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Tips and Techniques > Rigging natural baits > Rigging a ballyhoo

Captain Spike's Tips and Techniques

Rigging a ballyhoo

Ballyhoo are the mainstay of charter fleets up and down the East coast of the USA, as well as other spots around the world. They are readily available, come in a range of sizes suitable for catching everything from Dorado to Marlin, and they are quick and easy to rig.

Traditionally the standard Ballyhoo ‘Pin rig’ was made with single strand wire, but monofilament leaders with only the pin made of wire are becoming more common.
Mono will draw more strikes, but will get bitten through by toothy fish such as Wahoo. It’s worth learning both ways and making your choice based on the species available where you are fishing.

Both methods can be found in the ‘Tips & Techniques’ section.

To rig the Ballyhoo, first break off the bill attached to the lower jaw by snapping it off downwards. Then run your thumb along the belly towards the anal vent, emptying the stomach cavity. Finally flex the bait a few times to loosen it up a little. Some crews remove the eyes from the bait to stop them bulging out with the water pressure when trolling.

Insert the hook point under the gill cover and through into the body cavity. Bring the hook point out through the belly, leaving the pin under the bait’s head. Push the pin up, to exit through the top of the head level with the eyes. Some anglers like to bend the pin back to avoid the sharp spike spooking a wary fish. I’m not convinced by this, but I guess it can’t hurt.

Ensure that the bait hangs straight. If it doesn’t, take a sharp knife and carefully cut a slit where the hook exits the belly until it moves freely. This is very important, if the pull is not on the head of the bait it will spin when trolled.

You have several choices for securing the bait to the pin. The favourite among many charter crews is to hook a very small rubber band over the pin, take it around the bait’s head, and hook the other end of the rubber band over the pin.

The second is to wrap the Ballyhoo to the pin with fine copper wire.
Before attaching the bait to the hook, take 8” – 9” of rigging wire and wrap one end tightly around the Haywire twist to secure it.

Rig the bait as previously described, then wrap the copper wire up and around the pin then through the eye socket and out of the other side.
Pull the wire up tight and take another wrap around and behind the pin. Finally finish wrapping the wire down the broken off bill and you’re done.

The third method, which many purists sneer at, is to use a product called a bait spring. It’s simply a tightly wound cone shaped spring. The wide end faces towards the Ballyhoo and it is simply wound onto the pin. It really is that straightforward and it works great.

I generally like to add an octopus skirt or a small lure head such as an Ilander to help protect the bait whilst trolling and to make it easier to spot the baits from the cockpit.

Like many things in fishing there is no one right answer. Try them all and see which method works best for you.

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