by George Poveromo

This simple trolling bait will tempt all manner of offshore fish.


When dolphin are finicky, the action, size and natural scent of strip baits can add the pizzazz to a trolling spread to get them biting.

Strip baits may not be as fancy as swimming ballyhoo or mullet, but they sure put fish in the boat. Besides being easy to rig, strip baits offer the advantages of natural scent and taste, and they’re generally small enough for offshore fish to eat in one bite, which results in simple, solid hook-ups. Best of all, everything from dolphin to billfish will eat them.

When I want a bait that’s different in size and action from the others in my spread, out goes a strip. I also deploy strip baits when I know fish are in the area, but are not responding to the more traditional lures I’m pulling.

 

Strip baits are especially effective on dolphin. For example, I like to put a strip or two in play when I’m competing with other boats for picky dolphin. In this situation, success often hinges on showing the fish something they’re not used to seeing. I’ve also turned to strip baits on those special days when the dolphin have depleted my supply of ballyhoo. When this happens, I carve some belly sections from the dolphin I’ve already caught, rig them as a strip baits and continue to catch fish.

 

Versatile Performer


Dolphin will often seek out strip baits with reckless abandon.

Another neat thing about strip baits is that they can be fished anywhere in the spread. They will skip and splash on the surface when fished straight off the flat lines, and they’re ’rigger-friendly, too. In fact, when a fish eats one from a ’rigger, a drop back is rarely required, as the bait’s small size, coupled with the slack line, virtually ensures a solid hook-up. Furthermore, the scent and taste of a fresh strip bait often fools a fish into holding onto it longer or coming back for another strike.

 

While primarily fished on the surface, strip baits also produce when rigged behind a trolling sinker, planer or downrigger. On a recent day trip to the Bahamas, I fished a skirted strip bait off a high-speed planer. The action was dreadfully slow, but that deep-trolled strip bait produced the only fish of the day — a big sailfish!

 

Artificial strip baits are also quite effective, and don’t need to be cured or refrigerated for storage. I’ve fished them many times, and can attest to the fact that they do indeed catch fish. However, given a choice, I prefer natural strips over plastic, as I believe the smell and taste of real fish flesh is hard to beat.

 

Make ’Em Yourself

Acquiring strip baits is easy. The next time you catch a bonito, dolphin, skipjack or mackerel, carve a long, narrow section from its belly. Then trim this section into a tapered strip. As you make the strip, bear in mind that the grain of the meat should flow toward the “tail” of the bait; otherwise, the strip will soon ball up and wash out.

 

After you’ve carved out several strips, place them in a jar or air-tight bag and thoroughly cover them with Kosher salt. The salt draws out moisture and toughens the flesh. If you don’t plan on using the strips within 24 hours, freeze them. A well-cured strip bait will endure hours of trolling.

 

 

If you’re making a strip bait while on the grounds, simply carve a strip from the belly of a fish you’ve just caught, rig it and send it right out. A fresh strip won’t last quite as long as a cured one, but it will hold together for a good bit. In this situation, adding a trolling skirt or small lure ahead of the strip will increase its longevity.

 

There are several ways to rig a strip bait. The method described in the accompanying sidebar is super-quick yet very effective. Providing you have a few of the hook/leader rigs prefabricated and a strip bait ready to go, pairing the two can be done in less than a minute. The sooner your strip bait is in the water, the sooner it can work its magic.

 

Preparing the Strip

Step 1 Carve out a section from the belly of a bonito, tuna, king mackerel or dolphin.

Step 2 Trim the belly section. For best results, blunt the head and taper the tail. Note: The grain of the meat should flow toward the tail of the strip to keep it from balling up and washing out.


Step 3 Take a long shank, needle-eye hook and secure it to eight to ten feet of stainless-steel, single-strand leader wire with a haywire twist/barrel wrap. Leave an extended tag (pin) that’s pointed down toward the hook point. For 20- and 30-pound tackle, I prefer a size 8/0 hook and No. 7 (80-pound test) leader wire, whereas I’ll opt for a 9/0 hook and No. 8 (93-pound test) leader wire for 50-pound tackle. Form a loop at the leader’s opposite end, to join the snap swivel on the fishing line.

Rigging the Strip

Step 1 Measure where the hook will ride by laying it on the strip. Be sure to account for the tag-end pin, which will be used to secure the head of the strip. Once you have determined where the hook will ride, use a knife to make a small incision in the skin to help facilitate insertion of the hook. Now, run the hook point through the skin of the bait, then push through the tag end of the leader. Next, bend the tag end approximately 80 to 90 degrees.


Step 2 Secure the tag end of the leader to the standing section by taking two wraps and folding the tag toward the bait. The tag end should be easy to unwind so you can change strips.


Step 2 (optional) For visual appeal, and to increase the strip’s longevity, add a trolling skirt or lure.