Rigging an Eel for Trolling
Don’t dismiss eels when looking around the fish markets for suitable baits. They’re tough as old army boots, easy to rig, and White Marlin in particular love them! They’re so tough that I’ve actually used the same eel two days in a row and caught fish both days. I’ve often seen a White follow a rigged Mullet then swing across to strike an eel on the other side of the spread.
You will need a 6 inch open eye rigging needle, a 4 inch mortician’s needle, a needle eye hook such as a Mustad 3412 size 6/0 – 8/0 depending on the size of your bait, about 12 inches of 200 lb single strand wire, a size 1/0 or 2/0 barrel swivel and a short length of old Dacron.
1) Attach the hook to the wire with a Haywire twist followed by a series of Barrel wraps. I suggest 8 turns for the Haywire plus 6-8 Barrel wraps. Break off the tag end of the wire cleanly.
2) Lay the eel down and lay the hook to wire alongside it, with the bend of the hook level with the eel’s anal opening. Measure the wire carefully and position the swivel so that the forward eye will be inside the eel’s mouth and attach using another Haywire twist and Barrel wraps.
3) Attach the forward eye of the swivel to the rigging needle and insert it into the eel’s anal opening, pulling the hook and wire through the entire body, and out of the mouth. Take care that neither the open ring of the needle nor the swivel tear the outside of the eel.
4) Although you will have measured to the forward swivel eye, there will be enough slack to allow the rear swivel eye to rest in the eel’s mouth. Take the mortician’s needle and a short length of Dacron. Insert the needle through the lower jaw, up through the rear eye of the swivel and out through the centre of the eel’s head. It is important that the needle has passed through the rear swivel eye, give it a pull to make sure. Leave a short end of Dacron hanging out of the lower jaw of the eel.
5) Wrap the Dacron several times around the eel’s head and then tie it off tightly to the tag end under the jaw. This closes the eel’s mouth around the swivel and fastens it securely to the swivel making a bait that will survive many hours of trolling at almost any speed and that will not slide up the leader when a fish strikes.
I store the baits in a cooler and crimp the swivel to the main leader when required. I also like to run a small pink octopus skirt or Hooker head over the bait to make it more visible both to the fish and the crew.
If you don’t have any wire or you’re not confident of your abilities with the Haywire twist you can make the rig using 100 – 150 lb mono crimped to a regular ringed eye hook. This tends to leave a bulge in the eel and I’ve personally always preferred to use wire. Try both methods and use whichever works for you.