Mackerel swim-bait rig
  |  First Published: March 2015

Over the next few months, anglers will notice an increase in the presence of Spanish mackerel throughout the waters of South East Queensland. From Hervey Bay to the Gold Coast, there are numerous renowned areas where Spanish mackerel are readily taken.

While trolling minnow lures and bibless offerings can be especially effective, there is no denying that a quality fresh rigged troll bait can produce a better quality Spaniard. Additionally, it will often produce results when the bite is tough, especially in hard-fished areas. Many people shy away from this type bait presentation, as they believe it is difficult or time consuming to rig a swim-bait. In fact, it is very easy once you know how and have the correct rig.

Over the years, I have rigged a lot of baits utilising different techniques. Some of these include skipping gar and slimies, swimming split-tail mullet and numerous Aussie swim-bait rigs. Additionally, I have tried a heap of variations on these basic rigging methods for numerous baits and also rigged tuna belly flap and flying fish teaser rigs. Some of these rigs are very simple and others a degree more difficult. However, putting that bait in the water and having it swim well, and then having a hungry predator annihilate it, is reward in itself.

Basic swim-baits can utilise species such as gar, mullet, pike, longtom, wolf herring, barb-wire queenfish, tarpon, small tunas, bonito, rainbow runners, finny scad, scaly mackerel, cowanyoung, slimey mackerel, yakkas and numerous others. Basically, almost any species of fish can be made to swim enticingly providing it is rigged with a suitable placement of weight and hook combination.

Obviously, hook placement is especially important. Baits targeted at some species, such as billfish and large tunas, will only require a hook in the head as they will engulf and swallow the entire bait. However, species such as Spanish mackerel and wahoo will initially immobilised their prey by snipping off the tail section; therefore you will need to have hooks right along the length of the bait for maximum hook-up potential.

Larger baits will generally require more weight to keep them under the water and make them swim well and larger hooks to increase hook-up potential.

With many rigging methods (which we will explore more in later articles) the gill plates and mouth on most baits will need to be stitched shut and the eyes removed to stop the bait blowing apart with water pressure when trolled. However with the method we are using today this is not required. This rig is commonly called a chin guard rig due to the first commercially made rig of this type being the Chinguard, which was produced by Tropical Lures. Similar rigs are these days distributed by Surecatch, Citer, Brad Job (Aussie Jigs), Headstart and Tackle Tactics as well as numerous other commercially made and cottage industry brands. Some of these come ready rigged with hooks and others are just a head, which naturally require you to add hooks.

I like my hooks to pivot individually (which decreases torn hooks and increases hooking potential) so I use my own hook rig utilising swivels between each hook, usually made with VMC 9255 and Shogun rolling swivels. The addition of a piano wire leader will decrease bite offs from large Spaniards and wahoo.

As previously mentioned, there are numerous baits that can be rigged to swim, however the ones that best suit the chin weight style rigs for chasing mackerel will include garfish, pike, wolf herring, longtom, sauries and other long thin fish species. I have even successfully used large grinners to catch Spaniards on this rig.

You can stop over deep sounder showings and allow the bait to sink down, before again motoring off. Generally you troll these baits between 3-5 knots, depending on current. Adjust the boat speed whilst initially trolling the bait boat-side to ascertain it swims well and also to work out a suitable troll speed to get the best action out of it. Today we will use a pike for our chin weight rig, which are relatively easy to catch locally and work well for Spanish mackerel.

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