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Fishing with Live Bait: Rigging 101

July 18, 2016 1 Comment

Fishing with Live Bait: Rigging 101

Fishing with live bait is one of the most effective ways to catch fish anywhere in the world. This is a tried and true method that has many advantages. The biggest advantage with using live bait is that it is a natural diet for the fish you are trying to catch, so it will have the scent, appearance, and texture that predatory fish will easily recognize. The key to using live bait is all in the presentation of the bait to the fish. If a bait is presented in the wrong way, or in a non-natural position an angler’s chances of catching the desired fish may go down drastically. There are many ways to hook live bait and each has its own purposes and benefits.


hook bait through noseHooking a bait through the nostrils or jaw is one of the most popular ways to hook a bait. Hooking the bait this way allows it to swim naturally which is ideal for trolling or drifting offshore structures. Not only does this allow for a more natural appearance of the fish, but it will keep the bait from drowning.
Hooking a fish through the nostrils will cause the least harm to the bait, but is in a weaker area than through the bottom jaw to the top. Both positions allow the hook to be exposed which in turn will can lead to easier hookups. This tactic works both smaller and larger baits.


live bait hooked through back dorsal finThis hook placement is ideal for kite fishing, but can also be used for trolling, drifting offshore, free lining, or even pitching the bait towards free swimming fish like Cobia. Hooking baits this way allows the bait to have a lot of action and swim as if it is hurt, attracting more predators. This style of rigging makes the bait swim downwards similar to a lipped plug. To keep the fish alive the longest, be sure not to put the hook too deep into the fish.


throat belly hooked live bait pilchardThis placement is the ticket for getting bait down into the water column near bottom structure. This is the right tactic to use for stationary fishing on the bottom, jetties, piling/docks, or a seawall. Using a fishfinder rig you can keep the bait swimming at a preferred height off the bottom depending on the length of the leader.

Anal Fin/Tail

tail hook rigging baitHooking a bait near the tail or anal fin is a great way to hook bait in order to get action out of it, and to manipulate it into specific areas. This works the best when fishing from stationary positions like an anchored boat, pier/docks, jetties, or for casting at free swimmers. Hooking a bait this way will cause it to swim away from the spot you are fishing from. Reeling the bait back will cause the fish to panic and swim aggressively away, giving more action and causing it to swim harder and further away towards the ideal spot.

Anal Vent

anal-hook-live-baitThe final method of hooking bait is to run the hook though the bait’s anal vent and out through the gills. This is a perfect method for being anchored offshore on a reef or an inlet, or in a stationary boat position. Since this will injure the fish, its life span will be shorter than most other hooking techniques, but this injury will cause the fish to move sporadically causing vibrations in the water. These vibrations will in turn lead to predatory fish being more attracted to the bait.

1 Response

Matt Falci
Matt Falci

July 29, 2016

When I rig live baits like grunt or small mutton snapper for sharks, I hook it down the mouth and up through the nose. I then slash a cut or two not too deep into the side or tail of the fish to cause it to bleed and swim injured. Is this more or less effective than the techniques listed above?

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