• Published:July 6, 2018
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Does it seem like the guys in the big rigs always have an advantage over anglers in center consoles? Well, they do.

Life isn't fair, and this truth extends to fishing. Big sportfishing machines with their rumbling diesels and huge props raise more fish.
On top of that, their large, stable cockpits make it much easier to work lines, dredges and teasers. Big boats also have essentially unlimited storage, while a small-boat angler may be forced to prioritize his or her gear.

If you fish offshore in a 20- to 30-foot center console, all is not lost. You can still catch plenty of fish on the troll and in many situations a center console is a better fishing platform. For ultimate success, follow these five small boat mixed spread tactics to even the odds.

1) Turn Your Boat into a Fish-Attracting Magnet

The deep thrumming of big props raises more fish and there’s not much we can do about the difference between diesels and outboards, but we can still turn our eggbeaters into fish-attracting magnets. The use of dredges, teasers, and spreader bars is key. Any boat, no matter how small, can pull a sub-surface teaser off of a stern cleat. To save on limited stowage space, consider a collapsible Mylar strip dredge rigged with a 2-pound sash weight. It will look like a school of fish is trailing 20 feet behind your boat at all times.

At the same time, pull surface lures that do double duty as both teasers and hook-baits. Spreader bars, bird rigs and daisy chains accomplish this task. They create a commotion on the surface and will also hook fish. One important note: Keep the sub-surface teaser and surface-teasing lures on opposite sides of the boat. Otherwise, the potential for mind-bending snarls exists.

2) High-Vis Line

One of the problems small boat anglers face is they simply don’t have the same amount of space to work with. As a result, spreads exceeding six lines can lead to disastrous tangles. But by rigging your rods with high-vis fishing line (add a top-shot of fluorocarbon to eliminate any possibility of tipping off the fish) it becomes much easier to figure out which line is where at any given moment, and you can react to prevent tangles.

3) Utilize a Planer

When the fish don’t want to come up to the surface big boats can break out a downrigger, but that’s not always an option for small boats. No problem. Get a Z-Wing planer and attach it to 50 feet of 300-pound test with a loop tied into the end.

When you need to get a bait running deep, deploy the planer and slide the loop around a stern cleat. Then take a regular snap swivel, run a rubber band through its eye, and double it back around the swivel so it’s securely attached. Next let out 40 or 50 feet of line on the rig you want swimming deep. Bend the rubber band around the line and push the swivel back through the rubber band’s loop so the swivel is then dangling from your fishing line, via the rubber band. Finally, clip the swivel around the planer line and put your reel in free spool. Water pressure will pull the swivel down until it hits the Z-wing, and your bait will be running down deep well below the surface – no downrigger necessary.

4) Do Lots of Prospecting

Those guys sitting way up on the flybridge or in the tower can see billfish that come up to investigate a dredge that are tough to spot from the deck unless they come up on a surface bait. You can mitigate this handicap by constantly prospecting. Have one angler take a pitch bait and drop it back next to your dredge. When it’s about 20 feet beyond the dredge, the angler should thumb the spool and hold it in place until the ballyhoo rises back up to the surface. Let it swim a moment or two, then crank it back and repeat the process. Constantly prospecting requires a lot of work, but when a billfish checks out your dredge it’ll also get fed a bait, whether you saw the fish raise up or not.

5) Run More and Fish Less

This may seem counter-intuitive, but the fact of the matter is that small center consoles often have one advantage over big boats: speed. Conditions and comfort can eliminate this asset in a heartbeat, but when the weather allows, leverage that speed to your greatest advantage. Consider making that farther run to a distant temp break you spotted LINK. When the bite is slow, blast off to a different hotspot. The big convertibles may take twice as long to get where you’re going, and they’ll burn three times as much fuel. Small boats have more flexibility and less cost in this regard, so use that to your advantage.

Bonus Tip

When there’s weed and flotsam around, small boat anglers need to check their lines religiously. While a sprig of weed fouling a bait can be spotted from up high on the bridge, everyone standing on deck could miss it. All lines except close (and easy to see) flat-lines should be checked at least every half-hour.