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May 29, 2009

Hit 'Em Low with Downriggers

Take monster pelagics when high-handed tactics won't work

A dead goggle-eye skips along tantalizingly below a kite while my boat trolls along at 8 knots. Yellowfin tuna savagely bust bait everywhere - voracious 200-pounders and larger tearing up the surface.

Everyone on the boat waits with anticipation as I aim for the closest group and line up the crosshairs for a precise attack. It's what we like to call a proper start to the morning, Riviera Nayarit style.

We finish our first pass without a strike and make the second, followed by a third, fourth, fifth and sixth. Hundreds of boiling fish surround the boat yet remain oblivious to our most cherished method for slaying giants.

After an hour of this torture, I've finally had enough. I clamber down the tower and start rummaging through tackle drawers. One by one, all the tricks come out.

Finally, I remember the smuggler's compartment below my berth, finding there the battle-scarred Scotty electric downrigger I had lugged south all   the way from my native salmon and halibut grounds in British Columbia.

I race back out of the cabin, wild-eyed, waving wire cutters and duct tape. Right then and there, in true Mexican MacGyver style, we fashion a makeshift blue-water downrigger system.

Despite our best surface-trolling efforts, it turns out these fat boys want nothing but a nice, juicy livey slow-trolled at 69 feet. My magic number, as though it was meant to be.

The very first pass through the tuna carnage elicits a savage strike on a live skipjack trolled from the downrigger. The ensuing battle later yields a  285-pound monster yellowfin for the first of many lucky anglers aboard  the boat that day. Thanks to my trusty downrigger, so falls another Rosetta Stone of offshore fishing.

Lots of practice with downriggers since that has yielded some phenomenal results. Now, when I live-bait for   marlin and tuna, few days go by when at least one bait doesn't make the descent toward Davy Jones' locker for a little look around.