Categories: Saltwater

Rigging Spanish Mackerel for Tarpon

On a recent trip to Costa Rica, I learned a new way to rig baits for tarpon fishing which I found quite interesting. Let’s note right from the start that the Spanish mackerel used in this case would be undersized here in Texas. That said, the rigging method will work for just about any baitfish, live or dead.

This Spanish mackerel made for an ideal tarpon bait.

Look closely at this picture, and you’ll notice a thin white band running around the base of the hook, going through the mackerel’s eye sockets above the eyeballs. This is actually a small plastic zip-tie, just like the ones we all use every day to do things like bundle wires or hold things together. First the captain clipped the end on a diagonal, so it was sharp. Then, as it turns out, they’re rigid enough to push right through the fish’s head. The bend of the hook gets placed against the fish’s head, the zip-tie gets run through its opening and cinched down tight, and you have a fully exposed hook affixed to the mackerel’s head. Nifty.

Note that this style of rigging is most effective with circle hooks. As most of you probably already know, for a circle hook to work its magic it’s important that the entire hook – point, bend, and shank – be fully exposed. Using this method, it most certainly is.

So, how did that Spanish mackerel work out as tarpon bait? I have no clue. Two of the people aboard became seasick 10 minutes after we started fishing, and we had to run back in through the inlet. There, however, they were okay in the calmer waters and we re-deployed the Spanish mack. In no time at all the rod started bending over, and we boated a beautiful cubera snapper. Thus, the rigging method proved itself to be as effective as it looked. And the next time I head out intending to bait a circle hook with a whole fish, I plan to have plenty of zip-ties aboard.

Lenny Rudow

Lenny Rudow: