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 Without a doubt, the most popular big game fishing bait of all time has to be the rigged ballyhoo. Millions are used each year to catch a wide variety of ocean game fish from marlin to king mackerel. There are many different ways to rig them, but there is certainly no one way or right way. The object is simple: get the bait to perform effectively for the fish you are targeting. Different species or different conditions can call for any one of a number of rigging styles. The bottom line is the satisfaction you get when you rig a bait correctly and catch the fish you're after, just like the many tournament winning captains and crews who do it day in and day out.

 Most anglers with some experience with ballyhoo know the basic rigging techniques, but there is another favorite that is not as well known, but that can be particularly productive when conditions call for a slower speed or baits with a little more swimming action. It's called the split-bill ballyhoo. It's a sure fire way to get a ballyhoo to swim like it is alive and if you haven't used the method before, you will be amazed at how well it performs. When rigged properly, the split bill will act just like the lip on a swimming plug causing the bait to shimmy and stay well below the surface, even without a chin-weight.

 A split-bill ballyhoo is a excellent billfish bait and white marlin sharpies have been using it for quite some time, but it can be used for just about any striking game fish. It's a good sailfish bait or you can add a stinger hook and have a great wahoo or kingfish bait. The rigging technique I'm about to explain and illustrate can be used with any size ballyhoo, from mediums to horses.

Bait Preparation

 Preparing baits correctly will dramatically improve the quality of the finished product and how long they will last in the water. First start with top quality baits. They are the key to rigging beautiful, fishing catching baits and the preparation process actually starts at the time they are first caught. If the bait supplier takes the proper steps to insure the baits will be in prime condition when they are shipped, you're already half way home. Spending the extra few bucks to purchase high quality baits will save you from a dreadful day dragging rotten ballyhoo that come apart after a short time in the water.

 :Obtaining fresh ballyhoo is impossible in many areas where they are still a popular and effective bait. So, if you're purchasing frozen bait like most anglers, make sure the bags they are packaged in are clean and have no ice or blood inside them. The fish's eyes should look clear and their bellies should be pearly white. Be sure they don't have broken beaks or missing fins or scales.

 When starting with frozen ballyhoo, there are a few things to do before the rigging process even begins. Click to Enlarge

 First, thaw the bait in a brine solution of water, kosher salt and baking soda . The baking soda helps the baitfish retain its vibrant silver and white colors and kills any bacteria that can lead to deterioration. The kosher salt toughens the skin, which keeps the bait together longer on the line. Now remove the eyes by pushing a dowel or a small deboner through the eye sockets.

 The next step is the most important. Flip the ballyhoo over in your hand and begin pinching the top of the ballyhoo with your thumb and forefinger starting from just behind the head and working back to the tail. As you pinch, feel the meat loosen from the backbone. When done correctly, the ballyhoo will become even more flexible once it's rigged and it will swim beautifully.

 Last step is to remove the stomach contents and air bladder by making a half inch incision at the anal vent and milking the belly contents out the opening. This is done by holding the fish upside down in one hand and placing your other thumb just behind the head and running it down the belly using a moderate amount of pressure. Be sure to empty the belly contents completely. Then rinse the baits in your brine and they are ready to rig. Click to Enlarge

 Now, we're going to learn three different methods of rigging split-bills to cover a variety of species and circumstances. Start by picking the size ballyhoo you want to use (small, medium, select or horse) and select the appropriate hooks and leader to compliment the bait.

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