Change The Way Your Bait Swims – Altering Hook
Known throughout Mexico’s Baja peninsula as a caballito, this baitfish is actually a member of the carangidae or jack family. Depending on where you fish in the States, it’s also known as a goggle-eye or bigeye scad. No matter what you call it, the bait is like candy for tuna.
This baitfish inherited many of its names for its large eyes, but with its elongated body and forked tail the cabby stands up well for offshore fishing. For that reason, cabillitos are one of the most prevalent live baits used in Baja California and mainland Mexico. The word cabillito actually means “little horse” in Spanish, and these baits definitely live up to the moniker — they’re little workhorses. They’re extremely hardy and just about every game fish will gladly snatch one up.
Cabbies range in size from about three to eight inches long and you can hook the bait in several different ways without imparting much damage. The bait will alter the way it swims depending on how you hook it, allowing the angler to fish the bait in a wide range of presentations.
This is the most common way to hook the caballito. The caballito has a strong bone that runs from the top of its mouth directly between its eyes. You’ll find a soft area of tissue right underneath this bone. You can easily slide a properly sized hook right into this soft spot. Choose the hook to match the size of your bait, not necessarily the game fish you’re targeting. Circle hooks from 6/0 to 8/0 are the most commonly used. Hooking the bait through the nose is ideal for fly-lining, casting, fishing off of a dropper loop or slow-trolling. When hooked in this way, the bait can swim naturally and attract plenty of attention. You can also bridle the hook onto the nose of the bait with a rubber band or loop of Dacron. Use a rigging needle to push the rubber band through the bait, then place the hook through both loops of the rubber band sticking out of each side of the bait. Begin twisting the hook so the rubber band gets tighter, then place the point of the hook back through the small gap between the bait and the rubber band. This will keep the hook a bit off of the bait for a better hook-up percentage. Occasionally, however, a circle hook will reverse into the bait’s head causing an awkward presentation and burying the point of the hook. You will miss a fish if the point of the hook is embedded back into the bait. Watch your bait to make sure it is swimming correctly and the point is sticking out and ready for action.
Dorsal Fin Hook
The meaty section just below the dorsal fin of the caballito is very tough and offers a well-balanced location to place a hook. The hook rarely fouls when fished in the back and it allows the bait to swim very naturally when fly-lined. Typically, when you cast a cabby away from the boat, it will continue to head in that direction rather than swim back under the boat. Additionally, the cabby will usually stay near the surface with the hook in this position. That’s key when the tuna are keying in on surface baits. This hook placement works well for fly-lining, pitch-baiting and kite fishing. However, you don’t want to put the hook in the dorsal when slow trolling. That will cause the bait to turn like a prop and create a mess.
Anal Fin or Spine Hook
You’ll find another solid hook spot about a quarter of an inch above the anal fin. Again, this area is extremely tough so the hook will remain in place yet the bait can swim naturally. When you cast the cabby away from the boat with this hook placement, the bait will typically swim away from the boat. It also tends to pull the tail of the bait towards the surface which makes the bait swim in a downward motion, headed for the deep. So, if you spot a few fish below the boat on the sounder, you might want to pin a bait on down by the anal fin.
Whenever you’re at drift or anchor, it’s always a good idea to present baits in as many ways as possible until you determine exactly how the game fish are feeding. Notice the various changes you can create by a slight change of the hook placement. This can keep the bait on the surface, or get it swimming deeper. Once you key in on what the tuna want, make sure to stick with that particular hook set.
The same principles will apply to many different kinds of baitfish including sardines, mackerel, blue runners and green jacks. Vary your placements and observe how the bait reacts to the different hook locations. Sometimes hook placement alone can be the key to getting bit.