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Ballyhoo are one of the world’s most popular offshore baits. They are widely available just about everywhere, and perhaps even better, just about every pelagic species love to eat them: Marlin, sailfish, tuna, mahimahi, wahoo and others can all be caught on these baits.
There are numerous ways of rigging ballyhoo as well. Using a circle hook has proved to be incredibly effective for billfish and other species, thanks to the design’s propensity to hook the fish in the corner of the mouth. Fewer billfish are gut-hooked with circle hooks, which reduces post-release mortality. This rig uses a small rubber o-ring, often called a biscuit or donut, attached to a short length of copper rigging wire. With this rig, the circle hook is free to rotate in any direction, and baits can be replaced quickly and easily, even with a novice crew.
Prior to rigging any ballyhoo, be sure to follow a few simple steps. First, remove the eyes using a wooden dowel or a similar tool. This will make it much simpler to pass the copper rigging wire through the bait’s head. Clip off the pectoral fins and then remove the contents of the guts by gently pushing from the stomach to the anal vent.
Once the baits have been rigged, store them belly up in a bait tray sitting on ice in a cooler — never in fresh water because this will soften them considerably. Kosher salt or a commercial brining agent can be applied to the baits’ bellies to make them more durable. This step can greatly extend the amount of time a bait can be trolled without washing out.