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October 25, 2001

Keep the Grass Off

I've developed a weedless bait rig that combats the problem and offers several other advantages.

Finding a large, concentrated weed line makes for a great day of offshore angling because baits stay clean, even when trolled within a few feet of the weeds where game fish may be lurking. But what about those days when weeds don't form a well-defined carpet? Scattered clumps of vegetation keep deckhands scrambling to clear lines and re-deploy baits.
I've developed a weedless bait rig that combats the problem and offers several other advantages. Attached to flexible, stainless-steel cable, the hook sits farther back in the bait; it nails short-striking fish while preventing cutoffs from kingfish and wahoo.
You'll need a cable rig and ballyhoo deboner from Tournament Cable (800-979-3475) and a 9-inch rigging needle to prepare this bait. The rig becomes even more weedless when you use hooks such as Mustad 7692 or 7766 (also called tarpon or southern and tuna style) because the point bends farther in toward the shank. The hook point then lies on top of the ballyhoo rather than penetrating the bait, and the additional bend lets weeds slide over the hook without hanging up.
1. Use a small knife to remove a few scales from the top of the ballyhoo just ahead of the dorsal fin, then make a 1/2-inch slit. Slide the deboning tool into the slit with the notch lined up with the backbone. Push the tool into the bait until you reach the backbone. Holding the ballyhoo firmly, twist the tool to break the backbone. Continue pushing the tool into the bait until you reach the stomach cavity.
2. Insert the open eye of the rigging needle through the hole in the ballyhoo's back and into the stomach cavity. Keep pushing the needle through the bait and out the gills. Try to exit at the same point you'd insert the point of a hook on a standard pin rig.
3. Attach the loop of the cable rig to the open eye of the needle, and then pull the needle back through the bait until the loop comes out the ballyhoo's back.
4. Attach the hook to the cable by running the loop through the eye and back up the shank. Hold the hook and pull the cable tight.
5. Position the hook by pulling on the opposite end of the cable. Carefully slip the cable and hook eye inside the ballyhoo. Make sure the hook is firmly in place and no slack remains inside the bait.
6. Use the crimp (already included on rig) to lock the copper rigging wire into position under the bait's mouth. Run wire up through the bait's chin and out the top jaw, then finish the rig by wrapping down the bill as you normally would.
Chuck Richardson
Stone Harbor, New Jersey