by George Poveromo

The Offshore Racer is one of the most productive lures I’ve come across for taking blue-water game fish, yet few anglers use or even know about its existence. A moderately heavy rig with a streamlined nose, the Offshore Racer tracks straight and runs just beneath the surface at traditional and fast trolling speeds. It’s effective on tuna, dolphin, wahoo and marlin, while
smaller versions do a number on king mackerel and even grouper.

Harry Vernon III, a noted offshore angler who owns Capt. Harry’s Fishing Supply in Miami, frequently trolls the Offshore Racer off South Florida and the Bahamas for wahoo, dolphin and tuna. "The neat thing is that you can catch fish with this lure at just about any speed,"says Vernon. "When you’re crossing the Gulf Stream or cruising to and from the fishing grounds, you
should fish one far back in the spread. Plenty of fishermen, myself included, pick up yellowfins, big dolphin, wahoo and an occasional marlin that way."

Vernon sets his reel drags in the strike position, with approximately 15 to 17 pounds of drag for
50-pound-test line. The lures are also deadly when combined with high-speed planers or downriggers.

Vernon’s color patterns are based on the type of baitfish in the area. When flying fish are thick, he prefers a blue-and-white primary lure with a blue-and-silver octopus skirt and a blue-and-white strip bait. When there’s an abundance of dolphin or tuna around, he goes with a green-and-yellow primary lure, skirt and strip bait, or a purple or pink primary lure, purple or black skirt, and a black strip bait, respectively.

When fishing 50- to 80-pound-class tackle, Vernon recommends a Mustad model 3412 C, 10/0 needle-eye hook; a Mustad model 3407 SS, 10/0 ring-eye hook; four feet of No.12 (180-pound test) wire leader; a 9 1/2-inch Billy Bait strip or horse ballyhoo; a 9 1/2-inch Yo-Zuri or Boone octopus skirt fitted with a four-ounce egg sinker, and an Ilander or other jethead lure. For tackle lighter than 50-pound test, scale down to 8/0 hooks, No. 10 wire, a 7 1/2-inch strip, a 7 1/2 -inch Octopus skirt with a two-ounce egg sinker, and an Ilander Sail Lure.

When assembled, the Offshore Racer has a large profile that makes it look like a real meal to a game fish. Its streamlined nose enables it to track straight at both moderate and fast speeds. And, should a fish somehow miss the hooks on the strike, thereby damaging the strip bait or ballyhoo, the octopus skirt and primary lure should remain intact and hopefully produce another strike.

Here’s how to build your own Offshore Racer:

Rigging the Offshore Racer  
1: Open the eye of the trailing hook enough to slip it around the barb of the lead hook. Close it. Run the wire leader through the eye of the lead hook, wrap it once or twice around the shank, pass it back through the eye, pull tightly on tag end to snug the leader around the hook shank and eye. Make a series of haywire twists.
2: Bend the tag end of the wire leader to form a "snap."
3: Insert a four-ounce egg sinker into the octopus skirt.
4: Push the tip of the snap through the tip of the Billy Bait strip, then clip it around the leader.
5: Lay the hooks alongside the strip bait to measure where they will ride.
6: Insert the hook points through the strip bait.
7: Slide the octopus skirt down the leader and over the strip bait.
8: Slide the Islander lure down the leader and over the octopus skirt.
Ballyhoo Variation  
A: Instead of forming a snap after completing the haywire, twist off the tag end. Add a 12-inch length of 20-pound-test Monel wire to the hook.
B: Use a sharp knife to slice down the ballyhoo’s backbone, breaking it up in the process.
C: Insert both hooks into the groove you’ve just carved into the back of the ballyhoo. Make sure both hooks are firmly imbedded and do not bind the bait. Depending upon the size of the bait, the hook points
may or may not protrude from the ballyhoo’s stomach.
D: Secure the ballyhoo by running the soft wire through its eyes and then firmly wrapping it down around the hook shank and bait’s head. (Note: hook shank and leader must be centered on the top of the bait’s head). Complete the job by taking a few tight wraps around the main leader.
The complete ballyhoo-rigged Offshore Racer.