Tail Whackers

Outsmart Short-Striking Game Fish

FSF Staff May 21, 2012

By now you are probably well aware that ballyhoo are the most effective and versatile natural offshore offerings. You are probably also aware that these enticing baitfish can be rigged with a variety of techniques to appeal to specific game fish and feeding scenarios. No matter your preferred approach to enticing predators to commit, you’ve certainly dealt with short-striking game fish. For offshore anglers this is simply something we must deal with.

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Photo: doughertyphotos.com

Unfortunately, to get the most action out of dead ballyhoo your rigging technique must typically incorporate a hook placement near the head. While the swimming action is unrivaled, this leaves a large portion of your bait susceptible to short-striking game fish.

A 12-inch stainless, hollow bait tube can be inserted into the fish to facilitate easier rigging. Once the line is fed through the bait get rid of any slack…

To overcome this anglers sometimes resort to double hook rigs, but these options are stiff and often lack enticing appeal. When game fish are playing hard to get a single hook rig with a hook placement exiting near the ballyhoo’s tail will offer a perfect combination of bite and action. It definitely offers a high hook up ratio, but it is important to note that this isn’t the ultimate ballyhoo rig, rather a technique to add to your rigging repertoire that you can put into action when conditions warrant. The most prepared anglers head out for a day on the water with ballyhoo rigged on both wire and monofilament, implementing chin weight, split bill, pin and tail rigging techniques.

As with all natural bait fishing endeavors, it is crucial you start with the freshest offerings possible. Since you may not be able to catch ballyhoo at a moment’s notice, you’ll likely be forced to purchase frozen baits from your local tackle retailer. When purchasing frozen ballyhoo you should first inspect the bags to make sure they are properly sealed. Freezer-burned ‘hoo will wash out and fall off your hook in no time. Next, make sure the ballyhoo’s eyes are clear and that the bellies are white. Spend some time searching for the best baits and you won’t be let down in the long run. We never have to search for long, as leading local bait retailers such as Bionic Bait, Bait Masters and Just Rite Baits provide the freshest and most readily available ballyhoo in the country.

Now that you have fresh enticements they need to be prepped. Ballyhoo are stiff and don’t swim properly right out of the package, so there are a few things you must do after they are thawed. First, you’ll want to bend and wiggle the ballyhoo to break their back and loosen the muscle off the bone. You should also squeeze the belly from front to back to remove the entrails from the stomach cavity. Finally, remove the eyes and break off the beak.

From here you should select a hook that’s suitable to the size of your selected bait. For horse ballyhoo we prefer 7/0 needle eye J-hooks. Whether you choose to rig with wire or stealthy fluorocarbon the process remains relatively the same.

If toothy predators are in the mix, start with a section of #7 wire leader and begin making a haywire twist to secure the hook. No you can take your wire leader and insert it through the anal cavity of your ballyhoo. Slowly guide the wire through the stomach cavity until it exits through the mouth. If you rig with monofilament it will be difficult to feed the line through the stomach cavity by itself. A 12-inch stainless, hollow bait tube can be inserted into the fish to facilitate easier rigging. Once the line is fed through the bait get rid of any slack, but make sure the hook is positioned so the bait doesn’t bind.

It is now time to secure the leader to the ballyhoo. Take a 12-inch piece of copper wire and begin wrapping around the bait starting at the eye socket. Snug the leader down and make successive wraps around both gill plates and back through the eye socket. Continue wrapping the wire down the bill and around the leader, making sure each wrap is tight. When your rig is complete hold it vertically by the leader. If executed properly the leader should pull on the ballyhoo’s head, not the hook. If your bait binds it will likely spin, so you’ll want to try again or risk a poor presentation. Finish the offering with your favorite trolling lure or streamlined skirt and you are ready to go.

With a hook that’s positioned as far back as possible you can say goodbye to missed opportunities and a growing collection of ballyhoo heads in your scuppers. Make an impression on short-striking fish and drive the hook home!

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