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Take a dip: don't pass up a chance to drop your baits in good water.

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The pros decide where to fish offshore in the morning based on a variety of factors including recent catches and their communication network of trusted friends. But even with a specific goal in mind, good fishermen are always ready to "take a dip" on the way out. That means having rods and baits rigged and ready prior to leaving the dock. It also means preparing your crew for rapid deployment in the event you find an unexpected condition, such as a drifting board or a bait-rich color change in shallow water.

Southeast Florida trolling captain V.J. Bell shared some of the things he looks for from the flying bridge of his 51-foot Bertram, Challenge.

Given low light in the morning, Bell concedes that it can be difficult to discern changes in water color (this of course is less problematic on the Gulf coast than it is on the Atlantic side). Instead, Bell advises watching for signs of life such as porpoises, flyingfish, birds and weeds. A temperature gauge is invaluable early--a slight change in temperature may alert you to an otherwise indistinguishable break, one which may be visible only after the sun has risen. The first boat on the edge is often the one that scores, particularly with dolphin and wahoo.

The fishfinder gets special attention on the ride out, as Bell looks for structure and bait. Mark good schools of bait on the bottom and suspended? Make a couple of passes over them. Use the bottom lock feature of your bottom machine to amplify dropoffs, structure, elevations and other areas of interest that could be appealing enough to stop and fish on.

The playing field changes all the time and if a spot much shallower than your original destination looks great, it's time to "take a dip."

Bell suggests checking out new features for 10 or 15 minutes. Deploy your teasers and regular trolling spread and fish the area hard to give it an honest chance. If nothing happens, pick up and move on to the next good set of conditions you find. An abrupt change in sea state will also notify you of an area of water quality change. Even though you can't see it well in the low light, a calm to choppy water change could be a nice edge with current and, perhaps, weed and bait. If the fleet has already assembled, listen to the radio to see if there is really a bite or if they are just pounding yesterday's numbers without success. A few hours at a great spot sure beats a whole day at yesterday's hot spot.

Once you have found a spot that looks good, have the patience to stick with it for a while. It might take a mile of two of trolling even a great edge before you get your first bite. Don't pick up and run just because another boat catches a fish: It could end up as their only bite of the day. Do pay attention to the radio, however, and take note of the depth fish are being caught in. When enough fish have been caught consistently in that depth, go ahead and pick up if you've had no luck. Don't run straight to the fleet, though. Productive conditions likely exist over a large area in that depth. Better to find the same conditions north or south of the fleet. When you catch a fish, you can work your own spot, free of traffic.

Make a plan and head on out, but be ready and willing to capitalize on what the dynamic ocean delivers.

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Plug Into the Bite

Heading out on the deep blue? Don't forget to rig a saltwater grade spinning or baitcasting outfit with a lipped plug of topwater lure. If you come across a floating board or weed mat--or better yet, working fish--make an immediate cast.

Similarly, you'll want a few rods set aside with little more than a single bait hook and 50-pound monofilament leader or so. These you can use to cast chunks of bait at school dolphin or tripletail.

Successful anglers aren't always the ones with the fanciest boats or the most tournament wins. Often it's the ones who are attentive and prepared for opportunities.
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Title Annotation:FS SEMINAR: OFFSHORE; trolling fishing in Florida
Author:Grell, Fritz
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Geographic Code:1U5FL
Date:Apr 1, 2009
Words:709
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