The Heaton Special

Small Boats Fish Big with Downriggers

FSF Staff September 21, 2011

Successful offshore anglers have been reaping the rewards from dredge teasers for years. If you’re not already pulling these flashy enticements you’re going to be left in the prop wash. These alluring teasers mimic fleeing pods of forage and exponentially increase the fish-raising abilities of any vessel. Don’t think for a split second that because you fish from a center console or open fishermen that you can’t capitalize on the effectiveness of a dredge teaser. Sure, it will prove to be a slight challenge for anglers fishing small to mid-sized boats, but rigged right and fished right you, too, can compete with the big boys.

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Photo: doughertyphotos.com

Unlike surface running spreader bars and daisy chains, dredge teasers are designed to run a few feet below the surface. Most effective when trolled from 4 to 6 knots, you’ll need to utilize an inline sinker to keep your dredge perfectly positioned directly in the fish’s field of view. Because of the incredible drag associated with these chandelier-like fakes, anglers fishing modern battlewagons often run teasers through a pulley system that’s run through the lowest eye of the outrigger. Electric or manual teaser reels mounted on the bridge allow the skipper to deploy and retrieve the teasers, leaving the deckhand available for more important duties. Outriggers on center consoles aren’t strong enough to withstand the extreme rigors associated with 36 or 48 oz. inline trolling leads combined with a flashy dredge teaser, so most of us have to devise another plan.

There’s not a whole lot of sense in having a teaser deployed way back in your spread where you can’t see what's happening.

While you could purchase a specialized bent butt rod and reel outfit designed solely for pulling teasers, or simply cleat it off the transom with a heavy nylon cord and deploy and retrieve the teaser manually, a downrigger is all you need to easily implement an enticing dredge into your offshore spread—even with a limited crew.

While most downriggers are mounted on the transom corner, because your center console is probably powered with outboard motors you’ll want to keep your teaser away from the running gear. If you plan on utilizing a dredge teaser on a normal basis, which you will after you watch your success ratio soar, it will certainly be in your best interest to install an additional downrigger mounting bracket mid-ship. With this position the helmsman will be able to easily adjust the placement of the teaser without stepping away from the wheel. Placed mid-ship the downrigger can be retrieved as soon as a fish is hooked and the dredge can hang in the water alongside the boat and away from the remaining lines and turning prop(s).

When fishing a dredge teaser you don’t want to just set it and forget it, rather to use it to its fullest advantage you really need to be able to see when game fish come in to investigate. To be able to see these flashy enticements they must be dragged in clear water out of the prop wash. With the ability to be fished at a 45° or 90° angle to the transom, long, extendable downrigger booms enable small boaters to fish dredges in clean water. While large boats often deploy dredge teasers from each corner of the cockpit, you’ll want to start with a single teaser and graduate from there. And since you don’t have the vantage point afforded by a 40-foot marlin tower, you’ll need to keep your dredge teaser closer to the boat so you can keep an eye on it. There’s not a whole lot of sense in having a teaser deployed way back in your spread where you can’t see what’s happening. If you’re not able to visually detect when predators come in to investigate you might as well not pull a dredge at all. They are called “teasers” for a reason.

Because dredges create enormous amounts of drag you’ll need to make sure your terminal tackle is up for the challenge. Our Cannon Magnum is spooled with 150 lb. braid and when pulling a dredge teaser we attach a 300 lb. heavy-duty ball bearing snap-swivel with a Bimini twist and offshore swivel knot. From here simply attach the snap swivel to the inline sinker connected to your dredge and you are ready to deploy. Obviously you can do the same with typical spreader bars and daisy chains that do not require additional weight, as they perform best swimming on or just below the surface.

Since you’ll likely only be fishing one dredge, fish it to the very best of your abilities. When you make a turn be sure to turn to the side that your dredge teaser is on. This will force the dredge teaser to sink a bit deeper and as you straighten out, the dredge will swim back toward the surface. Sometimes all it takes is an erratic motion like this to entice a savage strike from a following predator.

It’s not hard to see why adding a fleeing ball of bait to your spread is a good idea. While it may seem a bit intimidating, you should have no problem implementing a dredge teaser into your presentation with minimal effort thanks to the use of your downrigger. Give it a shot and see what happens. Oh yeah…don’t forget to present a hooked bait just behind your dredge.

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