Baja Tackle and Lure Thoughts for the Private Boater

by Marty Martelle

I like to use light tackle. I start off with steelhead weight tackle. If the fish are too big, I switch to salmon weight tackle. The fish usually average about 10-20 lb, with some smaller and some larger. Steelhead weight tackle makes for spectacular battles, with the fish given every opportunity to give its best fight. Last summer, for some reason they averaged 20-30 lb, much bigger than normal. We were fishing steelhead weight rods and Garcia Ambassador type reels.

Marty Martelle of Boise, ID with a nice Dorado.

Those fish just tore up our tackle. We were definitely under gunned. We almost always had to chase a fish, when hooked and we were spooled several times. It was great sport, especially when 2 fish each took off in different directions, but I broke 2 light graphite rods, trying to lift sulking Dorado from beneath the boat. Once we switched to Salmon weight gear (drift rods, not ocean rods designed for 3lb weights) we were on a more even footing with the fish.

I like to use two 8' or 8 1/2' rods and 4-7' rods. I use the 8 footers for trolling off each side of the boat. We used Lamiglas Kenai Specials. For the center rods I use rods 7' long and designed for 15-25 lb lines. I love the light weight of graphite rods, but they are prone to break, so I now use composite rods.

For reels, I love Shimano Charter Specials. They are small, hold enough line for anything except marlin and most importantly have levelwinds. They also have silk smooth drags. Line should be about 20-25 lb test and a name brand. Since the lures are on the surface and the line is mostly out of the water, I like hi-visibility line. It enables me to see the lures in the water readily, so I can make adjustments to how they are running. I don't use hi-vis to cast to fish, though. I have seen them avoid taking a bait attached to hi-vis line, swimming up to it and then refusing to take.

Traditional trolling lures like Zuker's feathers and Moldcraft Stubbys work great. They cost about $6.00 apiece, though. I have worked out a system that works fine for and doesn't cost much. First, I take big white saddle hackle and tie about 15 feathers, so that they flare out, on a piece of tubing. I use clear tough 1/4" o.d. surgical or fuel line tubing. I cut a piece about 1" long, slide it over a nail clamped down in my fly tying vice and tie on the feathers. Then I trim the tubing to about 1/2" in length and coat it well with head cement or some-such. I buy a whole bunch of plastic squid in various colors and in lengths from 5" to 9". They are very inexpensive when compared to lures. Next, I tie a 4' 80 lb leader on a hook. If the hook is straight eyed, I use a 3-1/2 turn clinch not. If the hook has an upturned eye, I snell it on the leader. Then, I slide on the feathers, followed by an egg sinker, and finally the plastic squid. The weight of the egg sinker varies. We use from 1/4 oz. to 1 1/2 oz, depending on water conditions and the speed we troll. A swivel at the tag end finishes off the lure. These lures work about as well as a "store bought". The trick to using these lures is to have them running just under the water, mostly; but breaking the surface of the water every 15 feet or so. This requires a delicate balance between the weight used, the speed of the boat and the position of the lure on the wave.

For our trolling pattern, we run out 2 daisy chains and a spreader bar. They each have 8 plastic squid on them. They go about 15 feet behind the boat and are attached to parachute cord. The daisy chains go just on each side of the prop wash and the spreader a few feet to either side. Our outside rods go out to the fourth wave. The next two rods go to the 3rd wave. The two center rods are positioned as follows: one center rod has a trail back lure and is run about 50 feet behind the boat. The other has a large marlin lure (just in case) about 20 feet behind the boat. This setup is a real pain to clear with 2 people in the boat and a fish (or more than one) on, but I am convinced that it attracts far more fish than just running 2 rods some unknown distance behind the boat and hoping.