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October 25, 2001

Tail-Hook Ballyhoo Rig

This is simply the best, all-purpose, high-percentage ballyhoo rig around.

This is simply the best, all-purpose, high-percentage ballyhoo rig around. You can skip it on the surface or swim it on a downrigger, tow it straight from the rod tip or run it from an outrigger clip with a drop-back. No matter how you pull it, this rig will get your fish.
Its versatility comes from the location of the hook and how the hook is secured to the bait. Because the hook is back in the hindquarters, it's in striking position no matter how a fish takes the bait. And because the hook is anchored to the ballyhoo's backbone, a fish cannot tear the bait away and leave with a free meal.
Of course, it takes about twice as long to do because you are rigging the bait fore and aft.
We prefer this rig to head rigs because of the way game fish swallow ballyhoo. Rather than turn a ballyhoo around the way they would swallow a bonito or some other football-shaped bait, a billfish, tuna or mahimahi will often fold a ballyhoo in half before gulping it. When a game fish does this with a head-rigged ballyhoo, the bend of the hook faces down the belly and the hook is easily swallowed - which doesn't do much for your tag-and-release program.
We fish the rig straight from the rod tip when wahoo and barracuda are out in force. With this tail-hooked rig, you'll get an immediate hookup on the strike. And, if you don't, you can stop the boat and drop the bait back to the short-striker for another take.
We also run it straight on windy days when gusts would otherwise tangle a drop-back loop with every protrusion on the boat.
This rig also makes downrigger fishing with ballyhoo possible. When a bait on a downrigger gets tail-bitten, you're out of business and don't know it - just dragging a chopped-off head around until the next time you check your baits. With the hook firmly secured in the tail, you either get a hookup or the striking fish releases the line from the clip, signaling you to check the bait.
When rigging this bait, squeeze the flesh along the back to loosen it from the backbone and make it swim more flexibly. Remember to check the hook point for sharpness.
- Jim Rizzuto
Kamuela, Hawaii

Step-By-Step Instructions
1. Start with a Sea Demon, Bay King or other open-gap hook to your leader. We use 250-pound-test nylon monofilament, but cable works well too (not piano wire). Crimp a sleeve to the leader about a bait-length forward of the bend of the hook. With an open-eye bait needle, thread the leader up through the vent of the bait and out through the gill opening under the chin. Draw the hook up into position so the shank is buried inside the belly. Break off the ballyhoo's beak, leaving a short stump.
2. Attach a bridle loop to the crimped sleeve.
3. Separately draw each end of the bridle up through the lower jaw and out the head of the bait, making two different stitches.
4. Tie the bridle ends under the chin of the bait.
5. Wrap the bridle ends around the leader and bill a few times to close the mouth. Tie the ends off against the leader and trim.
6. Attach a second tying loop around the bend of the hook.
7. Draw one end of the tying line through the back above the backbone, then do the same with the other from the opposite direction.
8. Bring the ends down around the bend of the hook and tie off to hold the hook in the striking position.