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June 23, 2009

Fishing the Dog Days of Summer

Summer days demand refined tactics: fish fine and far off

When fish get picky, tiny trolling lures - artificial variations on the feather-and-strip - have the natural swimming action to draw strikes and save the day.

Another go-to rig worth trying is a tube lure. When you're fishing in close, the reefs are a great place to catch a 'cuda. Whether roaming the reefs or deep water, they can seldom resist a tube. Put it out on a long line behind the boat, and you'll be surprised at how the 'cudas showing no interest in your skirt and strip suddenly turn on when the tube goes out.

Small tuna, and maybe even wahoo, often show up along reefs as well as way out in the deep. They too are likely to pass up a ballyhoo but will eat a small feather if they find one in your spread. Don't be afraid to put out a small, No. 4 planer with a really light leader and feather on the short rod; then put another one way back in the spread. That's where the tunas like it.

Speaking of leaders, this might be the most important item to change when you are adjusting for finicky fish in flat water. If you're fishing wire leader, make sure it's straight, especially while live-baiting. Use a new wire leader every time you set out a fresh bait. For some reason, when a wire leader gets a little curl or bend in it, the fish don't bite as well. Wire straighteners may work when the fish are cooperating, but nothing beats a new, straight piece of light wire.

Wire strength offers another place to make adjustments for conditions. If you normally use a No. 7 wire, try dropping down to No. 4. If you use  60-pound mono leader, try using a piece of 40- or even 30-pound leader. Make sure it's new and not smoked up from a prior bite. When you drop down to No. 4 wire, use smaller hooks too.

Just remember to fish lighter leaders with a lighter drag and to be patient. It's better to fight the fish a little longer and take your chances than not to get a bite at all.

When you get desperate, try smaller hooks. You may straighten one out now and then, but the idea here is to get a few more bites when the fishing is tough. Just go down one or two sizes and give it a try.

Remember: Some of us old-timers thought using 80- or 100-pound mono for leader for sailfish was risky. Now it's common to use 40- and 50-pound leaders with hooks half the size of those we used to put out.

Don't let a tough day petrify your thinking. Go fine, go far away and go light. There's no reason to let herring and blue runners be the high point of a summer day!

About the Author: Capt. Skip Smith of Pompano Beach, Florida, is a renowned name in offshore fishing. He has fished around the globe and steered anglers to 48 world records.