THERE are many types of skirted lures available for catching a broad array of gamefish. All of these lures have a desired action in the water, but this action can be stifled by poor rigging. You need to rig the lure in a fashion that will give the best chance of achieving a hookup when the strike comes.
There are many different views on how best to rig a lure, but there are several benchmark basics that most anglers agree on. In this article I’ll look at the components of trolling lure rigs, and next month I’ll discuss the different kinds of rigs and how to put all the components together.
The leader on a skirted lure rig serves several important functions. First of all, it gives a high degree of abrasion resistance against the skin, teeth and bills of larger gamefish. Secondly, it allows the deckie (or even yourself if you’re fishing solo) to take a wrap on the leader so that the fish can be steered close enough to gaff or tag.
It may be desirable to have a thicker leader for abrasion resistance, but sizes should be kept at a sensible minimum. Thicker leaders provide good anti-chafing properties but they’re also stiffer, which reduces the lure’s action. For this reason, and also the visibility factor, wire is not recommended as a leader material, except on high speed straight-runners – which are most likely to attract wahoo, mackerel and other toothy critters.
For much of the game fishing that you’ll experience in Southern Queensland, leaders of 100lb to 200lb will usually do the trick on light tackle up to 15kg line class. Larger lures and higher line classes require heavier leaders. Good quality leader material such as Jinkai, Black Magic, Ande, Hi-Tensile and Momoi are preferable to normal heavy monofilament.
There are several hooks that can be used in skirted lure rigs, and they all have one thing in common: none of them are offset. Offset hooks encourage the lure to spin, resulting in a hell of a lot of line twist and a poor strike rate. The most popular hooks amongst serious game-fishermen are stainless southern and tuna patterns, but galvanized and chemically sharpened hooks of several kinds are also used.
There are plenty of hook varieties to choose from, and they can vary dramatically in price and quality. Some of the larger, quality stainless steel hooks can cost as much as $16 each, which makes double hook rigs rather expensive once you add on all the other components. Larger fish such as big marlin and yellowfin can often make a mockery of lighter gauge hooks, so it pays to spend the money on rigs with quality components if you’re targeting these fish. For small to medium gamefish, such as mackerel, tuna, wahoo, dolphinfish and billfish under100kg, you can easily get away with some other hooks in your rigs. Some Mustad duratin-coated hooks such as 7731 and 7691 are a little cheaper than the stainless steel, are nearly as strong and actually have a higher anti-corrosion rating than the stainless steel, according to their makers.
There are several brands of chemically sharpened hooks suitable for skirted lure rigs. They may sound like a good idea based on their lower price and super sharpness, but be aware that chemically sharpened hooks are usually more brittle than most other hooks. Under a certain load, a chemically sharpened hook may break whereas a galvanized or stainless hook may just distort slightly. The points on chemically sharpened hooks are also prone to electrolysis when trolled, which can result in the points becoming very brittle, even occasionally snapping off. To reduce this risk, put a little Vaseline, lanolin or other grease on the points.
Galvanised or duratin-coated hooks are often favoured by anglers because they’re easier to sharpen and cheaper than stainless steel hooks, and because they’re stronger than chemically sharpened hooks. Galvanised or coated hooks come in several qualities and strengths, with the better quality ones having brazed eyes.
Hooks need to match the line class that you’re fishing. You don’t want to use super-strong, relatively thick stainless steel southern and tuna-style hooks when you’re only fishing 6kg line, because the hook will be difficult to set on hard-mouthed fish (such as billfish). A thinner hook is much easier to drive home on lighter tackle. Mustad recently saw the need for this and produced a high quality, thin gauge southern and tuna style hook called the 76LGS (Light Game Special). However, if you fish heavier line classes with light gauge hooks there’s a good chance that you’ll break them.
Some hooks are slightly turned in at the point whilst others are straight. Turned in points are favoured for all applications because they’re reputed to have the highest hook-up rate and best stability in the water. Straight point hooks are best for stiff rigs.
There are several other components that are used to make up a standard skirted lure rig. 49-strand stainless-steel wire is often used between the shackle and the trailing hook because it’s flexible and will hold its shape and stay reasonably straight. Crimps (also known as swages) are used to fasten the wire back onto itself in loops that secure the hooks. Copper crimps conform well to the shape of the wire when crimped, and are easy to use. Brass crimps are slightly tougher but are much harder to crimp. I use Hi-Seas or Shogun double barrel or figure eight crimps because they’re very strong and easy to work with. A swaging tool is definitely recommended over a crimping tool because it gives a stronger and neater finish.
Shackles have become fairly popular in skirted lure rigs since Aussie lure designer Peter Pakula started using them many years ago. They allow you to make the lure rig flexible and also make it easier to remove the hooks. Anglers who have several lures of the same size often have only a few sets of hooks but have leaders on every lure. The shackle (the Ronstan RF613S is popular) allows you to take the hook rig off one lure and put it on another. With this method you can easily afford to have several sets of quality hooks that can be interchanged between several dozen lures, depending on what your chosen colour is for that trolling session.
Stainless steel thimbles protect the end of the mono leader that’s inside the lure, and also allow the attached shackle to swing freely. You affix the hook rig to the thimble loop with the bow shackle, and a rubber spacer (such as a cistern washer) helps to protect the back of the lure head from the edge of the crimp. A collar around the leading hook and wire allows it to move freely but stops it from swinging too far and tangling.
Many anglers put heat-shrink over each of the crimps because it helps to protect you from sharp edges. Also, if you get a strike-and-miss and have heat-shrink on the shank of the trailing hook, you’ll have a reasonable idea as to what type of fish it was. Cuts on the heat-shrink indicate a sharp-toothed predator such as a mackerel or wahoo, while scrape marks possibly indicate a billfish or tuna. It’s also a good idea to put heat-shrink over half the eye of the trailing hook to avoid it turning backwards and fouling on the rest of the rig.
Next month we’ll look at the tricks of putting the rig together and some of the different hook arrangements and hook-sets that you can use. Good rigs definitely allow a lure to swim better, resulting in more strikes and hopefully more fish landed. See you next month!
POPULAR HOOKS FOR SKIRTED LURE RIGS
Mustad7691SS/SSTM to HTI
Mustad7732S/SSTM to HSP
MarutoSS1962S/SSTM to HTI
MarutoSS1983S/SSTM to HTI
Black MagicWasabi Closed GapeS/SSTM to HTI
MarutoSS1920S/S2X short OSL to MSP
MarutoSS1930S/SOSL to MSP
Mustad34007S/SOSL to MSP
Black MagicWasabi Open GapeS/SSTL to MSP
Mustad7691DTST, BRM to HTI
Mustad7731DTST, BRM to HSP
VMC9729PSST, BRM to HTI
VMC9730PSBK, BRM to HSP
Mustad9175DDT3X short OSL to MSP
Mustad7766DDTTarponL to MTI
Mustad7766 NPNRCH, RTarponLTI
GamakatsuSIWASHCH, NLarge-EyeL to MSP
SS – Stainless steel
PS – Permasteel
DT – Duratin
CH – Chemically sharpened
OS – O’Shaughnessy
BK – Bay King
ST – Southern & tuna
BR – Bronzed ringed eye
M – Medium game
H – Heavy game
L – Light game
TI – Turned-in point
SP – Straight point
R – Red
N – Nickel
B – Black
1) [2 COMBINED] Hooks should be offset, not in line, to produce the best results.Reads: 1920