Convert an 8- to 10-inch mullet into a lively trolling bait.

Rigging the classic deboned mullet is easy, and with a little practice it will become part of your everyday spread. I don’t pull them nearly as often as I’d like, but I’ve caught three dolphin over 50 pounds, and they’ve all come on a whole deboned mullet. All three fish struck on the surface, but it’s on a planer or downrigger that a deboned mullet really shines.

The best size mullet for deboning are 8 to 10 inches long. Start by scaling the head. Next, make a small cut on each side of the spine starting directly at the back of the head, and cutting back approximately 1 ½ inches. Reaching in with a pair of small scissors, snip and remove about the first half inch of the backbone.

Next, remove the plunger of the de-boner tool. A de-boner is a tube you encircle the mullet’s backbone with to separate and remove it from the mullet’s body. It is sold with a plunger to remove bone from tube. They sell for around $15 at most tackle shops. For this rig, I’m using the H+H Lures tool, which is 14 inches long with ½-inch diameter tube. Place the tube inside the mullet, and feel your way, until you’re sure the backbone is inside the opening of the tube. Then start twisting the tube, snapping the bones off the spine, until you reach the anal fin. Then carefully bend the mullet’s tail while pushing the tube in the opposite direction. Be careful to avoid breaking the skin, and back the tube out. Once you’ve removed the back bone, use the plunger to remove it from the tube.

What you’ll be left with is a bait with better swimming action than any ballyhoo you will ever see, not to mention a bigger profile. I think it’s important to stitch up the incision you made for the back bone, as well as stitching the mullet’s mouth closed to keep the bait from filling with water.

You’ll want an 8/0 or 9/0 hook with as long a shank as you can find. Use the point of the hook to poke a hole in the mullet’s stomach. Then push the eye of the hook up through the mullet until it rests in the bait’s throat, just ahead of the eyes. Using an ice pick or rigging needle, poke a hole through the skull and out of the bottom of the jaw. Then run a piece of No. 8 wire through the top of the head, making sure you pass through the eye of the hook. Then pass the wire through a 1 or 1 ½-ounce egg sinker and wrap the mouth shut with a haywire twist followed with a few barrel wraps.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a mono leader fan. Having said that, my experience has been a deep mullet will draw more wahoo and kingfish bites than any ballyhoo I’ve ever pulled. Sharp teeth require wire. FS

First Published Florida Sportsman June 2019

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