View single post by Hammertime
 Posted: Tue Sep 9th, 2008 10:33 pm
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Joined: Fri Sep 28th, 2007
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
Posts: 2982
Suggestions on Lure rigging

Attention to detail is important. Having the best pattern of lures rigged correctly is an important aspect of trolling, it’s a part of the whole system. However, the best set of rigged lures will not compensate if they are run with no regard to positioning, or finding fish with badly set outriggers and drags not set correctly.

Rigging lures is based on specifics, certain rigs work best with certain lures. The following is based on many years of trials and statistics. There is a right and a wrong way of doing everything. Unfortunately the best way of rigging lures may not be both the easiest or the simplest, but getting the peak performance in lure balance and action does improve the odds and does increase your results. Doing it right is certainly worth the extra effort and cost.


There are many hook shapes and sizes available. The hooks generally used for rigging lures fall into two main categories. Turned in points, and straight points

Essentially hooks with straight points are for use in stiff rigs and the turned in points for both stiff and loose rigs. The highest hook up rates are attained by lures using hooks with turned in points

The ultimate hook for trolling lures has not yet been made. The ideal shape, unfortunately they are chemically sharpened hooks but have a very short life span. The most important characteristic of these hooks is a turned in beak point. Regardless of the direction of pull this shape continues to pull in. They are also quite light and only suitable for 15kg and under, however, these hooks are light enough and sharp enough to be highly effective on line classes as light as 4kg.

Of course all hooks should be sharpened before use. To aid penetration the barb should also be sharpened and cut down.

How to choose your hook size

The larger and heavier the gauge of the hook the more the lure action is overridden by the rudder effect of the hooks. In some lures such as those with symmetrical head shapes this rudder effect is part of the system. In other non-symmetrical head shapes such as sliced heads the hooks actually interfere with lure action. As a general guide the hook size should be so the bight of the hook is equal to the diameter of the lure head, that is the lure head should fit through the bight of the hook .The result is that around 50% of the bight . In some cases this size hook may seem over large for a lure, therefore the next size down is used. This is often the case with sliced head lures.


Though wire is rarely used as leader material it is often used as a spacer between the back of the lure head to the trailing hook. The wire generally used is stainless 49-strand cable. Wire is used because it will retain its set angle and lies nice and straight. The use of wire also protects this area of the rig which is most likely to come in contact with sharp teeth or abrasive jaws and bills.

Originally all trolling lures were rigged on multi strand wire cable. There are many barnds now available. Every brand has its individual properties from ultra thin, to ultra stiff, ultra supple, abrasion resistant and recently fluorocarbons. Points worth noting is the stiffer, thicker and longer the leader the more the lure has to carry. Apart from thick leaders impeding action they are also quite visible to the fish and may create a bubble trail of their own. The best way of increasing your catch is to lighten the leader. The lighter the leader the more bites you get. This is just as applicable to using lures as it is to all other types of fishing. The stretch factor and elasticity of nylon leaders should be addressed. The more it has the more cushioned the jerking when the fish is traced. The down side is that if it stretches too much the leader may pull out of crimps. An otherwise legal leader may have stretched beyond the legal limit. Stretchy nylon can also cause problems if a fish surges when a leader man has multiple wraps around a gloved hand as the nylon may cut in and bind on the glove making it difficult to dump the wraps.


If your hooks were fixed to the lure head their weight and resistance would act like a pendulum resulting in many thrown hooks and lost fish. I suggest a minimum length so that the head shaking and jumping does not result in using the weight of the lure to throw the hooks. This minimum length would be around 8’. Ideally the connection of the leader to double, usually a snap swivel should not continually splash and bubble on the surface which is hard to avoid on leaders shorter than 8 feet.

Long leaders up to 30 feet on medium and heavy tackle are generally used by experienced crews to compensate for novice anglers. As expected, short leaders of around 9 to 12 feet are used by experienced as discussed before, theanglers fishing with novice crews and skippers. Short leaders are less weight and lure will have better action, plus they enable tagging or gaffing directly off the rod tip. Many tournament winning fish have been lost as the trace man grabs the leader and pulls the hooks out of the fish before a tag or gaff could be put in.


Wind on leaders have a purpose. However, in lure trolling they have some major disadvantages.

- The leader from the lure to the snap is generally too short with an increased incidence the fish throwing hooks.
- The snaps consistently splash on the surface, which can often be responsible for spooking fish.
- The added weight of the leader which is generally of maximum length and thickness is far too much weight for the lure and impeads its action so that it is not as effective as it should be.

The result with wind on leaders is quite simply less fish lost because there are fewer strikes.

If you insist on using wind ons usa a short leader of around 9 to 12 feet, with a long double say 25 feet on medium tackle. If more pressure is needed on the fish as it gets close to the boat the angler can put as much pressure as they wish as soon as the reel has a couple of turns of the double on it.

LEADER Material

As with all choices in fishing tackle everything is a compromise. There is no doubt that many of the species hunted using trolling lures have very rough jaws, skin and bills that demands abrasion resistant leaders. Many of these fish are huge and require as much strength and reliability as possible in the tackle and leaders. Just as clearly these large predators, at the top of the food chain, are certainly not less cunning or less intelligent than the smaller species we fish for using light tackle and well presented baits in an effort to catch as many or as large a fish as possible.


 Crimps or swages have taken over from using knots in lure because it is quicker and easier to line up and center the components.

There are two main types, which have different methods of crimping:
1) Crimps for multi strand wire are generally binocular are twin barrelled and generally made of coated copper. The way this system works is that the crimp is softer than the wire and when crimped the wire filaments indent the inside surface of the crimp resulting in a very strong connection. When crimping wire the crimp is swaged along the full length of the crimp. To tighten the loop when using chaffing gear such as thimbles start crimping from the end of the crimp away from the thimble and work up the crimp to towards the thimble.

2) Crimps for nylon are generally oval shaped aluminum as in Fig 6. Unlike crimping wire the system works by the crimp crushing both the crimp and the nylon. For this reason the crimps used on nylon are usually considerably longer than those used to connect wire as they are based on friction. When crimping nylon the ends of the crimp are left flared so that the ends don’t cut into the nylon.

Most importantly the crimp should be the correct size. It should be a snug fit. This can only be achieved if the ends of the material are cut neatly which involves using the correct tools. Dedicated swaging pliers with double hinged jaws are a must.

Chaffing Gear
Wear and tare on leader, rigs and the lures themselves occur just from being used. All lures have some type of action if only from the influence of sea conditions and the configuration of the boat wash. This action and movement of the components causes abrasion and wear through friction. Nylon leaders in particular are easily abraded and weakened by friction. On all parts of a lure where the leader comes into contact with any other part that is free to move against it we use protective items such as thimbles, nylon tubing, wire or stainless springs. All of these items are known as chaffing gear. In many cases I secure parts of the Lure with heat shrink tubing or rigging tape or coloured electrical tape.

One of the main and often overlooked areas of wear is at the point where the back of the lure head rests against a crimp. A leader on an active lure can very quickly fatigue and break. This is often wrongly blamed on toothy fish such as mackerel, wahoo and sharks. Inserting a rubber washer between the back of the lure head and the crimp easily solves this . Thimbles are often used to protect leaders where they connect to hooks, snaps, and shackles. It is important that any tubing, thimbles or springs that are used should fit the leader as tightly as possible and that the crimp should be snugged up so there is no leader exposed at the ends.

Shrink Tubing
Electrical shrink tubing, and electrical tape is often used to protect joins, align components and stiffen rigging.


Im using small stainless steel yachting shackles as they are a great way of a very strong (minimum 500lbs) quick connection between leaders and hooks. I can switch out gear in seconds using these shackles that are pre rigged ready to go.


Part of the fishing involves understanding the capabilities of the fish you are after and then relating this to the methods used to chase them.
When trolling im not only trolling artificial, we trolling both live and dead. The wash, turbulence and pressure waves in which I run the lures and baits is also foreign to the fish. The fish are not the slightest bit deterred from hunting, feeding and displaying their aggression in this zone of froth and turbulence. The average marlin and sailfish caught in many parts of the world are between six to eight feet long. Marlin can only flex laterally, side to side, the bill, mouth and tail stay in line with each other. They cannot bend their bodies and tails vertically, up and down.
Due to the size of pressure waves being the water length of the boat wide there are many times, especially in smaller boats where we expect a fish to grab a trolled lure or bait with it’s tail and dorsal out literally of the water. Though the fish’s body also creates thrust, the tail is obviously the main propulsion unit and the dorsal the main stabiliser. The smaller the boat the more important it is to understand this as many of the fish you are trying to catch just don’t fit in the pressure waves and an awareness of this and the tactics available will certainly improve results.
The higher the lure is in the pressure wave the more of the fish is literally out of the water to try and grab the lure and the fish literally has to stand on its tail and literally has to lunge at it, often missing it though it does look pretty spectacular. The further towards the trough you run the lure, the more fish is under the water and the more effectively the fish can control its movements and attack, and the greater the chance of a successful hook up.
Other factors in making it easier for the fish to grab the lure and hook up is using lures that dive deeper or slightly heavier, the larger and heavier the lure the deeper it will dive. The closer the pressure wave is to the boat the steeper it is the more appropriate it is to run the largest lures in the spread in this area The slower the boat goes the smaller the height of the pressure waves. The height increases the faster the boat approaches plaining speed. Interestingly as the boat increases speed it pushes the crest of the pressure waves away from the transom.

Rather than drop the lure back to a fish where it is more difficult to attack it is better to pull the lure towards the boat into the trough where it is easiest for the fish to attack it, in fact they may even surf down the wave to grab it. This can also be achieved by slightly increasing speed, which pushes the wave back leaving the lure closer to the trough.
Run your the lures and baits in the trough if that’s the best position to hook a fish. Lures are very sluggish in this position with most your leader in the water that will  spook a fish so running lures in the lower third of the pressure wave results in the highest success rates.
This applies to fish striking from behind and fish striking from any other direction as well. The more water the fish has to swim in the more likely you are to get a clean hook up.
There are also a great many other things to get right in your trolling system such as drag setting, rigging, use of teasers, outriggers etc which I have described, but no matter how much of a perfectionist you are with you gear and lures, even if you become the supreme artist of lure trolling the single most important thing is go to where the fish are and stay with them through the bite period.

Here are effective methods of separating multiple lures and trolled baits in a pattern both vertically and horizontally. Not only does this system result in a wider spread but also offers the ability to enhance a lure or bait presentation by using outriggers to enhance their action.
The concept of outriggers shouldn't be over complicated, they are merely a tool that enables both vertical and horizontal separation of lure or bait presentations using release mechanisms that are are variable and often adjustable.
The advantages of outriggers are:
a) They get lures / baits outside the boat's wash into clear water, increasing the spread of lures / baits, allowing more lures / baits to be trolled and cover more area of water.
b) Due to the height of the outriggers, the increase in the angle gets lures / baits to work 'harder' if they are run in close to the transom, and also work harder if they are put further back. For example, in the sketch below the lure off the outrigger is at the same angle to the water as the flat line.
c) Outriggers minimize tangling as the rigger lines are higher and further back, so that the flat lines can easily run under the rigger lines, and due to the wider spread, there is less chance of tangling in turns or in windy conditions.
Light release, to do a drop back system using a drop back when using lures / baits and baits and in many cases when using baits the outriggers are used to control the amount of drop back via the use of clips, pegs and rubber bands there may be added line fed behind the boat to increase length of the drop back. In these systems the release is as light as possible, only just enough to hold the lure or bait in position. The system in theory allows the fish time to turn and swallow the bait before any pressure is applied to hook the fish.
Applying hook-up pressure as soon as possible. Outriggers can have a major drawback. On a strike, you can end up with an awful lot of slack line which might be enough to allow the fish to spit the lure. To help eliminate this problem, tag lines have been developed and commonly used with lures. A tag line is merely a length of solid line one end of which is attached to the outrigger running line. The other end is attached to the trolling line via some form of release mechanism, usually a rubber band.
Remember when a fish takes the lure, the line comes out of the outrigger and for some time, there is slack line which may give the fish time to drop the lure. When a fish takes the lure in it's mouth the pressure the fish exerts on the lure and the roughness of its jaw make pulling the lure and the hooks through its mouth to hook the fish less likely. The fish is generally hooked when it first opens its mouth allowing the lure / bait and hooks to slide enough to hook the fish. If this happens when there is no pressure on the line the hooks may well not hit their target.
The tag line is connected to the running line of the outrigger, or directly to the out rigger. The tag line should be quite strong, at least twice the breaking stain of the line class used, in most cases Dacron of over 300lb is used, though when trolling small lures lighter ones that will not sag may be preferable i.e. when using light tackle 100lb taglines are sufficient.
The length of the tag line is not critical, but it should be long enough to reach the tip of the rod you are going to attach the line to. The longer the tag line the less drop back, though the longer they are the more problems come into play. A practical length is the distance from the tip of the outrigger to the middle of the transom of the boat. This allows the tag line to be used on any rod on that side of the boat.
To make life easier, I incorporate a tag line 'return' into the rigging of the tag line. When the tag line connected to the trolling line is let out, the return rides up the outrigger halyard as the tag line takes up the weight of the lure. After a strike the return slides down the running line automatically pulling in the tag line. The danger of not using a return is that after a strike the tag line is free to whip all over the place with the risk of tangling in the fishing lines, and to pull in the tag line by pulling down the running line takes time and effort. The tag line return simply eliminates these problems.
A return is merely something relatively heavy with a hole in the middle through which you thread both the running line and tag line A 2" inch length of brass with a 3/8 inch hole up the middle is ideal. Round off sharp edges to minimise wear on the cords. Multiple glass, chrome or stainless rings can also be used. Note should be taken that standard returns may be too heavy for light lures to pull up. The system is based on gravity, the higher the angle of the rigger the more effective the returns will be. If the riggers are straight out at 180 degrees to the boat, returns may not be effective. The greater the height and higher up the outriggers the better they work.
To increase the effectiveness of the return use silicone grease or oil on the nylon halyards to make them slippery.
I use small balls incorporated in my outriggers and tag line rigging. They are made from cork, styrene foam or large wooden beads. Essentially these balls are to stop things jamming, pulling through and for protection as follows:
- Between the rigging and tip of the rigger to stop the rigging getting jammed in the tip.
- Beneath the join of the tag line to the outrigger halyards to stop the return jamming.
- On the end of the tag line, both to stop the tag line slipping through the return and often a large styrene one is used to slow down the recoil of the tag line after a strike. The distance of the ball from the tip of the outrigger should be at least the length of the outrigger to allow the return to slide all the way down.
- At the bottom of the outrigger halyard to stop the return getting scratched on or damaging the pulley through which the outrigger halyard passes.
There are many ways to connect the tag line to the trolling line including clips, snaps and pegs of all sorts. Perhaps the easiest is simply as pictured a length of cord that is connected via a slip knot to a rubber band that is wrapped around the trolling line
I prefer the bands to break at around my strike setting. If you use adjustable clips you should also check their release pressures.
To attach the trolling line to the tag line stretch the band and wind it around the trolling line at least eight times, more of possible, can't have too many.
Next, wind one end back over the other and pass the end of the tag line through both loops of the rubber band if you want double the breaking strain or pass one end of the band through the other and attach only one end to the tag line. Note that if both ends go to the tag line the band will come away on strike, if only one end comes back to the tag line the broken band will most likely remain on the line after strike.
To finish off, simply tie a looped slip knot (as in tying shoelaces). To release the line, you simply pull the tag end and the tag line is free with minimal fumbling with clips or snaps, no fumbling trying to undo tightly twisted bands, or clips while the crew are screaming to get the lines in to go off after a fish on a screaming run.
- If you use a rubber band it must be wound tightly and with enough turns so that the line cannot slip through it (friction on nylon should be avoided at all costs).
- Let enough line out between the rod and tag line to allow the tag line to run in line with the lure.
- Keep an eye on the end of the tag line in case the line twists around it. The longer the tag line, the more chance of this twist occurring.
- When the boat turns, it creates a belly of line, so make sure it doesn't foul on a rod tip or anything else. - Ensure that the rubber band breaks before any pressure comes on the trolling outfit, as this may well cause bust-offs. One way of ensuring a direct release if you don't have very stiff outriggers is run a stay from the tip of the outrigger to as far forward on the boat as practical as shown in the sketch below.
Outriggers should not just be seen as a way of separating lures in width but also in height. There are many set-ups where an outrigger is mounted on the cabin or bridge where a line (called the shot-gun or whiskey line) is run high and back behind the rest of the lure pattern. Many set-ups use multiple tag lines of the same riggers to add height to corner lures or baits and or run teaser lines.
I prefer to troll dead ballyhoo mixed with lures as indicated beforehand but when out fishing you still have to match the hatch. The key to success with dead bait trolling is light drags just on the clicker if you don’t see the strike occur the fish will run with the circle hook turn and swallow the bait.
Hookless teasers and been vigilant watching your lures as many fish in numbers will swim below the teasers and you may not see them unless from a tower or a good set of eyes. Immediately drop back dead baits or pitch live baits into the spread on free spool with your circle hook until the bait is picked up. Point the rod tip with your circle hook and set the lever to strike and retrieve until you come tight and bent.
If you find a fish will not leave your teasers then pull it in towards the boat and present a live bait or dead bait right in front next to the teaser as you retrieve your teaser. I have found the instinct strike many billfish are so focused on my teasers its hard to get them off unless you can present them with a good bait.
With Live bait and circle hooks I have been using very light drag on the fish, the harder the drag the more the fish will dive and you will find that in backing the drag off a bit or using a light drag you will notice that the fish will remain on the surface most the time expending energy jumping instead of dogging you down deep potentially dying of a heart attack or exhaustion. You will eventually get the fish but at what price. The fish will have so much lactic acid build up and can drown or fall prey to sharks etc. Healthy release is the goal and can be done in minutes on sail and stripers. Big blues, blacks and swordfish take a bit more work but the same principal applies.
The key to multiple hook ups and successful hook ups live baiting is the number of baits deployed immediately you see fish in the lures or teasers. Particularly striped marlin, sailfish and white marlin they are schooling fish so multiple hook ups are not uncommon.

Last edited on Tue Sep 9th, 2008 11:03 pm by Hammertime