Switch baiting in New Zealand predominantly revolves around trolling hookless, artificial teasers as the main weapon for raising billfish. Although artificial teasers have many advantages, there are some situations where ‘plastics’ just won’t raise fish. It can be extremely frustrating when you’re marking marlin on your sounder or watching them surface feed right beside your boat, yet nothing you have out can raise a fish, no matter how many times you change skirt colours or lures heads.
Sometimes even live baits won’t do the trick; even a trusty Blue Mackerel (Koheru) can’t get a bite. This commonly occurs in New Zealand waters when billfish are chasing oceanic Sauri or Sanma as they are called in bait shops.
Sauri are very fast swimming baitfish and really challenge billfish when they’re being chased, it can be hard to break an excited and determined marlins attention from a school of fast moving baitfish to your less active live bait. Although this can provide fisherman with some spectacular surface feeding visuals, it can be a little frustrating at times. Sometimes you feel like you’re chasing your tail, just as you deploy your baits all the action dies down only for it to occur again 400 meters away, before you can reel in and get over to it, it dies again.
Some experienced fisherman may say, “If you hang in long enough with your live bait, you’ll get a bite”. Well, I don’t disagree with that at all, but here is an option that I sometimes run as a short corner teaser. It enables you to stay a bit more mobile, you can run it in a lure spread in reasonable weather and it’s really effective for raising Striped and Black Marlin.
This teaser consists of a daisy chain of no more than five or six dead baitfish, when rigged, it looks very similar to a school of Sauri skipping through the water. I usually use small but hard baits, such as small mackerel that are too small for live or pitch baits, although the softer Piper (Garfish) and Sanma will do as long as you check them regularly when trolling in choppy conditions. Its important to only have a few small baits on your daisy chain, it looks more effective and so you can reel it away from an excited marlin in time to pitch your bait.
Firstly, you need to make up a daisy chain ‘backbone’ that can be stowed away with your lures and leaders at the end of a days fishing. I use no more than a 5-foot length of 400 – 450lb mono for the backbone and five 10-centimeter arms that are crimped at equal spacing along the mono. When crimping the arms in place, you should position the arms forward rather than behind the crimp, as this will give the baits more spring and action when trolled. Now on the end of each arm and on the tail of the backbone I crimp on six older, used snap swivels that can be used to clip on and off baits as they become washed out, touched up by billfish or at the end of the day. Without the snap swivels making up daisy chains can be time consuming and a waste of perfectly good monofilament. Finish the Backbone with a basic crimped loop at the top end of the chain.
It’s common to gut and gill dead baits when preparing them for use, this improves bait flexibility and reduces the rate of decomposing. In this case it isn’t really necessary as the baits used on the daisy chain are pretty disposable and fresh ones are easily rigged.
Start rigging your bait by taking approximately 60 centimeters of waxed thread or dacron. Fold the length in half so you have two equal lengths and at the bended end make a small loop by tying couple off half hitches. The loop only has to be approximately the size of a twenty-cent piece, big enough to be attached to the snap swivel.
The loop has to sit at the point of the fish’s lips, make sure that it’s center as this is the towing point of the bait. Now with your bait needle pass one tag end down through the fish’s skull, usually ¾ of the way back to the eye socket and as centered as possible. With the remaining tag end pass it up through the fish’s throat and out the same hole as the first in the opposite direction. Now with two tag ends tie them off firmly on the side of the fish’s head.
From here you take one tag end and pass it directly through the front of the fish’s eye socket with your bait needle. With the second tag end and bait needle, pass it under the original stitching on the top jaw (this stops the stitching tearing out of the head) and back through the eye socket opposite to the first tag end. Once again tie the two tag ends off firmly with a couple of half hitches under the fish’s head.
You need to now pass each tag end through the strong pectoral fin joints, again in opposite directions to each other and then finally do a couple more half hitches to finish off on the underside of the fish and trim the remaining tag ends.
Finally, I usually ‘cross stitch’ the body of the bait. I start at the pectoral fins, and sew through the backbone three or four times the length of the body and back to the starting point and finish with a couple of half hitches. This just holds the bait together if a marlin does grab your teaser. I don’t get to fussy about this, as you don’t want it to become to time consuming. Once you’ve rigged half a dozen quick baits, clip them on to your backbone and there you have your teaser. I usually have a few spare so when the baits either become washed out or (hopefully) damaged by a marlin they are easily and quickly replaced.
This teaser can be trolled in a lure spread in nice conditions through too much slower live baiting speeds and still be effective, on a couple of occasions I’ve seen billfish swim past two perfectly good live baits to have a look at a daisy chain of dead mackerel.
Other options for this rig include artificial baitfish or squid that can be purchased at some of New Zealand’s better tackle stores. These also work really well and have their own advantages, but sometimes the taste of dead bait in a teaser can excite billfish a lot more than an artificial. Rigging baits can be enjoyable and rewarding if you’re well organized. This rig is quick, easy and effective, you maybe able to come up with your own improvements, give it a go next summer when other options aren’t raising fish....Good luck!