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October 26, 2001

Marlin Maxi-Meals

If you want to catch a big marlin, you'd better use a big bait.

Q: My fellow fishermen and I are in the midst of a heated discussion about bait/lure sizes for marlin. Some subscribe to the "elephants eat peanuts" theory and troll 6- to 8-inch lures. Others follow the "big bait, big fish" theory and troll 12- to 24-inch, monster-size baits with even bigger teasers. Is there any information on which is best? Assuming I was trying for a world-record blue marlin, what is the biggest bait such fish would eat in real life? - Juan Segundo, San Juan, Puerto Rico

A:Bigger than you could troll. One of the biggest blue marlin ever landed - reported to weigh over 2,000 pounds, although not a rod-and-reel record fish - is said to have been trying to swallow a 200-pound yellowfin tuna when it was killed.
Marlin are basically sight-feeders. As a general rule, the bigger the bait, lure or teaser, the easier for the marlin to spot it from a distance, especially when it splashes and makes a lot of whitewater "noise." Speed is not really a factor in the size of the fish raised to the baits, so a large live bait trolled slowly would be just as attractive to a big fish as a fast-trolled lure.
The decision on what size bait or lure to use should not rest only on the size of the fish you want to catch, however. The bait or lure should be sized to the hook, the hook should be sized to the line, and the line should be sized to the rod and reel.