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A winning spread: mixed bag offshore plan with a capital W.

There are at least as many theories on trolling spread patterns as there are trolling lures, but in my experience the best place to start is at the letter W. By that, I mean five lures placed astern, set at the apices and valleys in the shape of the letter W. This works for all bluewater quarry, including tuna, marlin, wahoo and dolphin.

The Basic W: The good news is this pattern works on any size boat that can safely troll offshore. On my 21-foot center console (no T-top) I run two flatlines from stern rod holders and, depending on the desired lure action, may pin the line down from the rod tip to a cleat using just a rubber band or a Roller-Troller line clip mounted on the transom. These inside lures form the two "valley points" of the W. Using basic 15-foot skiff outriggers I run one lure back from each to form the outer apices of the pattern. To make the center apex of the W, I'll run a line from a rod in the rocket launcher, putting a lure straight back behind the outboard motor. The center line could also be run on a bigger boat from a center-mounted transom rod holder, or a T-top or hardtop center rigger.

Lure Shape, Action and Size: For targeting a mix of pelagics, I like to vary lures as to action, shape and size. Typically I'll start by putting two lures measuring 6 inches or shorter close to the transom at the bottom of the W. Many fish will hit a lure amazingly close to the propwash. Start by adjusting the lures to swim about 20 feet or so behind the boat. Try each outrigger lure about 50 feet back. Precision isn't necessary; one lure may be about 50 feet and the other 70 feet back. Six- to 9-inch lures make a great starting point for most fish. To take fish entering the spread late, you might put the center lure way back. It's not unusual for me to put this one back 200 feet. Some savvy trollers go even more. Just be aware of the line capacity and drag setting required should this way-back offering get smacked by a very large or very fast gamester. I always make the center lure my biggest offering, such as a conical head lure up to 12 inches long.

With so many offshore lures available on the market it's easy to get confused when picking and choosing. Offshore gamefish find it hard to resist lures that "smoke" (that's the bubble trail behind the swimming lure) then rise to the surface and pop, throwing a spray of water before descending again. These lures have a flat, concave or cupped head. If the head has through-drilled holes (jets), even better; the smoke trail just gets hotter. Conical bullet heads or darts tend to pop less and spend more time subsurface--perfect for wahoo.

Tease 'Em Up: Put a 12-inch Boone or similar bird teaser in-line ahead of the center lure. The water-throwing action of the teaser is irresistible to all species. Gamefish see the trailing lure and can't help smacking it. Another way to tease-up offshore action is to use a daisy chain consisting of at least four skirted lures (often more) rigged in series. Deepwater predators can't stand the sight of a school of prey escaping. Daisy chains can be used at any location in the W spread.

Watch Lures, Sea Conditions: Noisy lures that draw strikes are fine, but lures should never leap from the water or swim super-erratically. What good is attracting fish if they have slim or no chance of becoming hooked? Watch lures and adjust to ensure proper action. On calm ocean conditions, popping and gurgling surface lures can be sensed by fish at distances. But if seas turn rough or wind-blown, deeper-running bullet head patterns tend to run truer, and multiple lines in the spread are more manageable.
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Title Annotation:OFFSHORE; fishing lures
Author:Babbitt, Brion
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Geographic Code:1U5FL
Date:Jul 1, 2013
Words:659
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