How to set a more versatile spread for summer success on the offshore grounds.
Yellowfin, bigeye, longfin, blue and white marlin, wahoo, and mahi make up the bulk of species you could run into while pulling a spread on the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast canyon grounds. While an exciting opportunity, the task of setting a spread for all these species can seem daunting, especially given all of the options.
We’ve come a long way since the birth of pulling the first plastics; however, I’ve found that there are a few standouts that are absolute proven fish catchers that no spread would be complete without.
One of the first things to consider when setting a spread is how to get into the clean water. “Clean water” positions are an absolute must, and can be achieved either going out wide, going way back, or going deep. If your boat has outriggers, you can send a multitude of surface lures into the clean water out wide. When using outriggers with multiple positions, I start by using the outer most clip to send a long single presentation, usually a ballyhoo rigged with an Islander or Joe Chute. The next one down tends to be some sort of chain, either a straight chain of squids or machine lures, or a personal favorite which would be the Crazy Chatter Chain from Chatter Lures. If I have the option of a third clip on the rigger, I set the last clip with a 19-inch Chatter Tracker.
Now that the outriggers have been set, my last “out wide” presentation will be a 36-inch Chatter Tracker right off the rod tip. At this point, that is eight lures total, four per side. Next will be the “way back” – with two ballyhoo already sent back, I like to keep my third “way back” up top, and I like it to be noisy. A 36-inch splash bar, preferably with the floating squids from Chatter is my go-to.
Now the last clean water presentations are “going deep,” with a pair of diving plugs pulled off bent butts. There are a ton of options on the market, but the nod has to go Bomber CD30s with Rapala X-Rap Magnum 40s and Nomad DTX Minnows pulling their fair share of fish. With all of these presentations out, that will have you at a grand total of 11, with plenty of room up behind the boat to sprinkle in lures. Small Lure Co. Cruisers, Cedar Plugs, and all kinds of straight bars make for ideal up the middle presentations.
Keep It Simple
If on a boat without outriggers, the spread looks a little different. Instead of two long ballyhoo, I will go down to one, usually on an 8-ounce head running long down the middle from the highest position I have as my “way back”. For the “out wide” presentations, I run two sets of Chatter Trackers, 19-inch bars farther back, and 36-inch bars tighter to the boat. My “going deep” presentations are the same as above, two deep diving plugs on bent butts off the corners. This brings you to a total of seven “clean water” presentations achieved without the outriggers. Up the middle, I will focus on getting at least one bar, one ballyhoo rigged on a lighter head, and at least one Small Lure Co. Cruiser. If conditions allow for you to get all of these out, that brings you to a 10-rod spread.
The last thing to consider when preparing your spread is color. Each lure manufacturer provides a ton of different color options for each one, and deciding what to go with can get tricky. Having the opportunity to fish frequently with my Dad aboard the Hi Flier and the many captains that run the Mushin headed up by Capt. Alan Lee, they all hone in on a few variations of colors. Black/purple, zucchini, rainbow, pink, and green are all prominent in their spreads, with each individual leaning towards certain colors more than others. Overall, these five colors should always be ready and on hand, for if one color seems to keep getting bit, having multiples of that color on hand to deploy can quickly increase catch counts.
While there are many different factors at play to have a successful day fishing in the canyon, having the correct spread is one of the most important. Maintenance of the spread is an absolute must while out there, and being able to dial in the right speed, the right combination of lures, and making sure to keep the lures clean will all aid in a successful day in the blue!