How to Hook live Bait: Saltwater Fishing

Live baits like goggle-eyes (for sailfish,) bunker (for stripers, tuna, or many other species) and spot (most commonly used for stripers) may be harnessed through the back, hooked horizontally through the nose, or placed vertically through the bait fish’s lips. How do you hook live bait saltwater fishing and what baiting method should you use?

Well, that all depends on the circumstances of coarse.


hunting for sailfish or kingfish should place their hook through the back, near the dorsal fin. This allows the fish to swim horizontally in a more or less natural fashion, even as a rising or falling kite pulls it higher and drops it lower. Baits secured by the nose will appear to unnaturally be yanked up and down.

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should use the hook through the lips method. Harnessing at the head is also okay in this circumstance, but if you leave too much room between the fish and the hook, the fish’s head can act as the lip on a swimming plug, and cause the bait to weave back and forth. This extra stress can limit the bait’s lifetime on the hook. Back harnessing a trolled bait will kill it quickly, as it’s pulled un naturally through the water.

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is an ideal time to go through the nose. It allows the bait to move around freely, there’s not enough water pressure to force any weaving motion, and the bait looks as natural as possible. If the drift isn’t too fast or when you’re at anchor and you want a bait to go deep without adding weight, you can put the hook through the back, just in aft of the dorsal. Back-hooking behind the dorsal encourages a bait to swim down (while placing the hook forward encourages it to stay near the surface) but remember that a fast drift may drag it through the water backwards, killing it prematurely.

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There are many hooks to choose from, but my personal favorite for live bait without a doubt is the Mustad UltraPoint 3X strong circle hook. Yes, there are much cheaper hooks out there, but the quality and durability of this specific hook has produced for me time and time again. I’ve used anything between 4/0 and 12/0 depending on the size of the bait. If your starting out I suggest grabbing a couple sizes, and remember a good quality sharp hook should never be compromised to save a couple bucks.


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