As the summer heats up in August, the striped marlin begin to show along the Southern California coast. That means it’s time to dust off those rusty marlin lures, check everything out and re-rig as necessary.
There are a few things I look for when it comes time to rig up marlin gear. First, check the leader material for chafing, yellowing, kinks, knicks or any other signs of wear. Make sure to look under the skirt, too. If you find any issues at all, throw the lures in the re-rig pile.
The second thing I look at are the connections. Make sure all of the crimps or knots are in perfect shape. If not, you better re-rig them as well.
Last but not least is the hook or hook-set. If you’re using a single hook and all else is in good shape, give the point of the hook a few passes with a file to make sure it’s razor sharp. If you’re using a multiple hook-set, make sure all of the connections are good and clean with no rust.
When in doubt, replace it.
After you have surveyed the entire quiver of gear, it’s time to get busy re-rigging your wounded soldiers. There are almost as many ways to rig a marlin lure as there are different head shapes, sizes and colors. The method I’m about to outline I learned from Mike Packard at Melton International Tackle.
Mike rigs lures that get shipped all over the world and tangle with the biggest and the baddest game fish in the ocean on a daily basis. So when he recommends a rig, I listen! Plus this rig is quick, simple and doesn’t require any fancy gear or tools.
Rigging Marlin Lures
The first step is to make sure you have all of the right tools for the job. This means leader material, crimps, a crimping tool, chafing tube, lighter, hooks and maybe a cold beer.
For the leader, I have been using Berkley Trilene Big Game for years and it offers a great blend of strength and suppleness, in my opinion. For my California striped marlin fishing I like to use 150- to 200-pound test for the leader. In the rig pictured here, I’m using 200-pound test and the appropriate crimps (1.7mm for 150- to 200-pound line). (Editor Note: with all the blues around, you might bump you leader up to 300 to 400-pound)
Selecting the right size crimp and crimping tool is the single most important part of rigging anything with heavy line. I’m using a Williamson rigging kit. They color-code the crimps and crimper to make the entire process nearly fool proof. The kit is available HERE.
Making a good crimped connection is not hard, it just requires that you to pay close attention. You need to put the crimp squarely in the tool with about an eighth of an inch of the crimp sticking out. This will cause the crimp to flare out away from the mono and prevent chafing.
Next, crimp the sleeve again in the middle and one more time at the opposite end. Depending on the width of your crimps and crimpers, you’ll need to do this two or three times to cover the entire crimp. If anything goes wrong during this process, cut the crimp off and start over.
I like a 12-foot leader on my lures so I simply measure off two of my wingspans worth of line using my arms, plus another foot to compensate for the line lost in rigging.
Start at the end where the leader will attach to the main line. You need to feed a crimp onto the leader followed by a chafing tube. Don’t skimp on the chafing tube, they cost practically nothing but will save you tons of heartache in the long run.
Take the tag end and pass it through the crimp again, leaving a few inches sticking out. Take your lighter and melt the tip of the line until it forms a ball. Let it cool for a second and give it a press from your wet thumb to turn the ball into a mushroom.
Now thread the lure onto the leader, followed by two crimps, chafing tube and the hook. Put them on in that order.
For striped marlin I like to match the hook to the lure size. We pull Mustad 7732 hooks, using 10/0 for larger lures, 9/0 for medium-sized lures and 7/0 for the smaller tuna/marlin lures.
Push the line through the bottom crimp and leave about 8 inches of line sticking out. Pull the mono tight in the same crimp and crimp the sleeve. You now should have the hook crimped in place with 8 inches of mono sticking out of the top of the crimp.
Next you need to figure out how much line you will need between the crimps to place the hook in the right spot on the lure. To do this, slide the lure back down towards the hook until the bend of the hook is just inside the skirt material.
Once the position is right where you want it, reach under the skirt toward the head and pinch the line where the leader goes into the lure head. Slide the lure away while holding onto this spot in the line and mark the spot on the line with a permanent magic marker.
Move the top crimp so the top edge is on your mark and pass the tag end of the leader through the second crimp. Twist the crimp and tag end around the mainline four or five times without letting the hook spin around. These twists replace the classic beads used in a hook-set and offer double line protection. The twists add some stiffness to your hook-set as well.
Crimp the sleeve in place and leave a quarter-inch tag end. Gently bend the mainline away from the crimp and heat the tag with the lighter to form a ball again and mushroom it as it cools.
Finally, loop the leader in a soft loop and secure it with a rubber band, twist-tie or small wire loom material.
You now have a clean marlin lure that’s ready to go. Grab the next one in the re-rig pile and repeat. It’s quick-and-easy to replicate and you’re much better off rigging several lures ahead of time, especially when tournament fishing. I was able to knock out this big pile of lures in just a couple of hours.
Now get out there and get those lures wet!