Ballyhoo Riggin’ Rack

For decades anglers have been practicing catch and release in an effort to promote conservation and improve fish stocks for future generations. However, catch and release is only one piece to the conservation puzzle, as mortality due to gut hooking and improper release techniques are also issues that anglers must be conscious of. In the modern angling era circle-hooks were first implemented by commercial longliners due to the effectiveness at keeping their quarry hooked for hours on end. Longliners weren’t the first anglers to employ circle-hooks, in fact, they have been in existence for thousands of years. Archeologists recently uncovered ancient hooks carved from shell and bone that resemble modern circle-hook designs.


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Image 1 Photo: Doug Salomon

There have been numerous editorials proving circle-hooks’ effectiveness, so I won’t bore you with statistics. Instead, I’m going to touch base on what I’ve found is the most effective way to rig ballyhoo for trolling with circle-hooks. Ballyhoo are without a doubt the most effective and available baits for trolling and are extremely well suited for rigging with circle-hooks. As a result, anglers can expect more hook-ups and more released game fish.

A few years back I was fortunate to fish with Captain Dave Noling aboard Double Trouble located in Los Suenos Marina, Costa Rica. With circle-hooks required by law, every minute the mates weren’t involved in something else, they were rigging ballyhoo. When circle-hooks were first introduced to Costa Rica they were rigged with two variations. The first technique used a small wire loop while the latter method incorporated a barrel swivel.

Some mates still rig ballyhoo with these two methods, but many now rig their baits with wax rigging floss. This is definitely an easier and faster method, but it’s a little troubling to me when I see part of their procedure involves putting a tag end of the floss in their mouth to tighten the knots. This has always bothered me as we all know that ballyhoo are treated with formaldehyde before packaging. Even fresh ballyhoo have fish scum that will leave your mouth with an un-fresh feeling. Not wanting my mouth to smell and taste like a dead fish, I came up with a simple device that enables anglers to rig ballyhoo faster, easier and much more hygienic when compared to traditional methods. Perhaps the most important thing to remember when rigging ballyhoo with circle-hooks is that to work properly, the hook gap and hook point cannot be obstructed by the bait.

Step-By-Step Instructions:

  • Start with 18-inches of rigging floss. Double back the floss and thread through egg sinker, leaving an inch long loop ahead of the sinker. (Image 1)
  • Place loop over head of ballyhoo and thread rigging floss behind both gill plates. (Image 2)
  • Lay ballyhoo in the Riggin’ Rack and rest egg sinker on the specially designed edge. Make sure sinker is positioned in the center of ballyhoo. (Image 3)
  • Create overhand knot and hold ballyhoo in position by placing index fingers in eye socket of the ballyhoo. Simultaneously pull on each tag end to tighten. (Image 4)
  • Pass each tag end through eye socket, one from each side. Gently pull tight. (Image 5)
  • Flip ballyhoo over, make another overhand knot. (Image 6a + 6b)
  • Pull each tag end in different directions until knot slides down and pulls gill plates firmly shut. (Image 7)
  • Trim both tag ends at knot. (Image 8)
  • When it comes time to deploy the offering, simply place circle-hook underneath the initial overhand knot. (Image 9)

One of the major benefits of this rigging technique is that it allows you to store your fresh offerings without the hook and leader attached. For more information and to view the Riggin’ Rack in action, visit