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Best Spanish Mackerel Rigs

It's that time again—when hungry schools of Spanish mackerel head south, tie these rigs for Spanish success

best rigs for spanish mackerel
Captain Dave Perkins photographs Allie Centerino, of Missouri, with a nice Spanish caught earlier this year while fishing out of Key Largo.

Like no-brainers? Who doesn’t? For Spanish and small king mackerel, these are standard. Let's get right to it, here's four of the best, easy to tie rigs for Spanish mackerel.

FLOAT RIG WITH CLARKSPOOON

how to tie float rig
Weighted popper with a tiny clarkspoon is a deadly combo in the surf.

It’s that time again—when hungry schools of Spanish mackerel head south for the winter. 

Macks, although voracious by nature, can prove unpredictable—like after they invade the surf line. If they’re at their pickiest, it’s typically due to an over-abundance of tiny “micro” forage. Still, one rig bound to get their attention combines a weighted popper with a tiny Clarkspoon.

how to tie float rig
Don't worry, it's easier than it looks.

Work this rig like any fast-moving surface bait. Macks in the area will sense the commotion and rush the surface—where they’ll spot the “crippled baitfish”!  Why the trappings? The small 00 Clarkspoon, by itself, is too light for casting.

how to tie float rig
The weight this rig adds allows this light spoon to be casted well in the surf.

While this rig excels on beaches, it’s equally at home wherever you try it. To build one from scratch, start with a Styrofoam popping cork and, after removing the stem, spray the body—I prefer “international orange” Rustoleum®.  (I hold the stem by the tip to suspend the body while I’m busy spraying)

Next, I take a strand of 80-pound mono, before adding a red plastic bead, a sleeve and a swivel in that order. Then, when I crimp the sleeve, it secures the swivel in place.

how to tie float rig
80-pound mono will hold up to anything you might encounter in the surf.

Next, I force the stem into the float. If it protrudes too far aft, I use cutters to shorten it (cutters are part of most crimpers). When the stem lines-up just right with the rear of the float, I thread the mono back through it and repeat the process, only now time I add a one-ounce egg sinker--- between the bead and the body. When I crimp the second sleeve tight, it produces an integral unit: what we call “The Float Rig.”

how to tie float rig
Pay attention to the sleeves to ensure the longevity of your rig.

A note on crimping: Some sleeves, especially the old single-barreled models, have both concave and convex ends. I make sure that all my loops protrude from the concave (hollow) end, a move that discourages fraying. Also, when I bear down on my crimpers (or use a swaging tool), I want the crimps to line up---otherwise, I risk re-opening the sleeve.

how to tie float rig
Tie on your spoon and you're ready to go!

To complete the rig, I add a size 0 or 1 Clarkspoon to approximately 3 feet of heavy mono (you be the judge; I prefer 40 or 50-pound, but I’m willing to go heavier if the fish are large---or if bluefish are prevalent) that I tie to the rear swivel.

That’s all there is to it!

WOBBLING SPOON RIGS

best rigs for spanish mackerel
This rig is ideal for the beach or pier.

Fishing this rig is easy—from the beach or pier (the latter, where caution is advised). If the wind is blowing from anywhere but head-on or directly behind you, quarter your casts upwind at a 45-degree angle.

Start by attaching a silver 5/8 oz. Kastmaster or Krocodile—here the die size/weight ratio matters—to a short length of the lightest-available single-strand wire. I’m not a big fan of the braided stuff. Use a Haywire twist to secure the spoon before forming a Haywire Loop at the opposite end. 

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Forget swivels: all unwanted targets for snapping dentures. Instead, join the entire kit-and-caboodle to a 14-20 inch length of 30 or 40-pound mono that you’ve previously attached to your 10-pound mono standing line. To make that connection, I prefer a Double Surgeon’s knot.

best rigs for spanish mackerel
Attach a short length of single-strand wire to your spoon with a Haywire twist.

Now, for a quick connection between spoon rig and mono, tie a Jam knot near the tip of the mono leader. Cinch the knot as tight as possible before passing it through the Haywire loop.  Then, after taking 1½ turns, pull the leader tight—thereby joining the mono securely to both spoon and wire.

The big advantage? Now, whenever the wire becomes kinked or bent, you can replace the entire unit (I keep several rigged and ready).

best rigs for spanish mackerel
Haywire loop formed at the opposite end; Jam knot joins Loop to 30 # mono leader.

Whenever you use this rig, allow your spoon to sink completely before beginning a steady, straight retrieve—no jigging. Then, when your lure appears on the surface, allow it to sink completely without opening the bail. (Limited slack helps reduce unwanted cut-offs.) Two retrieves per cast is considered standard.

A “Pro Trick”? If the water’s opaque or deeply off-color, spray the spoon “bright Fluorescent” and slow your retrieve. Sometimes, this makes a difference.

STANDARD PIER GOT-CHA RIG

best baits for spanish mackerel
Got-Cha plug (R) flanked by its venerable predecessor, the Porter Seahawk.

The multi-hooked lead-nosed Got-Cha—it stays deep on retrieves—behaves more like a jig than a plug. Which makes it ideal for casting—from tall piers, especially. 

The Got-Cha’s precursor—popular more than a decade ago—was the respectable Porter Seahawk.

A note of caution: this lure sports multiple trebles. If (or I should say when) a fish spits it, it flies back with a vengeance.  

STATIONARY HARD FOAM POPPER

best bait for spanish mackerel
This mack nailed a motionless pencil popper.

This one you probably haven’t heard of: Yet it might be your last, best hope when over-chummed macks develop collective lock-jaw. Take the typical Peck Lake aggregation, after daily poundings beats them into surfeited submission. But first, a heads-up:

Lately, there’s been an uptick in fly fishing for migratory species—Spanish included. Chances are, if you’re a devotee of the long rod, you’ve already stripped streamers through the endless schools that winter off Martin and St. Lucie Counties. Some days, admittedly, are better than others. But that’s not the point here.

Rather, consider the time when the macks quit responding—irrespective of how much chum you toss them. Maybe it’s the time to use your noggin?

You’re at anchor, right? Cast a hard foam pencil popper from your stern and let it sit. As far as the schools that pass beneath it? Could they have missed a “chummie” (aka saury or glass minnow)? Apparently, it drives them crazy. 

Nothing happen at first? No sweat. While your popper bobs along merrily, first one then another mack begins to circle. It’s like bugging for bluegills. Move your popper and the fish ignore it.    

But you decide to impart zero motion until one (usually a larger specimen) grabs it. Then it’s off to the races.  

 For this work, I recommend at least a nine-weight floating line and matching rod combo, along with a 9-foot 20-pound leader. Most any salt-resistant lightweight reel will do.

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