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The 'Don't Do It ' List

Fewer mistakes means more fish caught. Here are 10 suggestions.

Don't get caught with too short a gaff: This guy is literally going overboard to stick a fish!

Most months, we talk about things you can and should do to improve your success and enjoyment on the water. This month, let's turn things around and talk about 10 things you shouldn't do.

1) Don't throttle back prematurely.

You get a big bite while trolling. For some reason, the initial impulse is to back off on the throttle. Don't do it! Ocean predators like sailfish, dolphin, wahoo and tunas all often come up in tandem or even triples. Slowing the boat stops the other baits, greatly reducing the odds of hooking another fish or two. Worse, it gives slack line to the fish that's already hooked.

2) Don't mess with the drag.

Make it a point to acquaint your crew with your tackle before you leave the inlet. Lever drag or star drag, the first impulse for beginners when line is peeling off a reel is to do one of two things: either tighten the drag or loosen it. One will put too much pressure on the fish and break it off. The other will result in a massive backlash that will likely do the same.

3) Don't turn too sharply.

Turning too sharply is a big no-no. It reduces the effectiveness of most baits by impeding proper action, but worse, it may cause lines to wrap together as the baits now begin to spin.

4) Don't fly your baits.

A great way to ensure your close lines stay in the water during turns is to use some sort of flatline clip. It may be as easy as a rubber band on the fishing line attached to a cleat on the transom or better yet a Black's clip or Roller-Troller. Besides greatly reducing fouled baits, certain lures like small feathers, spoons and even lipped plugs perform better when the line is horizontal to the water versus pulled from above.

5) Don't miss the weather reports.

We're not just talking about tomorrow's marine forecast. What happened in recent days, or even weeks ago, can affect your fishing. A big cold front could send a wave of sailfish south into your waters. On the opposite side of the calendar, a tropical storm or hurricane in the Caribbean or Gulf of

Mexico can days later mean lots of floating debris off the lower Florida Atlantic coast.

6) Don't settle for green water.

Sailfish, dolphin and wahoo gravitate to blue water and are rarely found elsewhere. Big kingfish, on the other hand, don't seem to mind green. Green water also tends to be cooler, one reason a temp gauge is so important. Spend the extra time and fuel locating the optimal water.

7) Don't ignore your fishfinder.

Fishfinders may not identify exactly what fish are down there, but are crucial for determining that at least something is. Train yourself to keep one eye on the screen at all times, while watching topside for jumping fish, birds or boat traffic.

8) Don't skimp on the gaff.

For most catches, a single gaff will do. For fish over 50 pounds, it's always a good idea to use two. This is also where gaff length comes in. Every boat should have a long one measuring at least six or seven feet, as well as another of three or four feet. Why not just two long ones? The longer handle is for fish that may still be a foot or two below the surface when the shot comes. The second gaff, if needed, should be shorter because now the fish will be closer; choking up on a gaff handle renders it unwieldy.



9) Don't take your eyes off the baits.

Always have someone watch the spread. It's common for sailfish to shadow trolling baits, or make half-hearted slaps at the bait. Action on the part of the rod man is needed to seal the deal. Also, you'll want to know if a bait is fouled by grass, or has been nipped by a bonito or barracuda.

9.5) Don't take “eyes” off the baits.

The eyes have it, so to speak, when I'm selecting lures for general offshore trolling. Predator fish tend to gravitate towards lures with eyes. The Iland Sailure, Williamson Dorado and many others have prominent eyes.

10) Don't let an opportunity pass by.

Always keep at least one pitch bait rod ready to cast. A big dolphin or sailfish usually doesn't hang around the boat while you rig up. A second rod with a bucktail jig, metal speed jig or suitable casting plug is also handy. - FS

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