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Four tactics for fishing the Okaloosa County FAD network

by Team SORD 13 Nov 2022 19:43 UTC
Four proven GoM FAD tactics © Sord Fishing Products

In the fall of 2020, Okaloosa County deployed Fish Attraction Devices (FADs), to help increase sportfishing opportunities for boats leaving from the Destin area, without the need to run to the Louisiana oil rigs.

These FADs have proven their worth over the last two years, with catches of billfish, tuna, wahoo, and mahi-mahi being reported regularly throughout the year. That leaves us with one question, how do you fish the fads?

Our favorite way to attack the fads is once we have pulled the throttles back, we make a few slow laps around the general area. You will start to notice a pattern of where the fish are holding and you should make a mental note of the depth of water that the majority of the bait is sitting at. If the marks are in 75 feet or less, these fish are more likely to be feeding near the surface. If it is 75 feet or greater, these fish are most likely hanging out in the cooler water and not actively feeding on surface baits.

Below we break down several different tactics and what you are most likely to catch using the tactics.

Tactic #1: Live bait bombs

When to use: If you are marking fish shallower than 150 feet, you should be able to get them to come investigate a bait bomb. Instructions listed below:
Species: Yellowfin tuna, blackfin tuna, mahi, white marlin, sailfish
Brief: Stop by the bait boat in Destin on channel 80 on your way out to the FADs or sabiki up a load of bait into your live well. You will need 200+ baits to effectively use live bait bombs to your advantage for an extended period of time.

    1. Grab two conventional reels and turn the clicker off
    2. Uni-to-uni a 10-15 foot leader of 60# flourocarbon to your top shot and finish it off with a 6/0 mustad 3x circle hook
    3. Take a 5 gallon bucket and fill it up with water and put 6-10 free baits into the bucket
    4. Motor the boat over to where you have been marking fish around 75-100 feet and then put a bait on each of the two hooks
    5. Point the boat down current of the bait marks
    6. Slowly bump the boat into gear and let the hooked baits drift out behind the boat to where they are clear of the engines
    7. Dump the bucket of bait overboard and put the boat into gear, give the boat some gas for 3-5 seconds to pull away from the bait
    8. The anglers will feed the line out from the conventional reels in freespool so that it looks like the hooked bait is a part of the school of freebies
    9. Take the boat out of gear and let the boat drift down current
    10. The anglers will continue to freeline the line out behind the boat and be ready for a bite, continue this for up to 5 minutes
    11. If a bite happens, feed the fish for a few seconds and then slowly tighten the drag
    12. If no bites, reel in and reset your drift to try again

Tactic #2: Big live baits

When to use: If you have seen a large red mark anywhere near the FAD that is a distinct boomerang shape, this is when to use this tactic.
Species: Blue marlin, large yellowfin tuna
Brief: If you happen to hook into a bonita, blackfin, or hardtail, then you can put these baits back out and bump troll around the FADs for a chance at a much bigger fish.

    1. Bridle up the live bait with your preferred method of bridling
    2. Put live bait behind the boat and bump boat into gear
    3. Clip the bait into your outrigger clip and let line out 150-200 feet behind the boat
    4. Always have someone on the reel and ready for when the big bite will happen
    5. If a bite happens, let fish take bait for 15-30 seconds, or until you are confident the fish has ate the bait

Tactic #3: Jigging

When to use: If you are marking many small fish down deeper in 100-200 feet of water.
Species: Small yellowfin tuna, blackfin tuna, and wahoo
Brief: If you want to put a few blackfin in the boat, or are trying to catch bait for a big live bait, jigging is the way to go!

    1. Pull up to where you have been marking the bait
    2. Drop the jig past the desired depth
    3. Rip jig through the water column as fast as you can
    4. Rinse and repeat

Tactic #4: Trolling

When to use: Anytime
Species: All species
Brief: We like to use a five rod spread of baits, with some kind of teaser or dredge running a school of bait down deeper. Troll around the general vicinity of the fad as well as making closer passes near it to see what you can entice up with your spread.

  • Outriggers - blue/white islander w/ horse ballyhoo
  • Shotgun - mylar duster on 80# fluorocarbon w/ small ballyhoo
  • Flatlines - big lures for marlin or deep divers for wahoo

Have any other tactics you like to use? Send us a message or comment on this post!

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