There’s just something about the mahi in the way it looks with its gradient yellow to green to blue scales and its slightly weirdly shaped head that makes it absolutely my all-time favorite catch. There’s plenty of fish in the sea I love catching, fish like marlins and swordfish have given me some of the most intense chases and aerial fights I’ve ever seen in my fishing career, but neither of those give me quite the feeling of the dolphin. Not to mention they’re one of the most delicious fish you will ever taste.
I’ve been fishing for mahi since I was little and over the many years I’ve really perfected my tactics when it comes to getting them on the hook, so I thought I would share with you my top 10 rigs for catching mahi. These are in no particular order, I love them all too much, so I’ll just go ahead and say that these are all a 10-way tie for the number 1 spot.
- Pitch bait. Use medium or large ballyhoo and pitch it into the path of the fish as it’s swimming when you spot one, usually near debris or large schools of smaller fish. When it strikes let it swallow it and have fun.
- Weedless Ballyhoo. Even amateur fishermen know how frustrating it can be to think you have a good bite on the line and pull the line up to find a mess of weeds on the hook. That’s a problem of the past with this rig, and made it an obvious choice for my top 10 rigs for catching mahi. This is different from a normal rig in that the point of the hook is flipped around to the opposite of how a hook would normally be, which makes weeds slide over the rounded back of the hook instead of getting caught on the point. All you need to do is add a skirt over the nose of the bait to keep the weeds away from it, then soften the bait up a bit by removing some scales to make sure the hook will be able to sink into a fish when it strikes.
- Ballyhoo. I want to go after the mahi, which is a larger fish, and I’m the type of guy that would rather have 10 beefy mahis instead of 50 5-pounders. I use larger bait on these and it really helps to weed out a lot of the smaller fish that you would normally get. You don’t spend as much of your time dealing with small fish and have a lot better luck with bigger ones at the end of the day. The small fish might still peck on it, but they’re not the ones that are going to take the big bite out of it. Bigger fish like the mahi have absolutely no problem with them. I use both the Large and Horse Ballyhoo with a single 9/0 long-shank hook, and lots of them for lots of mahi.
- Next is dredges. Basically, a dredge is used to make it look like a big ball of bait following alongside the boat, which attracts larger fish such as the mahi. I’ve always found that the best option is to use a big spreader bar and hookless lures. I seem to have the best luck around 8 to 10 feet deep in the water about 15 feet behind the boat, which is just deep enough that you can still see through the surface of the water enough to be able to react to anything that might get interested.
- Next are live weed-line baits. These are useful if the mahi don’t seem to be biting too well for whatever reason, and are able to use the mahi’s natural hide spots in order to entice them out. This tactic involves baiting a quill rig and trawling it through debris and weeds, which is where mahi, and other large and small fish tend to congregate and hide together.
- Next is kind of a secret that I was taught as a young boy, and that is using live shrimp as bait. Just keep them in a separate bucket on your boat’s livewell. I’ve never seen a mahi turn down a raw shrimp.
- Next up is the flutter-style jig. In this method, you’ll want to drop it down quite far, I usually go to around 100 feet deep, and then you jig it quickly back up to the surface.
- The next spot goes to small trolling lures. Like we said, the best combination is green and orange. These are really useful if you’re just getting to a spot and want to check to see if there’s mahi around. They’ll always tend to bite on these really quickly if you throw them under some weeds or large rocks and debris.
- When the jigs finally give up on you the next step is the most trusted, bait chunks. Just put a big chunk of ballyhoo on a live bait hook and let it fly. If there’s a mahi in the area, it’s bound to bite on a big chunk sooner or later, almost guaranteed. If there’s not, you’ll at least get a big school of medium sized fish for your troubles.
- And our last spot on our top 10 rigs to catch mahi is the chugger. Work it rapidly over a large area of water to produce the chugging sound, enticing the mahi back to your boat. Once the fish come up near the surface you can drop a traditional bait to pluck them up.
This is really useful forgetting underneath debris and weed lines, which we’ve mentioned in this top 10 rigs to catch mahi list a couple times already as good hiding spots for mahi and other medium fish. You’ll want to pay attention to the color you use too, the best color for mahi tends to be a combination of green and orange.