Big Soft Baits for Big Water – Time for Tuna, Billfish, Wahoo, & Mahi

Though soft baits are most commonly associated with inshore casting baits, they very much have an effective spot in your arsenal offshore. Their soft, fluid action presents an extremely lifelike action that I argue is even more natural than rigged dead-bait. Don’t forget that mother-nature builds in the action to a real baitfish. Soft-baits are ergonomically designed to swim as the pull through the waters.

Soft baits come in a multitude of colors, allowing an angler to quickly dial in custom color combinations to suit any situation. In darker conditions, I’ll troll darker baits such as purple black or red wine and on bright bluebird days and inversely on bright days, you find bubble bug, chartreuse and white in my spread.

And lastly, from a pragmatic perspective, soft-baits are simply easier and faster to rig than real bait. They don’t go bad, wash out or need salting. In short, they offer more action and less maintenance!

Here’s a few approaches to trolling soft-baits offshore that we really like:

The Soft Bait Skirted Ballyhoo Alternative

Hogy Sniper

So simple yet so effective… The skirted ballyhoo has been catching fish for decades. While I’m not saying that it’s time to retire the oldie but goodie, I will argue strongly that taking a look at this rigging method will put big smiles the face of your crew. The soft nature of a trolled soft jerk bait allows for the bait to seemingly “hum” in the water and they don’t spin. And once hooked, trolled soft-baits will continue to offer deadly action even at the slowest speeds. The bait will “quiver” it descends in the water column, often resulting in additional hook ups. Even putting their fish raising action aside for a moment, I’m a huge fan of this trolling method with soft-baits. They will save you so much time and money over the course of a season. They don’t wash out and they can be re-used. They can even last over a number of fish.


Can be fished at all trolling speeds (2 to 12kts). Easy to rig, awesome action, can be trolled all day and re-used.


It doesn’t taste like the real thing.

How to Rig It

Rigging Ingredients

  • 100lb Flouro Leader
  • Ilander Trolling Head
  • Chafing Gear
  • Hogy Hook Stopper
  • Tandem Rigged 10inch Hogy

Assemble Rig

Select your leader, favorite trolling head and big game hook and crimp together. We recommend 8’ of 100-130 Fluorocarbon for durability. It’s heavy enough for many large pelagics but not so heavy that you’re “out of the ballpark” on smaller dolphin, black fin tuna etc. For wahoo, braided cable is recommended for abrasion resistance.

Step 1: Crimp on chafing gear to one end of the leader

Step 2: Slide on Ilander (or favorite trolling head) nose first, then add Hogy hook stopper befor crimping on tandem rigged 10inch Hogy Original.

Optional Step 3: To secure bait: Apply a couple of drops of super glue to the nose of the Hogy and also where the hook enters the bait. This will dramatically increase the durability of the bait without compromising its action. By doing this, the bait will actually stand up to the occasional bonita attack, allowing for quick turnaround time.

Soft Bait Daisy Chains

I’ve become a huge fan of rigging big soft jerk-bait as teasers in Daisy Chain and Spreader Bar formations. The best way I can describe the action is to picture a cedar plug chain and how each cedar plug dances and darts in almost a Chinese fire drill fashion, but with the quiver of a soft-bait. They are deadly. My favorite use of this rigging method is as a teaser fishing in your wash. This past winter, 10’ Chains rigged with Bubble Gum and White Hogys were raising sailfish out of Palm Beach Inlet, an area traditionally known for its live bait fishery. An impressive feat and a true testament to how natural these baits look in the water.

Hogy Daisy Chain

Bluewater: The Soft Bait Daisy Chain With Stinger

A soft bait daisy chain offers life-like teasers in conjunction with your favorite trolling bait. Each soft-bait will wiggle, dance and dart as if being chased by a larger predator. In this case, you’re quarry will instinctively go for the largest offering, your stinger! The teasers on your soft-bait daisy chain are easy to change, offering you the quick ability to change colors or replace war-torn baits.

Why Soft Bait Daisy Chains?

  1. Mesmerizing Action-more commotion than a single trolling lure or bait.
  2. Less drag to pull with hard plastic or metal teasers
  3. Effective at wide range of trolling Speeds
  4. Easy to rig and re-rig.

Getting Started

Rigging Ingredients

  • Four 7-inch Bubble Gum Hogys
  • Four Hogy Bait Keepers
  • Stinger: (Go with your favorite) This example: Ilander Jr with 10” Tandem Rigged Hogy.
  • 8’ 130lb Fluorocarbon Leader
  • Three 6” Pieces of 100lb test Mono Chafing Gear
  • Ten appropriately-sized double-barrel crimp sleeves
  • Crimping Tool

Begin by deciding on what size your stinger will be and work backwards. Your teasers should either be smaller or a different color than your stinger to give your quarry a better target. Basically you want to promote your stinger as the preferred target

One of the many advantages of soft plastics is the availability of colors, so try any you like. You certainly can’t go wrong with the old adage that suggests: “dark colors for dark conditions and bright colors for bright conditions.” Translucent colors are especially effective for two reasons: 1. both squid and sand eels are translucent in their natural environment. 2. If lighting conditions change, your baits will change accordingly.

How to Rig It

Step 1: Start by crimping the “leader eye” connection to your trolling line. chafing gear is recommended but not necessary.

Step 2: Slide on three crimp sleeves, Ilander Jr (nose first), Hogy Hook Stopper, and finish

Step 2 by crimping on the tandem rigged Hogy.

Step 3: Take a moment and space crimp sleeves so they are properly located on the leader and mark locations with a sharpie. Crimp each sleeve in place with short piece of mono with tag end pointing toward the leader eye.

Step 4: Attach Hogy Bait keepers and Hogys to each mono piece.

Step 5: Make sure stinger is seated properly.

Trolling Speed

Though soft baits can be trolled at higher speeds, they troll best between 4 ½ and 5 ½ kts, similarly to bulb squid bars. You can up your trolling speeds by adding weight to each of the baits, but I generally troll at moderate speeds and have my best luck on the bars I rig at around 5kts

Bluewater: The Soft Bait Daisy Chain Billfish Teaser

Larger style soft baits offer amazing action as a billfish teaser. When rigged properly, the baits will dance and dart, driving fish crazy. The soft-bait teaser chain deployed in conjunction with a bait and switch method using a similarly sized soft bait pitch bait is an effective technique as your offering an exact replica of what your drew your billfish into your spread.

Why Soft Bait Daisy Chain Teasers?

  1. Mesmerizing Action-more commotion than a single trolling lure or bait.
  2. Less drag to pull than rigged ballyhoo or other natural baits.
  3. Save many hours of rigging.
  4. Save on expensive bait costs.

In terms of rigging the billfish teaser chain, you can follow the instructions above with just a few modifications.

  1. Make the chain a little longer for added attraction. 10’ is a good number.
  2. Use 10” Hogys as teasers. They offer more profile and more action. Say 9 or 10. 12” apart.
  3. Instead of adding a stinger, terminate the chain

Dredge Bars

Hogy DredgeFishing with dredge bars (Both with soft-baits and real baits) has been popular with billfish anglers for sometime now. The whole idea is that the “school” of baitfish that the dredge bar simulates draws the predator in to your spread and in turn, take your trolled or pitch bait. While dredge bars can be a bit pricey, they are very easy to make which will save you a bit of $$.

Why Bluewater Trolling With Soft-baits?

  1. Soft-baits can be fished at all trolling speeds (2 to 12kts).
  2. Deadly Action!
  3. Easy to rig, awesome action, can be trolled all day and re-used.

How to Rig It

Rigging Ingredients

  • Twenty-four 10” Original Hogys
  • Preferred Dredge Bar
  • Twenty-four Hogy Bait Keepers
  • Pliers
  • 24 to 36 Ounce trolling Weight

Step 1: Determine the Dredge bar you will be using: The collapsible dredged bar, designed and patented by Offshore Innovations is the Cadillac of dredge bars. It is super tough and collapses for easy storage. A less expensive alternative is a heavy-duty umbrella rig bar.

Step 2: Attach Hogy Bait keepers to dredge bar:With pliers, close the open eyes of the keepers to each rigging point on the bar..

Note: Heavy Duo-Lock snaps can also be used for a less expensive alternative.

Step 3: Attach Soft-baits to each bait keeper:Simply screw each bait on to the bait keeper.

Note: Shad bodies are the most commonly used soft-bait for this tolling method. We prefer the elongated soft stick bait style baits such as the Hogys as the tails won’t vibrate off during the trolling process.

Step 4: Deploying The Dredge Bar: A large trolling weight is necessary for angler to keep the bars under the surface.

Optional: Some anglers will connect two or even three bars together for larger profile in the water.

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