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.
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.
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.
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.