Don’t Forget to Drop Back!

John Cochrane
Don’t Forget to Drop Back!

You have to let them eat...

We're just about tired of winter and ready for some warmer weather, so we thought we would talk about some bluewater basics.

One of the most important techniques to remember when big game fishing is the drop back on a strike; for a good hook-up, you need to let the fish eat. By "drop back" we mean giving the fish a certain amount of slack line after the strike, allowing the fish time to eat the bait or get a good grip on a lure. When a bait is eaten without a drop back there is a very good chance the outcome will be a lost fish.

Depending on the type of fishing you are doing, certain baits, hooks, lures and fish need different amounts of drop back. Bait needs varying degrees of drop back. Lures, in general, don't need as much because you don't want to give the fish too much time to figure out they are eating a piece of plastic. And sometimes it doesn't matter what you do, the fish jumps on whatever you're pulling and swallows it anyway.

The pioneer bluewater fathers invented outriggers originally to spread their lines apart, so they could pull more baits. What they also achieved was a built-in drop back. When the line came out of the outrigger clip on a strike, there was a certain amount of slack in the line that helped novice anglers hook their fish. Even with this built-in drop back, more slack is usually needed to get a good hook up.

When you are fishing bait, it is very important to make sure the outrigger clips are loose and you normally want the angler to get to the rod and drop back some more before it comes tight. It's very obvious when a bait is eaten without dropping back – the hook pulls out a lot of the time – drop back does make a difference.

When fishing with live or dead bait there are several factors involved in determining your drop back. How long? Your hook style can determine how much drop back you want to use. With a traditional J-hook a good rule of thumb is a 5-count on trolled dead baits and a 10-count on live bait.

Using circle hooks you want to let them eat it longer than that so they can get it down a little better. The idea is that they eat the bait and don't feel the point of the hook. As you increase the drag, the bait moves and the circle hook lodges in the corner of the mouth. If you plan on releasing the fish using J-hooks, you might want to consider keeping your drop back short to keep from gut hooking the fish.

By using non-offset circle hooks the gut hook problem is virtually eliminated. The size of the bait also has to be taken in consideration. If you are trolling an 8-lb bonito, you are going to have to drop back longer than with a small ballyhoo. Vary your drop back according to your bait size and the size of the fish eating it.

Fishing with lures is a lot different. The drop back needs to be more subtle. When a fish eats a piece of plastic you don't want them to chew on it too long or they will figure out it's not real and spit it out or let go. So the drop back is still important, but must be shorter. To keep from giving too much drop back, tag lines are used on outriggers. They limit the amount of drop back given to a fish by eliminating a lot of the slack created when a fish strikes. When a fish strikes a lure, you want it to grab the lure, get its head turned and when the line comes tight, set the hook.

One other factor concerning drop back is the species of fish and how they are biting. Blue marlin usually inhale a bait; white marlin are notorious for being hard to hook. Sailfish generally eat pretty well, but can be finicky at times. So, you may have to vary you drop back at certain times - on certain fish.

Dorado and wahoo are voracious eaters and yellowfin tuna well they can be very frustrating. If you get a bite, it's usually goodgetting the bite can be the problem. Many times yellowfins will crash bait on the surface while totally ignoring your offerings. This can drive many fishermen crazy. When you ask the pros, you will find out that these tuna's appetite changes as the season and conditions change. They may eat drifted dead bait for a while, and then it takes live bait or fresh flying fish to entice them. On other occasions, they will eat surface poppers or trolled lures.

If you plan on going offshore and trying your luck for big game fish, remember about drop back and consider buying a set of outriggers. It can make the difference between fishing and catching.

To learn more about fishing with drop back, tag lines, outriggers or any other big game fishing techniques, come by our Fox Yacht Sales office at Tops-N-Towers. We're always happy to answer your questions. At Fox we have an extensive inventory of brokerage boats and we are the exclusive Texas dealer for CABO Yachts. We will be glad to help you find a boat or sell yours. For more information call our Seabrook office at 281-291-0656 or call John Cochrane direct at 409-739-4817.