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John's Journal... Entry 46, Day 1

Preparing for the Blue Marlin Fight

click to enlargeEDITOR'S NOTE: Recently, I took part in a phenomenal fishing expedition on the "Baby Grand" out of the Grand Casino in Gulfport, Mississippi. We left the casino at 6 a.m. After a 3 1/2-hour-boat ride, we set up our equipment about 90 miles from shore at the mouth of the Mississippi River, also known as South Pass. That afternoon in 350-foot water, we caught two blue marlin. Today I'll talk with Eric Gill, first mate aboard the "Baby Grand" who has his captain's license for a 100-ton Master. A first mate for 12 years, Gill has spent the last six years on the "Baby Grand." Gill will discuss our catch and give you tips on how you, too, can have a successful blue-marlin trip.

QUESTION: Eric, we've been fishing in 350-foot water, which is unusually shallow for blue marlin.

ANSWER: In general, yes, but this year since our region hasn't had much rain, the Blue Water has pushed in close to shore. All the baitfish are in shallow water too. During May and June, we've found that 350-foot water is a fine depth for marlin fishing.

QUESTION: What are we using for bait?

ANSWER: We've mainly used ballyhoo on the outriggers. We've also run some blue and white softheads as well as some Black Bart baits, made by Bart Miller. We've also kept some other dead bait, mullet and mackerel, on hand to use if the marlin won't eat ballyhoo and/or softheads.

QUESTION: Call you tell us about your unique system for keeping bait fresh?

ANSWER: Well, I use a Baiter's Box made by Igloo. I rig my baits the day before and sometimes use baits from the week before that I wrap in garbage bags and freeze with a lot of salt. The salt keeps them tough so the baits last longer. I place a lot of ice in the bottom of the Baiter's Box and put the bait on top of the ice to keep the baits cool. I don't sit them in the ice because then they don't stay dry.

click to enlargeQUESTION: How much bait is usually needed for a trip such as ours?

ANSWER: For six lines, we'll generally need about two of those lines baited with ballyhoo. However, the number of ballyhoo we need depends on the quality of the fish, but a good ballyhoo will be a productive bait for about two hours.

QUESTION: Eric, as first mate, you watched the catch today from the time the marlin billed the line until its release. How was the fish caught?

ANSWER: Oddly enough, we hadn't been running more than about 15 minutes when we got on the marlin. We were all talking, and I just happened to look back at my favorite lure and saw a fish bill the bait. The marlin came up, swiped at the bait with its nose and tried to kill it. The marlin knocked it out of the water and then dropped back about 10 feet behind the bait before it came back at it for a second time. When the marlin made the third swipe, I was about to let the line fall slack to drop the bait in its mouth, when the marlin attacked the bait. The marlin just popped the bait off the center outrigger.

QUESTION: What did you instruct everyone on board to do as soon as you saw the marlin billing the bait?

ANSWER: I told everyone to take up their lines, which is always a good idea. If you hook the fish on a short line, you must get the other lines cleared. Then the line you're working doesn't cross over another line and get tangled. We caught the fish on our long line, and having a line-free area to work with helped us get the marlin.

click to enlargeQUESTION: As first mate, you must communicate with the captain to work as a team to reel in the catch. What did the captain do today to help?

ANSWER: When I saw the marlin eat the bait, I knew we needed to keep tension on the line. I told our captain, Jack Simmons, to kick the boat forward. That way, we had good tension even while the fish was jumping and thrashing. We didn't need any slack on the line because we could have lost the marlin.

QUESTION: Tell us about how Deborah Hood reeled in the fish?

ANSWER: Once the fish popped the rig, our angler, Deborah Hood of Orange Beach, Alabama, got the rod from the holder. Then we strapped her into the seat. When the fish backed out, she gained a good bit of line. We let out about 500 yards of line before the marlin slowed down. Then Deborah reeled the marlin in herself. The fight lasted 35 minutes.

HOT NEW BAIT TIP: While fishing for marlin, we also tested a brand new product, Berkley's Power Marlin Skirt. This new skirt comes super-charged with the active ingredient that Berkley uses with its other saltwater product lines to make fish bite.

"What makes this skirt unique is that Berkley's Power Marlin Skirt allows the marlin to track the bait through the water and hone in on the bait, by following the scent trail it leaves in the water," says John Prochnow, Berkley's product- development manager. "We believe this new Power Skirt will cause more marlin to not only come to the baits but to also hold onto them longer after they take the bait into their mouths."

click to enlargeOn this trip, we had a Power Marlin Skirt in the water when both marlin were caught, and the second marlin actually took the bait with the Berkley Power Marlin Skirt.

To learn more about Berkley's Power Marlin Skirt, call (800) BERKLEY, or go to www.berkley-fishing.com.

For more information on fishing for blue marlin aboard the "Baby Grand" out of the Grand Casino in Gulfport, Mississippi, contact Matt Reed at (800) WIN-7777, extension 1989. To learn more about other saltwater captains on Mississippi's Gulf Coast, call (800) WARMEST.

Tomorrow: Bringing Marlin Aboard




Check back each day this week for more about Catching Marlin In The Gulf Of Mexico ...

Day 1 -Preparing for the Blue Marlin Fight
Day 2 -Bringing Marlin Aboard
Day 3 -Other Fishing Opportunities at South Pass
Day 4 -Life as a First Mate and Other Fishing Tips
Day 5 -A Captain's Role in a Blue-Marlin Catch

John's Journal