Rigging A Split-Billed Ballyhoo For Offshore Trolling

rigging baitsThere are many many different ways to rig a ballyhoo and the reasons for variation depend on your target fish, location, sea conditions and the class of tackle you will be using. Preping the ballyhoo for rigging is often the same, but after that you can take many different paths.

dorado, dolphin

Here I will show you how to rig a “split-billed” ballyhoo. It is a variation on the “dink” rigged ballyhoo that is often used for targeting sailfish, but it works equally well when dolphin (dorado) are around. Dink fishing is a very specific style of fishing and the entire system must be used in order to maximize the hook up ratio, which is the true benefit of the light leader and minimal hardware. It is also great for tuna fishing or any fish without teeth that swallows the bait whole.

The purpose of the split-bill is to make the bait swim upright when it digs in the water, much like a lipped-lure would.

It will splash on its side on the surface, but then stand up and swim like a real fish when it digs. It is always pulled “naked” or without a lure because for the split-bill feature to work, it cannot be covered up. If you want lures in front of the ballyhoo, then you should skip the split-bill part and just wrap the copper wire up the bill.

Check out the article on “Dink” fishing to get the big picture.

Here is how I prep all ballyhoo so that they are ready for any type of rigging

ballyhoo rigging

First step in rigging most ballyhoo is to lay your hook alongside each bait and mark the spot where the hook should come out. Here I am using the Mustad 3407 because of the larger baits, but often we use the Mustad 9175 for smaller ballyhoo. If you get the hook too far back, it will have pressure on the curve of it and cause the bait to spin. Lay the copper wire under the gill cavity and the hook should exit across from the barb or just behind it.

hook placement

At first I recommend sliding a scale out of the way and making a small hole to mark the spot. As you get more familiar with it, you can just hold your thumb beside the spot and keep it in place. You do need to measure each bait, if you try to wing it, you will start to have baits that spin.

ballyhoo tips

Once the exit point of the hook is marked, you can open the gill flap and insert the hook in and curl it downward towards your mark. Make sure you exit in the center of the bait.

trolling baits

Before you feed the hook all of the way in place, take your copper wire (my preferred) and poke it up from the underside. It will poke through a light membrane and then exit out the empty eye-socket on the opposite side. Now pulling the copper wire will pull the hook into place

ballyhoo technique

Now take the copper and bring it back towards you across the roof of the mouth of the fish. This will be the first leg of an X that will keep the mouth of the ballyhoo closed tight. This is required because this type of rig does not have the wire pin that many are used to.

rigging bait

Now go back under the chin and back across making the second leg of the X and heading back towards the eye socket on your side. I like to use a copper long enough that I can now wrap through the eyes and around the gill flap in order to ensure the head is secure. (In this instance, our copper was too short for that, better to buy 12 or 14-inch copper and trim to fit)

copper wire

Now after securing head, take a wrap around the very base of the bill. This will prevent the head from splitting in two in the next step. The ballyhoo bill is made of two pieces of bone encased in thin skin. A slight twist will separate the bill allowing you to run the mono between the two bones and up to the first wrap of wire at the base.

rigging tips

Next hold the mono leader back while you tightly wrap the bill in front of the mono.

offshore trolling

Use up the rest of the copper wire while making sure each wrap has been cinched firmly.

trolling bait

Now use a tool to snip the extra bill off in front of the copper wire coils. Do not try to break them off by hand as they will break back in the coils and ruin the bait. (Trust Me).

split-billed ballyhoo

The way that the mono comes out of the bill creates an angled surface that is much like a lipped-lure that makes the ballyhoo stand-up and swim.

Remember that the hook is very far forward in the bait and you must be fishing the “dink” syle for it to be a success.

dorado fishing

With a little practice, you will find your hook up and catching ratios go up compared to baits with lures in front.

Keep in mind this is a specific sytle that I use when I think a dolphin or sailfish are way more likely than a fish with teeth. Often I keep the “deep line” and the “shotgun” with a wire leader as they tend to be more wahoo prone. Having said that, I like the “dink” spread when I feel like I’m in a fishy area and don’t need to cover lots of ground searching. That would be when the ballyhoo with lures heads or sea witches have their time to shine.


  • Mustad 3407 or 9175 or 9174 depending on what coating you prefer
  • Copper wire 12 to 14-inch
  • Mono or Flourocarbon leader 50 to 80-pound depending on your weight of tackle

More Rigging Tips:

Preping Ballyhoo

Ballyhoo Parasite

Dink Rig Fishing

Capt. Scott Goodwin started fishing in the lakes of Kentucky where he grew up. A move to Florida, however, brought him into a whole new realm of fishing. After receiving a bachelor's degree in biology from Eckerd College, he decided that he liked catching fish more than studying them and thus began ...