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Live bait fishing for stripers is a very exciting and often rewarding technique. In most cases, a large live bait will produce trophy size specimens. Due to this well-known fact, live bait fishing has become very popular with the resurgence of the striped bass population. The two most widely used live baits are eels and bunker although many other types of live baits are used. It is this fact that brings me to an important point for consideration. When using eels as the bait, it is customary to use a single hook. An eel is an easily swallowed soft bodied bait with little bulk to interfere with hook setting and therefore a single hook is sufficient. Bunker on the other hand are quite different. Because it is a large and a tough skinned bait, it interferes with hook setting, resulting in many missed fish. This fact was discovered many years ago. At some point in time, a creative angler discovered that a treble hook with one tine through the lower jaw, and one through the nostril of the bunker, would get a hook-up almost every time. As a result, the use of treble hooks for "bunker dunking" is still a very common method used today.

So, what is the point? Any bass that manages to swallow the entire bunker with treble hook and become gut hooked is most likely going to die! What is also a fact is that fish under the legal size limit must be returned to the water dead or alive. Using a treble hook is therefore not in the best interest of striped bass conservation. The conservation of the recently revived striped bass population is now a major responsibility of the rod and reel sportfisherman. Considering this fact, I tried some experiments using single hook arrangements. I discovered that a bait hooked in any body part other than the head did not swim correctly in a hard running tide. I was not getting many pickups using this method. I then tried hooking the bait in a non-vital part of the head. The presentation of the bait improved and I got more pickups. However, due to the amount of tough tissue in the head of a bunker, the hook would not pull freely from the bait and would not set cleanly in the fish. Most pickups were not hooked securely.

I was very determined and experimented with all sorts of combinations. I finally developed a terminal rig that has proven to work quite well. I use a large double snap (Berkley doulock) which is attached to the eye of a single, very sharp 6/0 - 8/0 live-bait style hook. The small locking side of the double lock snap is secured around the eye of the hook so that the open large side of the snap points in the opposite direction to the bend in the hook. The hook itself or a needle is used to make a small hole in the tough nose tissue of the bunker. The large side of the snap is passed through this hole from the top of the nose and out the mouth of the bunker. The snap is then locked closed. The hook will remain free swinging at the side of the bunkerís head. When a bass attacks its prey as it normally does, head first, it is almost immediately hooked somewhere in the mouth area. The hook-up percentage is excellent using this rig. Most importantly, since most fish are mouth hooked, they may be released relatively unharmed. I like to catch fish and to release them in good condition. This variation of terminal tackle provides for both of these needs. I recommend that all you "bunker dunkers" give it a try. I think you will be satisfied with the results and avoid having to experience those awful feelings of guilt and waste when cutting loose a beautiful striper that is gut hooked and doomed by a treble hook.

Good Fishing, Capt. Al Lorenzetti copyright: Al Lorenzetti ©1997


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