The uptick in the rhythm of the tail beats, so slight, brought me back to reality from late morning, daydreams of heat that had consumed me for the better part of drifting. I leaped to attention, the tip of the rod lowered just above the water as my anticipation grew in direct association with the erratic drumming I felt through the cue. then, thump! My penis doubled and its tip was pulled below the surface. I waited a beat, two, then three before finally driving the hook home with an aggressive hook. Several minutes later, after a brief but nerve-wracking struggle, an 8-pound swab was hooked into the net, a blue snapper tail hanging out of its mouth.
I started fishing for luck with the live “skipjack” (Rhode Island’s nickname for juvenile or “snapper” bluefish) about five years ago in an experiment that was the result of several factors. First, I’ve long believed that summer flounder are a lot more aggressive than people give them credit for. Contrary to the image of a passive feeder waiting for meals to float up, experience has led me to believe that luck are proactive predators, following batches of bait that migrate up and down the beach. Big luck is more than willing to shoot from below to secure their prey, and I wanted to see how big of a bait they were willing to take. Plus, with the regulations getting tighter, I needed a way to weed out dozens of short fish that were more than happy to take my traditional rig. Running around in a squid wrapper with nothing in the cooler to show for it was increasingly frustrating. Finally, I like to fish with live bait. Nothing compares to the feeling of the bait being chased and caught by my target and “seeing” the entire scene being played through with my thumb and forefinger on the line.
While the idea sounded great, there was still a logistical problem that needed to be resolved. I knew a conventional rig would not be effective because the bait was too big. To solve the problem, I was inspired by the live bait rigs used in Florida for snapper and grouper using live cigar fish. After spending many hours researching forums and poring over YouTube videos, I have created a device that I believe is the most efficient way to fish big live baits for luck.
Skipjack Flock Rig
To attach the rig, cut a 3-foot piece of 50-pound test monofilament leader material. Using a loop knot, attach a 5/0 offset hook to the end of the leader. It is important to use a loop knot here, as the added range of motion makes it easier to place the hook through the skin of the bait and poke it outward to expose the tip.
Next, take a larger 8/0 hook and thread the leader through the eye of the hook. Take a piece that is shorter than the leader and pull the hook for the main leader. The beauty of snoring the hook to the leader with the leader running through the eye of the hook is that it allows you to move the hook up and down the line to adjust to your bait size. The helix keeps the hook snug on the leader but still allows for adjustments so the distance between the two hooks always fits the bait.
After the hook is snorted, add a large squid skirt and several beads and a swivel before finishing the rig with a three-way swivel. From the treble method, tie a line marked with a loop that allows you to quickly and easily switch weight size while fishing.
When the day came to finally try this new technology, I was nervous. There was years of conventional wisdom that it wouldn’t work and that I’d be better off fishing with tried-and-true strips than with squid or pierced belly. However, my fears were soon allayed, as the first drift yielded a solid 5-pound fish. As the day went on, my buddies and I continued to fish, finishing the trip with six legal fish between the three of us, each between 5 and 8 pounds. Today was an absolute success and one of the best outings in terms of fish counts I have ever caught when fishing big live baits for flounder.
Since that first trip, it’s become an annual tradition once the skipjack, shad, or mackerel arrives. I load up on the live bell and head out to target the doormats, a tradition that produces the biggest luck of the year, season after season.
Snapper blues seemed like the logical choice when I started live fishing for large flounder because, at the time, bluefish was still an unregulated species, was readily available, and in a very light salmon setting, was almost as fun to catch as trout. light. flop. However, going out on a trip with only three lures per person, even when quality is prioritized over quantity, is not an ideal situation. Fortunately, any live bait of the same size will work. I’ve had seasons where a small 5- to 8-inch shad came up on Point Judith Pond, and I was able to catch them with the same techniques as blues snappers. Tinker Mackerel will also be efficient and has been incredibly plentiful for the past several seasons. To prime the bait, simply cut the tail of the bait, put the front hook through its nostrils, and place the needle about two-thirds of the way down the body of the bait toward the tail. Make sure the backhook is just below the skin of the bait and pops out so that the point is exposed – the shallower the point the better, as this keeps the bait held longer and allows for a more natural presentation.
There are certain drawbacks to using large live baits for luck, and that is that it is a calculated decision to trade off numbers for quality. There simply aren’t a lot of fish big enough to take live jigging or other large baits, so this isn’t the kind of “easy” bottom fishing with constant movement that many anglers are used to. In view of this, I fish almost exclusively with large live baits for flounder over a hard, rocky bottom. This doesn’t mean you have to head to your favorite gritty rock pile; Instead, focus on coral reefs and stretches of rock or pebble bottoms. Larger coops generally prefer to stay around a structure because there is more forage and they have less of a need to bury themselves in the sand; As they get older, their fear of predation diminishes. To avoid losing my rigs, I fish the bait about a foot off the bottom. Fluke big enough to take the snapper won’t hesitate to move a little in the water column for an easy meal.
One of the benefits of fishing these funky spots with live bait is that you can catch luck on days when conditions are less than perfect. Many anglers prefer to fish on sandy bottoms with a drift of between 0.75 and 1.5 knots, so they will not be chasing luck if these drift conditions are not met. Larger live baits are more effective with slower drifts because it is easier to keep them straight up and down. This makes line and depth easier to control when you’re trying to keep the bait off the bottom. In turn, this prevents the obstacles that make many people avoid drifting over rough bottom in search of luck. In addition, the vibrations generated by the live bait are enough to entice the bait to feed even if the tide is not working as hard. You landed legitimately for skipping fishing Joes who catch fish even when the tide is low. Large shellfish simply cannot resist these large live baits.
When blues and a little shade hit this summer and the beaches are paved with tiny shells, do yourself a favor and fill up your living life and break away from the fleet drifting along a flat sandy bottom. Find a solid structure and send the jump down. Feeling the jitteriness of your bait and hitting the doormat you just inhaled is absolutely addictive. I guarantee it will be worth the time you spend tying up the rigs. Once you land that first luck on a big live bait, you won’t want to do it any other way.
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