While the use of circle hooks is not new, a lot of anglers have been slow to come around and using circles is still a bit foreign to them. Many guys have used circle hooks for bottom fishing, but rigging them for trolling is not as common. However, if you plan on fishing any billfish tournaments in the Atlantic, you better get used to circle hooks. All natural baits must be rigged on a circle hook when tournament fishing as required by federal law.
Once you get used to fishing with circle hooks offshore, you’ll find that your hook-up percentage can actually improve. For those reasons, the circle hook is earning its place in the fishermen’s arsenal.
Circle hooks are preferred to standard J-hooks because of the greatly reduced chance of “gut-hooking” a fish. It still amazes me how the circle hook catches the fish in the corner of the mouth time after time.
When fishing circle hooks, you must resist that ingrained reflex of setting the hook. Just reel down tight after a healthy drop back until you feel the pressure of the fish.
Most often ballyhoo are rigged naked, meaning the baits are fished with no skirts or lure heads. There are many variations when it comes to rigging ballyhoo, as people experiment and adapt to various fishing methods. This circle hook ballyhoo rig is great for trolling baits for sailfish, marlin or tuna. Ballyhoo are like candy to game fish, so you can land just about anything on a properly rigged bait.
Start by prepping your ballyhoo as you would in any bait-rigging scenario. Break the backbone, remove the eyes and pectoral fins, and press out the innards. Check out my other bait rigging tips.
Next, precut several 2-foot sections of medium-duty rigging floss. Fold the floss in half and thread them through an eighth or quarter-ounce egg sinker, depending on the size of your baits. The sinker will be used as a chin weight.
Place the loop of the floss over the head of the ballyhoo and set it under the top of the gill flaps.
Now pull the floss forward so the sinker wedges under the chin of the bait.
Place the ballyhoo on its belly and tie a double overhand knot on the top side of the mouth.
Now take the tag ends one at a time and pass them over the mouth and then through the eye socket.
The key is that you create an X on the top of the bait’s head. This is where the hook will pass through.
Now flip the bait onto its back and bring the tags up. Tie two double overhand knots and trim the excess floss.
The hook passes under the X and lays flat on the top of the bait. Once you’ve got your bait rigged, see how it swims in the water before you set it out in the spread. It will take a little practice before you master this rig, but once you do you can fish any tournament on the East Coast, and know that you’re doing your part to help conserve our billfish stocks.