Build a Better Stinger Rig

Use this advance rigging method to eliminate short strikes.
Steve Dougherty

If you've fished live bait for kings and wahoo, you've undoubtedly experienced the dreaded short strike.

Many game fish target the tail end of their prey in a deliberate attempt to eliminate the bait's only means of escape. To outsmart short-striking game fish, anglers have been using stinger rigs for years. Tournament teams chasing winning fish have taken this tactic to a new level and developed a superior method for building a stealthier presentation.

Most stinger rigs are fairly standard and only vary in selection of hook size and wire leader. When creating a traditional stinger rig a treble hook is attached to a length of wire that's connected to the lead hook's eye with a haywire twist or crimp. The lead hook is then inserted in the nose or shoulder of the baitfish and the stinger is pierced into the bait near the tail. This proven technique is definitely effective, but the wire leader extending to the tail is left exposed and visible. Now there is a better mouse trap.


Stinger rigs can be used for drifting, slow-trolling and kite fishing with live baits. When fishing large baits, however, the trophy fish we're targeting are equipped with impressive eyesight for precise attacks. Charging fish will quickly slice baits in half, and while the traditional double-hook stinger rig has helped many anglers land trophy fish, they still miss some. This improved stinger will help you make every bite count.

While you can choose titanium or traditional wire for the stinger rig's lead hook, you must use single-strand wire for the trailing hook. Unlike traditional two-hook kingfish rigs with components that are permanently attached to each other, this method requires two separate pieces.

Start by attaching a 7/0 J-hook to a length of #6 wire or 50-pound titanium leader. The opposite end will attach to your monofilament of fluorocarbon leader. From here, take a length of #7 single-strand wire and make a small loop in one end by creating a haywire twist around the bend of the lead hook. It's important to make the loop just large enough to pass over the barb of the hook, but not so large that it could easily separate during the fight.

This rig can be used with goggle-eyes, blue runners, speedos and tinker mackerel. The length of your stinger will vary depending on the size of the chosen bait. By hiding the wire trace of your stinger inside the baitfish, you will greatly enhance the stealthy attributes of your presentation.


Once you've determined the appropriate length of the stinger, you need to attach a 1/0 J-hook. While many choose to sting live baits with treble hooks, experience has shown that single hooks stay connected just fine and there is really no need to use trebles.

When you are ready to rig a bait, grab your stinger and insert the wire loop in the back of the baitfish at the precise spot you want the hook to exit. The reason we use #7 wire is because it is stiff and acts like a rigging needle to facilitate the easy insertion of the wire stinger. The wire loop is usually stiff enough to pierce the skin of the bait, but if you need to, you can create a point of insertion by first puncturing the skin with the tip of the hook.

Carefully slide the wire just below the surface of the skin and feed it along the length of the baitfish all the way to the soft part of the bait's nostril. With the loop resting just below the surface of the baitfish's skin, take your lead hook and pass it through the loop. Place the loop over the barb of the hook, then insert the lead hook through the nostril of the bait like you normally would.

If your lead hook has an offset, make sure the hook point angles downward once inserted in the nose. It's also important to note that since this rig pulls from the head of the baitfish it is only effective for slow-trolling or flat-lining and does not work well when kite fishing.

Though this modernized stinger rig takes some practice to perfect, with a bit of experience you'll find the rigging technique extremely easy and highly effective.

Use single-strand wire to make your stinger hook. You need this wire to be stiff enough that you can run it under the fish's skin and up to the bait's nose. Photos by Steve Dougherty
Insert the wire at the exact point where you want the stinger hook to sit. You may need to make a little incision to get the stinger started.
Old-school stingers usually used a treble hook but we've seen very good results with a single J-hook.
With the stinger fully inserted, you can run the main hook through the bait and also through the loop in the wire used for the stinger.
This bait is ready to slow-troll or drift off of a flat line. You don't want to use this stinger rig on a kite bait because the rig pulls from the head of the bait.
Make the loop in the stinger wire just large enough to slip over the barb of the main hook.

Save time and fuel with the FishTrack app.