Posted by: socalsalty | December 6, 2011

Guatemala Prep: Getting Skirted At Melton’s Tackle

Melton's HQ and retail store in Anaheim (photo courtesy of Melton Tackle)

In a week, I’ll be on a sportfishing boat, off the Pacific coast of Guatemala, fishing for sailfish.  A lot of work and preparation has gone into this trip.  I first posted my planning and research thoughts back in August, but taking a trip like this has been on my mind for the better part of 2011.

I’ve caught marlin before down in Mexico.  It’s a very different kind of fishing when you are targeting billfish.  It’s heavy on trolling to raise these apex predators up.  When I’ve caught marlin, we trolled live bonito.  For this time around though, I wanted to try going the artificial route.  When Gaji Lures of Hawaii agreed to be our lure sponsor, the path was set.  I talked to Allan Sato, Gaji’s owner and mastermind, and he asked me if I wanted the trolling heads skirted and rigged.  I wasn’t sure.  I hadn’t done enough research at that point, so I told Allan to just send me the heads.  A couple weeks later, he was done.  Beautiful work this guy does…omigosh…each head is an individual work of art.  The detail is amazing.  Each head has a different shape designed to create a different action.  They were made to work in tandem to maximize our chances of hooking up.

Custom trolling heads by Gaji Lures

As mentioned before though, they were just the heads.  I assumed I could go to my regular tackle store, Johnny’s, to get them rigged and skirted, but they only had fully rigged lures.  They said go to Melton’s.  For those of you familiar with Melton’s Tackle, it’s probably via their website.  Here in SoCal though, we have the option to visit them live at their retail outlet in Anaheim.

So off  I went, hitting it up the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  Upon entering the store, I immediately spotted and was drawn to the back wall where I saw an amazing array of squid skirts in different sizes, patterns and colors.  Yup, I’m in the right spot.  John asked if I needed help.  I told him what I was working on, where we were going, the target fish, etc.  John was really helpful in taking me step by step through the process.  It was great.  I fish a lot, but not a lot of this kind of fishing.  Even though Melton’s is a big retailer in the fishing world, I enjoyed the same sort of hands on, knowledgeable help that I get from Johnny’s.

Like Imelda Marcos' shoe closet...only with squid skirts

First up, we needed to pick out skirts.  We lined up the heads on the counter and began to pair skirts with each other and the heads.  The skirts had great names like “Mean Joe Greene” and “Grey Ghost.”  We tried to pick combinations where the outside skirt resembled the local bait (in the water at least), with the inner skirt providing a flash of color.  The larger heads took 9 inch skirts and are for targeting the sails.  The little greenish blue bullet (lower right) is for targeting dorado (aka mahi mahi).  It will also be a killer for tuna when that time comes back around again off San Diego. When we had picked all the combos, John said he needed an hour or so, and we left to get some lunch.

When we got back, almost all the skirts were on.  John showed me how he got them into position, secured them with wax string, and then trimmed the excess down to maintain a smooth profile.  Now to rigging them with hooks.  A similarly daunting array of hooks to choose from were presented.  Based on the information I had gotten prior, I chose single hooks.  The reasoning is that a single hook focuses all the energy of the strike on one point of entry to drive the hook  into the hard, bony mouths of the sailfish.  Also, once the fish is hooked, a double hook, could have the effect of opening up the individual entry points, creating more opportunity to shake the hook.  A single hook also makes it easier to safely release the fish unharmed.

On the workbench

John used 300lb mono test to rig the hooks.  He doubled it up inside the skirt for further abrasion resistance in the strike area.  The hooks were positioned such that the bottom curve was just outside the far edge of the skirt, and it’s positioning was maintained using crimps and what John called the Hawaiian Twist.  He rigged all 6 and that was that.  Talk about attention to detail…once they were all done, the leaders were neatly secured by nifty little wraps and I was provided a roll up bag to store them all for the trip.  What a great experience.  I really appreciated all the time John took to explain each of the steps and indulge me with all my questions.  If you are planning a similar trip, I couldn’t give a higher recommendation.  If you aren’t able to come to Southern California, you can still go through much the same experience by sending in your heads, calling them, and reviewing their recommendations online.  I have the highest confidence they’re going to work.  I’ll post how things go next week.  Wish us luck.  Tight lines.



  1. I am super ready to give these a try!

    • I can’t wait to try them out with you! 🙂

  2. Caught one yet? Hope you are having luck with the Dorado skirt and the “Salty Striker”. Love you Dad. Tight lines!!!

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