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Rigging Baits Right

Different hooks in different places.

Hook set forward in thread herring for slow-trolling.

Years ago I spotted a sticker in a Bradenton store window that read: “Love is the answer.”

After striking out the word love with a slash mark, the author substituted “live bait.”

To be sure, live bait is the answer on many a fishing trip.

Investing in live bait often makes sense, whether you catch it in a cast net, buy it from a live bait dealer or hoist it up on sabiki quills.

Rigging live baits so they swim naturally, stay alive and don't appear overloaded with hardware is just as important as having frisky baits in your well.

When rigging, think clean and stealthy.

Small live baits such as Spanish sardines, pilchards and threadfin herring can be simply hooked sideways through the hard part of the nose near the nostrils.

To minimize cut-offs by toothy fish such as kingfish, try a light wire trace for smaller baits such as threadfin herring, pilchards and Spanish sardines.

“Rigging live baits so they stay alive is important.”

I like to twist about 6 inches of No. 4 single-strand wire onto a 2/0 Mustad 9174-BR live bait hook, then connect the other end to a tiny Spro 80-pound swivel.

When presenting larger baits such as goggle-eyes under a kite, bridle them so the hook is exposed over the forehead. The over-the-forehead hook position allows the bait to be lifted straight out of the water and leaves the hook exposed to maximize the hook-up potential.

Goggle-eye rigged for kite action.

If you're planning to slow troll or move a lot with a bait dangled under a kite, bridle it through the nostrils instead of on top of the head so the bait will move easily through the water, advises Capt. Chris Lemieux of Lemieux Fishing Charters in Boynton Beach.

Lemieux bridles his sailfish baits with 6/0 circle hooks secured by small rubber bands.

When fishing for kingfish and wahoo, Lemieux skips the bridle and embeds the hooks directly into the flesh of the bait. He makes his rigs resistant to teeth with titanium wire—usually 40-pound titanium tied to a tiny 80-pound Spro swivel. (Unlike traditional single strand wire titanium is flexible and can be tied to hooks and swivels, though many anglers prefer crimping it.)

Captain Frank Call Jr. of Greenacres makes a special live bait rig for kingfish that marries a circle hook to a trailing treble hook with a piece of flexible braided wire.

After crimping on the treble hook, Call creates a small loop in the braided wire with a crimp, then slides the loop onto the circle hook and twists it to secure the stinger rig to the circle hook.

Call keeps extra treble-hook trailers ready so he can re-rig in a hurry, leaving the used ones in caught fish until they hit the cleaning table.

Captain Justin Rieger of Jensen Beach often uses a commercial-style rig when fishing with live sardines, pilchards or threadfins for kingfish. His rig consists of double 7/0 hooks tied to 80 pound fluorocarbon leader. Insert the tip of the trailing hook into the throat between the pectoral fins of the baitfish and twitch them a bit when they hit the water to encourage them swim down, Rieger advises.

If a bait gets cut in half by a kingfish, let it sink, Rieger says. Mutton snapper often hold below kingfish schools, feeding on the scraps! FS

Florida Sportsman Magazine October 2018

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