Few things frustrate us as much as staring at mark after mark on the fish finder, while our offerings go untouched. We’ve all been there — wondering what we’re doing wrong, why the fish won’t rise to take a bait, and what we could be doing differently to trigger a strike. I’ve even had people tell me that they “don’t believe their fish finder” because they see lots of fish but can’t seem to get a bite. Hmmm.
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At times, even the most voracious offshore pelagics — including billfish, tunas, wahoo and mahimahi — simply refuse to move up through the water column. In this very situation, however, they may well take a bait that’s presented at their own level.
We have a number of ways to get baits down beneath the surface: planers, lipped lures and using oodles of lead are all options. But you’ll have a tough time finding someone versed in the use of downriggers who doesn’t believe them to be a superior tool for reaching deep fish in a number of situations.
“Fish don’t just sit up top, especially when there’s a strong thermocline,” says tournament angler and team captain Mark Henderson of Liquid Fire, who fishes everywhere from the Gulf coast up to his home port in North Carolina. “I’m always looking for bait, and I’m always looking for thermoclines, and a lot of the time they’re at about the same depth. With the downriggers, I can make a presentation right there.”
Henderson says he always runs two downriggers, and mixes up what’s offered on the lines — usually skirted baits, plugs or live baits — to give…