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Eliminate Short Strikes with an Improved Stinger Rig

FSF Staff September 10, 2014

With any level of involvement enticing toothy predators with live bait, you’ve surely experienced the dreaded short strike. In fact, many game fish attack the tail end of live prey in a deliberate attempt to eliminate their means of propulsion. To outsmart toothy game fish—king mackerel and wahoo in particular—local anglers have been using stinger rigs for years, but tournament teams chasing winning fish have developed a superior method for constructing a stealthier presentation.

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Step 1 Photo: doughertyphotos.com

Most stinger rigs are fairly standardized and only vary in selection of hook size and wire leader. When creating a traditional stinger rig a treble hook is attached to a length of wire and connected to the lead hook’s eye with a haywire twist or tiny crimp. The lead hook is then inserted in the nose or shoulder of the baitfish and the stinger is implanted near the tail. Although this rig has proven to be deadly effective, the wire leader extending to the tail is highly visible.

This latest stinger rig takes some practice to master, but with a bit of experience you’ll find the rigging technique extremely easy and highly effective.

Stinger rigs can be used for drifting, slow trolling and kite fishing live baits, but when fishing large offerings it’s apparent the game fish we target are equipped with impressive eyesight for precise attacks. Charging fish are notorious for slicing baits in half, and while the traditional double hook stinger rig has helped many anglers land tournament winning fish, there is a better way.

While you can use titanium or wire for this stealthy stinger rig’s lead hook, you must use single strand wire for the trailing hook. Unlike traditional two-hook kingfish rigs with components that are permanently attached to each other, this approach requires two separate components.

Start by creating the main leader by attaching a 7/0 J-hook to a length of #6 wire or 50 lb. titanium leader. The opposite end will attach to your mono leader. From here, take a length of #7 single strand wire and make a small loop in one end by creating a haywire twist around the bend of the lead hook. It’s important you make the loop just large enough to pass over the barb of the lead hook, but not too large where it could easily become detached during the fight.

This stealthy stinger rig works well with goggle eye, blue runner, speedo and tinker mackerel, so the length of your stinger will vary greatly depending on the length of the chosen bait and exactly where you want the stinger hook to exit the baitfish. It’s important you create several different sized rigs to have ready to go. The goal is to have the stinger hook exit the back of the bait, with the loop and wire leader extending all the way to the nose of the bait just beneath the skin. By hiding the wire trace of your stinger inside the baitfish you will greatly enhance the stealthy attributes of your presentation. Plus, it will keep the two pieces together in the event the bait is sliced in half.

Once you’ve determined the appropriate length of the stinger leader you need to attach a 1/0 J-hook. While many choose to sting live baits with treble hooks, experience has proven that single hooks stay connected just fine and there’s really no need to use trebles.

When it comes time to rig a bait you want to grab your stinger and insert the end opposite of the hook in the back of the baitfish at the precise point you want the hook to exit. The reason we choose #7 wire is because it is stiff and acts like a rigging needle to facilitate the easy insertion of the wire stinger. The wire loop is usually stiff enough to pierce the skin of the bait, but if you need to you can create a point of insertion by puncturing the skin with the tip of the hook. From here carefully slide the wire just below the surface of the skin and feed it along the length of the baitfish all the way to the soft part of the nostril. With the loop resting just below the surface of the baitfish’s skin, take your lead hook and grasp the loop with the point. Pass the loop over the barb of the hook, then insert the lead hook through the nostril of the bait like you normally would. If your lead hook has an offset, make sure the hook point angles downward once inserted in the nose. It’s also important to note that since this rig pulls from the head of the baitfish it is only effective for slow trolling or flat lining and not appropriate for kite fishing.

This latest stinger rig takes some practice to master, but with a bit of experience you’ll find the rigging technique extremely easy and highly effective. Try it for yourself and watch your catch ratio soar!

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