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Rigs & Knots
Strip Bait Basics
Rig an ideal trolling bait from a bonito strip.
Strips cut from bonito or other small tuna make ideal trolling baits for many pelagic species -- provided they're prepared and rigged correctly. Here are easy step-by-step instructions on how to prepare these baits like a pro.
Take a long-shank ring-eye hook and slip a piece of 80-pound Monel wire through the eye, aiming it towards the bend. Then, take the opposite (and shorter) end and pinch it against the hook shank.
Starting near the eye, wrap the long end around the shank towards the bend, around both hook shank and the short end, making seven or eight turns. Then trim the long end close.
Bend the remaining end forward and into the hook shape seen above.
Place a fresh bait on the cutting board and fillet.
Take care not to cut too deep. Of primary interest is the skin, along with the tough muscle and connective tissue that lies right below the skin.
Shave the fillets and discard the excess meat. Scrape your knife blade sideways to remove more bonito flesh.
Cut tapered strips while holding your blade on edge. This step requires a well-sharpened knife but helps to minimize ragged edges that can adversely affect a strip's action in the water and shorten its shelf life.
This is an example of a properly prepared bonito strip.
Lay the hook, with pin attached, alongside your strip. Then, after determining exactly where to position the pin, make a note of where your hook will ride. This is a crucial step, because if both pin and hook aren't perfectly centered, the strip won't straighten out in the water and it won't swim correctly.
Push the pin through the tip of your strip, making sure it's centered. This may require piercing the skin first with a hook point or knife blade.
Force the point of your hook through the strip.
Straighten the bait, pulling everything into place.
Bend the Monel pin forward and through the eye of the hook, securing the strip in the process. You don't want the pin working loose.
Savvy pros use both silver belly strips and "painted" dorsal strips.
A variety of skirts and trolling lures can be fished with the strips, and experimenting pays off because the right combination can change from day to day.
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