How To Rig a Trolling Eel

This old-school dead bait will liven up your trolling spread.
Tony Digiulian
Using eels as trolling baits was popular back in the day but fell out of favor as other baits like ballyhoo and mullet became the go-to dead baits. However, eels are making a comeback, both as a swordfish bait and a trolling bait. When rigged properly, an eel has a long, lively profile that white marlin, tuna and other pelagics love. You'll need a J-hook, mono or fluoro leader, crimps, rigging floss, splicing needle, rigging needle, skirt and chugger head.
Start by crimping your hook onto the leader. Then insert the other end of the leader into the splicing needle. Use the needle to run the leader into the eel, entering the anal vent and working your way to the eel's mouth.
Using the splicing needle makes it much easier to work the leader to the eel's mouth. Take your time so you don't damage the bait.
Pull the shank of the hook into the eel so only the bend and point are exposed.
Make a stitch around the shank of the hook to secure the hook and leader in place. This will make sure the hook rides correctly in the bait and does not get pulled out of placement.
Tighten the stitch down with a half-hitch followed by an overhand knot. Cut off the tag ends with a pair of snips or shears.
Make another stitch around the leader in between the hook and the mouth to secure the leader in place. The stitch will also help to prevent the eel from fouling up on itself.
Make a final stitch or two through the eel's mouth, up and around the leader. Then use the rigging floss to secure the eel's mouth shut.
This is how your eel should look after making the three stitches: one around the hook, one around the midsection and one around the mouth.
Slide a small skirt over the eel's mouth and secure it in place (if you choose to) with a stitch.
Use a small chugger head in front of the eel to create a nice bubble trail in the spread. This bait can be used as a trolling bait or a pitch bait. No matter how you fish the rigged eel, it's definitely going to get some attention!

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