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Skirted Trolling Lure Designs

Skirted trolling lures are now available in a confusing variety of sizes, designs and colours. However most of these designs break down in practical terms to one of the following basic head shapes:

BULLET HEADS are a straight tracking lure. Depending on boat speed, the weight of the lure head and the height from which the lure is pulled, they will occasionally break the surface creating a bubble trail. Larger bullet heads are normally heavily weighted and seldom surface, smaller lighter heads do so more frequently. Versions made from chromed brass with jet holes (“jet heads”) are popular and effective. Bullet heads can get blown about in windy conditions as they don’t hold the as water well as cup faced lures but they can be trolled at higher speeds and so are well suited to using while running to and from the fishing grounds. Very attractive to tuna, wahoo and dorado. Billfish will also often take these but tend to prefer more active lures.

Bullet head
Chrome bullet head

Versions made from chromed brass with jet holes (“jet heads”) are popular and effective. They tend to hold the water better then plain unjetted bullet head lures.

Spike’s tip 
Running a single bullet head or Jet head lure way, way back behind the main lure spread can pay off big-time often taking the biggest fish of the day.

Flat face
FLAT HEADS. This head shape is cut at 90 degrees which causes the lure to track in a straight line, coming up at regular intervals to make a splash or “pop” before diving and carrying a long bubble or “smoke” trail.

The length and size of the smoke trail is determined by the diameter of the lure head (the same is true, incidentally of all lures, not just flat faces). The larger the diameter of the lure head or face, the longer and wider the smoke trail. Most flat face lures hold the water well, those with tapered heads being particularly good performers in poor sea conditions.

CHUGGERS. These are flat face heads with a concave pocket scooped out of the face. These designs cling to the water very well and work particularly well in windy or marginal sea conditions. The cupped face also causes the lure to swim with a distinct head shaking action which may be very tight or much more active and exaggerated depending on the lure’s design.
SLANT FACE HEADS. Are split into two basic categories.
Pusher bait
PUSHER BAITS – which are designed to run on or close to the surface with an aggressive action, “pushing” lots of water, hence the name. These heads tend to have sharply angled faces and little or no taper. In fact the earliest versions were moulded in straight-sided glasses and cut at a sharp angle. Also known as straight runners. Straight-sided models are often called “tube baits”. Usually do not run well in poor sea conditions, strong wind or chop, but one of the most proven fish raisers in calm to moderate seas because of the impressive pushing action.
“TAPER BAITS” – which have a tapered nose and run beneath the surface most of the time with a long smoke trail, breaking the surface at regular intervals with a splash or pop, the aggressiveness of which is determined by the size and the angle of its face. Longer headed taper baits are popularly known as “plungers”. More versatile than pusher baits, taper baits and plungers are still ideally suited to fairly smooth seas but some designs, depending on size, positioning, weight and shape, will perform in all but the most demanding conditions.
Taper bait
Plunger bait
Lure selection Selecting between these lure shapes, as has been hinted at, is primarily determined by sea conditions. In rough weather areas such as the Azores, flat and cupped face lures tend to be widely used. Boats targeting marlin in the calm waters of Kona and Madeira, on the other hand, tend to favour more aggressive plungers, tubes and straight runners. Using this guide as a starting point vary your lure style until you find the most suitable for the prevailing sea conditions in your waters.
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