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January 14, 2005

Fine-Tune Your Dropback

Fine-tune your dropback to hook more billfish.

Sancocho!

Even anglers who don't speak Spanish understand the humbling embarrassment that comes with reeling in ballyhoo heads after bungled attempts at baiting billfish. Trolling dead baits proves quite effective for raising sails, whites and blues, but the crucial moment that separates men from boys (and, quite often, a ballyhoo's head from its body) occurs during the dropback.

"Dead baits add a dimension that you don't get with lures," says Rob Ruwitch, a passionate billfisherman from Miami who participates in ESPN's Billfish Xtreme Release League as owner of Sharky's Revenge. "You have to stay on the ball and tuned in to the fishing. It's not a drag-'em-and-snag-'em philosophy. With dead baits, you have to take a proactive approach as soon as fish come into the spread."

When fishing in La Guaira, Venezuela, or Isla Mujeres, Mexico, Ruwitch uses 20- or 30-pound tackle and runs lines directly through the rigger clips - no Dacron handcuffs, no twisted loops. While such loops may help hold baits or lures in specific positions behind the boat, they don't allow for on-the-spot adjustments. Letting lines run freely through the clips leaves a little wiggle room to customize bait presentation. "If a noncommittal fish comes up, I can try to entice a bite: drop back the bait a bit, reel up and make it skip. Sometimes the extra motion gets a fish to light up and pile on the bait," Ruwitch says.