Sailfish are one of the most sought after sport fish in the world. Capable of reaching speeds of over 65 miles per hour the sailfish is the fastest fish in the world.
Popular fishing methods include trolling artificial baits, slow trolling live baits, pitching live baits while site fishing and flying kites while on a slow drift or anchor.
Sailfish migrate and are caught frequently in Florida during the months of December through March.
World class fishing can also be found in the Pacific Ocean in Costa Rica, Panama, and Guatemala.
Sailfish fatigue quickly and if 20 lb line or less is used the length of the fight can cause the fish to die. If the fish is brought aboard the boat for a long photo opt the fish will also likely die. One thing to keep in mind is the slime on most fish, including sailfish, is very important. The slime protection layer can be removed by dragging the fish across the side of the boat or over handling the body of the fish. The preferred method is to take pictures while leaving the fish in the water. If it is removed, lift from the bill and tail for a quick picture and then revive the fish if needed or simply release it quickly.
Below I will discuss the top five lures and methods to catch sailfish. These methods will vary based on location, time of year and weather conditions. These are productive and fun ways to catch sailfish!
Here Are The Best Sailfish Lures and Baits
1. Kite Baits
Kite flying has become very popular with charter boats in Florida but you certainly do not need to fly kites to catch sailfish. This is an advantage over flat lines if it windy out because six lines can be spread out right on the surface with live bait while in a slow drift or anchored. This works well if you know where the sailfish are located. Below is a list of standard equipment needed to kite fish. One or two kites can be flown with two or three lines on each kite pole.
Live bait must be used when kite fishing. Good baits include cigar minnows, goggle-eyes, pilchards, blue runners, small bluefish, herring, ballyhoo, speedos, sardines, mullet, and even a pin fish if that is all that is available. Typically the stronger baits are preferred. If the bait is to fast the tail of the bait can be trimmed to make it an easier catch for the predator fish. This is typically done with large baits such as bluefish.
SFE Red Kite model 1672 which is 27 inches. Works in wind speed of 5 to 25 mph. This is the kite that is typically used. This kite also comes in green with the only difference being the model number. Similar kites come in black with large holes for higher wind conditions which allow the kite to be more easily reeled toward the boat. There is also an ultra lite model for winds from 4-15 miles per hour. A helium balloon can also be added in low wind conditions. It is a good idea to tie a small regular air balloon on the back of the kite so that it does not sink if the kite falls into the water.
Spit shot weights can be pressed onto the top edge of the kite to make the kite fly left or right.
Kite fishing pole, 3 foot 6 inches long with a swivel tip to follow the kite. Any short conventional pole can be used but this kite rod is designed to easily manage the line and clips when flying kites.
Daiwa Tanacom Power Assist Reel, 12 volts with 48-pound max drag. A power reel makes it faster to bring in and re-bait the lines. It is also nice to know the distance the kite is away from the boat. This reel also works for deep dropping lines up to 1000 feet.
Aftco Kite Clip Kit comes with two release clips, five kite hooks, three barrel swivels, and a snap connector.
If three baits are going to be used then three ball bearing swivels are tied to the line within the kite reel. Typically lengths are 75 feet from the kite snap connector to the first swivel and 100 feet of line between the next two swivels. The swivel act as stops along the line for the kite clips. The kite hooks are around the fishing line of the bait poles which is then connected to the clip. Ceramic and stainless steel kite rings also work well as kite hooks.
Kite float line marker with beads. These are size medium these also come in a large size and as non-weighed floats.
On the bait pole, the setup is a circle hook, 10 to 15 feet 20-50lb fluorocarbon leader, ball bearing swivel, brown bead colorful float line marker, egg sinker weight and finally the kite hook or kite ring.
Owner Mutu Light Circle Hook, 4/0 – 7/0 depending on the bait size. A light hook and light line allows the fish to swim more actively and splash near the surface.
Bridled bait open eye rigging needle 5 inch or 2 1/2 inch.
Bridled bait rigging rubber bands can be used in place of nylon rigging floss.
Tying the live bait to the hook with rigging floss or bands allows the bait to be more active and stay alive longer. This is very important when fishing kite baits.
Canyon Fishing Sea Anchors, the large opening diameter is 18 to 46 inches.
When kite fishing it is necessary to use a sea anchor to slow the drift or to actually anchor.
2. Ballyhoo O-Ring Rig
Trolling dead ballyhoo is a great way to catch many prized game fish, including sailfish. There are several ways to tie a ballyhoo rig but the easiest way is to use an o-ring rig. This allows the ballyhoo and leader to be separate until right before the ballyhoo is attached to the hook. This allows for a change in hook sizes or leader type such as a fluorocarbon or steel leader without having to make a new ballyhoo rig on the spot. Below is a list of what is needed to make an o-ring rig. There are many great YouTube videos showing how to tie the rig.
Non-offset eagle claw circle hook size 7/0.
Bally Rings, O-Rings for rigging Ballyhoo. The Bally Rings get connected to the ballyhoo with rigging wire and then the hook is attached through the ring of the bait right before it is used.
Monel rigging wire 15 lb is a good size to use. Stainless steel trolling wire is similar but less corrosion resistant but is considerably cheaper.
Lead egg sinkers are placed in the gill area of the ballyhoo. 1/8 to 1/2 once sinkers are used depending on troll speeds.
Ballyhoo rigs work good naked without shirts or can be added to most common squid and skirt baits such as Ilanders. The can help prevent the ballyhoo from spinning which is important when trolling dead ballyhoo. If it is not rigged correctly and is spinning the bait will not catch fish.
3. Daisy Chain and Spreader Bars
Boone Bird Trolling Daisy Chain, seven-inch bird with three Boone Air Eyes and a six inch Sea Minnow.
Just looking at this incredible lure make me want to go fishing! Pink, Blue and green are all good colors for sailfish.
Ballyhoo spreader bar by Williamson. Rigged with 15 baits and 300 lb line.
People complain that these get beat up by the sailfish. That means they are doing there job! A line can be connected to a release or rubber band on the back of the spreader bar to break free when a fish bites. There are no hooks on the spreader bar baits and this just used as teasers. Dredges can also be used as a teaser to attract sailfish to the other trolling baits.
4. Moldcraft Super Chugger and Sailfish Catcher
Chugger trolling lures, six inch length with soft pusher heads and concave shape that splash and create bubble trails.
Sailfish catcher by Williamson, 5.5 inch. Pink with white, blue with white and green with yellow are great colors for sailfish.
5. Mid to Deep Drop Lines
When anchored up or slow drifting for sailfish with kites or using flat lines it is important to realize that there are fish down deep as well. Sailfish and many other catch worthy species are often down deep especially if that is where the bait is located. A line should be dropped midway down and deep down near the bottom which is all relative to the depth of water being fished. Using a balloon as a float is a great way to run these lines.
Biodegradable fishing balloons 9 inch. A balloons can be tied directly to the line, attached with a rubber band or attached using a balloon clip.
Owner Mutu Light Circle Hook, 4/0 – 7/0 depending on the bait size. The light hook and light line allows the fish to swim more actively. A 4 to 15-foot fluorocarbon leader should be used and tied to a ball bearing swivel to connect the leader line to the main fishing line.
Lead egg sinker weight should be used in front of the ball bearing swivel. A bead can be added to prevent the weight from getting lodged into the swivel. A 1/2 ounce weight should be good but more weight may be needed if there is a strong current.
Thanks for visiting Global Fishing Reports. I hope these suggestions help you catch more sailfish!
If you have any suggestions for top sailfish lures and baits, leave a comment below!
Captain Cody has worked on charter fishing boats in the Florida Keys, Virgin Islands and Alaska. Cody grew up in Pennsylvania and has also done extensive freshwater fishing including bass fishing tournaments. Cody strives to provide detailed information about the best fishing gear and tactics to help both novice and experienced anglers have a more productive and enjoyable time on the water. Cody also has a background in aerospace engineering and neuroscience but really only takes pride in being good at one thing and that is fishing!