As a lady angler I always want to know why, or how to do it when it comes to fishing. I don’t want to have to rely on someone else to do the driving, rigging, baiting, running the pit, catching or gaffing. I want to learn it all! So when I come across great tips or tricks I wanna try them out and see how it works. On a recent trip to the Keys for some billfishing I went to put a Ballyhoo on the line and realized we bought UN-rigged Ballyhoo. I have always used pre-rigged hoos, but my girlfriend did the buying this round. She said it is easy to rig and prefers to do it herself for better results. So I listened up and took some notes on how to prep ballyhoo “girl style”.
First thing she said was buy good bait. Always look at the packaging, if they are sitting in blood or look frosty you don’t want them. A good vacuum sealed package makes for fresher looking and better bait. If you have time, thaw them out in a brine solution of water, salt and baking soda. This will keep your bait looking fresh and natural. Next, take a small dowel and push out the eyes. If you leave the eyes in they will start to fall out and not allow the bait to swim straight.
The next step is important, pinch or push away (massage -like a girl) the meat around the backbone. She strongly suggested to only do the tail section so the bait appears to swim by the tail not the whole body which looks more natural. A Ballyhoo swims by its tail, so she says pick up and shake it back and forth and if the back tail sections moves freely your good to go. The last step in prepping is “de-pooping” or removing the stomach contents and air bladder. Make an incision at the anal vent and then push the contents out gently by starting at the head of the bait and working your way down the back. Rinse the bait in your brine water and you are ready to do the actually rigging.
Attaching the Ballyhoo….
She grabbed one of her pre-made rigs which she had sharpened the hooks on. First, clip off the ballyhoo’s bill with cutters (Girls keep clippers near all the time) don’t just break it off, a cleaner cut will ensure the baits swims perfectly. Leave about an inch from the mouth then split the remaining bill down the middle with a knife or your finger nail, but don’t split the bill all the way to the mouth. Next, thread the hook point in between the gill plates and out the center of the belly. Take the rigging wire and go in between the gill plates and into the eye socket and out the side of the socket. Pull up firmly on the rigging wire to set the eye of the hook in the gill plates. Position the chin weight between the gill plates and wrap the rigging wire two or three times through the eye sockets and around the gill plates, behind the chin weight. This holds the gills closed and forms a keel which will help the bait track straight. Pull the rigging wire to the front of the chin weight then around the chin weight and through the eye sockets again. Push the rigging wire straight up through the bottom of the ballyhoo’s chin and through the hinge joint in the upper lip. Pull straight up on the wire to snug the chin weight , then wrap around the leader and mouth two or three times to hold the mouth closed. Next, pull the monofilament leader up into the split in the bill and wrap the rigging wire under your leader and around and down the bill just tight enough to close the split. Make sure the chin weight and hook are centered and the hook isn’t pulling on the belly.
This sounds so technical but it was easier than I thought and with practice you can make every ballyhoo swim perfectly every time. Well the “girl style” prepping worked great, we landed a sweet sailfish on that trip and I learned how to rig a ballyhoo.