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Marlin tips n rigs.

Marlin tips n rigs.


Marlin is probably one of the most prized of all fish for sport and game fisherman to chase. There is a multi-million dollar charter fishing industry for the elusive Billfish. Massive tag and release contests for all Billfish species occur around the world. Tropical Queensland is a Billfish hotspot. All types of Marlin can be caught off Queensland. Smaller fish are fun to catch with light gear, pretty much any size boat will do. Though the really big fish definitely need specialized gear, with big boats, game chairs etc. A contest between a fisherman and a big Marlin can go on for many hours. They are magnificent creatures that put on quite a show when hooked, like jumping and tail walking etc. They can grow excess of 700 kgs. They are not a table fish, that is why when caught in tournaments etc they are tagged and released. They are mostly caught in deeper water Offshore, the three main species are extremely hard to tell apart, so I have explained the differences below. 

Marlin The Difference Between Them!

One of the most contentious issues I have come across when deep water or game fishing is how to differentiate between species of Billfish. A common misconception is if when the fish comes to the boat they are blue or have distinctive stripes that categories what they are, WRONG. Blues and Stripeys can both come up showing electric blue stripes, Blacks can also come up looking blue. There are 3 types of Marlin. The Billfish are The Black, The Blue, and The Striped. I am going to tell you the correct way to tell them apart. It mostly comes down to the size and configuration of the bill and the Pectoral, Dorsal and Tail fins.


The stripey is a very lean fish compared to its cousins, and its tail is proportionally huge when compared to its body. Its Dorsal Fin is very high and tapers toward the back fin. The Pectoral Fins are long, wide and straight and can fold flat against its body. Its color is distinctive with very bright blue vertical wide stripes. It has the longest, thinnest bill of all the Billfish. Its flesh is a light salmon color.


The Blacks most distinct feature which separates it from its cousins is its Pectoral Fins, they are rigid and curved and do not fold back along the body. Its body is shorter and thicker compared to the others, so is its bill. The color is dark on top and brightly light on the bottom with a very distinct line between the two. Its Dorsal Fin is a lot shorter than the others and a little more rounded. Its flesh is pale white.


A Blues most distinctive feature is the shape of its head, its head is a lot higher than the other two fish, though its bill is quite thin. The Dorsal fin has a very fine point compared to the Black, and its Pectoral fins are straight and can close to lay flat along its body. They can present at the boat with bright vertical bars on the body, this does NOT make them Stripeys. They are not only caught in very deep water but are normally fished and caught over the Continental Shelf. Their flesh is pale white. Blues often dive deeper and tire more quickly than the other Billfish.

Small Black Marlin Tips N Rigs.

All the Marlin species can be caught off South East Queensland but I love to fish for the small Blacks, below are the techniques that I use with both baits and lures. There a couple of ways to chase Small Black Marlin. The first way is to put out a pattern of skirted lures usually 4 or 5 with the darker colors in close(short and long corner) and the lighter colors in the rigger positions and the shotgun should be a bright color and a smaller lure. 

My favorite colors and placements are black

purple in the short corner. 

black and green in the long corner.

blue in short rigger.

green in long rigger.

multicolor in the shotgun, (this one is deadly on Mahi Mahi).

When trolling a pattern of skirts you should be doing around 6 to 6 1/2 knots.

When setting a pattern I use the 5-meter rule this works well for me. My first lure is only 5 meters from the boat RIGHT BEHIND THE TEASER and then I set every lure

another 5 meters behind each other so the shotgun should be roughly 25 meters behind the boat. This pattern will change for bigger boats. My boat is only 4.5 meters.   

When I go looking for Marlin I look for bait schools (yakkas or slimies) and spend the day trolling around the bait. When you find a big bait school over summer it will

usually have Small Blacks on it, you just have to put in some time waiting for them to start to feed. BE PATIENT! They will come on the bite at some stage. 

One thing I have noticed over the years fishing southeast Queensland is that over summer the water is dirty in close thanks to the northerly winds and most people head out until they find clean water. That is ok if you want to catch Mahi Mahi or Wahoo but if you are after Small Blacks look for bait in the murky green water, the little blacks love it!

When trolling for Blacks you will need a teaser and my fav for little Blacks is a Bird teaser. I find this works very well for small Marlin.

When I plan on live baiting for Small Blacks I head to the places I know will hold Slimies over summer and when I locate bait I get the bait jig out and try to catch a few. After you have gathered a few Slimies its time to put a couple out.

You will need For The Rig.

Size 8 rubber bands, Bait needle (ask your local tackle shop on which needle for live baits)

An 8/0 circle hook on a short 150 lb trace with a big loop in the end. More on this later.

2 ball sinkers, size 8 and a size 4

To easily rig a live bait for Marlin just watch the video below.

How to Rig a Live Slimie for Marlin.

Ok before we get to the rig I will give you a quick rundown on how to do this. Let's just say we have 2 live baits out so now we use our sounder / GPS to keep track of the bait school. By now we have drifted away from the school so now we put the boat just in gear and slow troll the baits upwind, up current of the bait school and stop. Let the baits sink back down into the bait school and drift through it once we get through the bait put the engine just in gear and slow troll to the top of the bait stop and drift. That's it!

Just keep reapting.

Tips / Work out how deep the bait school is and put the bait with the size 8 sinker near the bottom of the bait school. The bait with the size 4 sinker should be set at the top of the bait. Using lever drag reels for this is best as your drag should be set at 1/3rd the breaking strain of your main line and when you set your baits out, your drag should just be heavy enough to stop the baits from pulling out line but light enough so the Marlin can swim off with the bait and get it down without  knowing something is wrong.

When a Marlin grabs the bait it won't scream off the reel will be a slow and steady run, at this stage pick the rod up and DO NOT STRIKE! just slowly push the lever into strike position and let the circle hook do its job. Don't worry! within a couple of seconds, you will know if you have a solid hook up.

Another tip is to have a dredge teaser out if you are just going to slow troll live baits around a surface bait school use the same rigs just change the size of the sinkers and put a live bait directly behind the teaser.

Watch the video below to see why we love chasing Small Blacks in small boats. Great fun when all hell breaks loose!! 

Posted by S.G

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