The Rubber Band Hook Rig

Learn how to rig this simple and effective trolling lure setup.
Glen Booth

While ostensibly a bait fishery, the Cairns, Australia, heavy-tackle giant black marlin fleet pulls lures, too.

Over the last 20 years, the crews fishing the Great Barrier Reef have trolled more skirted lures. While lures get dragged when travelling up and down the reef, especially when putting some miles behind the transom to get on station for the latest hot bite, lure trolling has proven to be a viable alternative technique to fishing baits.

Lures are especially effective when chasing fish wide of the reef if the edge bite shuts down, or during the lantern fish aggregation in November. Lure fishing out wide has also brought accounted for some mighty impressive blue marlin as well as bigeye and yellowfin tuna.

The first official lure-caught grander was taken on a classic big marlin lure, a black-and-purple Moldcraft Wide Range softhead. This fish struck the lure trolled behind Sea Baby IV at Opal Ridge during the 1991 season, with Capt. Laurie Woodbridge as the skipper and Darren 'Biggles' Hayden as the deckie. While this lure was rigged with two 11/0 hooks, most crews trolling lures up that way utilize a single 14/0 hook-set placed well back in the skirt. What has become known as the 'Cairns Rig' makes use of a #64 rubber band to position the hook.


While a simple rig, this rubber band rig has a lot going for it. First off, it doesn't take long to put the rig together. This is an important attribute when the crew has a dozen or more swim and skip baits to rig and the charter clients' needs and other boat chores to attend to.

Secondly, there is only one hook involved. Given the price of forged game hooks or chemically sharpened alternatives these days, price is always important on a game boat. The single hook also makes for clean hookups and less complicated releases. Recovering the hook is rarely an option in this fishery, as you don't want to be getting too close to these half-ton-size fish, but the smaller ones in particular may come in pretty fresh on the 130-pound tackle used. Plus, it's better to leave one hook behind to rust out than two.

Thirdly, the hook position is completely adjustable, so you can place the hook up in the skirt, well back in the skirt, or hanging back so far that just the eye is just hidden to make it IGFA legal.

Point up, point down or sideways it doesn't seem to matter. But when the target species has a mouth like a garbage bin, there's a fair chance it's going to tumble down pretty easily. The band will probably need to be replaced every day, whether it catches a fish or not, especially in the tropics, where heat and humidity quickly deteriorate the rubber.

For this rig you'll need a large trolling lure, 12 to 16 inches in length if targeting 500- to 1,000 pound fish. You'll also need 500-pound-plus rigging material and a couple handfulls of #64 rubber bands.

Rig the lure in the usual way. In this case, we used a 14/0 Mustad 7731 forged hook. A touch of black marker on the point and barb indicates to the crewman that the hook has been sharpened, and the ink helps inhibit rust (to a degree).

Measure the distance behind the lure head that you want to rig the hook, take the rubber band, and half hitch it onto the leader three or four times. Check the positioning of the hook, and you're ready to fish. Yes, it's that simple and you can use the same process on smaller lures.

For this rig you'll need a 12- to 16-inch trolling lure, a 14/0 hook, heavy leader (500-pound plus), crimps and a #64 rubber band.
Attach the hook in the usual way using crimps and anti-chafing gear. Measure the distance behind the head where you want to place the hook. Take the rubber band and half hitch it onto the leader three or four times.
The rubber band will hold the lure head in place.
The beauty of this simple rig is you can quickly adjust the placement of the hook by undoing and moving the rubber band.
Many crews run the hook in the far end of the skirt with the eye hiding in the skirt material. This keeps the rig IGFA legal.

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