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The Most Underrated Live Bait Rig You've Never Heard Of

Yes, you can use a Carolina rig outside the Carolinas. And the Jupiter rig? It's at home anywhere in Florida.

The Most Underrated Live Bait Rig You've Never Heard Of

Want to keep the bait on bottom while allowing a little slack for the bite? The Jupiter rig does just that. Pictured is finger mullet.

Everywhere I've traveled, I've seen— and used—different rigs for snook fishing, even from one inlet to the next. Part of that is because anglers tend to adopt a rigging system that has worked well in the past. But if you pay attention, you'll see there are other reasons.

When fishing in Miami, we used the Carolina rig for snook. That's one term for a rig in which an egg sinker slides from the monofilament line to a swivel, followed by a leader, and then the hook. This allows the bait to move away from the weight on the bottom when the reel is in freespool. The bait can go with the current up or sideways, and the predator won't feel the presence of the weight. It's a good and very popular rig.

A knocker rig is another free-sliding weight rig, but the sinker is allowed to slide all the way to the hook without a swivel. This rig is widely used in many places. With it, it's especially easy to remove a hook that's stuck in the bottom, by jerking the rod up and down. This causes the weight to bounce and de-hook the bottom.

Here in Jupiter, where I fish, we use the “Jupiter rig.” It consists of swivel-sinker-swivel, with the swivels separated by a few inches of 80-pound mono, and then about 2 feet of leader material tied to a circle hook. This rig keeps your bait near the bottom at all times. Sure, the predators feel the weight, but for some reason they don't seem to really mind. I use the uni-knot, also called the Duncan loop, to attach all.

fisherman on boat casting bait into blue water
Because the line does not keep sliding through the sinker, it's possible to make long, accurate casts with this rig.

The first swivel, preventing the sinker from sliding all the way up the line, keeps the sinker with the rig during the cast. That's important, as the fish are often holding in particular spots that may or may not afford optimal boat positioning. Also, in strong current, the Jupiter rig allows you to keep contact with the bait while the rig bumps along the bottom. With the Carolina or knocker rig, the current may carry the bait far from the sinker—minimizing your ability to sense a bite, and risking entanglement with unseen structure.

The snook, I tell my clients, are like vacuum cleaners always on the ground or bottom in this case. Tarpon can be the same way. Thus, we want our baits close to the bottom. A 2-foot leader is maximum, the two swivels on each side of the sinker keep the bait down.

When targeting snook and other hard-mouthed predators, using the right size and style hook makes a difference. For the Jupiter rig, I like Daiichi's D85Z 5/0 offset, light-wire circle hooks when using pinfish, croakers or mullet for bait. These hooks, and others like them, are different than conventional J-style hooks where setting the hook is a must. Using circle hooks, setting the hook is performed differently. When a fish picks up the bait, you wind your reel until the line becomes tight, then slowly raise the rod to set the hook. In my opinion, the hookup-to-catch ratio is much higher when using circle hooks compared to J-hooks. Also, the fish are almost always hooked in the corner of the mouth, with virtually no deep- or gut-hooked fish, which can happen with J-hooks. Fish hooked in the corner of the mouth are easier to unhook and revive.


Using the right size hook for the bait is important too, so match smaller hooks to smaller baits. I hook my baits in the upper jaw only when using certain rigs, and especially circle hooks.

Leader material is another important factor in consistently catching fish. I use fluorocarbon leader, mono leader and mainline monofilament. The reason I use fluorocarbon sometimes, and mono sometimes, is because fish will bite mono, and it's less costly. If they won't bite with 60-pound mono (what I often start with), I scale down to 50-pound mono, 40-pound mono, then 30-pound mono. At which point I switch to 50-pound fluorocarbon since its properties make it virtually invisible in the water and more abrasion-resistant than mono. But again, fluoro is quite a bit more expensive.




There are many brands of fluorocarbon on the market; I like the Trik Fish fluoro, which comes in handy 100-yard wrist spools which I place on my leaning post rod holders for easy identification and access. I place them from lightest on the right to heaviest on the left. Saves time when the bite is on! FS

First Published Florida Sportsman Magazine May 2013

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