain you might bring it in and find half the baits have been ravaged by a wahoo or kingfish that attacked from below.
If slow-trolling is your game plan, you can rig a flatline so that the bait swims a foot or two behind the teaser chain, giving the appearance of a weak bait that’s lagging behind.
Another option is to place a release clip instead of a weight on the end of the teaser chain, and attach your hooked bait to that. This is a little trickier, but it ensures your hooked bait will swim directly behind the other baits. I prefer to use the release clip when using blue runners or goggle-eyes and targeting kingfish, since the heartier baits won’t tangle in the line as often. Depending on the size of the baits, the copper rigging wire might have to be replaced with a small snap swivel to keep the baits attached. With the blue runner chain, I like to place the largest blue runner in the livewell on the hook and give it two feet of line past the release clip so it can swim down and behind the baits.
When drift fishing, the teaser chain can be supplemented with a few unattached live baits that will scatter whenever a predator draws near. Do this by scooping several baits out of the well and dropping them over the stern as close to the teaser chain as possible. Some of these baits will swim off, but others will join the chained school. Try this when slow-trolling, and the speed and prop wash combine to push the free baits out on their own.
If you have a full complement of bait, you can also add a little live-chumming to the game plan. Tossing over a few baits every minute or so will allow the baits to swim off and draw the ire of any passing fish for several hundred yards. As the fish start feeding, they move toward the supply of free-swimming baits until they see the teaser chain and attack. That’s when there will be more popping behind the boat than at movie night at Orville Reddenbacher’s, and it might be a good idea to pull the chain right up to the stern to avoid having to replace every bait. As the fish are landed, the small school of baits on the stern keeps the unhooked members of the predator school in the area and in a feeding mood. Then a hooked live bait can be dropped overboard and allowed to swim off to certain demise.
Rigging and fishing the livebait teaser chain requires a strong supply of bait, but the first time you see three or four sailfish try to ball the teaser into a tight school or a pod of cobia attached to every bait and looking like you’ve got 300 pounds of teaser in the water, you’ll find the results worth the effort.