Puncture Perfect

Successful offshore endeavors can require substantial collections of specialized gear, with the greatest emphasis often placed on items with exorbitant price tags. However, seasoned captains and mates know that while expensive equipment is part of the game, several small and seemingly trivial tools carry a great deal of importance. Whether used for stitching, bridling or splicing, rigging needles are essential implements. 


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Those who truly understand the necessity of flawless presentations rely on high-quality instruments to get the job done. Rigging needles are common commodities throughout sport fishing venues worldwide, though many anglers remain unaware of the different types that exist. There is a level of simplicity to a needle a few inches long with a point at one end and eye at the other, but the devil is in the details and it’s important to understand that these specialized tools help anglers accomplish a variety of functions.

While experienced deckhands have their own unique applications for rigging needles based on the fisheries in which they partake, common tasks that can be executed include bridling live baits, stitching dead baits and splicing hollow core in creation of top shots and wind-on leaders. Shape and sharpness are two important considerations, but the eye is also a determining factor for the discipline in hand. The two basic designations as they pertain to the needle’s eye are closed and open, though different manufacturers vary in their designs according to the intended application. The primary use for an open-eye rigging needle is bridling live bait with circle hooks. This is often accomplished using a small rubber band attached to the open eye that must be quickly removed from the needle after it has completely penetrated the bait. However, it’s important anglers ensure the opening on the eye of the needle is large enough to allow a rubber band to be easily attached and then quickly separated. Conversely, the open eye must not be too wide where it will create an unnecessarily large hole in the bait. This is particularly true when attaching hooks to scale baits like sardines and threadfin herring with a nose bridle. Sharp tips and narrow shafts allow for swift and effortless penetration to minimize trauma.

It’s also important to choose a needle of the proper length. Relatively small baits like pilchard and threadfin herring that are popular among kite fishing enthusiasts warrant shorter needles around four inches, as the smaller framework can more quickly and easily pass through the bait in its entirety. When bridling live bonito, a rigid 8-inch needle is more properly suited to pass through the body and allow for a solid grip pulling it out the opposite side. Otherwise you’ll be forced to pull from the tip, which can be dangerous when using a mortician’s needle with a razor-sharp triangular cutting point. Ultimately, it boils down to angler preference but having the right needle in this endeavor is vital to minimizing the amount of time a baitfish spends out of the water.

When it comes to presenting the perfect bait, bridling is not the only place for rigging needles. Across widespread offshore venues anglers trust various techniques to give dead baits lifelike appearances. In doing so, stitching wax floss is often required to fortify baits, fasten hooks and prevent washout. Whether preparing a Spanish mackerel pitch bait or sewing a fresh dolphin belly to present 1,500 feet below the surface, the proper rigging needle yields the necessary precision to accomplish the task at hand. In all cases, stitching is best accomplished with a closed eye.

Another important factor to consider regarding rigging needles is the material from which they are fabricated. While stainless steel needles are widely favored among saltwater anglers, they are not the only option. Offering an array of helpful rigs and tools, R&R Tackle ( is an innovator in the industry and recently introduced a synthetic rigging needle that floats. Featuring an open-eye design and two-blade microtip, these needles measure 3 1/2 inches in length and were carefully designed with some pretty crafty features. While the synthetic material will never rust or corrode, the molded design allows for perfectly smooth edges and an eye restrictor that helps keep the threaded band properly positioned without weakening the elastic material. Unique fabrication prevents the needle from rolling off flat surfaces and the shaft also incorporates friction pads for a tactile grip with wet and slimy fingers.

Though rigging needles are most often used for bait purposes, there are specialized needles available that allow anglers to splice Dacron and hollow braid to create wind-on leaders and top shots. DaHo threading needles ( are hollow to the tip and effectively open the woven fibers of hollow core lines so your leader material can be inserted with greater ease. Splicing needles can incorporate a wire loop or reverse latch to further enhance the customization of seamless connections. Constructed of 304 stainless steel, these specialized instruments are available individually and in complete sets to accommodate various line classes.

It’s difficult for some anglers to comprehend that something as simple as a rigging needle can make a significant impact in sport fishing success. Upon further examination, it doesn’t take long to realize that rigging needles are not only necessary pieces of equipment in many applications, but also that there are a surprising variety of specialized sizes, styles, shapes and materials available correlating to their suggested function in achieving the perfect puncture. Precision and preparedness are crucial factors to any angling endeavor and using the right rigging needle is a significant step in achieving desirable results out on the water.