Marlin Pitch Bait

This mackerel and chugger head combo rigged on a circle hook will entice marlin to bite.
Charlie Levine
Crews fishing in Guatemala raise more than just sailfish, they encounter marlin on a very regular basis and they always have a few baits ready to pitch when a blue shows up in the spread. During Expedition FishTrack held at Pacific Fins in December, we raised three blue marlin, hooked two and caught one. A Spanish mackerel with a chugger was the most widely used pitch bait. To rig one, the mates start by removing the bait's innards and gills.
Take a small chugger head, such as a Mold Craft Little Super Chugger and trim the skirts so they are about three inches long. Any lure color will do, but purple, orange and black seem to get the nod in Central America. Pull the skirts back and tie them together to help the rigging process.
With the baits cleaned out and the chugger tied up, you're ready to start rigging. Make sure to have a sharp bait needle and plenty of rigging floss ready on your work station.
Cut a 36-inch piece of rigging floss, double it up and attach it the bend of the circle hook you will be using for the pitch bait. The location of the floss on the hook is where the lure will reside so make sure it's located toward the start of the bend so the circle hook will ride with the point up.
Run the tag ends of the floss through the lure head.
Tie a series of overhand knots to attach the lure head to the circle hook.
Before you begin attaching the bait to the rig, it's a good idea to cut the teeth down so the jaws will come together nice and flush.
Attach the floss to a rigging needle and run it through the bottom of the bait's eye socket and under the bait's jaw.
Tie the floss under the bait's chin to secure the jaws shut.
For a bit of insurance, make one or two more wraps with floss through the tip of the bait's jaw so it will stay closed tightly.
Sew up the bait's gills using a cross-stitch on the top of the bait. Insert the needle through the gill plates and work toward the tail.
Finish off the bait by sewing up the incision made in the bait's belly to remove the innards. Use a series of cross-stitches and overhand knots. You can also use some kosher salt to toughen up the bait.
The finished bait. Keep at least three rigged pitch baits on the boat at all times when fishing in marlin territory. You never know when a blue one will pop up behind the ballyhoo spread and you don't really want to hook a 400-pound-plus blue on 30-pound sailfish gear...

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