Skipping Baits for Billfish

  • Tony Orton

In Tony Orton’s eyes, raising a marlin behind a teaser then switching it over to a skipping-bait is one of the coolest ways to hook a billfish.

It’s in your face, teamwork is required, and watching an angry teased-up marlin crash into your skipping-bait is oh-so-visual – a sight you will never forget! Once mastered, the hook up rate is quite impressive. I have watched marlin being passive with lures, but once offered a natural skipping bait, it’s like a switch has been turned in its mind: feeding time! We are very lucky in New Zealand to have the jack mackerel. It is a great general-purpose bait – live or dead – and is fantastic for kingfish and snapper. It makes a stunning skipping-bait and, best of all, it is very easy to rig. The following is a step-by-step instruction on how to rig a skipping-bait for striped marlin.

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Step 1:

Tools and items required include:

  • • Jack mackerel (the biggest you can get)
  • • Waxed rigging floss (180lb)
  • • Rigging needles
  • • Hollow tube to space hook from nose of bait.
  • • Scissors
  • • Leader and circle hook to match bait size.

Step 2:

Cut both the pectoral fins off the jack mackerel to prevent the bait spinning.

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Step 3:

Take 1.2m of rigging floss and put one end of the waxed thread into the needle eye and twist it up to prevent the thread coming off the needle. Insert the needle about 50mm back from the gill plate, just above the spine of the bait.

Step 4:

Pull the needle through the fish so the length of the waxed thread is halfway through the fish. Pull the needle back over the fish and insert it about 20mm back from the gill plate on the same side as the first insertion. Pull the needle through.

Step 5:

Pull the line tight, then insert the needle again on the same side as the first two insertions (about 10mm into the gill plate). Once the line has been pulled through and tightened, take the line off the needle and then put the other end of the thread into the end of the needle to start on the opposite side.

Step 6:

Push the needle and thread through from the opposite side, going through the holes you have already made. This will give you a crisscross pattern. Pull tight each time you go through to ensure there’s no slack line. This is what is going to give the skip bait its strength and durability.

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Step 7:

Complete the crisscross pattern so both tag ends are coming out on opposite sides of the gill plate.

Step 8:

Use the needle to put the waxed thread through the bottom of the eye socket and pull tight.

Step 9:

Form an overhand knot over the two tag ends and pull tight. It is important to not have any slack line as this closes the gill plates so the bait skips nicely, gives strength to the bait, and makes a secure tow point for the hook

Step 10:

Now that you have a tight knot at the bottom of the gill plate, you need to insert one of the tag ends of the waxed thread into the needle and push the thread up through the centre of the head in the same line as the knot. One line should be coming out the top of the head and the other coming out at the bottom of the gill plate area.

Step 11:

Put a small cut in the centre of the lower jaw and a small cut in the top jaw. This gives a central point for tying the thread up to form the tow point.

Step 12:

Form an overhand knot to pull up the thread nice and tight in the centre of the nose of the bait. Do two more overhand knots to secure the tow point.

Step 13:

Thread on a 30-40mm plastic tube over the waxed thread. This will give space between the bait and the hook, allowing for a better hook set. Tie two overhand knots to pull up against the tube, followed with a loose overhand knot to form a loop where the hook is going to be placed. It is a good idea to tie 3-4 overhand knots, opposite ways around the hook, to secure the bait.

Step 14:

The bait is complete and ready to tease a marlin up! On raising the fish, present your bait by holding the rod high to get it skipping nicely. Once the marlin bites, drop the rod down to create some slack line, wait for the acceleration and slowly put the drag up. Job done!


May 2022 - Tony Orton
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
Copyright: NZ Fishing Media Ltd.
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited

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