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Rigs & Knots
Building a Live Bait Circle-Hook Rig
How to build a simple double-line rig for billfish that won't let go.
This live bait circle-hook rig is a proven billfish catcher in the waters of New Zealand and will work in about any live-bait fishing situation. Easily assembled with just a few crimps, this rig will hang on through even the most prolonged battles with big marlin.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS: 480-pound monofilament leader, appropriately-sized double-barrel crimps, Mustad or equivalent 16/0 circle hook, plastic tubing, crimping tool, line cutters, lighter.
Cut a 12-foot length of heavy monofilament (of fluorocarbon if you so choose.) We use wind-on leaders with this rig, but a longer length of mono can be used without a wind-on. If you're going to be attaching your leader with a swivel, you will need to create a loop at one end. To do that, slide on a crimp, then a piece of tubing. Push the mono back through the crimp and melt a knob onto the tag end before pulling tight and crimping.
Slide two crimps onto the other end of the leader.
Thread the leader through the hook eye on the gap side of the hook as shown. This is important -- if the line is threaded backwards the rig will not work properly.
Pull 2 feet of tag end through the hook eye. Wrap the leader around the shank of the hook twice and thread it back through the eye of the hook opposite the bend and pull tight.
Slide one of the crimps down so it's placed just in front of the eye of the hook and crimp in place. The crimp should not make contact with the hook, otherwise it could offer a possible leverage point, potentially allowing the fish to break free during battle.
Place the hook on something sturdy such as a cleat on the boat. Back on shore I improvise with a cabinet handle. Twist the entire length of tag end and leader together tightly.
Use your thumb to hold the twists together while sliding the second crimp into place. Use the lighter to melt a knob into the mono on the tag end.
Slide the second crimp into place against the end of the melted tag end and crimp tightly in two places, taking care not to knick the mono.
The hook should sit on the finished rig as pictured above. It may look a little strange, but by pulling on the hook gently you'll notice the very effective angle of attack this rig offers.
When fished correctly, this rig has an amazingly consistent hook-up rate. Be sure to keep a light drag setting on the reel -- just enough not to backlash -- when the fish eats the bait. As the fish swims away, ease the drag up very slowly. Once the fish is solidly hooked in the corner of the mouth it should not come off. The use of a circle hook also makes for a healthy release.
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