Mahi-Mahi on Light Gear

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Even small mahi-mahi put up an outrageous battle on light gear.

Catching mahi-mahi is always fun, but it’s on light gear that catching these fish really becomes a ball. Few fish will jump, change direction, and peel drag the way mahi can, and on 20-pound spinning gear you’ll have your hands full – even with smaller “chicken” dolphin.

chicken dolphin

Even small mahi-mahi put up an outrageous battle on light gear.

The best way to load up on mahi with light tackle is generally to use the bailing technique, but you can also run a light rig in a trolling spread by rigging up a very small (just three or four inches long) squid skirt weighted by an ounce or two of lead. Pink, blue, and green are all good color choices. The downside here is that when you get on a fish you may have a tough time keeping it out of the other lines, because you certainly can’t horse these fish around on light tackle.

What means “light” in your world of fishing may well differ from mine, but for mahi-mahi under 10 or 15 pounds I like a 6’6′ fast-action medium-heavy rod with a 4500 series reel, spooled with 20-pound braid. That gets topped by a 30- or 40-pound fluorocarbon leader. When larger fish are around it’s wise to upsize to 30-class gear spooled with 30-pound braid. And always remember that using gear this light means that fights can be extended a bit, and considering a mahi’s jagged teeth, that means leader chaff can be an issue. When using baits for bailing stick with circle hooks so they plant in the corner of the jaw and the mahi’s teeth never touch the leader. For trolled baits rig with long-shank J-hooks, and consider upsizing the leader a bit.

Whichever method you choose and whatever gear you decide on, one thing is for sure: with a mahi-mahi on the line, you’re in for the light tackle battle of your life.

Bonus Tip: Always carry a box of squid along with you when mahi-mahi are a possibility. On those rare occasions where they refuse to eat no matter what you toss at them, a whole squid almost always gets them fired up. Clip the tip off the mantle and string your leader through it, then slide a half-ounce egg sinker over the line, then tie on your hook. Make sure the sinker sits up inside the squid’s mantle so it sinks head-down, seductively waving its tentacles as it falls… and whammo!


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