LAST month we looked at the components required to make up a skirted lure rig. This month we will look at the tricks in putting the rig together and will consider the various hook configurations that anglers use.
There are some basic rules to follow when rigging a skirted lure. The point of the trailing hook in the rig should be approximately level with the bottom of the lure skirt when the rig is in place. The hook point(s) will always ride upwards so they should be on the darkest side of the lure as most bait-fish have a darker back and lighter belly. A match or toothpick, pinned in the leader hole against the leader, helps to hold the hooks in the desired position which will dictate which way up the lure swims. Pinning the rig from inside the skirt (from the back of the head) means the lure can still slide up the leader once a fish is hooked.
There are several schools of thought when it comes to leader length. Firstly, you need to decide how you are going to rig your main line. Some anglers use a long bimini-double or surgeons-double of several metres, with a snap swivel attached to the end, which can clip directly to a long lure leader. Others will use a short double that is attached to a wind-on leader via a loop-to-loop connection. This wind-on leader is connected to the lure leader with the attached snap swivel. In this situation the lure leader is generally kept short which makes handling fish around the boat a little easier (especially when fishing solo) as the wind-on leader can be wound onto the reel and the fish can be brought close to the boat for gaffing or tagging, without anyone having to touch either the lure leader or wind-on leader. The downside of this setup is the snap swivel joining the wind-on leader and the lure leader will generally be in the water when trolling. This can produce an air bubble when trolling that may result in a lost lure if a fish hits it. I use this wind-on leader setup and have never had a problem with bite-offs, although I know some anglers who are consistently bitten-off in wahoo and mackerel waters. Using the first set-up, with a snap swivel attached straight to the double, means the snap swivel isn’t in the water if you have a long leader on your lure, but also means you will have a lot of leader that can’t be wound through the rod tip. The total length of your double and leader should be around 4m to 5m for line classes up to 10kg and can be even longer for heavier line.
When custom rigging lures with a standard twin hook, flexible shackle rig, it is best to make the leader first. Put the end of the leader through a cistern washer or lumo bead and then through an appropriate sized crimp. Make a loop in the leader and then put the tag end back through the crimp. The tag end of the leader should be level with the bottom of the crimp. Get a stainless steel thimble and close it with a pair of pliers until the two ends touch. Put it inside the leader loop and gently pull the leader back through the crimp until the loop tightens onto the thimble. Putting the leader onto the lure first makes it easier to measure and make the correct sized hook rig. A Ronstan RF613 bow shackle is then put on the leader thimble-loop as this is what the rest of the rig will hang from. Use aluminium crimps on mono leader and don’t crimp the ends of the crimp or you may damage the leader. Each time you crimp it should be from the opposite side to the last which avoids the crimp from bending one way, or the other.
Attach a length of 49-strand wire (usually 285lb or 400lb) to the trailing hook and crimp it so the hook can still swing freely. Make another loop at the other end of the wire at 180 degrees to the first loop. Don’t crimp it until you adjust the length, so that the point of the trailing hook is about level with the bottom of the lure skirt when the top loop is attached to the RF613 bow shackle. Use a nikko pen to mark the tag end of the wire at the bottom of the crimp once you have adjusted the length. Slide the crimp down and cut the wire on this mark with a good set of cutters, such as those made by Hi-Seas. Don’t use side cutters or any cutter that crushes the wire, as the ends will fray. Put the crimp back on (Hi-Seas or Shogun double barrel crimps are good) and then crimp it down along the entire length of the crimp. Your trailing hook now has a piece of wire attached and it is ready to have the second hook added. Put a piece of heat shrink or similar (about 8mm diameter) onto the wire, which will act as a collar to stop the leading hook swinging too much. The leading hook is then put through this collar so the eye will sit level to and flat with the wire eyelet. The pin of the bow shackle that is on the leader is then passed through the wire loop and the eye of the hook, and then tightened.
Heat shrink is often applied to the shank of the trailing hook and serves two purposes. Firstly, it can sometimes be used to determine what kind of fish struck the lure if you missed a strike. More importantly, it stops the trailing hook from swinging too far and tangling with the rest of the rig, when put half way over the hook eye. The rig is now complete, except for one of the most important things – sharpening the hooks. This is one of my many quirks and I check every lure each time it comes into the boat. Little things like this ensure the best chance of hooking up when a fish strikes. In rigs with small or light gauge hooks, I often replace the bow shackle with a large Halco Fish-Ring, which is smaller and much cheaper than a bow shackle but not as strong.
The rig explained is the flexible shackle rig, which is one of the most popular ones among serious game fishers as it is very strong yet will remain flexible, giving the lure the best possible chance of swimming correctly. A flexible rig will allow most lures to swim better than a stiff rig, however this is only beneficial in lures that have a prominent action. It is considered by many that stiff rigs (rigs that aren’t flexible) give the best hookup rate in lures where the head is not built asymmetrically. Such lures include slant-faces, Konas and Door-Knobs. Whether you use a single hook rig or a double hook rig is a matter of personal choice and the jury is still out on which is best. When choosing hooks, the basic rule is that the head of the lure should go very close to fitting through the gape of the hook. Use the best hooks you can afford. Both hooks in a twin-hook rig should be on different angles (not in line) to give the best chance of hookup. Whether that should be 30, 60, 90 or 180 degrees to each other is another topic that is hotly debated. I use about a 60-degree separation. Whatever rig you choose, remember to make sure the hooks are sharp.
There are a lot of factors that go into making and using a hook rig in skirted lures. A lot of anglers have a lot of different views on what type of rig is best. I doubt if there is one correct answer as different lures and situations demand different approaches and also you never know which angle a fish is going to hit a lure from. Try a few different rigs and don’t be afraid to change them as you see fit. See how the lures swim in the water with different rigs in them and also take note which rigs produce the better hook-up rates for you. Most of the better tackle stores keep a good selection of pre-made rigs if you don’t wish to make your own. They will also have most of the materials to make your own rigs and should be able to advise you accordingly. One of the most important things you will need is a swaging tool for the crimps. These start at around $40 but the good ones such as Jinkai and Grand Slam will cost you approximately twice this. They can also be utilised for many other rigging requirements. Making your own rigs allows you to experiment a little if you wish. Whether you make your own rigs or buy pre-made ones, decide on a rig that you feel confident with, while keeping in mind that no rig will give a 100% hook-up rate. Providing your rigs are strong and built with quality materials then you are on the right track.
1) [PSEUDO ILLUSTRATION WITH LABELS]
2) Rigging lures correctly will ensure more positive hook sets.Reads: 867