Squid Rig for Trolling

Dolphin aren’t what you’d call picky eaters. As indicated in the March 2013 feature issue in FS, “Travelers on the Trades,” when dolphin arrive off Florida’s coasts after long migrations through the Caribbean, they’re hungry. They’re liable to crash all manner of trolling baits, including rigged ballyhoo, feathers, jetheads, swimming plugs and jigs. For the angler’s part, much of the inventiveness of rigging stems from minimizing sources for potential mishaps. Fouled lures or hooks, for example, may deter strikes or lead to missed hooksets.

Squid have a hydrodynamic shape which lends itself well to trolling, and their soft bodies yield easily on a strike, allowing the hookpoint to engage quickly. Also, the external “mantle” may be used to hide a hookpoint from sargassum and other fouling.

There are several methods for rigging squid for trolling.

If you prefer monofilament leader, you’ll want a sharpened brass pipe or a rigging needle to draw the leader through the tough mantle. Also, a section of soda straw and a small egg sinker should be threaded first on the leader; this will serve as a stiffener, keeping the bait extended while trolling. The sinker must be small enough to fit snug in the tip of the mantle; usually no more than 1/8- or ¼-ounce. Hook choice is up to you; here we’ve selected a 7/0 Mustad 3407, a pretty universal trolling design. Once you know what size your squid supply will be for the day, make up several leaders with hook, straw and sinker.

To rig a bait, run the sharpened pipe or rigging needle up beneath the mantle on the “snorkel” side of the bait.

Insert the leader material through the pipe, through the end of the mantle, and remove the pipe. (Note that the straw section has been omitted, due to the fact that the squid was small.)

Run the point of the hook through the snorkel and between the eyes; it should exit the head so that the point is barely hidden beneath the mantle.

Slide a squid skirt or Sea Witch down the leader, finish with a simple loop knot, and you’re ready to fish.


Many anglers prefer wire leader, due to the fact that wahoo are frequently encountered while trolling weedlines and temp breaks. At 6 to 8 knots, it’s unlikely any dolphin will be deterred by the sight of wire leader.

A versatile wire rig for squid baits starts with about 6 feet of No. 8 singlestrand wire and a 7/0 to 9/0 trolling hook. Thread about 18 inches of the wire through the eye of the hook, then wrap it two times down the shank, then one time back up to the eye, exiting the opposite side. Make a haywire twist to secure.

Thread a 1/8-ounce egg sinker on the tag end, and wrap it around the standing end tightly, about 4 to 6 inches. Finish with another haywire formation.

Now—you can roll the sinker up or down to size this rig to whatever squid are on hand.

The wire is sharp and stiff enough to penetrate the mantle on its own; finish otherwise as with the mono rig already described. Wrap a haywire twist in the leader to finish.

The smaller the perforation in the mantle, the longer the bait will hold up while trolling. This is why we’ve used the brass needle or the singlestrand wire. However, if you’re in a hurry, you can snip off the tip of the mantle, as shown here, to accommodate leaders with crimped or knotted loops in them (which may be the case as you “reload” the rigs already described). With either system, it’s best to put some kind of lightweight, low-profile skirt on the leader, to help protect the squid from washing out.