Rig the Swimming Mackerel

This flat-line version will draw savage bites from marlin

Being a freelance captain and mate has given me the opportunity to learn numerous rigs and covert tactics in the last 12-plus years, including this one I mastered fishing on the 70-foot American Custom Yacht, Que Mas, with Capt. Robert Helms.

When prepared and rigged properly, this bait has incredibly authentic action. It can be deployed to any position in the spread, but I think it runs best in the clean-water, flat-line position, especially if the marlin you are raising are focused on a teaser with a mackerel chase bait. Sometimes all they want is that mackerel, and this rig will give it to them.

You will need 6 feet of 70-pound-test wax floss, a 2- to 3-ounce egg sinker — preferably elongated — scissors, and a closed-eye mortician’s needle.

blue marlin leaping out of water
Blue marlin of any size have no problem gobbling a swimming mackerel, especially when pulled from the flat-line position.Will Drost

Always begin by slowly defrosting your bait in a brine of your choosing. Starting at the head, break the back down to the tail to loosen the bait up and cut off the pectoral fins. Folding the floss in half, slide the lead through the two tags ends and push it halfway toward the looped end. Put the loop over the bait’s head, placing each floss leg under the gill plate and pull tight, letting the lead lie centered underneath the chin.

Pass both tag ends through the needle eye and push the needle up through the center of the bottom jaw to the top, making sure to keep it centered on the bait’s head, and pull it snug. Tie two overhand finish knots and cinch it down tight.

Pass each of the tag ends through the eye sockets in opposite directions, pulling tight, creating a V from the top of the nose to the eye sockets. Turn the bait over and tie a single overhand knot behind the lead to close the gills. Tie another finish knot and tighten it down, locking the lead in place, making sure the gills are closed.

Using one leg of the floss, run your needle through the bait’s knuckle (the hard area that the pec fins were attached to) and repeat for the other floss leg on the opposite side. Begin a series of cross-stitches to close the belly with one of the floss legs, making sure not to over-tighten, beginning at the knuckle and finishing at the anal fin. End the stitches with a single overhand knot, then a finish knot to tighten. Insert a circle hook — sized to match the bait — sideways behind the double finish knot and in front of the V on the head.

Typically, I will use this rig with 200-pound-test fluorocarbon leader and an 11/0 or 12/0 circle hook at a speed of 5 to 7 knots. If you want to change things up or add a larger-profile swimbait to your spread, this mackerel is a great option. From blue and white marlin to big tuna and dorado, just about anything will take a crack at this one.