Rockfish Bottom Rigs – How To Tie Them

There are three basic gangion designs that will cover every circumstance you’ll encounter while targeting rockfish. It doesn’t matter if you’re on a private boat or fishing on a sport boat, using the right gangion will make a huge difference in the amount of fish that you catch. Gangion is a popular term used in Southern California, referring to a multiple-hook rig used to catch bottom fish.

Before we get started, you are going to need to learn how to tie a couple of knots. The first is a dropper loop, it’s an easy knot to learn and you’ll be using it a lot. The second thing you’ll want to do is to learn how to snell a hook. Fishing with snelled hooks has fallen out of fashion over the last 20 years in SoCal, but it’s still the best knot for tying hooks on a rockfish gangion.

Let’s take a look at how to tie the most basic gangion. This simple rig works well when fishing rockfish with small baits (like anchovies or squid strips) but is best used when targeting smaller fish as it’s not super sturdy. This rig works perfectly for targeting most of the fish that you’d catch on a local half or three-quarter day trip but is not advised for trips to the islands or in Mexican waters.

To tie this rig, you will need a 4-foot piece of 30-pound mono, two barrel swivels, two hooks (I use 1/0 Owner Flyliner Hooks), a 6-inch piece of 12-pound mono, and a torpedo sinker heavy enough for the depths you’ll be fishing.

Step 1: Tie a swivel to each end of the line, then tie two dropper loops (about four inches long) so they are at least 18 inches apart. This should leave about 10 inches from the dropper loop to the swivel on each end.

Step 2: Straighten out each loop and pinch the end together. Then feed that through the eye of a hook (going from back to front). Loop the end of the line around the hook and pull it tight. This will secure the hook and allows you to change out hooks without having to retie the entire gangion.

Step 3: Tie one end of the 12-pound mono to the bottom swivel of the gangion and the other to your sinker. This lighter line will act as a breakaway if your sinker gets snagged on the bottom. It’s better to lose a sinker than your entire gangion and any fish that might be hanging on it.

The second type of gangion is basically a heavier-duty version of the previous one. This gangion is best utilized when fishing big baits for big fish. Big baits include whole squid, sardines, small mackerel, and slab baits. If you’re planning a cod trip to the outer islands or Mexico, this is the rig to fish. Remember, in Mexico, it’s legal to use four hooks, so if you’re going south of the border, remember to double up on the number of hooks.

To tie this rig, you will need a 4-foot piece of 60# mono, four barrel swivels, two hooks (I use 4/0 circle hooks), two 8-inch pieces of 40# mono, a 6-inch piece of 12# mono, and a torpedo sinker heavy enough for the depths you will be fishing.

Step 1: Inline two swivels into the mainline by tying them within very small dropper loops. The swivels should be about 18-inches apart. Here is how to inline a swivel using a dropper loop knot (see photo below).

Step 2: Snell a hook onto each piece of 40# mono. If you’re having trouble snelling the hooks, a normal knot will work, but your gangion won’t look as clean. Then tie the other end of the mono to the swivels. Make sure that your leaders are less than half the length of the distance between the two hooks. If they are too long, they can tangle with one another and result in a whole lot of winding for nothing.

Step 3: Tie a swivel onto each end of the gangion and then tie your sinker on using the same breakaway as described previously.

This last gangion isn’t really a gangion at all, it’s actually a single bait rig that is made to fish extra-large baits for extra-large fish. This rig is made to fish large mackerel, small rockfish, octopus, and big sand dabs for lings and other large bottom fish.

To tie this rig, you will need a 4-foot piece of 60# mono, two barrel swivels, one J-hook (I used a 6/0 offshore hook), one treble hook (I use a 6/0 Eagle Claw Treble Hook), a 6-inch piece of 12# mono and a torpedo sinker heavy enough for the depths you’ll be fishing.

Step 1: Snell the J-hook to one end of the 60# mono, leaving a 10-inch long tag end. Then tie your treble hook to the tag end.

Step 2: Inline a swivel approximately 24-inches from the hook, using the technique illustrated in the previous example, and tie the other swivel to the end of the line.

Step 3: In this case, the sinker is positioned above the hook instead of at the bottom of the gangion, so tie one end of the 12# mono to the inline swivel and the other to your sinker.

When using this rig, place the J-hook through the nose of the bait and insert the treble hook near the tail of the bait. If you’re fishing with really large baits, like a 14-inch mackerel, you may need a longer lead between the J-hook and the stinger. You always want to have a little slack in the line between the hooks so that the bait can swim naturally.

Erik Landesfeind
Erik Landesfeind is BD's Southern California Editor and has over 30 years of experience saltwater fishing for a range of species in both California and Mexican waters. Erik is also an active freelance writer and the author of the weekly column So Cal Scene, which BD publishes every Friday. In So Cal...