All About Dredges - Information & How To Buyer's GuideIf you seek the most effective offshore fish attraction device ever invented, then a dredge is what you seek. The popularity of dredges is growing daily. These teasers are becoming widely popular due to their effectiveness, success rate, and a high degree of angler satisfaction.
For years, teasers have been used in all of the world's oceans. Traditional teasers include daisy chains, birds, spreader bars, bowling pin rigs, offset lures, and a wide variety of objects, some homemade, that when trolled offshore, create commotion, and vibrations that attract fish to the source. In my travels, I have used everything from small round hub cap chains to beer cans with great success. Due to their effectiveness teasers have always been an integral part of my trolling spread. Dredges allow the angler to use teasers within the water column, not just on the surface.
So what is the difference between traditional teasers and dredges? A dredge varies from the traditional teasers in a couple of ways. While most traditional teasers have always been used on the surface, the dredge is a teaser that is pulled under the surface of the water. A dredge gives the illusion of schooling fish, as well as bait balls, and other fish feeding congregations. Pelagic offshore species are the primary targets, for these fish feed on schooling bait.
When it comes to dredges, there are basically 3 different types. Each type provides the same effect, however, their differences lie in the technique, and equipment needed to implement them into your fishing methods. Dredges can be very light, needing a simple hand line to pull, or they can be very heavy, requiring a powerful electric dredge reels to deploy, adjust, as well as reel into the boat when you are done using it. A dredge rod may also be used for handling the dredge. The heaviest dredges will require an electric reel capable of delivering a high drag setting, such as the Kristal XL 651 & 655 models or the XF 655 models. Excluding drag and resistance, the real heavy dredges may sometimes weigh as much as 80 LBS, hence the hefty reel & drag requirements.
A dredge is composed of 3 main components, the dredge bar, the lure chains (drops), and dredge weights to sink the dredge so it may be pulled several feet under the surface.
Dredge arms come in several sizes ranging from 12 inches all the way up to 42. These bars are composed of arms, and each arm has what is referred to as "drops". A dredge bar can have anywhere from 4 to 8 arms. Along each of the arms are the drops, the drops are where the lure chains are attached. Some refer to the "drop" as both the connector on the arm, together with the lure chain attached to it. Each lure chain can vary in length, naturally the longer the lure chain, the more lures per chain. A dredge arm may have as many as 1 to 3 drops per arm, which means that each arm can pull 1, 2, or 3 lure chains. In addition, the center of the dredge bar will also have a drop, which means that each dredge will pull an odd number of lure chains. Given this information, the following examples will allow you to understand distribution:
4 arm dredge bar that features 2 drops per arm: This bar can pull a total of 8 lure chains from the arms, and 1 off the center of the bar, totaling 9 lure chains (odd number). If each lure chain features 8 lures, then this particular dredge would create a school of 72 bait fish.
6 arm dredge bar that features 2 drops per arm: This bar can pull a total of 12 lure chains from the arms, and 1 off the center of the bar, totaling 13 lure chains (odd number). If each lure chain features 10 lures, then this particular dredge would create a school of 130 bait fish.
8 arm dredge bar that features 3 drops per arm: This bar can pull a total of 24 lure chains from the arms, and 1 off the center of the bar, totaling 25 lure chains (odd number). If each lure chain features 20 lures, then this particular monster would create a school of 500 bait fish. Now that is one bait school!
About the center drop:
The center drop may be used to pull a lure chain, however, this drop may also be used to pull a second, and even a third dredge arm in tandem. If you pull 1 dredge bar that is considered a single tier dredge if you pull 2, that is considered a 2 tier or double tiered dredge, and if you pull 3, that is considered a triple-tiered dredge. As of this date, I haven't met an adventurous soul that pulls a quad tiered dredge, however, it wouldn't surprise me if such a soul exists.
Most multi-tiered dredge setups are made up of 2 to 3 dredges pulled together in tandem. These multi-tiered dredge setups may incorporate dredge arms of the same size, or dredge arms that step down in size, which is the ideal method. For example a triple-tiered dredge with three 36 inch arms, or a step-down version, where there is one 42, one 32, and one 24 inch dredge arm. The step-down version gives the dredge a "reverse conical" or pyramid shaped appearance. The step-down method also creates less drag, requires less weight, and allows for smoother towing/trolling.
I guess that by now your imagination is in high gear. Just think of pulling a simple 4 arm dredge bar with 72 baits, and multiplying that by 3! That is a lot of baitfish, and it's also a lot of weight, and resistance when pulled under water. This is why in some applications, the electric reel and stainless steel dredge rod is a MUST have. A downrigger may also be used, however, the retrieval of a very heavy dredge is more effective with an electric reel since the electric reel will bring the dredge closer to the boat, facilitating the process of boating the dredge much easier, as well as adjustments and backdrops.
Dredge arms are available in several different materials ranging from stainless steel of varying thicknesses to titanium. The heavier more stiff dredge arms are necessary for the heavier dredges. Titanium is extremely effective and provides good longevity. One important thing, the stiffer the dredge arm the less pulsation of the baits when trolling, the lesser the arm stiffness, the more pulsation you will get. When pulling heavy dredges, the stiffer titanium/stainless arms are a must. Coated dredge arms that will prevent gelcoat damage, are now available as well.
Dredge Lure Chains:
The lure chains attached to the dredge arms play a pivotal role in determining the total weight of the dredge. The good news is that a dredge does not have to be heavy. In fact a dredge may be so light, that deployment, adjustments, and boating may be achieved by using a simple hand line. At BMC I feature the 33 fish dredges and 69 fish holographic strip dredges , which are lightweight, and do not require expensive equipment to pull.
Lure Chain/Drop Types:
Holographic Type Chain/Drop:
A holographic dredge lure chain is a clear plastic strip that features bait fish replica decals instead of actual lures. These strips are very light, create a lot of flash, and extremely productive. The holographic is the #1 choice if you want a lightweight dredge that you can easily pull off a small boat. A single holographic strip can have anywhere from 6 to 20 holographic fish decals. Due to material and thickness, these strips create the least amount of resistance in the water, making them the easiest to pull, as well as the most economical. The holographic decals also provide a nice variety of colors, prism effects, brightness, and flash. Holographic strips will get whacked, and eventually, these will need to be replaced. Keep in mind that this is true for all lures. The only lures that don't need skirt replacements are those that never get whacked. A lure or bait that never gets whacked is something I don't want to troll or fish with!
Squid Lure Dredges Chain/Drop:
A chain may also be made up of a few different lure types. Most common are plastic/rubber squid or the light bulb squid may also be used. Simple ballyhoo skirts & octopus skirts, are also an option, as well as mylar hair lures with chrome or plastic heads, and kingfish dusters also work well.
Lure chains may be purchased rigged, or you can make your own. Rigging a lure chain is easy, all you need is monofilament, ball bearing swivel, crimps, and whichever lure you wish to use. Naturally, the heavier the lures you use, the faster the trolling speed will need to be. Much like trolling baits on a downrigger, the drop back, and boat speed will dictate the orientation of the lures as they "swim" when towed/trolled behind the boat. If the lures float or sink, while being trolled, a shorter drop back, deeper depth, or an increase in speed is needed. The heavier dredges may require speeds of up to 8 knots. Trolling speed will also be dictated by your vessel's orientation to current, as well as sea conditions. If the presentation of the bait school doesn't look natural, then the dredge will NOT be effective.
Dead Bait Chain/Drop:
A cousin of the dead mullet "bait & switch" daisy chains used to tease sailfish when fly fishing offshore, the dead bait chain is made up of pin rigs where a variety of dead baits may be attached to the lure chain in lieu of a plastic lure or holographic chain. This type of dredge presentation requires a lot of rigging, and a good supply of dead baits, however, it is extremely effective. When the fish come to your presentation they will actually be able to feed on your baits, producing oil slicks, as well as natural scents.
In order to get your dredge down deep, you will need a weight. The amount of weight needed will depend on the total weight of the dredge you are pulling, boat speed, and drop back. Dredge weights can be as heavy as 64 oz. Cigar weights, cannon balls, or my personal favorite "digging fish weights", will all do the job. The diggers provide a "planner like" downward swimming motion that helps in keeping the dredge down. The digging fish weights are available in 6, 8 and 10 LB versions.
At BMC I feature all of the necessary components for dredges, as well as the equipment needed to pull them. In addition, I can custom make lure chains, as well as complete dredge packages, including electric reel, dredge rod, and dredges. Please feel free to contact me with any questions as well as information and pricing on special custom packages. (954) 263-6177
Louis CEO/Owner BlueMarlinChronicles.com