Dolphin Belly Swordfish Rig

Fishing for swordfish demands a tough bait and this dolphin belly rig is up to the task.
Steve Dougherty
Swordfish are opportunistic predators that will attack a variety of rigged offerings. When searching for daytime swordfish along the coast of southeast Florida, the swift currents of the Gulf Stream require the use of extremely durable rigs. Presenting a bait nearly 2,000 feet below the surface is no easy task, and after a telegraphed bite you want to make sure your bait is still intact incase the fish comes around again. Dolphin bellies hold up and swords can't resist them.   Text and Photos by Steve Dougherty/
You'll need a 5-foot length of 300-pound monofilament, two crimps, a crimping tool, 30-pound rigging floss, closed-eye needle, bait knife, shears and a rubber skirt.
Once you've sliced out the belly of a dolphin fish (also known as mahimahi or dorado) you'll want to trim the excess meat and fins. Fold the bait in half and make sure it is symmetrical.
Take your leader and make a crimped connection, but make sure you leave a 3-inch tag to work with. This method helps present the hook lower in the bait rather than riding high near the head.
Rest the hook and leader alongside the bait to line up the position. Make sure you account for the leader's tag, securing it at the top of the bait. Once you've decided on the ideal position, insert the hook through the skin of the dolphin belly. Pierce a small hole with a rigging needle towards the top of the bait and feed the leader through the hole. Crimp the connection tight to the bait.
Using your rigging needle and floss tie the floss to the closed eye of the needle. Start off by closing the top of the bait with an overhand knot. The remaining process involves stitching the bait closed using the needle and rigging floss. If you use an open-eye needle the latch will grab stitches as you work your way down the bait, which can be a pain.
Work your way down the bait with consecutive stitches. Once you get towards the tail and you are ready to start stitching back up the bait, be sure to go through the last hole twice to lock the floss in place.
Once you get to the top of the bait take the tag end from earlier and make another overhand knot to close the bait. If you want to make the bait even more durable, you can add additional stitches to the head.
Once the dolphin belly is sewed up with the hook in place, you can add a skirt over the bait to help prevent it from washing out. I like to slide the skirt over the belly and make a stitch through the skirt and meat of the strip bait to keep the skirt from working its way up the leader.

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