Freshwater Fishing and Offshore Fishing are Two Entirely Different Animals! With many new anglers trying offshore fishing every day, often these newer anglers ask me some of the same basic questions. First they tell me that they were pretty good freshwater fishermen but now they want to try those same skills in the offshore game. Their questions almost always lead into to same discussions. Just how can their freshwater fishing skills translate to offshore fishing?
The answer isn't always one that they are comfortable with. A really great freshwater fisherman has honed his skills to a razor fine point. He knows all the quiet and most carefully prepared presentations. His lures look and act like perfect imitations of the real thing because they are exactly what his quarries are used to seeing. His line is the lightest he can intelligently use for the conditions he is fishing. His hooks are the smallest and least visible he can use. In short, he is a "stealthy fishing machine". With that same mindset the freshwater guy attempts to make the transfer to offshore fishing. He quickly becomes frustrated. In reality, offshore fishing is going to be that much harder for a really good freshwater angler. The reason is because it is a 180-degree change in principles.
I like to acquaint offshore fishing to the old days when the circus would come to town. The first thing the "carnival folks" would do was to unload their tents and animals. The very next order of business was to put on a big parade right down the middle of the main street of the town. The reason was simple. They had learned over the years that they would attract the very best attendance when everyone in town knew that they were there.
It's the same thing in offshore fishing. Remember, you are trying to draw fish to your trolling spread from great distances and sometimes from great depths. You are often competing for the attention of the exact same fish that have already seen many other boats and many other decent presentations. So just how are you going to get the fish's attention and turn those difficult odds in your favor?
The best solution that I have found is to create your own "offshore circus". Yep, that's right! If it takes dragging the kitchen sink or the hubcaps from my old Buick to get me some attention then that's what I'll do. Thankfully, it's not quite that extreme.
Fluoro-Carbon Leader Is An Important Element
Before I get any further into the trolling, I need to discuss the main aspect of why I developed this system. Several years ago a Japanese manufacturer first introduced and patented Fluoro-Carbon leaders. The manufacturer realized that this new line was proving incredible fishing success among their own commercial fleet. If you are not familiar with this product, you should be. Fluoro-Carbon, unlike monofilament, is much closer to the same physical density of water. It sinks faster and is less visible to fish. To me, its low visibility is only a secondary factor. Its extreme strength and its abrasion resistance make it the only choice for offshore anglers like me that don't get a lot of trips and really need to produce the best possible results every time we go out. The only problem when using Fluoro-Carbon is that it is very expensive. It can range in price from 50 to 75 cents per foot. If you are making 15 foot long leaders with Fluoro-Carbon, it can be a very a very expensive proposition.
Two Leader System
That is why I devised my "offshore circus" which is centered around a two-leader system. My front leader is made with my favorite Tuff Stuff 200# monofilament leader material. My rear leaders are normally three feet long with 130# or 150# Fluoro-Carbon. With this system, I can get a bunch of three-foot leaders with a bag of Fluoro-Carbon.
I connect the two leaders the same way you already connect a leader to the line off the reel. The front leader has a loop on the front and a swivel at the rear. The rear leader has a loop protected connection in the front that would connect to the front leader's swivel and has my lure/rig. Now since I have a front leader, I figured it was time to also put that leader to work for me. I added an in-line series of any number of small lures.
You can use small squid, tiny king dusters, octo skirts, small birds, dropper loops with small Zingers to simulate jumping baitfish or whatever suits your fancy. This front leader is just going to look like small prey being pursued by your bait on that rear leader that is rigged on Fluoro-Carbon.
If you are using this two-leader system on all of your lines, You're going to notice a lot of neat little advantages. First, when you have a frisky fish in the box, you can just unclip your rear leader and clip on another and your back in the water in seconds. Note that you will only need a few extra front leaders made up in case of break or bite-offs. If you normally troll five lines, you should probably carry about eight or nine front leaders.
Another advantage of this system is that with such short rear leaders your bait box with all its pre-rigged lures will benefit by becoming more manageable. I usually carry about two dozen rigged lures with rigged ballyhoo in my box. With these short rear leaders I'm not spending valuable minutes untangling leaders just to get my baits out of the box.
My goal with my offshore circus is to get as many lures and teasers in the water within my spread as I possibly can manage effectively. Teasers are another very critical element. I have written another complete article on the importance of good teasers in offshore trolling. Good teasers are more important in offshore trolling than good lures/bait! Yep, you read that right! Teasers draw curious and instinctually competitive predators within the strike range of your spread. This is the best way to increase your catch. Teasers are the very best way to attract predators!
Let's compare a normal spread to my circus spread. Your standard everyday spread might have five lines and maybe a single teaser pulled off the transom. That would be six things in the water covering a large visual area of about 150 square feet. When you think of it, that's actually very little activity to try to get a fish's attention in such a massive area.
Huge Advantages To The Two-Leader System
Now let's look at my standard circus spread. I always pull one teaser from each corner of the transom. I am currently pulling two of my Eye Catcher Extreme Teasers in the dolphin colors which each orbit two magnum lures behind a large splashing bird. It gives the appearance that a school of dolphin are having a feeding frenzy at the transom of my boat.
Next, I usually fish about seven lines. My flat lines are run right behind the Extreme Teasers. These baits have a chain of small lures in front. These look like small and vulnerable predators that are participating in the feeding frenzy. The other flat line can also be a teaser spreader bar with about 10 dolphin colored squid and a hooked lure running close behind. It will usually be the same colors as my Extreme Teaser to complete the illusion.
The rest of my spread is carefully staggered using the front/rear leader system and incorporating my favorite lures in the better proven locations. If you're counting, here is the incredible tally. Between lures and teasers, my spread will have as many as 75 lures and teasers effectively doing their jobs at one time! Granted, most will be the small baitfish looking items but to a predator this circus of all these things going on around him is an invitation that his competitive instincts just can't resist.
Don't Be Afraid To Tell The Fish That You're There
Whether you are fishing from a small or large boat, in order to be more successful with offshore trolling you need to learn to announce your presence to all the local predators. Stealth just doesn't work well. Offshore species are curious, ferocious and competitive predators. They have to be in order to survive. They live in a remarkable cruel and predacious environment. If you want to increase your success rate, I suggest that you create a circus of your own.
If you would like to try the incredible effectiveness of trying your own offshore circus, call me and we can discuss designing a full spread like the one described here.