Saltwater Sportsman - - Contents - GE­ORGE POVEROMO

Stop fight­ing the weeds off­shore

Stop fight­ing the weeds off­shore. Those of­ten an­noy­ing patches that put the brakes on trolling also of­fer prime game fish habi­tat, so rig your bal­ly­hoo to fish through them. Just a few short years ago, off­shore an­glers com­plained about the lack of sar­gas­sum weed, par­tic­u­larly off the Flor­ida Keys and por­tions of the Gulf Coast, and how it im­pacted dol­phin catches. After this past sea­son, these same an­glers are still con­cerned; only this time, it’s over the masses of weed blan­ket­ing the off­shore wa­ters. Op­posed to text­book-per­fect weed lines and patches with clean fish­ing lanes,

these thick, float­ing ecosys­tems make trolling a night­mare. Fol­low­ing a frus­trat­ing past sea­son, where we spent way too much time pick­ing salad off our trolling baits, I went back to a trick I used many years ago, when weeds were a men­ace: the weed­less bal­ly­hoo.

When prop­erly rigged, these baits spend more time where they be­long: skip­ping en­tic­ingly be­hind your boat. We’ve en­joyed solid dol­phin ac­tion on the troll since mak­ing the switch.

The trick in­volves in­vert­ing the hook point so it goes back into the bal­ly­hoo, and stream­lin­ing the rest of the rig so it pushes weeds aside. Some might ques­tion hookup per­cent­ages, given the em­bed­ded point. How­ever, the crush­ing jaw power of dol­phin and other pelag­ics eas­ily ex­poses the hook for a solid

set. Even so, we’ll lightly scale the bait around the hook-in­ser­tion area to soften it some.

NOTE: Slid­ing a skirt over the snap swivel con­nect­ing the leader and fish­ing line also pre­vents it from col­lect­ing weeds. What’s more, the skirt over the swivel lends the il­lu­sion of the bal­ly­hoo chas­ing a smaller bait.

In­stead of run­ning away or con­tin­u­ously clear­ing weeds from your baits, sit back, re­lax, and let the weed­less bal­ly­hoo go to work.

COM­PO­NENTS Leader: 100-pound (for flu­oro dol­phin): or mono; O’shaugh­nessy-style hook (size based on bait); cop­per rig­ging wire; squid-style skirts (small­est that will still fit over the bal­ly­hoo head).

a Pull the hook back farther than it will sit in the fin­ished rig. Once the hook is in­serted, the mono stub should slide back into proper po­si­tion be­neath the jaws.a In­sert the hook a bend’s dis­tance farther back than the fi­nal po­si­tion.

b aa Po­si­tion the mono stub to poke through the bot­tom jaw and up­per lip. b In­sert the hook so the mono stub lies be­neath the up­per lip. In­ert the hook through the throat latch, to exit the belly just ahead of the pec­toral fin.

b a ca At­tach soft cop­per wire to loop knot. b Slide rub­ber skirt over the leader be­fore ty­ing loop knot at the end. c Leave long mono stub to an­chor the bal­ly­hoo. As­sem­ble the leader, with the hook on one end and a knot­ted loop on the other, be­fore rig­ging a bal­ly­hoo.

a Ba Slide the rub­ber skirt firmly down over the head of the bait. b Scrape scales from the body on both sides. To fin­ish prep, re­move scales from the bait’s body where the point of the hook lies so the hook won’t foul on scales dur­ing the strike.

a ba Pierce the lower and up­per jaws with the mono stub. Break the bill off short. b Make sure the hook does not bind where it en­ters the bait. Hook should fit snugly, but not tight. All the pull on the trolled bait should come from the head.

a b Wind cop­per wire through the bait’s eye sockets and tightly around the head. Fin­ish in front, bind­ing the leader to the stump of the bill.a Fold the mono stub back and over­wrap with cop­per wire. b Hook shank lies along the throat.

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