Add flash, ac­tion and bet­ter hook-sets to your spread


Bal­ly­hoo are the world­wide main­stay of a good dead-bait spread. We rig them us­ing many dif­fer­ent meth­ods and then pull them ei­ther naked or with var­i­ous ac­cou­ter­ments to in­crease the foot­print or ef­fect of the bait in the wa­ter.


I ran across an in­ter­est­ing prod­uct re­cently and de­cided to give it a shot: the Ringer Swivel by Turner Tackle. This is a take on the stan­dard cir­cle-hook rigs us­ing ei­ther swivels or rub­ber O-rings, with a twist — a 360-de­gree one. A rub­ber grom­met is in­cor­po­rated into the eye of a very high-qual­ity bar­rel swivel, giv­ing the cir­cle hook 360-de­gree ac­cess to find the corner of the fish’s jaw — right where it’s sup­posed to be — and a per­fect hook­set. This prod­uct com­bines the swivel and rub­ber grom­met rig into one, giv­ing you the best of both worlds.

We rigged a swim­ming bal­ly­hoo with the Ringer Swivel in the con­ven­tional way, us­ing a 14-inch length of cop­per wire and with the swivel ex­it­ing the top of the bait’s up­per lip. I dis­cov­ered the swivel can be ex­tended to the front of the cut-off bill for a com­pletely free-ro­tat­ing hook, mak­ing it prac­ti­cally foul-free. I put a lot of pres­sure on the grom­met it­self, and it can take quite a pull be­fore break­ing — maybe not more than a tricky white marlin, but it was sub­stan­tial.


Fish Downsea is co-owned by Capt. Ricky Wheeler, of the char­ter boat Ex­ile 65, who had fash­ioned the prod­ucts for his per­sonal use for sev­eral years be­fore they came to the com­mer­cial mar­ket with the as­sis­tance of a char­ter guest who also hap­pened to be a tackle-maker. One of its unique prod­ucts is the Party Skirt, a beau­ti­fully de­signed, ver­sa­tile lure that is sim­i­lar to a SeaWitch in de­sign; it is eas­ily added to dredge baits, strip baits or bal­ly­hoo. Cre­ated specif­i­cally for pelagic cir­cle-hook fish­ing, the Party Skirt can be rigged on larger bal­ly­hoo with a chin weight, giv­ing you that per­fect “skip­skip-swim-swim” ac­tion that is very sim­i­lar to a J-hook-rigged SeaWitch or duster bait. To cre­ate more swim­ming ac­tion, in­crease the size of the lead from ¼ ounce to as much as 1 ounce.

The tech­nique is sim­ple: Sim­ply rig the Party Skirt the same way you would us­ing the O-ring on the front of the lure. Party prod­ucts can also be added to a con­ven­tional O-ring or swivel rig by plac­ing the cir­cle hook through the lure and then through the O-ring. Es­sen­tially, you will

have two rings sit­ting on the hook.

“The Party Skirt is ba­si­cally a SeaWitch for cir­cle hooks,” states Wheeler. The prod­ucts have been ex­tremely ef­fec­tive for him in the tour­na­ments he com­petes in, and come in a va­ri­ety of col­ors, in packs of three for same col­ors and packs of five, fea­tur­ing both a light and a dark color sam­pler. “I be­lieve the added color gets your bait seen faster than a nat­u­rally cam­ou­flaged naked bal­ly­hoo,” says Wheeler.

And while this prod­uct does of­fer other ways to present a bait with lots of color and flash, I thought the clever­est take on the Party Skirt — which hap­pens to be the most pop­u­lar tech­nique — is to rig it in the eye cav­ity of a bal­ly­hoo. The eyes on these prod­ucts are so re­al­is­tic that you will catch your­self glanc­ing in the bait box and won­der­ing, Did I take the eyes out of those

baits? Once wired snugly in­side the eye socket, the Party Skirt sits there per­fectly. We rigged them both with and with­out chin weights, which is handy if you like to keep a few skip­ping baits at the ready.


Af­ter you have prepped the bal­ly­hoo, wet one end of the Party Skirt’s hair so they stick to­gether, then pass the bit­ter end of the O-ringed wire through the lure’s grom­met. Care­fully feed the wet end through the bal­ly­hoo’s eye socket, push­ing the Skirt’s head with the grom­met to­ward the front of the bait into the cav­ity un­til the eye of the lure sits nat­u­rally in­side.

Then de­ter­mine where you’d like to place the swivel — we like it just on top of the hard part of the bill, close to the mouth. Con­tinue rig­ging as nor­mal, tuck­ing the wire un­der the gill plate, over the top of the head and back be­hind the op­po­site gill plate so the Party Skirt is anchored firmly in po­si­tion.

Be sure to pass the wire through the eye cav­ity and un­der the lure at least twice be­fore pok­ing the wire through the bot­tom of the mouth and pulling up on the wire so it’s snug; be­gin a se­ries of wraps to­ward the front of the bait, right up to the swivel and back again. Fin­ish the wraps on the bait’s bill as usual.

You can also fish this rig with a chin­weighted bal­ly­hoo by in­sert­ing the Party Skirt into the eye socket be­fore mak­ing your fi­nal wraps on the front of the lead by feed­ing the wire through the grom­met as you pass the wire through the eye socket.

The syn­thetic hairs and thin My­lar stream­ers of the Party Skirt wings flare out away from the sides of the bait, mim­ick­ing a fly­ing fish — a pre­ferred snack of any pelagic that can catch one.

The Party Skirt is ba­si­cally a SeaWitch for cir­cle hooks. I be­lieve the added color gets your bait seen faster than a nat­u­rally cam­ou­flaged naked bal­ly­hoo.

Clock­wise from top left: Ringer Swivels al­low the cir­cle hook to ro­tate360 de­grees, while still mak­ing it easy to swap out baits as needed dur­ing the day. The Party Skirt from Fish Downsea comes in a va­ri­ety of bill­fishat­tract­ing color com­bi­na­tions. Adding a Party Skirt dur­ing the bait-rig­ging process is very sim­ple: Just insert the skirt into the eye cav­ity and wire firmly into place. The fin­ished prod­uct — note the highly re­al­is­tic eyes.

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