I am often asked how to select the best marlin lures to create the ideal marlin lure spread. In a career spanning 5 decades I've been fortunate to have caught more marlin over 1,000 pounds than anyone in history. Below I share some of the knowledge on how to fish marlin lures that has enabled the capture of 77 granders and release of countless others.
Does color matter for marlin lures?
No. It's my belief that color does not matter for Blue and Black Marlin, so my suggestion is to use your personal favorites! I use blue, black or purple on big lures up close, in the wake, and like some red long lures because I can see that color easily. I also usually want to catch some other species in addition to Billfish, so color does matter on my smaller lures. I refer to my favorite Mold Craft lures below, but there are a lot of great marlin lure options available.
I would strongly suggest not pulling a teaser, but would pull a Mold Craft Soft Head Magnum Super Chugger in a very short teaser position — with a single 12/0 hook located way back in the tail. I would use an 8 foot trace leader of 480 cable with a 20 foot wind on leader of 400 mono. Fish this lure right out of a rod holder in one corner — outfitted with an AFTCO fishing rod butt and roller guides — not in an outrigger. In rough weather I suggest pulling a standard Mold Craft wide range as the chugger style jumps out of the water too much. Have a fairly heavy strike drag, for example, 25 pounds and only back off when you get at least 200 yards off the reel. You won't get a lot of bites on the very closest lure, but when you do, it will often be a really nice one!
If anything except a big blue marlin or black marlin tries to bite the large lure in this very short position, take it away and pitch a smaller natural bait on a large spinning reel with lots of 50 pound backing and a 100 yard top shot of good mono. This is a perfect set up for striped marlin and all smaller species, as well as blues or blacks up to at least 200 pounds.
On the next short position, I'd suggest an AFTCO flat line clip or a short rigger about 50-100 feet back.
On the shorter of your long outriggers — say 100-150 feet back — pull a standard size chugger if it is calm, or standard size wide range in rougher weather. For the hook, I suggest rigging a single 11/0 hook placed well back in this lure on 400 lb mono.
Pull a standard wide range on the long rigger on at least 300 pound leader if using mono leader. Use two good 8/0 or 9/0 hooks, one well up into the head and other way back. (All the "way back" hooks on these lures should have the eye of the hook just barely covered by the strands of the skirts.) This is the first lure I would care about color. Use chocolate or pink, if there are any squid around, blue or blue and white if you see lots of flying fish, and green and yellow if there are mackerel or scads of this color. I also like 200 pound nylon coated cable as leader on this and other little lures. The long rigger can be up to 300 feet behind the boat.
For the very long "shot gun" I would fish a small metal headed (3-5 inch) jet or bullet lure in a pink or chocolate color with a strong 8/0 or 9/0 SS hook on 300 mono. Pull the shot gun at least 50 yards back. The littlest lure will catch more fish than anything, except maybe the standard wide range, and do not be surprised if a 500 or even 800 pound marlin nails it. Again, I often use nylon coated cable for my trace leader. (Always use 2 sleeves when crimping this leader.)