The big tease

Fairly simple tackle, along with the right technique, can equal a successful day of offshore fishing. (Photo by Chris Burrows)

Look at that. It’s June already. Summer officially starts in the latter half of this month. 

Unless finals were a total disaster, the kids are out of school. The days are as long as they are going to be this year, and a lot of days can be comfortably and safely fished offshore. If weather patterns stay within their normal limits, we will have good, warm (but not too warm) water from 30 fathoms all the way out past 100 fathoms. Flying fish and sargassum weed should be everywhere in those ranges. 

June is a time when offshore trolling can be a lot of fun. It’s also a great time to turn it into more of a team sport. This is when I like to break out the teasers.

You don’t have to run a big diesel boat to get in on the teaser game. If you are fishing from a single-deck center console and want to maximize your summer spread with a teaser or two, you just adapt your strategy a little bit. I only have two rules when it comes to this.

First, I need to be able to see my teaser and what shows up next to it. Second, I need to have a reasonable way to get that teaser away from a hot fish very quickly so that I can switch him on to a bait with a hook in it.

On a center console, for me, pulling big, multi-arm dredges from a downrigger is out. I’ve tried it countless times and the ends don’t justify the means. I can’t see the bottom of the dredge, so I feel like I miss opportunities. 

Stay alert

When I’m in charge of watching, everything must be on the surface. I don’t know of a more “tried-and-true” teaser than the old squid chain with an Ilander/horse ballyhoo behind it. My pink squid chain with the blue/white Ilander goes out first, every single time, always on the right side of the spread. Maybe it’s because I’m very right-eye dominant, or just because it has worked so well in the past, but regardless, it works and that’s where I’m starting. 

I can be a little more flexible on the left side. Over there I like to pull a big resin head marlin lure, like a Black Bart Braziliano or Big Breakfast, usually in a dark color, like purple/black. That color pattern in the Braziliano looks just like a small blackfin tuna when it’s in the water, and what fish wouldn’t want to eat that? 

All my teasers are rigged on very heavy mono leaders about 20 feet long. I crimp a big loop at the top of the leaders for easy deployment and removal with a basic snap swivel. So far, so good.

As far as the system for pulling teasers from a center console, trial and error has led me to keep it as simple as possible. I landed on simply pulling them from the same rods and reels that I use to live-bait fish for grouper years ago, and I’m not changing anytime soon. 

Teasers are a big part of chasing sailfish this time of year. (Photo by Chris Burrows)

The gear

The rods are simple. Stout 6-footers with ring guides and a metal gimbal butt. The reels are Penn Senators (4/0, red bodied, which means high-speed retrieve) with a bunch of scrap mono on the base to fill the spool, covered with a top shot of 80-pound Power Pro.

When the teasers go out, I simply pop the gimbals into the angled rod holders in the T-top so they stick out almost horizontally to the water. This positions my teasers between the flat lines and the short-rigger baits, which is exactly where I want them to be. On most outboard boats this will keep them in clean water. I simply drop them back 40 or 50 feet past the flat line baits, and the tease is on.

 Just make sure you have a pitch bait rod rigged and ready at all times after this point. 

I’m a fan of a TLD-20 outfit with a short, 80-pound mono leader and a naked, split-billed ballyhoo, rigged on a short-shanked Matzuo (or similar) dink hook.

When a bull dolphin or a fish with a pointy snout shows up next to one of these teasers, this is where the interactive/team sport concept really shows itself. 

Ideally, you have enough competent crew on board so that someone is committed to grabbing the teaser rod and someone has the pitch bait rod. This is where the teaser rod really proves useful. A simple sweep of the rod while you’re reeling will get the teaser away from the fish much quicker than just reeling. 

Hot fish tend to become really angry fish at this point. Being assigned to the teaser is a lot of fun, you just have to keep your wits about you. At the same time, whoever has the pitch rod is already free-spooling the bait back. Keep making the fish mad as you bring the teaser in. 

At some point, the bait going out becomes closer to the fish than the teaser. Many times, this is when the pitch bait gets automatically nailed, and this bait has a hook in it. 

Now it’s the job of the pitch baiter to keep his or her wits, give the fish enough time to eat the bait, then engage the drag lever and set the hook. Or you can just knock the flat line bait out of its clip and drop it back. That’s completely within the rule book. You just have to give them something to eat at that point. If you got them mad enough by sweeping and reeling that teaser away from them, they usually will.

Teasing fish in and switching them to pitch baits is one of the more fun things you can do offshore. It’s exciting, it’s interactive, and it often allows you to catch quality fish on exactly the tackle you want to fight them on. It does require a little bit of practice, and it forces someone to always keep their eyes on the spread. 

In June, you never know exactly what is going to show up on your teasers. 

Sail away:

Throughout the month of June, offshore anglers can expect to run into numerous species of fish, including sailfish, which provide for some fun catches with teasers and simple tackle.

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