Target: Blue Runners

When it’s calm enough, troll the beaches to pick up awesome bluewater live baits.

Fast-trolling small jigs is a terrific way to load up runners.

Abundant around the state, a 6- to 9-inch runner is perfect for big kings, sailfish, wahoo, you name it.
Fishing in hard-pressured Palm Beach County, I’ve found one method that, with a little tweaking, quickly accounts for enough runners to fill a day: trolling with small jigs.

There are three factors to consider. First, use light tackle and no leader. While you can catch runners by using all the way up to straight 20-pound test, you’ll catch more using lighter line. I use either a 1⁄8- or ¼-ounce jig on 10-pound-test monofilament. This thinner line allows the lure to be deployed faster behind the moving boat without casting.

For bait-fishing, it makes sense to use the cheapest jigs you can find. Fairly light line means you’ll see some cutoffs from mackerel and bluefish. I’ve started using freshwater speck (crappie) jigs, sometimes
trimming the hair.

When runners are biting fast and furious, they’ll hit a slow-moving jig, but if they’re acting finicky, pick up the pace. When the bite is hot, runners will feed right in the propwash, but on calm, clear days, you’ll get more hits on a longer line. What I tell anglers on my boat is, “When you think you have put it back far enough, start putting it back.” About 10 boat lengths, at least.

Finally, depth: While runners can be caught out past 20 feet of water while trolling jigs, the problem is, the deeper you get, the more mackerel and bluefish bites you’ll attract. I like to target my runners in somewhere between six and eight feet of water, which along Palm Beach can be quite close to the beach.

Don’t try this if the seas are up. The heave could potentially put you right on the sand. Also, it’s imperative to know of any rocky outcroppings or shallow patch reefs which could pop up and peel the bottom off your boat.

Now, you’re trolling fairly tight to the beach using light spinning outfits, the baits are way back and the speed is just under plane. The rod should be limber enough that when the strike comes, it bends. Remember to tighten the drag but leave it loose enough that should a large fish hit you can still fight it. There will be no sound of pulling drag, so watch the rods.

When the first strike comes, don’t slow the boat! Keep moving to maintain your hookset and pick up other baits. Runners often strike in packs.

While one of you is reeling in the first bait, have someone go to the second rod and start working the rodtip. Usually you can get a second fish on right away. With a double on, slow the boat. As you get those two close to the boat, be standing by with a third rod to toss at any followers. Do that four or five times and you quickly have a dozen fresh live baits, all while having fun and saving money. – FS

First Published Florida Sportsman Feb. 2011

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