How to Quickly Rig a Ballyhoo Bait Fish

Another trophy grade king salmon taken in Southeast Alaska by an angler at Waterfall Resort.

How To Quickly Rig a Ballyhoo

Ballyhoo, or bally, are perhaps the most popular big game fishing bait among saltwater anglers. Every year, rigged ballyhoo are used to catch a variety of ocean game fish from marlin to king mackerel. But just as there is no one way to catch a fish, there is no one way to rig a ballyhoo, but there are certainly preferences. In the end, the object is the same: catch the big fish, and you can accomplish that by getting the bait to perform for the species you’re after.

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Among the many prepared baits and expensive rigging techniques, here's a basic method that comes together quickly and works well.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: 3 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Use fresh or recently thawed whole ballyhoo. Any size will work, but the horse variety is preferable.
  2. To properly that frozen whole ballyhoo, place the frozen fish in a brine solution of water, salt, and baking soda. The baking soda will maintain the baitfish’s vibrant silver color and also kill any bacteria that can lead to deterioration while the salt will toughen the skin so that the bait stays together better while on the line.
  3. On the eye of your 7/0 or 8/0 O'Shaunesy type hook, wrap a piece of thin copper lashing wire, leaving about 8 to 10 inches of tag end hanging. Do this on every leader you make.
  4. Holding the 'hoo in one hand and the hook in the other, insert the hook under the gills, into the stomach, and down the length of the ‘hoo as far as it will reach. The ‘hoo will actually try to bend around the bight of the hook a little.
  5. Then push the point of the hook through the stomach of the 'hoo and line the shank of the hook up under the gill plate next to the mouth. The leader will now be coming out and along the bill of the bait
  6. Position the hook and leader so that the bait is straight and flat, and the hook is properly exiting the belly.
  7. Hold the bait in one hand with the hook and leader in proper position and begin wrapping the hanging copper lashing wire around the mouth, leader, and bill of the bait.
  8. Make tight wraps half-way out the length of the bill and back, then break off the outer half of the bill and finish off the wraps.
  9. Test the bait in the water next to the boat as you troll to ensure that it does not twist or twirl. Make adjustments as necessary.
  10. When ready, set the bait out about 20 or 30 yards behind the prop-wash, skipping the surface, and be prepared to scream "Fish on!"


Other Tips for Rigging Ballyhoo:

  • When using wire leaders, be prepared to change leaders on a larger fish (such as a Mahi Mahi). Kinks and bends at the hook make this method more difficult without a straight leader.
  • Look for fresh ballyhoo whenever possible, but if you must use frozen, be sure to thaw the fish properly before rigging.
  • Consider keeping your ballyhoo in an icy salt brine overnight prior to fishing and even during the day while you fish. Just as when you thaw then, the salt and cold firms them and keeps them "shiny" fresh.

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