Anglers who target billfish know that dredges bring more fish up to the boat, period. Many who target tuna also believe they boost the catch rate. But all dredges are not created equal, and finding the best dredge for your needs can be challenging. Here’s a rundown on some top picks, and why they may – or may not – be the right choice for you.
Dead Bait Dredges – Dredges made with real dead baits, be they mullet, ballyhoo, or mackerel, are tough to beat. As usual, the predators really key in on the real thing, and many professionals would argue that no artificial dredge can match them. However, dead bait dredges are expensive and time-consuming to construct. And you’ll need to make up a new one each and every time you fish. Unless you have a blank checkbook and a mate working for you (or you have all the time in the world), as effective as they are, most recreational anglers will only use them on very rare occasions.
Plastic Bait Dredges – Many anglers pull these since they last more or less forever, are available with baits in all sorts of sizes and colors, aren’t prohibitively expensive, and they do a great job at pulling in fish. The downside is that dredges made with dozens of plastic squid or fish are bulky and difficult to stow. Larger models may also be difficult to deploy and retrieve, and some have an extraordinary amount of drag moving through the water. When paired with large weights, they’ve even been known to break outriggers.
Mylar Strip Dredges – There’s some argument as to just how effective these are, but in my experience they work great. They also have the added advantage of collapsing down to practically nothing, and can be stowed in a mesh lure bag that’s nearly flat. Plus, they have the least amount of drag of any type of dredge and can be deployed or retrieved by hand. For anglers who travel offshore on relatively small center consoles with limited space and equipment, these are a great option. The downside is that the strips will get beaten up and sometimes chewed off by fish, and they do require periodic replacement.
Mylar Skirt Dredges – In recent years dredges made with Mylar skirts have grown in popularity. These are also easily stowed, deployed, and retrieved. Just how effective they are remains a question in my mind, however, as I have used them on several occasions but never to great effect. I’m not saying they don’t work – some guys swear by them – just that I can’t vouch for their effectiveness. So, in my mind, the jury remains out on this option.
Which of these dredges is right for you? That’s your call. But if you plan to troll for billfish one thing is for sure: any of the above is bound to raise more fish than trolling without a dredge at all.