If you're curious about what it takes to catch a white marlin—maybe you've heard of the massive sums of prize money up for grabs at the white marlin tournaments each year—you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll provide essential white marlin fishing tips, techniques and gear to help you find success.
Before we get into marlin fishing techniques and tactics, let's profile ol' whitey so we know who we're dealing with. Think of these white marlin facts are the stats of your opponent:
While you don't need a mega-tricked-out sport fishing yacht to catch white marlin, it definitely doesn't hurt. An offshore-ready vessel with high-powered sonar is a must, however, and for any chance at landing a catch, the following marlin fishing equipment is essential:
White marlins are prime candidates for light tackle stand-up fishing. No need to strap into a fighting chair. A simple fighting belt is all you need.
And by "light" we mean 20 to 30-pound class reels and line. You see lots of Shimano Tiagra's on white marlin boats and you really can't go wrong with these rock-solid reels. Other manufacturers like Penn, Accurate, and Alutecnos also make great marlin fishing reels. Spool them up with 30-pound braided line and you're set.
Aside from the gear involved in a white marlin trolling spread, the terminal tackle used is very simple:
The first key to successful white marlin fishing is setting up an effective spread using the dredges, outriggers, and daisy chain teasers. Within the spread, several rods rigged with natural baits—again, small "dink" ballyhoo are a favorite—are set and closely watched by the dedicated anglers handling the rods.
When chasing whites, marlin boat captains first run offshore to waters typically deeper than 1,000 fathoms. Once out there, they focus on finding areas with bottom structure such as canyons, banks, pinnacles, and shoals where bait and marlin concentrate. They rely heavily on their fish-finders to find structure and bait as well as areas with changes in water temperature, which marlins tend to favorite.
When a likely marlin-holding area is identified, the spread is set out and a troll of around 7 knots begins. The dredges are a key part of this equation and are heavily weighted to stay submerged while trolling. During the troll, the anglers stay with their rods the entire time. The drags on their reels are set as light as possible, just heavy enough to hold the baits as they're pulled behind the boat.
At least one crew member stays up high on the bridge watching the spread, ready to announce any sign of a marlin entering the spread. When a marlin is spotted they call out and the anglers get ready. When a marlin enters the spread, the anglers immediately set their reels to free spool, using their thumbs on the spool to keep the line tight. White marlins are very cautious eaters and the slightest hint of resistance on the line can cause them to spit the bait.
As soon as a marlin takes the bait, the angler releases thumb pressure on the spool as much as possible without creating a backlash. Ideally, the marlin swallows the bait without feeling the line. Then, the angler tightens the drag to set the hook. From then on out it's a stand-up fight. Angler versus marlin, pumping and reeling until the fish is boat side.
Leadering—also known as "wiring"—is the final act of landing a marlin or any big game fish for that matter. It's a simple task but requires a tremendous amount of skill and experience to execute smoothly and safely. The risk of being pulled overboard is always present.
As soon as the angler brings the marlin boat side, a designated crew member—the leader man—uses well-padded gloves to grab the leader in order to either release the fish by snipping the line at the hook or hold the fish in position while another crew member gaffs the fish to hoist it aboard.
As we alluded to, there is big money to be won by anglers who compete in the several white marlin tournaments held every year.
Of course, you don't need to have high stakes and heated competition to go after white marlin. But doesn't that make it a little more interesting?
Ready to take on the action? White marlin fishing is not child’s play. You need every edge you can get. Gear up with high performance fishing clothing from Huk!