Sailfish - Techniques for Switch Baiting

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Instructor: Chris Rushford

In the Indian Ocean off Western Australia, Ross Newton, skippered by Reel Teaser Fishing Adventures, shares his unique approach to switch baiting sailfish in shallow water around reef edges. Their setup is simpler than many top tournament teams, using a daisy chain with birds, squids, and a belly bait. The baits used are garfish or ballyhoo rigged with circle hooks and compact skirts. The video provides a detailed presentation of the unique bait and switch fishing techniques used in western Australia.

Description / Review / Instructor

Video Summary:
  • Sailfish Fishing Location: Contrasts shallow water reef fishing with typical locations like Central America and the Atlantic.
  • Featured Expert: Demonstrations by Chris Rushford on trolling for sailfish, rigging baits, and understanding fishing grounds.
  • Bait and Switch Technique: Effective techniques from the Indian Ocean
  • Teasers and Spread Setup: Explains the setup of squid chains and belly baits for attracting sailfish.
  • Drop Back Baits Strategy: Details the process of switching sailfish attention from teaser to bait.
  • Edge Trolling Dynamics: Discusses the challenges and opportunities of fishing in shallow waters near deep ocean areas.
  • Innovative Techniques: Introduces less common methods like using stick baits for sailfish.
  • Rigging Tutorials: In-depth guidance on rigging ballyhoo and belly baits, focusing on preservation and effectivenes

Fishing for sailfish in plain view of waves crashing off the reef is a little out of sorts for those of us used to fishing Central America, the Caribbean, or the Atlantic. Shallow water edge trolling is unpredictable, but there are fishing techniques that you can run to selectively target sailfish with amazing success. This In The Spread sailfish fishing video, featuring Chris Rushford from Reel Teaser Fishing Adventures, will show you how to troll for sailfish hard up on the reef edge, how to rig ballyhoo or garfish baits and belly baits. We will also discuss the fishing grounds and why pelagic fish are there, daisy chain teasers, how to set up a spread, the switch baiting tactics these guys use, catching sailfish on stick baits, all the tackle, and heaps more.

Bait and Switch

Now, the bait and switch fishing techniques used by Reel Teaser may seem unconventional for those from the western hemisphere, but they are very effective. For those that are not familiar with this crew, they fish the Indian Ocean off of Western Australia. Boat skipper Ross Newton discovered the sailfish fishery off of Broome and is widely recognized as one of the best. His techniques have won him a myriad of billfish tournaments, solidifying himself as a very astute fisherman. The knowledge he has instilled in deckhand Chris Rushford shines through, as they work in simpatico targeting sails on the edge of the Rowley Shoals atolls.

Teasers and the Spread

This fishing video starts off with the teaser spread and baits. Two squid chains with either belly baits or swim baits are positioned one on each corner. You will see how these daisy chains of birds, squids, and hookless baits are set up and how far back they are run. An additional belly bait is dropped back from a rod and reel, serving as a shotgun bait. This type of teaser gives you the ability to control where the sailfish goes in the spread. You can steer the fish to a desired hooked bait for the switch off easier with a rod and reel bait than you can the squid chain. For baits, garfish or ballyhoo are used. Where the baits are positioned adds an interesting twist to the bait and switch process used by these Aussies.

Drop Back Baits

The bait and switch technique is a crucial aspect of sailfish fishing, especially as described in the context of the Australian fishing method. This technique involves a carefully orchestrated process of attracting the sailfish with a teaser – typically a chain of decoys that mimic a school of fish – and then switching its attention to the actual bait. This switch is critical for a successful catch.

  • Dropping the Bait Back: The essence of this technique lies in the skillful handling of the bait. As the sailfish approaches the teaser, the angler must quickly drop back the actual bait. This is typically achieved by letting the baited line free spool. This action allows the bait to fall back in the water column, creating an easy target for the sailfish that is already attracted by the teaser.
  • Timing and Coordination: Timing is crucial in this maneuver. It must be executed swiftly as sailfish are quick and easily distracted. The moment the sailfish shows interest in the teaser, the bait must be presented. Delay or miscoordination can result in the sailfish losing interest or attacking the teaser itself, which often does not have a hook.
  • Drawing in the Teaser: Concurrently with dropping back the bait, the teaser chain is reeled in. This action is meant to guide the sailfish's attention towards the bait. The angler needs to ensure that the teaser is moved away from the sailfish just enough to redirect its focus but not so far that it loses interest.
  • Mechanics of the Switch: The mechanics of the switch from teaser to bait are critical. It involves not just the physical actions of dropping the bait and pulling in the teaser, but also reading the behavior of the sailfish. Experienced anglers can interpret the movements and engagement level of the fish, adjusting their techniques accordingly.
  • Global Practices: While the article specifically mentions the techniques used in Australia, it's noted that similar methods are employed by accomplished teams around the world. Each region might have its nuances based on local sailfish behavior, water conditions, and available equipment. Observing these global practices can provide valuable insights into the versatility and adaptability of the bait and switch technique.

In summary, the bait and switch technique for sailfish is a sophisticated and highly effective method that hinges on precise timing, coordinated actions, and a deep understanding of the fish's behavior. Watching experienced anglers execute this technique offers valuable learning opportunities for both novice and seasoned fishermen.

Edge Trolling

Edge trolling in a marine environment where shallow waters rapidly give way to much deeper areas presents a unique and dynamic fishing experience. This specific scenario, where you transition from 30 feet to 300 feet of water, creates a fascinating ecological interface with a rich diversity of marine life.

Rich Biodiversity at the Edge: The sharp depth gradient at the reef's edge creates a natural congregation point for various species. Baitfish tend to cluster in the relatively safer, shallower waters near the reef for protection. This abundance of prey attracts a wide range of predators.

Pelagic and Reef Species: This area is a hotspot for both pelagic (open ocean) species like sailfish, marlin, tuna, and wahoo, and reef-dwelling species such as dogtooth tuna, mackerel, and barracuda. The presence of such diverse species in a concentrated area makes it an ideal fishing ground but also adds complexity to the fishing strategy.

Teaser Strategy in Edge Trolling: Given the variety of predatory fish in the area, careful selection of teasers is crucial. Teasers are lures used to attract fish, but in this context, they are intentionally hookless. The reason for using hookless teasers is twofold:

  1. Prevent Damage from Non-target Species: Hookless teasers reduce the risk of catching non-target species. With so many different predators around, there’s a high chance of baits getting attacked by species other than the intended target (like sailfish). By using hookless teasers, anglers can avoid the teaser getting destroyed by these aggressive, often toothy species.
  2. Conservation of Resources: Using hookless teasers also means less bait is used, and there's less time spent on rigging baits. This is not only efficient but also more sustainable, reducing the impact on baitfish populations.
Adaptability and Skill: Successful edge trolling in such environments requires adaptability and a keen understanding of the behavior of different fish species. Anglers must be able to read the water conditions, understand how different species interact with the reef edge, and adjust their tactics accordingly.

Excitement and Challenge: The unpredictable nature of what you might hook into adds an element of excitement and challenge to edge trolling. The thrill of not knowing whether the next strike will be from a fast-moving sailfish or a powerful tuna adds to the allure of fishing in these diverse waters.

In summary, edge trolling near the reef's edge, where deep and shallow waters meet, offers a unique and exhilarating fishing experience. It requires careful consideration of bait and teaser strategies, an understanding of the diverse species present, and the ability to adapt to the dynamic environment. This fishing method not only challenges the angler’s skills but also emphasizes the importance of sustainable fishing practices.

Stick Baits for Sailfish

The use of stick baits for targeting sailfish represents an innovative approach in the world of sportfishing. While not as commonly employed as other methods, their effectiveness, as demonstrated in the video by Chris Rushford, highlights an exciting aspect of sailfish fishing.

  • Stick Baits – An Overview: Stick baits are a type of artificial lure, typically elongated and designed to mimic the movement of a baitfish. Unlike traditional lures that are often used on the surface or mid-water, sinking stick baits dive deeper when retrieved, mimicking an injured or fleeing fish.
  • Targeting Sailfish with Stick Baits: Sailfish, known for their speed and agility, are usually attracted to fast-moving or lively prey. The sinking stick bait’s ability to dive and move erratically taps into these predatory instincts. By presenting a lure that behaves like a vulnerable or escaping fish, anglers can effectively provoke strikes from sailfish.
  • Rigging Assist Hooks on Stick Baits: Chris Rushford’s demonstration focuses on rigging assist hooks onto these stick baits. Assist hooks are a type of fishing hook attached to the lure via a short, often heavy-duty, cord. This rigging technique has several advantages:

  1. Improved Hookup Ratio: Assist hooks are designed to increase the chances of a successful hook-up. Their positioning and mobility mean they can catch the fish more effectively, especially with fast-striking species like sailfish.
  2. Flexibility in Movement: Unlike fixed hooks, assist hooks have a range of motion that allows the stick bait to exhibit a more natural and enticing action in the water. This flexibility can be crucial in fooling a wary sailfish into striking.
  3. Reduced Lure Damage: With the hooks not fixed directly to the bait, there’s less chance of the lure being damaged during strikes. This is particularly useful when targeting strong, aggressive fish like sailfish.

  • Effectiveness of This Technique: The technique's effectiveness lies in how it capitalizes on the sailfish's natural hunting behavior. The sinking action and erratic movement of the stick bait, combined with the efficient hooking potential of assist hooks, create a potent combination for attracting and catching these majestic fish.
  • Encouragement to Try: The recommendation to try this technique, if not already done, is a nod to the evolving nature of sportfishing tactics. Anglers are encouraged to experiment with different methods, adapting their strategies to target specific species more effectively.

In summary, the use of sinking stick baits rigged with assist hooks for sailfish fishing is a unique and effective technique. It combines the enticing movement of the lure with the efficient hooking capability of assist hooks, making it a valuable addition to any angler’s repertoire, especially for those seeking to diversify their approach to targeting these fast and elusive fish.

Rigging Garfish and Belly Baits

A big part of this sailfish fishing video focuses on the baits for both the skipping ballyhoo and the belly bait. This is lengthy and super detailed. Chris gives an excellent presentation on how to rig ballyhoo or garfish, as they are called in Australia. He will also walk you through how to rig belly baits without hooks. Since bait preservation is so key, Chris will share their methods keeping ballyhoo as fresh as possible. Many times they are catching their own ballyhoo.

For the actual bait rigging portion of this fishing video, Chris will first detail all the rigging tools and components he uses. Everything from the floss, hooks, leader material, compact skirts, and rigging needle are discussed. Chris is super methodical in his presentation. You can really learn a lot from watching his style. You will see how he makes his snub leader with this hook on one end and a loop on the other for attaching it to the main leader. This bait rig is simple, yet lethal. When it comes to stitching the garfish, you will see how to strengthen the ballyhoo with floss to provide a good tow point and proper hook placement. Chris will walk you through how to rig the hook to the bait for maximum gauge exposure. How the hook is attached to the bait has a huge impact on how it swims in the water. You really get a great bait rigging tutorial with this section of the video.

For how to rig belly baits without hooks, you get an in-depth presentation on the types of fish that make good belly baits and how to prep your bait for rigging. This is another intensive presentation that shows you every step in the rigging process. Chris will show you how he makes his snub leader for this bait using loops on both ends. One loop end attaches to the squid teaser chain and the other loop end gets sewn into the bait. You will see how best to determine the tow point for optimal swimming action. You get every strip of floss being put in the bait. No step is left out. If you are interested in how to rig sailfish baits, these two sections of the video are outstanding.

Ballyhoo Fish – Bait Rigging Insights

Sailfish Tackle

Of course, we cannot leave out the showcase on the tackle the guys use. You will see fishing reels and fishing rods used and what they are spooled with. Since these guys use both braid and mono, you will get explanations on the use of both. The outfits used on Reel Teaser will work for both beginners and professionals, alike. Chris will talk about wind-on leaders and his double line to leader connection.

For anyone interested in how to fish for sailfish using the methods perfected by one of Australia's best skippers, this In The Spread fishing video shares valuable tactics and techniques covering spreads, trolling speed, baits and bait rigging, angling, and tackle use. The mechanics used by the crew of Reel Teaser may differ from your own, they are nonetheless proven at the tournament level. Learn from great professionals around the world and add more knowledge to your tackle box. The more you know, the more fish you catch.

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