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Don't Dread the Dredge

wheeler Leadin

    If you have spent any time at all offshore fishing, especially for billfish, you have surely used a dredge at one point or another. Dredges have been extremely popular among billfishermen and have proven to be a deadly teaser. Pulling dredges is not a new tactic, but they have taken a while to catch on due the amount of labor required to rig them, and the skill needed to pull them. With the advancements in electric reels, dredge accessories, and artificial dredges, dredges are becoming a more common teaser for many species.
    Dredges have proven themselves again and again among billfisherman around the world. Whether they are trolled in the canyons off the eastern United States, in the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Central America, or anywhere for that matter, the dredge has proven to be an amazing fish-raiser. Word is spreading rapidly that these teasers raise much more than just billfish. Dredges have come a long way, and there are so many options out there for artificial dredges. In my opinion, it is tough to beat adding natural baits to your dredges, especially for billfish, but artificial dredges have become pretty amazing and so lifelike nowadays that they are more effective than ever.
    Other than having the proper dredges to pull, knowing how to pull them is even more important; you can’t just fire them out in your spread and hope they raise fish behind your boat. I have been on a lot of boats the past few years where dredges were bought but those on board did not know how to pull them the correct way. By correct way, I mean pulling them in the correct position on the boat and behind the boat where they will provoke more bites, but can be quickly and easily retrieved should a fish come up behind them. Having the proper equipment to do this is where it all starts.

    The first thing to consider is how you are going to easily retrieve your dredges. The most popular way to retrieve dredges is by using an electric reel such as the Lindgren Pittman S-1200, Miya Epoch, Kristal, Hooker Electric Reels, Electra-Mate or something similar to these electric reels. It is important to be sure the electric reel can handle the drag these dredges create and also to be sure your boat is wired correctly to run them. If you can afford an electric reel, make it a point to buy one with the memory option. Being able to press a button and have your dredge reeled in hands free is a major advantage. Although electric reels are the ideal way to retrieve dredges, a basic 2-speed 80W or 130 fishing reel or a hand-crank downrigger can do the job fairly well when rigged up on a block-and-tackle system with an able-bodied crew.

    No matter how you plan to pull your dredges, you are going to want to setup a standard block-and-tackle system to leverage the power of your dredge reels and decrease the drag force of retrieval. Your electric reels and outriggers will thank you if you do this. The easiest way this can be achieved is by doing the following:
    1. Run your line from your dredge reel (400-pound test for your dredge line is the norm) to a pulley attached to the lower ring of your outrigger at the first or second spreader. Be sure this pulley has a very good heavy duty ball-bearing swivel between it and the outrigger ring to prevent the line from twisting.
    2. From the outrigger pulley, your dredge line will then run through a small pulley with some handline cord or quarter-inch rope attached to the smaller pulley. This is your return line. Use enough return line so it can attach to something in the forward corner of your cockpit. This is what you will use to pull your dredge to the cockpit when you need to put it into the boat for any reason.
    3. After going through the return pulley, your dredge line will run into the water to a third pulley. This pulley should have 2 to 4 feet of 400-pound mono or 600-pound stranded cable with a heavy duty snap swivel that attaches to your dredge weight.
    4. The dredge line runs through this third pulley (which will be under the water when trolling) and back to the lower part of your outrigger where you must make a leash with a loop. You can accomplish this with 400-pound mono or 600-pound cable and wrap it around the rigger and crimp it in place under a brace to keep it from sliding up the outrigger. The bitter end of your dredge line will have a heavy duty snap swivel to attach to the loop of the leash. There you have it, your block-and-tackle dredge setup.
    To run it from a downrigger in a smaller boat (I recommend a downrigger with a 4-foot boom so you can get the dredge out in the clean water) the pulley on the end of the boom is the outrigger pulley. Then run it in a similar fashion to the pulley in the water and then back to a leash attached halfway down the outrigger boom. You will not need a return pulley and line on a small boat downrigger setup.




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