Skip-baiting probably represents one of the earliest - not to mention, simplest - techniques employed to catch marlin.
Initially, anglers probably just drift-fished with dead baits, and then someone came up with the idea of trolling the baits through the water. From there, it wasn't much of a leap to the idea of rigging dead baits to skip across the water's surface. The technique proved deadly, and marlin fishermen the world over quickly adopted it.
However, the really great thing about skip baits is their universal popularity with all pelagic predators. Everything that swims will come up to eat a skipping bait.
I don't think there is a single pelagic sportfish that can resist a well-rigged skip bait.
When skirted trolling lures were introduced, however, interest in skip-baiting fell by the wayside - everyone got wrapped up in the new fad. But in recent years, the art of skip-baiting is experiencing a resurgence.
Part of the reason why skip baits are coming back into fashion is that they get spectacular bites. Sometimes it isn't about catching the fish - it is just about seeing the bite.
Crews turn to skip baits time and again because they can rig them to run in many different scenarios. You can run them at walking speed in conjunction with live baits or skipping along at seven knots amongst a spread of lures. They attract attention in flat-calm seas and cause enough of a commotion to stand out in big days as well.
Something about skip baits seems to attract a billfish with consistency that neither lures nor "livies" can match at times. Remember that all suitable skip baits share similar characteristics. They are streamlined in shape, like tuna or ballyhoo. Yellowfin, skipjack, mackerel and rainbow runners all make great skip baits. They all have pointy noses and smooth bodies that reduce water resistance, thus helping them skip more easily across the water.
The age-old theory that the freshest bait catches the most fish is something that rings all too true in the world of skip-baiting. A fresh bait still has a sheen on it, and it doesn't smell, which I am sure helps to attract the fish.
Fresh baits always last longer and tend not to fall apart on the strike. Baits that have been frozen tend to deteriorate rapidly in the water as they defrost.
Lures might be all the rage these days, but it certainly pays to pull natural baits. It may take a bit more effort to rig them right, but pulling dead skipping baits usually rewards anglers willing to put in the time.