- Black sea bass have dangerously sharp spines on their dorsal fin that can puncture human skin.
- The all-tackle world record for black sea bass is 9 pounds, 8 ounces.
- When hooked in deep water and brought quickly to the surface, a black sea bass will often regurgitate its stomach contents.
Attract them, hook them and hold them. No, not a first date with the lady or man of your dreams, but your ticket to having a great sport-fishing fight and a tasty fish dinner. The proper bait rig is designed to do just that—make and keep the connection between you and the fish.
Knowing which live or natural bait to use is only one factor in the bait-fishing equation; the other key component to success is knowing how to present that bait in the correct way. Similar to the heat-plus-oxygen-plus-fuel formula for building a fire, bait fishing demands the right combination of terminal tackle in order to catch fire. Bait rigs are the various combinations of terminal tackle—hooks, leaders, swivels, beads, sinkers, etc.—that an angler uses to present bait in a given fishing situation. And, in many cases, something as simple as an egg sinker over a split-shot can spell the difference between fishing and catching.
Rigs Need Knot Be Complicated
Knots attach rigs together—they are the strong, or weak, links between you and that prize fish. How many of us have had a knot we thought was perfect unravel or break at the moment of truth?
Rigs come in many different configurations of line, hook, leader, swivel, sinker and/or jig. Learning how to make different rigs allows an angler to adapt to changing circumstances and go after different species of fish. Photo by Barbara Epstein
A rig consists of one or more knots that tie hook, leader, swivel, sinker, and/or jig together. Therefore, the knots in this article are designed to be easy to use and, with practice, become second nature to tie. Every part of a rig is a potential weak link so every part of it must be tied and connected correctly. The leader material holds the rig and is tied to a running line (the line to the reel).
Of course, the simplest of all bait rigs is a single hook directly tied to your line. Additionally, the line may be doubled for backup strength, or tied to a length of leader material that is stronger and more abrasion resistant than the line off the reel. A doubled line is especially important for hooking and holding fish with sharp teeth and sharp gill plates.
The best knot to use for tying two lines together is the Blood Knot (see diagram below). The Blood Knot connects two lines of relatively similar diameter, is great for making tapered fly leaders, and is also very good for tying line such as 10-pound test running line to say a 15-pound-test leader. However, if you are joining two lines of greatly different diameter, like 30-pound-test to 10-pound-test running line, then my pal Stu Apte’s Improved Blood Knot (see diagram below) should be used. You would use this knot if you connected a heavy monofilament shock leader to a light leader of much smaller diameter.
The knot I feel is best for tying on a hook is the Trilene Knot (see diagram below). This knot is used in joining line to swivels, snaps, hooks and artificial lures. This strong all-purpose knot, which greatly resists slippage and premature failures, is easy to tie and holds 85 to 90 percent of the line’s original strength. The double wrap through the eyelet adds a protective cushion for better holding and security.
The four rigs shown are the simplest and most effective rigs to use to catch a wide variety of inshore sport fish.
When a fish picks up a bait it often swims away carrying it a short distance before swallowing it. A rig that allows this to be done without the fish feeling the drag of the weight is the sliding sinker rig. The best way to make this rig is to use an egg sinker, either -ounce up to -ounce, depending on currents, depth and casting distances required. Slide the sinker over the line, then attach your leader with a Blood Knot, using a very small pinch-on split shot (or swivel) just above the leader knot so the sinker cannot slide down over it. Then tie on your hook with a Trilene Knot.
Whatever you use for bait, be it live minnow, dead bait, shrimp or crab, presenting it simply and naturally will reward you with the most hook-ups.
Rigging For Trout
When making a bait rig for sea trout, one must take into account three factors: How big and fragile is the mouth of a sea trout or weakfish? How and where do these fish most often feed? And on what do these sea trout mostly feed?
Sea trout feed on shrimp, various other crustaceans and any fish they can catch that fits in their maws. Trout are suction feeders, they attack and protrude their jaws and suck in their prey. Trout are attracted to popping and slurping sounds that ring their dinner bell loud and clear. Concave headed bobbers, ahead of a hook and leader, with a small split shot attached to keep the bait down under the surface a few feet, are effective rigs for trout. As trout have large, fragile mouths it’s best to use a 1/0 to 2/0 hook—the larger the mouth, the bigger the hook. Cast out near where you believe there are trout feeding or lurking, and then pull on the line to cause the bobbers to pop, bubble and gurgle. The trout thinks he’s missing out on a feeding opportunity and will usually come to investigate. If the shrimp or small baitfish is dangling in the trout’s face, the fish will most often strike the bait.
The Fish-Finder Rig
When a rig is properly crafted and presented, fishing success usually follows.
Another bobber-based rig I really like is the fish-finder rig. This bobber rig slides freely on the running line, upon which you tie a small swivel. Just above the swivel, pinch on a split shot to do two things: keep the bait down, and keep the bobber from sliding down onto the swivel. Tie on the leader with a Trilene Knot. Then at the end of the leader, about 4-feet long, attach the hook with a Trilene Knot or a Perfection Loop Knot (see diagram below). Now for the neat part of this rig—a rubber band. Tie a piece of rubber band on the running line tightly and cleanly enough so that it can be easily reeled through the guides and onto the spool. By sliding the rubber band up or down on the running line, the depth of the bait can be easily adjusted to keep your hooked bait above the bottom. The bait doesn’t get to hide in the grasses or muck and mire, allowing the fish to find it.
Another simple rig that is incredibly effective for redfish, trout, snook and just about any predator—and where there is little or no bottom debris or grass—is the troll-rite rig. It is basically a jig head attached to a leader with a Perfection Loop or Trilene Knot (it’s up to you). Using a Loop Knot allows the jig head to dive freely and swim erratically. Many guides think the loop knot is the best for jig fishing. Personally, I don’t like a Loop Knot; instead, I have terrific success with a Trilene Knot tied to the jig eye. I like absolute control of where my hook point is. I have won several jig tournaments in Florida, so I stay with what works for me. The reason a lead jig used with bait is called a “troll-rite” is that it pulls straight when you reel it in and pull on it with your rod tip. Fish probably laugh at twisting, unnatural moving baits. With a troll-rite rig, the bait stays close to the bottom and casts easily and far. The weighted jig head bounces and puffs up silt and mud on the bottom, and attracts predators to strike.
The last rig (and there are variations on all these rigs and probably a hundred more you may see used over your years of fishing) is simple and arguably the most effective. It is a hook tied on a leader with a Loop Knot or Trilene Knot, with about 4-feet of leader material tied to the main line via a swivel. The leader does several things. It helps keep the fish from cutting through your lighter running line and keeps it free of bottom snags and abrasions prior to the strike. The leader also acts as a means to hold onto and lift the fish once it is at the boat. The whole purpose of a swivel is (as its name implies) keeping the line from twisting and weakening. So using a shorter leader with a swivel attached to a jerk bait (be it popper lure, lipped deep-diver, shallow runner or spoon) keeps your running line from twisting and messing up your casts, and resultant tangles.
Targeting any species of fish for catching, not just fishing, requires you to put whatever bait or lure you use on a rig in front of that fish. If and when the fish strikes depends on how cleanly and naturally you made your presentation. If your rig is correctly crafted, the bait looks right, the hook is of proper size and sharpness, and the knots hold, you can enjoy a bent rod, that special smile, and perhaps a fillet for your efforts.
BLOOD KNOT—Used to connect two lines of relatively similar diameter. Especially popular for joining sections of monofilament in making tapered fly leaders.
1. Wrap one strand around the other at least four times, and run the end into the fork thus formed.
2. Make the same number of turns, in the opposite direction, with the second strand, and run its end through the opening in the middle of the knot, in the direction opposite that of the first strand.
3. Hold the two ends so they do not slop (some anglers use their teeth). Pull the standing part of both strands in opposite directions, tightening the knot.
4. Tighten securely, clip of the ends, and the knot is complete. If you want to tie on a dropper fly, leave one of these ends about 6 to 8 inches long.
STU APTE IMPROVED BLOOD KNOT —Excellent for joining two lines of greatly different diameter, such as a heavy monofilament shock leader and a light leader tippet.
1. Double a sufficient length of the lighter line, wrap it around the standing part of the heavier line at least five times, and run the end of the doubled line into the “fork” thus formed.
2. Wrap the heavier line around the standing part of the doubled lighter line three times, in the opposite direction, and run the end of the heavier line into the opening, in the direction opposite that of the end of the doubled line.
3. Holding the two ends to keep them from slipping, pull the standing parts of the two lines in opposite directions. Tighten the knot completely, using your fingernails to push the loops together if necessary, and clip off the ends.
TRILENE KNOT—Used in joining line to swivels, snaps, hooks and artificial lures, the Trilene Knot is a strong, all-purpose knot that resists slippage and premature failures. It is easy to tie and retains 85-90 percent of the original line strength. The double wrap of monofilament line through the eyelet provides a protective cushion for added safety.
1. Run the end of the line through the eye of the hook or lure and double back through the eye a second time.
2. Loop around the standing part of the line five or six times.
3. Thread the tag end back between the eye and the coils as shown.
4. Pull up tight and trim the tag end.
PERFECTION LOOP KNOT —Used to make a loop in the end of line or leader.
1. Make one turn around the line and hold the crossing point with thumb and forefinger (Drawing 1).
2. Make a second turn around the crossing point, and bring the end around and between loops A and B (Drawing 2).
3. Run loop B through loop A (Drawing 3).
4. Pull upward on loop B, (Drawing 4) tightening the knot (Drawing 5).