Getting a pelagic species to notice that you are fishing for them is always the first step to getting hooked up and possibly having the fight of a lifetime.
Jeremy Burnham runs the tackle-rigging station at the sporting-goods store. Offshore fishing is a way of life for Burnham; when he's not fishing off the South Carolina coast, he's likely on a trip visiting other bluewater hotspots. He supports all of the billfish tournaments in South Carolina, and he and his mobile tournament trailer will make the rounds in case anyone has any last-minute tackle or repair needs.
Almost every trolling spread includes a teaser; the most-common is the squid chain, usually consisting of five or six 9-inch plastic squid in a row. Space them 18 to 24 inches apart on 300-pound mono and use a crimp and a quarter-ounce egg sinker to keep them spaced properly. Make sure to rig the end of your teaser with a snap swivel so you can change up the final lure in your teaser chain.
"The most popular lure to rig at the end of the squid chain is a blue and white Ilander lure," Burnham said. "The whole squid chain needs to be built strong enough to withstand hits from dolphin, wahoo and billfish - all of which will come in hot and heavy and ready to eat when they spot them."
"The teaser reels are in the cockpit with the captain, and he will reel them up and the flat line - which is just in front of the teaser - should be waiting on the fish," he said. "If the flat line doesn't do the job, have an angler take the short-rigger out of the clip and point the rod tip in the direction of the marauding fish. This essentially puts that bait right where the teaser was a moment before."
Of course, many crews keep a pitch-bait rigged with a ballyhoo or a Spanish mackerel to feed to finicky fish that only want to play around with the teaser. You can rig a ballyhoo on the Ilander rig by making a loop in the mono and placing a bit of wire in with the crimp. Put the pin-rig wire through the mouth of the ballyhoo to hold it in place and use it as an anchor point for the wire spring that keeps the ballyhoo running straight. If it doesn't run straight, it won't look natural and it is much more likely to shake off.
The exact opposite of a smooth-running squid chain has to be a bowling-pin outfit. Another form of a teaser, the bowling pin chain is named for the shape of each lure. Not a soft plastic like the squid, but rather a hard substance, the bowling-pin action is side-to-side. You rig a string of them and you have a whole lot of action in the water to stir up some strikes.
"Most folks won't put these rigs on their outriggers because they drag and pull so much," Burnham said. "I run mine maybe 20 feet behind the boat, and I put a 3-pound weight in front of them to keep them down. Use 650-pound mono for these rigs and 12-inch spacing between each pin, which come in full size or half-sizes. Three-way swivels are used at each 12-inch point in order to rig the pins in an alternating fashion: right, left, right, left. You gotta love it when a billfish comes up and knocks a bowling-pin rig out of the ocean."
A squid-chain rig is by far the most economical way to go, and while bowling-pin teasers can get pricey, they don't touch the top-of-the-line teasers, oversized with wild coloration and mirrors all designed to draw the attention of a fish that's ready to eat.
Whichever teaser an angler decides to fish, they know to keep an eye on it, because that's likely the first place that a fish will show up. n