Making a Circle-Hook Strip Bait for Swordfish

Strip Bait: Circle-Hook Strip Bait for Swordfish

Strip-baits are easy to prepare, are versatile and are one of the most productive baits to withstand the test of time. They can be rigged many different ways and can be used to catch a host of saltwater species including  mahi–mahi, king mackerel, wahoo, tuna, swordfish and marlin. The strip is also effective when tipping a jig while bottom fishing for snapper and grouper. While there are several ways in which to prepare strip-baits, depending on which species you target, the following is a basic how-to lesson for rigging a circle-hook strip-bait for daytime or nighttime swordfishing.
Bait Preparation
Although strip-baits can be prepared from bonito, squid, mackerel, mullet or mahi-mahi bellies, we will concentrate on using bonito. Using a surgically sharp fillet knife, the key to this bait is learning to trim a “willow leaf” shape from the belly of the bonito.
1) Lay the bonito on its side on a large cutting board. Begin your cut from just behind the pectoral fin, and angle the knife blade in such a way that you cut 1/8” deep into the flesh, down the entire length of the lower section of the belly (ventral ridge) toward the tail. Remember to keep the “willow leaf” shape in mind (Tip: Purchase a rubber strip-bait from your local tackle store to use as a pattern). Make the same curved cut just below the lateral line completing the willow shape. For swordfish, strips measuring three to five inches wide at its widest point and twelve to fifteen inches long are best.
2) Lay the skin-side of the strip on the cutting-board and with your knife, square off the tail-end* of your strip to serve as the leading edge of your bait when rigged. *(Tail-end: end of the strip that was from the tail end of the bonito, which will become the leading end of strip bait).
3) If you end up with a thicker than desired strip, you can remove some of the thickness from the meat by carefully running the blade horizontally from the same tail-end of the strip, removing excess meat from the skin. It is important to work from the tail-end of the strip because it follows the “grain” of the bonito’s muscle fibers. Each large bonito is good for about two strip-baits from each side of the fish (one bonito yields four strips). Salting the strips and subsequently vacuum-packing for
the freezer will provide hardy baits for future outings.
Making the Rig
• Six feet of “bite” leader to be used with wind on leader or 20 feet of 250 lb to 300 lb monofilament leader material.
• 1.6mm to 2.0mm size crimp for the mono, depending on leader material brand,
• Rigging twine, needle and a hook
• Mustad Ultra point 39950BLN Demon perfect circle hook size 9/0 to 14/0
1) Working from the leading squared-off edge of the strip, pass the point of the rigging needle completely through and
approximately 1/8” from the edge and dead center of the strip, as a guide hole.
2) Lay the eye of the hook dead-center over the hole that the point of the needle created and take note of were hook will
protrude from strip.
3) Push the hook-point through the skin-side of the strip so that the point of the hook protrudes from the meat side of the
strip at the mark you noted. When hook is inserted, it should line up so that the eye of the hook lines up with the hole you
made with the needle and so the strip does not bunch up on the hook shaft. The bend of the hook should also be completely
4) Finally, insert the tag end of the mono leader through your crimp. Next pass the tag end of leader through the eye of the
hook and through the hole made at the leading end of the strip. Pass the tag end of leader through the crimp again and crimp
as close to the leading end as possible.

more tips like these from the IGFA School of Sportfishing, next appearing at the Miami Boat Show. Contact Jeff Mackin at [email protected] or 954-924-4340 to learn more or register today.