Fishing Dredge Rigging
If you're just venturing into the world of offshore dredge fishing it's safe to say that you've made to commitment to find out what the top level pelagic skippers and crews rely on daily to keep them tight. Yes, it takes a little more work and effort to deploy and manage a dangerously effective dredge spread however the pros certainly outweigh the cons.
Most anglers here in Florida and the islands are just looking for that next greatest thing that the "other guy" hanging down current is lacking. Dredges fill the void and at many times the fish box when nothing else is working. Running a properly tracked, single level dredge behind boat will automatically increase your bite ratio dramatically. Essentially, the dredge is replicating a bait ball congregating tightly to the boat and more importantly your trolling spread.
Any seasoned saltwater angler with experience dredge fishing will share that 90% of the work is in the rigging and making sure that the dredge has a nice balance to it. This ensures that the dredge will track correctly and appear more natural in the water when pulled at 8 knots.
The White Marlin open is typically held in Ocean City, Maryland every year and is the richest billfish tournament in the world. A 4.53 Million payout was awarded to the single fish landed breaking records for tournaments worldwide. Some of the world's best gather to compete for the prestigious title and you can rest assured that every boat leaving the dock has several custom rigged dredges on board.
The reason being that they all know the power of replicating a bait ball behind the boat and how any large billfish nearby can't resist checking out what's happening when dredges are running behind the boat.
One question we often are asked by many of our customers is what mainline material should be used? We simply answer minimum 400lb hard monofilament. We like Diamond or Momoi as they have been leaders in the market for many years and have a proven reputation.
When it comes to the complete setup, we're running the 400lb mono crimped to a 500lb ball bearing screw lock swivel with a welded ring. The reason we always reccomend monofilament above anything is that mono has some stretch or give and that's exactly what is required when your trolling with a 6-10lb lead weight rigged in front of a dredge configuration that can vary from 2-15lbs. Add everything up and that's a lot of weight and drag running through the water. A little give is exactly what you want to achieve the proper tracking for the dredge. The screw-lock portion is then twisted onto the top eye of the rubber coated fish lead.
Yes we said rubber or vinyl coated fish lead rather than the standard lead finish as this will help protect the deck of the boat from being damaged when the dredges are brought aboard.
The weight of the fish lead will vary as you want to have a few weight sizes on board so that you can quickly adapt to changes in conditions while trolling.
The eyelet located on the back fin of the fish lead is where you will want to connect the rigging portion to your dredge. This will consist of a 3-4ft section of stranded stainless steel cable crimped to a 500lb screw-lock ball bearing dredge swivel with solid ring eye on each each. Heat shrinking the crimped ends will also help keep the rigging clean and streamline to extended use.
This setup will get you going with a single tier (stack) however to deploy multiple stacks the process is simply repeated in between each dredge hub. The dredge hub is the center point used to connect successive dredges. Each hub has a top eyelet and bottom eyelet to be used as a connection point. There are several types of dredge hubs and arms available on the market. Our suggestion is to find the heaviest gauge you can find as almost all dredge arms manufactured are prone to breakage under extreme loads.
Lastly, It's important to remember that maintaining the dredge and keeping it clean will allow for many uses and multiple catches. A simply light freshwater rinse at the dock to the fish weight, hub, arms, baits, and rigging assembly will go a long ways when it comes to overall performance. If you want to take it to the next level as I often do, then wiping off any excess moisture or humidity before stowing it away will keep your dredges tracking like new!