Fishing Guide

Chasing billfish

With XT lures

Summer’s not only great for hot sunny days and laying on the beach, it also means warm water. And with warm blue water comes pelagic fish that follow these currents and feed on the prolific bait schools along the Australian coastline.

In south-east Queensland the summer water temperatures can reach more than 28°C and when the warm blue water pushes in close to the coastline, species like marlin, sailfish, tuna, mahimahi, wahoo and mackerel can be encountered very close to shore, within a stone’s throw of the beach.

On the Gold Coast it’s not uncommon to fish for black marlin in water where you can see the sand on the bottom and hear the waves as the break on the beaches.

For serious game fisherman, this time of the year is what we live for and the options of live baiting, switch baiting and trolling lures are all viable and each have their time and place. If you’re not that experienced or don’t have the local knowledge but want to give it go, then trolling a spread of lures is by far the easiest and most effective way to connect with a gamefish. Everyone wants to hook a marlin but there’s always welcome bycatch species when targeting billfish that not only can save the day when the fishing is slow but are a welcome addition to the esky and provides some tasty meals.

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Depending on the average size of the marlin you’re chasing, you need match your gear appropriately. When the fish are 15-25kg (on average) then 8kg outfits are perfect for the job. If the fish are the next class above in the 45-70kg range, then 15kg is a better option. This is due to the heavier equipment enabling a faster capture and the fish can be released in a far better condition than when they are fought to a stand still.

Trolling lures do vary and are usually based on personal preference. When I troll for small black marlin I use a 3-5 lure spread at a speed of around 6.5-7 knots. I run 5 lure spread if there are two or more people on board and 3 lures if I am fishing solo due to Queensland fisheries regulations, but this is still very effective.

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When running 3 lures I run a [Black Magic] ‘Burple’ Maggot XT in close in flat from the corner. This lure produces a very nice bubble trail with a tight action that works well in close to the prop wash. The lure is set on the third wave behind the boat about 15-20m back and the darker colour helps it to stand out amongst the bubbles.

The second lure is run from a rigger or angled rod holder. This is the short rigger position about 30m behind the boat and I run the [Black Magic] ‘Psycho Kriller’ Flea XT. The action of the Flea XT is more enticing than the Maggot XT as it has a very seductive wiggle working very well in the clear water on the rigger.

The third lure is again run from a rigger or angled rod holder. The long rigger is the home of Lumo lures and you will find this colour on its day will out perform all others lures combined. I run the [Black Magic] ‘Lumo’ Maggot XT in this position about 40-45m behind the boat.


If I have two or more people on board then running 5 lures is best and to the previous spread, I simply add a short corner and shotgun lure.

The short corner is only on the second wave behind the boat about 12-15m and the darker colour of ‘Burple’ Maggot XT helps to stand out amongst the bubbles so in this situation I run it closer to the boat.

I then run a [Black Magic] ‘Dr. Evil’ Maggot XT in the next wave back in the long corner position in some slightly cleaner water.

The riggers stay the same with the Psycho Kriller’ Flea XT on the short rigger and the ‘Lumo’ Maggot XT running long.

The fifth and final lure is run as a shot gun out the back of the spread about 60-70m behind the boat in a centre position and this can be a ‘Flaming Squid’ or ‘Flying Fish’ Flea XT.

This spread covers a whole lot of options and will entice a whole range of light tackle gamefish.

In addition to the lure spread, a mirror teaser or daisy chain can add additional attraction to fish however this is often not necessary and can add unnecessary mess and confusion to the hectic situation when a hookup occurs.

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When rigging light tackle lures including the Flea XT and Maggot XT, I prefer to use [Black Magic] 80lb Fluorocarbon leader. The fluorocarbon’s abrasion resistance is perfect for marlin fishing and you can often catch multiple fish before needing to replace the leader, as marlin have a very abrasive bill and will often make short work of light leaders.

The lighter leader allows the lure to perform more effectively and also creates less drag in the water enticing the bite.

Using a single hook stiff rigged with a short length of wire inside the lure, is my preferred rig. This is not only a much safer rig for the person unhooking the fish but also prevents bite offs when species like wahoo and mackerel attack.

The main leader is connected to a wind-on leader using a 10kg Twin Spin Swivel when using the lighter 8kg setups and a 15kg Twin Spin Swivel on the 15kg outfits.

I also use an 80lb Tough Trace wind on leader for extra protection secured to a double line tied with an Aussie Plait.

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My boat is a 5m Trail Craft with a 60hp engine. This boat is versatile, and I have set it to troll a spread of 3 or 5 lures with ease. On my first outing this season I decided to target some smaller marlin on the shallow grounds off Stradbroke Island.

The area between 25-35m deep was holding lots of bait schools and I was marking fish on the outside edges of the school. It wasn’t long before the unmistakable sight of a bill and dorsal broke the surface and started to swipe at the long corner Maggot XT.

On its second go at the lure the drag started to scream and the little black immediately took to the air. Unfortunately, the fish did not stay connected and with conditions deteriorating I decided to call it a day.

I can’t wait to get back out on the water and give them another crack.

Words and images by Brand Ambassador Leigh Holtsbaum.

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