Rig ‘Em Right: Top Three Styles for Ballyhoo
by Capt. Dale Wills
In the last 10 years nothing has been more influential to the way we fish than the use of circle hooks: angling techniques, leader sizes and rigging procedures have all changed as a result. Just as the way artists have unique styles when applying a brush to canvas, today’s top crews use their own artistic approach when rigging naked circle hook baits. Certain factors influence different styles in different parts of the world and so we’ll peek into the bait boxes throughout the billfish circuit to discern the methods to the madness of a perfectly rigged ballyhoo. While there are several variations and materials used to rig natural circle hook baits, three techniques have ascended to the top and are commonly found nestled in coolers around the world today. These are the Floss Rig, the Barrel Swivel Rig and O-Ring Rig. Which one is right for you?
We have no idea who pioneered the barrel swivel circle hook rig. The technique became mainstream early on way before circle hooks were deemed mandatory during tournament competition in 2008. Captain Arch Bracher from Oregon Inlet, North Carolina on the Pelican has been using circle hooks and the Barrel Swivel Rigs since they became mandatory in the Masters Angling Tournament dating back to 2003 or 2004. “The reason I like the rig is simple: the hook can pivot freely in a circular motion. Compared to the Floss Rig where the hook is somewhat stationary, I feel the Barrel Swivel Rig is slightly more effective. Not by much but from a numbers standpoint I think you could catch an extra 10 fish out of a thousand bites. Another reason I like it is because I am old school and why change now,” says Capt. Bracher. He also says that his Barrel Swivel Rig is pushed down into the ballyhoo’s lower jaw so only the top loop of the barrel swivel is exposed with the hook. Bracher goes on to explain that he is also able to reuse a rig after a bait washes out or gets bitten off during the course of the day. “My mate will just unwrap the copper wire and re-rig the bait while we are fishing,” he reports. Bracher uses Eagle Claw 7/0 and 8/0 with a #10 barrel swivel for his ballyhoo baits.
The 72 Viking Fa La Me’s mate, Taylor Beckford, has been on a tournament winning streak the last couple of years. He prefers to use the barrel swivel rigged ballyhoo as well. “I like the consistency of the way they run and hook fish,” says Beckford. “One of the biggest challenges is making sure the barrel swivel and hook size fit well. I’ve found the manufacturing of the hooks and barrel swivels can change from year to year, even based on package sizes and brands. If you purchase a pack of 50 and then a pack of a thousand hooks, my experience has been each package will be slightly different in diameters. I like the hook to fit snugly into the barrel swivel. I prefer to find the exact match I’m looking for and then purchase large quantities of each swivel and hook together to insure a consistent fit. Because of the snug fit I do have to cut the barrel swivel free from the hook if we have any ballyhoo left over at the end of the day. And I don’t reuse the swivels.” When it comes to small to medium size ballyhoo Beckford’s preferred hook of choice is the 7/0 Eagle Claw with a #10 Billfish barrel swivel.
Captain Daniel “Backlash” Davis, a seasoned mate and captain who switched over from barrel swivels to using the O-ring technique comments, “I like to change out hook sizes on my baits. I sometimes like to run 6/0 size hooks on my flat lines and 7/0 size hooks on my rigger baits depending on bait sizes. Keeping track of the different swivel and hook combinations is challenging. Most crews will attach the hook with the leader and have them rigged and ready to go in the bait box. Then all they do is attach it to the wind-on snap swivel. At the end of the day you can’t let the extra baits sit rigged in a cooler overnight, the delicate finishes on the hooks begin to corrode and are not acceptable to use the next day. A lot of guys end up cutting the hook off and wasting a hook and swivel. It’s just wasteful.”
Seasoned deckhand Kyle “Squid” Francis from Stuart, Florida like using the Barrel Swivel Rig and offers one piece of advice when rigging them. “I place the barrel swivel just in front and center of the top ballyhoo lip (see the Kyle Francis Rig) so that the barrel swivel extends out so when the hook is inserted it clears the ballyhoo bill and has 360 degrees of free movement. The hook is able to rotate and lessens the chances of the hook flipping over and back into the bait,” he reports.
It was just a few years ago when InTheBite first published how-to rig circle hook natural baits with the rubber O-ring. Today we consider them to be the fastest growing rigging trend on several top tournament boats throughout the circuit. So what is it that makes this style of rigging popular? Blank Check mate Jake Gaylord has been rigging with O-rings for a little over two years now. “I basically started using the O-rings for ……….
Captain Bennett Griffin from the Chasin also utilizes the O-ring for his ballyhoo and points out, “the O-rings and copper work well on small ballyhoo but be careful when you rig bigger baits. Keep in mind if you use a bigger hook, the bait action can ………….
Floss Rig circa 2005
The art of using floss to secure a circle hook is…………..
Choosing Your Method
As you can tell, opinions and rigging methods with circle hooks are as varied and diverse as lure heads and skirt colors. It’s important……..
A Spring Effect
Capt. Backlash points out that he and his crew recently had a run of bad luck using…………..
It doesn’t matter which rigging method you use: the most important factor to……………(To continue reading this article click here) You can also subscribe to InTheBite The Magazine to enjoy more industry leading editorial.