How to Rig Live Bait for Saltwater Fishing

by Mark Quest
Bait fish

Bait fish

Live bait catches more fish in more places than even the best artificial lures. Live bait ideally should be caught at the place you will be fishing. This will give you the bait that the fish are eating. Rigging live bait is straightforward and simple. There are a few different ways to rig live bait; the method you use will be dictated by the location and conditions.

Free Lining

Hook the bait fish behind and below the dorsal fin being careful not to penetrate the back bone. If fishing in current or trolling, hook the bait through the lips or eye sockets.

Tie your main fishing line to a barrel swivel.

Attach a 2-foot leader to the swivel.

Tie the hook to the end of the leader with a loop knot to allow the bait freedom of movement.

Fish Finder or Carolina Rig

Hook the bait fish behind and below the dorsal fin being careful not to penetrate the back bone. If fishing in current, hook the bait through the lips or eye sockets.

Slide an egg sinker (the weight will depend on the speed of the current) onto the main fishing line.

Slip on a plastic bead.

Tie your main fishing line to a barrel swivel.

Tie a 2-foot leader to the barrel swivel.

Attach the hook to the end of the leader with a loop knot. The components of the rig should be in this order: main line, egg sinker, plastic bead, barrel swivel, leader, hook.

Shock or Surf Rig

Hook the bait fish behind and below the dorsal fin being careful not to penetrate the back bone. If fishing in current, hook the bait through the lips or eye sockets.

Tie the main fishing line to a barrel swivel.

Tie 18 inches of leader to the barrel swivel.

Slip a bead onto the leader.

Slip a snap swivel onto the leader.

Slip another bead onto the leader.

Tie the hook on the end of the leader with a loop knot.

Attach a pyramid sinker to the snap swivel.

Items you will need

  • Fishing rod with hook
  • 20- to 50-lb. fishing line
  • Egg sinker
  • Pyramid sinker
  • Plastic beads
  • Barrel swivels
  • Snap swivel
  • Bait fish

Tips

  • Free lining is the best method to use for trolling or actively casting and "working" the bait or when you want the bait at the surface.
  • The fish finder rig will hold the bait at the bottom. It can be used when casting and "working" the bait along the bottom.
  • The shock or surf rig is good for strong currents. Try feeding out line to allow the bait to swim around while keeping it on the bottom.

About the Author

Mark Quest began his writing career in 2009, contributing to various online publications. He attended Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College, focusing on the sciences.

Photo Credits