I was fishing off Venezuela in the late 1990s when a local mate showed me a hot dog — yes, a hot dog that you’d eat — that he had rigged with a Mustad live-bait hook. Shortly thereafter, he said, “Watch this,” and pitched the hot dog to the next billfish that came up in the spread. He proceeded to catch the fish on the most beautifully rigged hot dog I’d ever seen. It’s OK to have a little fun when you’re getting 20 to 30 bites a day, but you want to have the highest hookup and catch percentage you possibly can. To do that, you need a solid pitch bait.
One of the first things you must do is match your bait to the target species. A medium ballyhoo is typically sufficient when pitching to sailfish or white marlin. However, you need to have a bigger bait, like a Spanish mackerel, when targeting blue marlin. These much bigger fish have a tendency to push a lot of water as they charge a bait, which can actually push a small ballyhoo away and cause a pitch bait to slide right past the fish’s mouth and miss the bite. Obviously, fish don’t have hands to push food deeper into their throats, so they use the force of the water to push bait deeper after the initial bite. Larger baits, such as mackerel or small bonito, have a tendency to get pushed deeper into the fish’s throat because of their larger bodies. This is where a circle hook comes into play.
It’s no secret that one of the…