May 22, 2018
As co-host of the Florida Sportsman Best Boat television series, I step on boats every day that have little more than a hull and engine. Rod holders are a plus, and if we have them, I'm convinced we can catch fish trolling on any given day, with just a few simple modifications.
The most obvious reason for outriggers is to spread your baits farther apart. But the dropback, releasing some line at the strike, is just as important. You see, dolphin, tuna, cobia and billfish aren't equipped for chopping up their food. They take their prey whole, normally swallowing it head-first. Giving a little slack to a fish allows it time to grab your bait and turn it before swallowing it. That's why every line I pull behind a boat will have a release mechanism set up somewhere. My goal is to give the fish the opportunity to start turning the bait, while at the same time alerting my crew that we just had a bite.
The good news is, in a pinch, you can duplicate the dropback without 'riggers. Simply twist a piece of the soft copper rigging wire around a stern cleat or the rail on a T-top. Take the long end and wrap it three or four times around your fishing line. With a lever drag reel, leave the lever just far enough forward to prevent backlash. Be careful not to close the loop around the fishing line, you want the wraps to open to release the line on impact. Hopefully your crew will immediately see the release, and drop the bait back for an additional couple seconds, ensuring the hook is inside the fish's mouth.
There are several clips from companies like DuBro and Aftco that will either hold your line in place or allow the line to slip through. I prefer to have my line held tight, as I want the line to pop free the second a fish touches the bait.
Downriggers on portable rod holder bases are easy to transport from one boat to another, but if you find yourself on a bare bones boat without one, here's a neat trick for getting a live bait deep. It requires little more than an egg sinker and a No. 32 rubber band. Set the bait back to normal trolling distance, then place a loop of line through the egg sinker. Cut a No. 32 rubber band in half and put a piece though the loop. It'll carry a slow trolled bait deep and the sinker will break free if a good fish is hooked. I've never liked having a hot fish dragging a weight around. In the case of a speedster like a wahoo or big king, I don't want him changing directions setting up a possible tangle at the weight, and I certain- ly don't want a billfish jumping and wrapping an egg sinker around its head. FS