Spreader bars are a great lure for yellowfin tuna, and now there’s a new spreader bar option on the market: side-winders. If you haven’t heard of them before, that’s likely because I just made that name up – several different companies make several different versions, and they all have their own specific names. But the term “side-winder” works as a catch-all, because you probably can already guess what these things do: they track off to one side or the other. You can buy left-handed models that track left, and right-handed versions that track right. Here’s the net result of pulling a pair behind the boat I was on last weekend:
The blow-up in the lower left shows the key element of this rig. The small bird mounted in the middle of the bar has a rudder-like appendage, which is cocked at an angle. As a result, it tracks off to the side when trolled. The reason this is such a big deal is that anglers who troll from boats that don’t have outriggers are usually at a huge disadvantage. Since they can’t spread their offerings out, they can’t run nearly as many lines. These side-winders eliminate that handicap.
Just how big a difference do they make? Standing in the cockpit, it looked like they shifted the bars outboard by about 20 to 25 feet when running 70 to 80 feet behind the boat. As is true of virtually any and all fishing gear, they aren’t 100-percent perfect. They did hop out of the water a bit more than normal spreader bars when big waves rolled through, and since the arms are smaller they don’t support as many teasers. Though there’s some variation between brands, rather than trailing five teaser lines (like a standard 36-inch bar) these generally trail three; one on either end plus one terminating in a hook-bait, running down the middle. But the advantage they deliver is very real. We had seven boat rods running with the two side-winders outboard, and when there weren’t any hot tuna zig-zagging around, we didn’t experience any tangles. So from here on out whenever I’m trolling offshore from a boat without outriggers, you can bet there will be a pair of side-winding spreader bars trailing in the wake.