The successful pursuit of blue water predators requires a fine understanding of numerous factors. When combined, these ingredients hopefully formulate a winning game plan. Unless you are happy wasting time blind trolling, one must consider and account for the prevalent weather conditions and sea state, tidal and lunar phase, lure placement and bait rigging, seasonal migrations and game fish characteristics among many other influential factors. While it may seem like a complicated puzzle, those who experience consistent success often mimic natural feeding scenarios with daisy chains and spreader bars. Multiplicity is the name of the game.
When targeting billfish, tuna and more, anglers often implement hookless teasers to add fish attracting commotion to their trolling spread. Teasers can range from small lures to large inflated dock fenders and are designed to run both directly on and just below the surface. The common ground amongst all teasers is that they serve as hookless attractions to keep game fish intrigued long enough for an angler to present a hooked bait. Teasers certainly have their place and continue to raise fish throughout the world’s oceans, but it’s important to note that the last yellowfin tuna or blue marlin you hooked on the troll wasn’t initially attracted to your teasers or baits, no matter how appealing they were. It’s the boats prop wash and associated harmonics that initially attract and excite nearby predators. From here game fish zero in on your sacrificial offerings, and it’s up to you to do the rest. Big game sight fishing at its best, there’s no denying the excitement and effectiveness of the traditional bait & switch, but that story is for another day.
While most Floridians think daisy chains and spreader bars have no place in state waters, anglers plying the world’s seas continue to benefit from multi bait presentations.
In addition to dragging teasers, professional crews winning major big game tournaments are also pulling up to four dredges simultaneously. The ultimate underwater enticement that creates the illusion of a tightly packed school of fleeing baitfish, dredge teasers are highly effective but require a serious commitment of time and effort. Many successful crews are actually fishing natural mullet or ballyhoo on their dredges, harnessing up each baitfish individually and re-rigging the entire teaser as need be. Not only is this approach a full time job, but to actually deploy and retrieve multiple natural bait teasers requires a coordinated team effort. Crews go through all of this trouble not because it is fun, but because it is a highly effective technique for raising fish.
Now, for us weekend warriors with smaller boats lacking a paid crew it is not practical to go through the expense and trouble associated with natural bait teasers. Fortunately, lifelike multi bait predator chains outfitted with a trailing hook add the desired commotion and added attraction to your trolling spread while still offering a shot at a big bite!
There are a number of reasons why multi bait rigs work so well. When a game fish enters your spread for a closer look it will key in on your multi bait rigs that realistically mimic a natural predator-prey relationship. Instinctively, hungry game fish know that the juvenile predator—the hooked bait at the end of the chain—is distracted by the chase for an easy meal. Usually, this action alone is enough to trigger a reactionary strike. Whether you choose to imitate a predator chasing a fleeing school of forage with a spreader bar or daisy chain, these surface running enticements have been fooling fish for decades and will greatly increase your offshore score no matter the target species.
A daisy chain is a simple rig that consists of a series of baits rigged in-line, with the trailing bait often larger and outfitted with a hook. I started fishing professionally in Gloucester around 1974 and was quickly taught how to harness up tinker mackerel in a daisy chain ahead of a larger Boston mackerel rigged with a hook. These live chains put on an enticing display as they splashed along the surface in unison and over the years we did really well with giant bluefin tuna. This is when I became a true believer in daisy chains and we continued fishing this way until switching to chumming as the giant tuna fishery evolved.
A few years later, someone came up with the idea of creating more commotion with even more baits in the water. I found myself as a mate now rigging a 4-foot piece of welding rod outfitted with five individual daisy chains. We rigged these primitive bars in a reverse V pattern, with the trailing hook bait being the point of the V. This rigging method was extremely time consuming and required a lot of bait, but it was super productive. These two rigs were so effective that they are still the go-to for tuna fishermen across the Northeast, although now they are rigged with a variety of artificial enticements including imitation squid, flying fish and ballyhoo. While most Floridians think daisy chains and spreader bars have no place in state waters, anglers plying the world’s seas continue to benefit from multi bait presentations.
Whether you choose to implement a daisy chain, spreader bar, or both, multi bait rigs will greatly increase your score when presented in the proper manner. Since they are outfitted with multiple adornments, these rigs create much more drag and should be fished on heavier outfits that can handle the added strain. Heavy ball bearing snap swivels are also recommended to prevent catastrophic line twists by daisy chains splashing on the surface. It’s also important that these rigs are pulled from an elevated position to keep the lures skipping on the surface.
While daisy chains and spreader bars can be purchased ready-to-fish from numerous manufacturers, proactive anglers often make or modify predator chains to suit what they observe and experience on the water. To make up a daisy chain yourself, first decide what species you will be targeting. Determine the size and color lures you want to present and make sure the trailing bait that will be outfitted with a hook is of discerning size and color. From here start with 6- to 8-feet of 200 lb. monofilament and crimp your chosen hook to the end of the leader. Now slide on your largest lure that will mimic a juvenile predator giving chase. At even intervals, about 12- to 24-inches up from the trailing bait, add a crimp, slide on a small egg sinker or plastic bead, then thread your plastic squid or lure down the line. Continue the sequence until you have a complete predator chain. While you can experiment with spacing and length, most predator chains feature four or five enticements. One neat trick you can employ is to thread a matching skirt or squid above the mainline swivel for a streamlined approach to hide all terminal tackle.
Spreader bars are a bit more complicated and in order for one to run true it must be the correct weight and thickness. Spreader bars that are designed to pull large, heavy-baits at slow speeds are generally stiff. On the other hand, a high-speed bar designed to drag lighter lures is generally flexible, offering an added level of attraction as the bar pulses across the face of each wake. While you can certainly fabricate your own bars, if you purchase pre-rigged bars you will have a great starting point to customize for season after season of fish catching abuse.
I recently met a tackle shop owner in Long Island who fishes from a 36 foot center console and he told me his standard spread consists of eight spreader bars and five daisy chains—that’s close to 300 baits in the water! While Florida anglers have easy access to numerous fish attracting features, anglers across the Northeast aren’t as fortunate and have to put on the largest show possible to excite nearby pelagic predators. When fishing Florida waters my suggestion is to drag no less than two multi bait predator rigs. Be advised that even if a fish isn’t captured on a daisy chain or spreader bar, that doesn’t mean the additional commotion didn’t help tempt the fish to your spread. If you are ready to increase your score it is time to implement multi bait predator rigs to your approach. Don’t waste another trip pulling single baits when clearly more is better.