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October 26, 2001

Chug 'Em Up

I often use my own version of a "mackerel tree" as a primary fish-catching rig.

It's no secret that popping corks attract fish, which then grab trailing baits or lures. I often use my own version of a "mackerel tree" as a primary fish-catching rig, a teaser to raise fish for fly casters or a prospecting rig to see if a particular spot holds fish.
Unlike mackerel trees I've seen other anglers use, mine are rigged backwards - with jigs on droppers ahead of the popping cork, rather than following it. My version presents a more natural action since the popper "chases" the smaller baits. Placing the heavy cork at the end of the line also makes casting much easier; you'll cast farther, too.
You can find all the components at any tackle shop at a cost of about $2.50 per rig: a large, weighted popping cork; 7 feet of 50- to 80-pound monofilament; a black swivel; two or three 2/0 to 4/0 (3/16- to 1/4-ounce) jig heads with barbed collars; plastic grubtails; a 3/8-inch plastic bead; and a 6/0 hook.
Assembly takes less than five minutes: 1) tie hook on leader; 2) slide bead down against knot; 3) attach popping cork to leader with small end against knot; 4) tie a 6-inch dropper loop about 18 inches ahead of cork and clip one side of loop to form 12-inch dropper; 5) form another 6-inch dropper loop about 18 inches ahead of first one, clip one side of loop; 6) tie a jig to each dropper and attach grubtails; 7) tie swivel to end of leader.
Using a 7-foot, heavy-action spinning rod spooled with 20-pound line, I cast this rig to schools of fish, then chug and reel - the faster the better. When casting over submerged rocks or wrecks, I attract attention with several blasting chugs. AJs, cobia, cuda, snapper, kingfish and even grouper come topside in a hurry. Don't hesitate to use this rig in 200 feet of water or in the surf, too.
Capt. Ken Roy
Whopper Stopper
Crystal River, Florida