The summer of game fishing in Southern Queensland has been one of the best for years.
Plenty of marlin, sailfish, wahoo and a host of other species have been encountered with regularity by anglers in boats big and small. With big bait schools being scarce, lures, especially skirted varieties, have been used with regularity by successful anglers. Trolling can be a good way to cover a lot of ground while searching for small patches of bait or current lines, which may attract larger predatory fish.
The main artificial used by keen game fishermen, especially those in pursuit of billfish species, is the resin-head skirted lure. The majority of these, especially the dearer brands, are purchased unrigged, therefore anglers either need to purchase a separate hook rig or be able to rig them satisfactorily themselves. This month I will outline all the materials in skirted lure hook rigs and next month we will look at a few rigging options.
There are a lot of good hooks on the market which are great for use in rigging lures. Perhaps the only definitive requirement for a rigging hook is that it is not offset, as these cause massive problems with line twist. There are many inline hook patterns available, with choices such as stainless steel, carbon steel, duratin-coated steel, chemically sharpened, Teflon-coated, straight point, turned in point (tarpon pattern), short shank and long shank. Are you confused yet? It really isn’t as difficult as it sounds. All these hooks will work quite well but some are better suited to certain lures and applications than others. None are really a wrong choice but some will work better than others at times.
Stainless hooks are favoured by many anglers due to their longevity in a saltwater environment with the minimum of care. For heavy tackle (15kg and above), patterns such as Mustad 7732, 7691S and Maruto SS1962 are a few of the more common ones used. These are all exceptionally strong and low maintenance. For lighter line classes these hooks are a little thick, resulting in more limited hooking potential. Thinner hooks such as the Mustad 76LGS, Maruto SS1920 or Peter Pakula Katana (stainless version of Gamakatsu SL12S) would be a better choice due to a thinner diameter and therefore increased penetration potential. The Maruto SS1920 would be about the best value for money stainless hook around and as a result is used in many of the pre-rigged lures on the market. Some of the Mustad stainless game hooks can cost more than $15 per hook, which is hard for many anglers to justify, even though they are of an extremely high quality.
Duratin coated game hooks such as Mustad 7691 and 7731A have brazed eyes, are very strong, and suitable for heavy line classes (15kg and above) but they corrode fairly easily, despite the manufacturers’ claims that they are more rust resistant than stainless steel. For light tackle you could try budget priced patterns such as the Mustad 3407AD, 7766D and 9175D which are not a specialty game hook but are a straight pattern and will do the job if honed to a good point. Again corrosion will dictate regular sharpening, maintenance and/or replacement.
Chemically sharpened hooks were initially thought to be a good option for trolling rigs as they are super sharp straight out of the packet and in many cases have reasonably thin diameters and small barbs for ease of penetration. However, it was soon found that they suffered from the effects of electrolysis when trolled in salt water, which caused them to become brittle at the point and to corrode quickly. Anglers keen on using them soon discovered that by adding a sacrificial anode in the form of a strip of adhesive anode tape you could almost eliminate this problem. These hooks are usually thin in gauge, making them great for maximum penetration on the lighter line classes and reasonably inexpensive in relation to other hooks. They have been readily gaining popularity over the last few seasons. For the heavier line classes, patterns such as the Owner Jobu and others have been used with good results. Lighter line classes see lures rigged with hooks such as Gamakatsu Siwash and SL12S, which work well and last a reasonable amount of time when anode tape was adhered to the shank.
Renowned Australian game fisherman and lure designer, Peter Pakula, had some of the Gamakatsu SL12S hooks Teflon-coated to prevent electrolysis and these worked extremely well for light tackle applications, providing fish were not bullied on the leader. Recently, Bozo Tackle had an almost identical pattern manufactured and Teflon-coated and these are rapidly gaining popularity amongst light tackle anglers, although limited rust still encourages the use of anode tape. The Bozo hooks with their black Teflon coating are not quite as rust proof as the blue Teflon-coated ones Pakula sells, but they are easier to obtain and somewhat cheaper.
For rigging lures yourself, you will need to obtain several tools if you are to do the job to the same standard as the professionally made rigs. A swaging tool is compulsory and quality ones can be purchased for as little as $40. Most will suit crimps up to 2.3mm, which will allow 49-strand wire to 645lb and most monofilament to 500lb to be fastened. Many of these tools have a wire cutter on the side but it is not ideally suited to cut multi-strand wire as it crushes and splays the individual strands. A specialist beak style cutter such as those made by Superflex, Hi-Seas or Genzo is the bee’s knees. The latter is the best I have used and will cleanly cut wire to around 875lb. Wire cutters can start at as little as $30. A good pair of monofilament cutters is also recommended with Penn and Black Pete both having good quality ones available. Personally, I use a pair of Mundial poultry shears, which seem to work well and cut monofilament cleanly, without burring the edges. If you are going to use heat shrink in your rigs, then a paint stripper gun makes easy work of it. Any form of heat will work though and many anglers just use a cigarette lighter.
Apart from hooks there are many other materials required to make lures rigs. Leader material can be wire, monofilament or fluorocarbon. The lures you are rigging and the line class fished will dictate the strength and type you will use. Wire leaders are mainly only used on high-speed lures targeted at pelagics such as mackerel and wahoo. Multi-strand (usually 49-strand) wire between 90lb and 175lb are the most popular with uncoated wire lasting longer than nylon-coated wire. Fluorocarbon is sometimes used but many anglers, including myself, are yet to be convinced that fluorocarbon is any more effective in a trolling situation than the much cheaper monofilament leaders that most anglers use. Monofilament or fluorocarbon leader materials between 80lb and 200lb will be required for light tackle rigging, whilst breaking strains up to 600lb can be used for heavy tackle applications.
All these leader materials will require the appropriate size crimps. I recommend aluminium crimps for monofilament and fluorocarbon and brass or copper crimps for wire. The double-barrel style crimps from brand names such as Hi-Seas, Shogun and Seven Strand are the best to use on wire as they give a neat finish and are extremely strong.
Multi-strand wire is used between the hooks in double hook rigs with 175lb to 480lb being used for light tackle rigs and up to 875lb for heavy tackle. Once again you will need the appropriate sized crimps to secure it.
Shackles, especially bow shackles, are used for construction of a shackle rig. These allow hooks or entire rigs to be changed between lures with a minimum of fuss. More on these rigs next month. Brands include Black Magic, Ronstan, Black Pete and Shogun.
Heat shrink is thought to only have cosmetic use in lure rigs but in reality it has quite a few preventative qualities as well. Several sizes can be required but 3mm, 5mm and 7mm will cover the majority of situations. If you have deep pockets then you can buy it at many of the electronics stores in a variety of colours but most marine chandleries are quite a bit cheaper. It is usually available in black or red at these outlets with red being more popular for lure rigs.
Stainless steel thimbles are used to prevent chafe, especially in shackle rigs, and these are available from brand names such as Penn, Shogun, Jinkai, Sevenstrand and others. The medium size will do most of the time.
The loop on the end of the leader to which you attach the snap on your main leader can be protected with a bit of chafe tube. Shogun, Black Pete and others sell good chafe tube. Do not buy lumo tube, as although this will work chafe wise, it will entice bite offs from wahoo, mackerel and other speedsters.
Armour spring will be required if you have lures with brass tube inserts in the head for the lure hole. This is the only time you need armour spring. It is useless as a chafe tube for your leader loops, although this is what many anglers believe it was designed for. Armour springs are to go inside the brass tube insert to prevent it chaffing the leader as the lure is being trolled.
Adding a cistern washer (from plumbing stores) or lumo bead onto the leader between the head and the rig can prevent the crimp at the top of the rig chaffing the back of the lure head.
Get down to your local tackle store and have a look at all the materials and tools on offer to rig your own lures. Getting a basic kit together will cost you between $100 and $200 which may seem a lot on a short term basis but when you take into consideration the number of lures that you can rig and the customisation of various lures that rigging your own will allow, it is a moderate outlay. Next month we will look at various ways to rig certain lures and discuss the pros and cons of each. Catch you then.Reads: 520