It’s commonplace today, but more than a half-century ago few anglers even thought about it. The late Dr. Webster Robinson wanted to catch either a sailfish or striped marlin on a fly rod while casting from a boat that was out of gear so that the fly was not being trolled. Working with his skipper, Capt. Lefty Reagan, these angling legends fathered the concept of teasing a fish. They tried a different approach.
They reasoned that if they could raise a billfish on a hookless bait, capture its total attention by keeping the tasty morsel just out of reach, work the fish within casting range and substitute a different offering at the last minute, the mission would be successful. I knew both men well and listened intently as Web Robinson described the process to me in detail. He even gave me a copy of the fly he used.
Teasing ranks as an extremely effective technique for countless species in a variety of situations. Working on sailfish or marlin on the offshore grounds is just one phase. Sometimes known as bait-and-switch, it’s nothing more than using a live bait, dead bait or a certain artificial to excite a fish enough so it will eat the lure or bait you want it to devour on the tackle of your choice.
Very light tackle enthusiasts often tease their quarry into striking so that the line doesn’t break on the initial contact. I’ve teased countless species from sharks, albacore, and tuna, to striped bass, redfish, barracuda, amberjack, snook and much more.
Let me share a couple examples to show you how effective teasing can be. Using a spinning outfit, I rigged a plastic worm exactly the same way as I would for largemouth bass. Pacific sailfish normally don’t include plastic worms as part of their diet. We teased one with a bonito belly and, once the boat was out of gear, I cast the worm. My partner yanked the teaser out of the water and the fish inhaled a plastic worm faster than you can read this.
I met a man who showed me beautiful flies for offshore species. When I told him I could catch a sailfish on a cigar just as easily as with one of his flies, he laughed at me. We were shooting a television show in Panama, and late in the day Capt. Karl Anderson asked if I had a cigar. He rigged it with a leader and hook, attached it to a flyrod and waited for a sailfish to show in the trolled teasers. We stopped the boat, Karl yanked the teaser away from the fish, and I cast the cigar. Within seconds, the sailfish crashed the cigar, went airborne, and all you could see was tobacco showering through the air. As Karl put it, that’s no longer theory.
Teasing fish opens a broad new dimension to the sport. As an angler, it allows you to hook fish on all types of tackle using any bait or lure you choose including cigars and plastic worms. Try it and you’ll become hooked on the technique just as I am.