March 01, 2000
An easy, low cost way to bring fish close to the boat.
Ballyhoo wired for teasing.
It's a big ocean and the fish have to find you just as much as you them. So bluewater trollers and livebaiters alike have made a virtual science of attracting fish to the boat. This is done by chumming (live or dead) or through the use of some sort of teaser. The idea is to present a bigger, more attractive target than your single bait or lure, something that will lure the fish in close enough to see the offering with the hook attached.
Though I've seen renditions of teasers that were little more than gussied-up coffee cans, these days you might see one comprised of everything from small Bird Lures to simple trolling skirts to painted boat fenders. Of these, the most popular option remains that old standard: a series of rubber squids fixed to a heavy monofilament main line towed behind the boat. You can buy one rigged and ready to go at any decent bluewater outfitter from about 30 bucks, contingent on the size and number of squids, as well as the quality of the rigging and materials. You get what you pay for.
However, as effective as these teasers are for trolling, they lose something in the translation to drifting or slow-trolling with live baits like goggle-eyes or Spanish sardines. Once the boat slows down, they lose a good bit of their appeal. A curious fish might seek one out now and again, but they don't work nearly as well as natural teasers, a simple and inexpensive method I picked up recently from Capt. George LaBonte of Jupiter.
What I like most about LaBonte's rig, besides its effectiveness, low cost and simplicity to rig is that it can be fabricated with materials any true salt already has on board. All you need is a dozen ballyhoo (frozen is fine), a handful of fresh copper rigging wires and some fairly heavy monofilament fishing line. Other baits like dead mullet or sardines will also work in a pinch, but are not preferred.
When it comes to selecting the mono line, the heavier the better. This has nothing to do with strength since this rig is designed for use when livebaiting, meaning the teaser won't be towed beyond minimal speed anyway. What it does allow is more expedient preparation (you'll see what I mean in a second). And it's simply easier to handle 80 than 20.
Decide if you want either two shorter teasers of six baits each, a single long one with twelve, or anything in between. A lone sixer will at least get you on your way, and once you see how well it raises fish, you'll likely opt for a second. This will be especially so after schools of dolphin and bonitos have plucked a few of your edible teasers, hopefully while in the process of homing in on your hooks.
In determining how much mono you'll need, consider not only the size and number of baits you'll be using, but also how much line you'll consume in the prep work. You'll be tying a loop at each end and a series of large knots dispersed between. Form the loops with a surgeon's knot, but make the knots by using a triple overhand.
If you're using six baits, each 12 inches long, you'll need six feet plus enough to allow for at least an inch or two in between each knot, along with what you'll use up making the knots, which is at least several inches. What the knots do is provide a projection to which the ballyhoo can be attached. I suppose you could do the same thing with a series of large barrel swivels or action rings, but that defeats the purpose by removing much of the simplicity of this setup.
Place the first knot just below the top loop, which should be tied beforehand so you don't end up short later. Contingent on the thickness of the mono, that's why you need the triple overhand, which is formed by passing the tag end through the loop twice more before cinching it tight to ensure a sufficient profile. This will ultimately end up as a stopper once the bait is added.
Continue adding these knots, one for each ballyhoo. Add another loop at the opposite end. To this I might add a deboned mullet, a weight if it's blowing or perhaps even a conventional teaser. This also allows either end to be the front should this rig be re-used on another trip (hopefully with new baits).
Making the knots is actually the most time-consuming aspect of the whole deal; it takes about 20 minutes, perhaps slightly more if attempted on the pitching deck of a center console. In fact, it's far better to do this part while still tied up at the dock or even when you're home watching TV.
To rig the baits, start with ballyhoo well-thawed and soft, otherwise, you may need to do some prodding in order to poke the copper rigging wire through and out the eye sockets. It really helps here to have a new strand of wire, as it tends to be slightly more rigid and straighter.
Once the copper wire is through the head, pull it halfway and connect the two ends with a fairly loose haywire twist, leaving a standing end long. Repeat the process for as many baits as you wish to present, along with a few extras to replace those that might be lost to predators or wave action. This will give you one less thing to worry about later.
Now take the twisted copper wire and wrap it around the heavy mono ahead of the knot. Whether or not you include the beak in the wrap depends to some extent on how you fish. If you're going to be doing a bit of moving around or if it's extremely rough, it might be a good idea to wrap in the beak for extra holding power.
However, by leaving the bally's bill free, you get a much more undulating, lifelike action. Instead of the baits all "daisy chaining" in one single direction, one 'hoo might be swimming one way and the next another. This to me is much more realistic.
At any rate, just make sure the wire is securely fixed to the mono ahead of the knot and perhaps wrap the knot itself to prevent slippage. If the wire tends to slide, wrapping it on tighter will also work.
Run this rig short off the transom, just as you would with an artificial teaser, or maybe off a spring cleat if you're simply drifting. The twitching, flashing natural baits, plus the scent they put out, work much better than a fake when your speed is minimal, as it must be to present live baits. In fact, sometimes the teasers look so good that gamefish eat them and ignore the livie swimming nearby!
The downside to using natural teasers doesn't show itself until you actually get hooked up. I present my teasers from either downrigger booms or mooring lines, whichever is more convenient at the moment. Teaser reels are better yet. But, when you get the big bite, all this stuff better be out of the way. And you'd best stow it out from underfoot so that it can be re-used once the smoke clears. No self-respecting boat owner likes squished ballyhoo on his deck.
At the end of the day, this natural teaser could conceivably be re-used as is, but only if kept on ice in the interim. The best way, though, is to start with new baits. Cut off the copper, but don't cut the mono main-line. It then goes on a Cuban yoyo and is stowed away until its next use.
You'll be amazed how much additional attention this rig will draw to your spread of live baits. Combined with the materials at hand, ease of preparation and low cost, there's no reason not to give it a try on your next bluewater outing when live-baiting is the strategy. FS