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Flashers: A Second Look

Spear fisherman offers insights into the new rage on the bluewater grounds: vertical flash teasers.

In time, that vertical array of reflective objects will draw wahoo and other fish in close.

Recently, light tackle hook-and-line fishermen have discovered the effectiveness of vertical flash teasers for wahoo and other pelagic fish. These tools have long been part of the bluewater spearfisherman’s game. For the benefit of anglers and subsurface hunters alike, I want to share some of my observations from free-diving.

Basically, a good flasher design should impart motion and emit pulses of brilliant light as the sun reflects off the teasers. You want an array that moves in a very light chop. Otherwise, divers will have to man the flashers and continually move them using a jigging movement, and that gets tedious after a while. This is unavoidable when the sea is flat calm.

A wide variety of objects and materials can be used: CDs, silver spoons, trolling flashers (used by salmon anglers in the Northwest), plastic skirts, hookless lures and even the relic of the ’70s—the disco ball—are commonly used. The array of objects is suspended from a float and made to hang more or less straight up and down with a weight at the bottom of the flasher. The length (or you could also say “height”) of the flasher can range between 10 and about 50 feet. For practical reasons, depth of the deployment should not exceed the visibility. In other words, the divers need to be able to see the last object of the flasher from the surface. Free-diving is the standard for blue- water spearfishing since most pelagics are frightened by the bubbles produced by SCUBA equipment.

The flickering, pulsating reflections of the flasher materials resemble a school of baitfish and can attract gamefish all on their own. It also attracts other small species, and the more activity you have around the flashers, the more attractive it is to predators.

Chum helps, too, by providing scent to accompany the visual attraction. Typically, a passing pelagic will come in for a closer look. That may be enough to bring the fish within range of the long-range spearguns typically used for bluewater hunting. However, if there is a bite-sized morsel of chum drifting down in the vicin- ity of the array, the fish may decide to eat it or at least come even closer. That’s the moment the spear fisherman strikes.

The hunter must time his dive and his shot properly to avoid spooking the fish or shooting too far, but those techniques are the subject for another article. Wahoo, dolphin, kingfish, amberjack, cobia, blackfin tuna and yellowfin tuna are all taken using flashers. Sharks are frequent visitors, too—their role as “tax man” is well-understood by spear fishermen and rod-and-reel anglers alike! - FS

Buy or DIY?

Vinyl panels covered with metallic, water- proof tape are excellent for making teasers, as described in the October 2012 feature article. One source of vinyl: “For-sale” and other all-weather signs at hardware stores can be trimmed to elon- gated, tapered shapes, to serve as backboards for reflective appliques.

Compact disks (CDs) are cheap, readily available and reflect light better than almost any object. They can be attached in long chains using double-snap swivels, and mixed with other objects.

Some form of weight must be added to the bottom, to keep the array vertical in the water column.

Flashers can also be made to order by some sources. Killian Doughney of Killmode Custom Flashers in North Palm Beach (killmodecustomflashers@yahoo. com) is a serious bluewater hunter who has been making custom flashers for customers since 2007. He and his spear fishing friends and clients have tested his designs offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, Florida East Coast and Bahamas, taking a variety of pelagic species, such as wahoo, kingfish, tuna, dolphin and amberjack.

The most important feature of a flasher array, in his opinion, is “detailed, life-like appearance.” When a customer contacts him about ordering a flasher, he suggests various designs based on the primary species that the client will pursue and the conditions in the area the client intends to use it. Each area has its own prevalent baitfish species that the flasher needs to mimic. Depths, current and water clarity are also important in the design. Recently, light tackle hook-and-line fishermen have discovered the effectiveness of vertical flash teasers for wahoo and other pelagic fish. These tools have long been part of the bluewater spearfisherman’s game. For the benefit of anglers and subsurface hunters alike, I want to share some of my observations from free-diving. Basically, a good flasher design should impart motion and emit pulses of brilliant light as the sun reflects off the teasers. You want an array that moves in a very light chop. Otherwise, divers will have to man the flashers and continually move them using a jigging movement, and that gets tedious after a while. This is unavoidable when the sea is flat calm. A wide variety of objects and materials can be used: CDs, silver spoons, troll- ing flashers (used by salmon anglers in the Northwest), plastic skirts, hookless lures and even the relic of the ’70s—the disco ball—are commonly used. The ar- ray of objects is suspended from a float and made to hang more or less straight up and down with a weight at the bottom of the flasher. The length (or you could also say “height”) of the flasher can range between 10 and about 50 feet. For practical reasons, depth of the deployment should not exceed the visibility. In other words, the divers need to be able to see the last object of the flasher from the surface. Free-diving is the standard for blue- water spearfishing since most pelagics are frightened by the bubbles produced by SCUBA equipment. The flickering, pulsating reflections of the flasher materials resemble a school of baitfish and can attract gamefish all on their own. It also attracts other small species, and the more activity you have around the flashers, the more attractive it is to predators. Chum helps, too, by providing scent to accompany the visual attraction. Typically, a passing pelagic will come in for a closer look. That may be enough to bring the fish within range of the long-range spearguns typically used for bluewater hunting. However, if there is a bite-sized morsel of chum drifting down in the vicinity of the array, the fish may decide to eat.

Specially for the rod-and-reel market, R&R Tackle in Miami (www.randrtackle.com) is said to be in negotiations to sell flashers designed by Capt. George LaBonte, a Jupiter captain featured in the October 2012 FS story about using flashers.

First Published Florida Sportsman April 2013