Capt. Scott shares this rigging tip for swimming ballyhoo that will catch anything without teeth, like dolphin, tuna and sailfish.
The chin-weighted ballyhoo on mono is a very popular way to rig trolling baits for any pelagic fish without teeth. This rig is versatile and can be made lightweight with small ballyhoo for “dink” fishing or beefed up for tuna and marlin.
The weight under the chin of the bait acts as a keel and makes the ballyhoo stand up and swim like the real thing.
It can also help keep the baits down in the water on a windy day, which is another advantage. The size of the weight should fit the size of the ballyhoo, but normally I use 1/8 to 1/4-ounce on small baits and 1/2 to 3/4 on medium to larger ones. You can slide a lure or sea witch over these baits to add more weight or splash.
I thaw and prep all of the baits in advance using the same method for all ballyhoo rigging variations. Always thaw the baits in saltwater, never fresh. I only add salt to the brine if the skin of the ballyhoo seem too soft.
First step is to slide the sinker down the mono leader and over the copper wire that is attached to the eye of the hook. Then bend the copper upward to hold it in place. Here I’m using a Mustad 3407 to rig medium ballyhoo for dolphin fishing.
Now lay the rig on the ballyhoo, paying attention to lining up the copper wire with the upper flap of the mouth. Hook placement is crucial and having pressure on the curve of the hook will cause the bait to spin. Measure each bait to make sure its right.
Mark the belly where the hook needs to come out by sliding a scale out of the way and putting a small hole with the hook point. After you get comfortable with it, you can just hold your thumb where the hook should exit.
Open the gill flap and insert the hook. Try to stay in the middle of the bait as you curl the hook towards your exit mark. Make sure you exit in the center of the belly.
Put the hook into place and your copper wire should be lined up with the mouth.
There is a soft spot at the hinge of the upper mouth where the copper wire will poke through. Pass the copper from underneath and up and out this soft spot. This will pull the sinker up and into the gill area where it will partially nestle into the pocket.
Next, wrap the copper wire away from you and under the bill, then through the eye socket, around the gill flaps and back up the beak making sure the mono leader is directly under the bill. Be sure the copper is cinched firmly each time you make a wrap. If the copper is loose, the hook will pull forward and cause the bait to spin.
This is one of the most versatile baits for any fish that does not have sharp teeth like dolphin, sailfish, tuna and marlin.
You can adapt the rig to most sized tackle depending on the target fish and the size of your tackle. Below are some possible hook types and sizes that I use.
- Dink fishing: Mustad 9174 (bronze) or 9175 (tinned) 6/0-7/0 (50 to 60-pound leader)
- Dolphin/ general trolling: Mustad 3407 7/0-8/0 (60 to 100-pound leader)
- Tuna/marlin: Mustad 7691 8/0-10/0 ( 125 to 300-pound leader)