Customize wire leaders to avoid cutoffs and promote more and better hookups.

Two methods for making stinger rigs, commonly used for slow trolling menhaden, runners and other baits. Tournament anglers often use somewhat heavier wire the the aftmost section: Usually, it's the part most vulnerable to cutoffs.

King mackerel fishermen know all about downsizing tackle to lure big fish to the bait. Smaller diameter fishing lines, lighter gauge hooks and swivels are more likely to catch the eye of a mature and educated king mackerel. Perhaps the most critical adjustment, however, is in the size of the wire bite leader.

Over the years, leaders commonly used on the tournament circuit have downsized from No. 5 to No. 3 wire. Stinger wire, too, has dropped from No. 6 to No. 4.

An important side benefit of going with lighter, more flexible wire is that your live baits will swim better and live longer. Menhaden may live up to 12 years in the wild, but an improperly rigged bait may live only 2 minutes in your trolling spread.

Lightening up wire leader is a deadly game that king mackerel fishermen play until fish are lost on a regular basis. Eventually, you reach a point where the lightest wire is severed by the sharp teeth of the king mackerel.

Single Hook Stinger

One solution is to use medium-gauge wire for the stinger, or back half of the rig, but hide it in the skin of the bait. Jacksonville’s Dave Workman Jr. does this. He begins by selecting coffee-colored wire. Dave also inspects several wires and picks the darker colored wire; the reasoning is that sunlight reflecting off bright wire may spook fish (for the same reason, Workman employs black kingfish hooks and swivels).

For the primary leader, Workman uses about three feet of No. 3 wire, with a black No. 4 Spro Power Swivel haywire wrapped to the line side. The terminal end he passes through the eye of a 5/0 shortshank black Octopus hook and simultaneously through another No. 4 Power Swivel. This first hook and swivel are then secured with a haywire wrap connection. Next, Workman haywire wraps a short length of No. 4 piano wire to a second 5/0 black Octopus hook and the remaining side of the Spro swivel. (Attaching the stinger wire and hook to the swivel eliminates the possibility of the stinger wire pulling through the gap in the eye of the nose hook during a fight.) The length of this “stinger” is adjusted so that the aftmost hook can be embedded in the live bait just in back of its dorsal fin.

Next, Workman lays the stinger hook alongside of the live bait just in back of the dorsal fin and measures where the hook can be hidden under the skin without impeding its swimming action.

When large live baits are hard to find, Workman beefs up the profile of his rig by adding a Boone duster onto the leader wire so that it swims just in front of the bait. A colorful duster can also help baits stand out in dirty water, which is common outside inlets on falling tides.

Single-Treble Combo

Captain Bill Miller uses a single J-hook forward and a treble hook stinger.

First, he takes a pair of side cutter pliers and opens up the eye of a 2/0 live bait hook. Next, he threads a No. 6, 80-pound black barrel swivel over the eye of the nose hook, then positions it at the bend of the nose hook and closes the eye of the nose hook.

Next, haywire wrap a short 4- or 5-inch section of No. 4 brown piano wire to the remaining side of the swivel. A No. 4, 4X strong treble hook is then haywire wrapped to the remaining end of the stinger wire. Adjust the length of the stinger wire so that the hook lies just in back of the dorsal fin of the live bait. A No. 10, 35-pound black barrel swivel is haywire wrapped to an 18-inch length of No. 4 brown piano wire. The end of the leader wire is then haywire wrapped to eye of the nose hook.

Wire kingfish leaders can also be fashioned to slow-troll double live baits. Here, a second No. 4 coffee-colored piano stinger wire is haywire wrapped to eye of the first stinger hook. Next, a second stinger hook is haywire wrapped to the tag end of the remaining stinger wire. When rigging double baits always nose hook the larger live bait first, followed by a small live bait. This way the stronger live bait swim ahead of the smaller, weaker live bait avoiding wire tangles.

Finally, always have on board several pre-made wire leaders so that kinked wire leaders can be replaced when a mackerel is caught or released. FS

First published Florida Sportsman December 2015

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