Marking Main Lines

I get a lot of questions about the need to mark mainlines for HST. Wahoo have a definite preference to strike sub-surface lures and most good wahoo trollers feel the deeper a lure runs the better. With a few exceptions the best thing to see when looking back at your wahoo spread is nothing. Most lures do best when submerged 100% of the time.


I see an excessive amount of sales pitch “Buy my lures because because you can run them at XX Knots without a sinker”. Please ask yourself do you want to just pull lures at XX Knots, or do you want to catch fish? Pulling lures behind trolling sinkers is a tried-and-true method of catching wahoo, and crucial to the art of high speed trolling.


Because the lures aren’t visible when running it becomes very important to mark the mainlines in some way so the lures and sinkers can be staggered to reduce fouling each other. I’ve tried a few methods of marking mainlines but find using waxed rigging floss to be the simplest and most durable option.


Every shock leader I sell now comes with two lengths of Red 35# rigging floss to be used for marking mainlines.

Once you’ve decided you need to mark HST drops on your mainline you’ll need to figure out how, and where to do it. If you have a trailer boat for the first time I recommend finding a place where you can park the boat and stretch out all of the lines with the rods in the holders. Using tent stakes or screwdrivers stretch out a 300’ tape measure and then pull the lines out to the lengths you want. If you can’t find a space large enough just find a place where you can stretch out the tape measure and a single line at a time. City parks, school yards or open fields where you won’t get shot are fine.


Another (better) option is to have a take-up reel with a line counter to pull a measured amount of line from the reel you want to mark. This is great for changing topshots and marking HST drops after a bite off. Doing it this way you need to keep in mind the mainlines should be marked so all of the distances are in line with the transom. For instance if a rod is in a holder six feet forward six feet should be added to the marked length. I fish two HST lines from outriggers (not common) and I need to add 15’ to those markers to compensate for the additional line needed to break the plane of the transom.


Wire mainline catches more wahoo, period. IMO the few extra fish aren’t worth the cost, maintenance and weight. For marking wire about the only choice out there is a permanent marker. Mark three one inch bands with an inch of bare wire between. This isn’t a hi-vis mark by any means and expect it to wear off rather quickly. One person I’ve fished with put a little flag of electrical tape at the marks. It worked, but it’s prone to slip.


Braid mainlines have a thin diameter but lack stretch. I went “all in” on braid mainlines one season. After losing more fish than I ever dreamed possible I quickly switched back to mono. To mark a braid mainline use a sewing needle to pull waxed floss once right through the center of the braid. Then put tension on the braid and complete the mark similar to the mono marking instructions below.


Monofilament mainline offers the best multi-purpose choice if you switch back and forth from HST and regular trolling or live baiting. To mark a mono mainline it has to be stretched right to the point of max drag to reduce the diameter to it’s max stretch. Using waxed floss make a square knot, then a series of overhand knots alternating the overhand knots above and below the mainline. After every six sets of overhand knots do a square knot, rinse, repeat. Build the marking from the terminal end toward the reel, tension each knot by pulling tight toward the terminal end.


Some people set their marks to fly somewhere off the end of the rod tip. I prefer to set my marks to be front & center right on the spool. This way I can scan all 4-5 reels in the cockpit almost instantly and tell if even a small amount of line has been stripped off.



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