How To Make a Panama Strip

This tutorial shows you how to create a deadly strip bait from a bonito.
Tony Digiulian
The Panama strip bait, also called a bonito belly strip, is one of the most effective baits you can pull for big yellowfin tuna and marlin. You can rig this bait on a circle hook or J hook and with or without a skirt. To start, you'll need a fresh bonito, a sharp knife, hook, crimps, rigging needle, floss and mono leader. Tutorial by FishTrack proTony DiGiulian.Photos by Charlie Levine
Remove the belly meat of the bonito using a sharp knife, such as this 7-inch flex. Begin the cut behind the anal fin and slice all the way to the bait's throat.
Clean up the belly meat and take your time. You want the section you use to have a uniform thickness.
Trim around the edges and slice the tail portion in half. Having two flaps hanging off the back of the hook and fluttering while trolled will help entice more fish into biting.
This bonito belly is trimmed, sliced and ready for rigging.
Crimp your hook onto the leader and run the hook through the meat of the bait. You want the eye of the hook and the crimp inside the bait.
Now begins the sewing process to secure the hook in place. Start by running the rigging needle and floss through the eye of the hook.
Pull the floss through and back into the bait on the other side of the hook. Tie a half-hitch followed by a double overhand knot to tighten the rigging floss around the hook.
Use the rigging floss to secure the hook point in place. Run the floss on either side of the hook and tie it down tightly.
Fold the belly meat around the shank of the hook and begin to make your cross-stitches, working from the hook end of the bait toward the tail.
Stop just before the split in the tail and work back towards the front of the bait. Seven or eight cross-stitches should be enough for most baits, but the number of stitches will vary depending on the size of the belly strip.
At this point, you can pull the Panama belly strip on its own, or add a skirt. If you'd like to include a vinyl skirt, trim the skirt before you slide it onto the monofilament leader. You want the skirt to stop just past the bend of the hook. You can also use a Sea Witch in front of the belly strip.
Use the rigging floss to make one or two stitches to secure the skirt in place
This bait is ready to hit the water. It's a good idea to salt the belly strip if you plan on keeping it in the cooler for a while or freezing it. If you'd like to learn more bait rigging tips or book a trip with FishTrack pro Tony DiGiulian visit

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