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Taken out of context, this title may seem redundant. To a fisherman however, it has a special meaning. There are really two ends to a fishing line. One end is fixed to the reel, rod, and the anxious fisherman. The other end, the terminal end, is the one that is supposed to catch the fish. The terminal end however, will not catch fish unless it has some sort of hook, lure, bait, etc.. These additions are referred to as terminal tackle. The "terminal end" is most important to the fisherman but is often overlooked! Regardless of the investment in boats, rods, reels, time or effort, if terminal tackle is not appropriate to the job at hand, then all of that investment is wasted.

Live-bait fishing for trophy stripers is one of my favorite kinds of fishing. I have specialized in this type of fishing for many years. I have had the opportunity to try all types of tackle and terminal gear. In the course of this investigation I have had many successes and failures, all of which have led me to the combination that works most effectively. This is a natural process, and I am sure that I will continue to experiment to try to improve or adapt to changes as they come. When live-bait fishing, a well balanced, quality rod and reel is an important consideration. I am using a Penn Power Stick, with a Penn 535 graphite Reel, spooled with 25lb Ande line. This combination is light and sporting and yet powerful enough for the biggest of bass. One very important rule I believe in firmly is, "SIMPLE RIG-SHARP HOOK!". What does this mean when it comes to live-bait fishing? It means that the bait itself attracts the fish. Anything else that may distract the attention of the fish will reduce the chance for a pick-up and a hook-up! Keep the rig as basic as possible and always check and sharpen your hooks when necessary.

I do most of my live-bait fishing around the Fire Island Inlet on Long Island in New York. I use a very simple but effective terminal rig. I clinch knot a 3oz. drail to my 25lb line. I tie a double surgeonís loop at one end of a four foot leader of 50lb mono and clip it to the snap swivel at the trailing end of the drail. I clinch knot the leader to a 6/0 - 8/0 live bait style hook and the rig is complete. The loop at the drail end of the leader allows for a quick replacement when necessary. The only variation to this rig might be an increase or a decrease in drail weight to match the current conditions and water depth. The change that might be required in drail weight is a simple one to accomplish. Simply go up or down by one ounce increments until just enough weight is present to maintain the bait within a few feet of the bottom. If you can lift the rod tip then quickly drop it and feel the drail touch bottom, the weight is sufficient. The most common baits used in live-bait fishing for striped bass are bunker and eels. When fishing eels I use only one type of hook in all situations, a short shank live bait style hook in 6/0 or 7/0 size. These hooks are very strong and usually quite sharp right out of the package. Donít forget to check the point and put a file to it if it isnít needle sharp. To hook the eel, the hook is run into the mouth and out an eye socket. This placement of the hook gives it a sure hold in tough tissue and also allows the eel to continue to pass water through its mouth and stay healthy and lively.

Fishing live bunker or any other live, hard bodied baitfish, requires more consideration. In the past, most anglers fished bunker using a 4/0 size treble hook. One point was inserted through the lower jaw, a second point through one nostril and the third remained unattached. This method is no longer acceptable as it results in many gut hooked fish that will not survive when released. A treble hook is almost impossible to remove cleanly once it has been swallowed beyond the narrow throat. In these memorable days of a revived striped bass fishery with size and bag limits, many bass must be returned to the water so that they may survive! The use of treble hooks is therefore not in the best interest of the sport. Considering an alternative to using treble hooks, I tried experimenting with single hook arrangements. I found that when hooked in any body part other than the head, the bait did not swim correctly in a hard running tide. I was not getting many pick-ups due to its unnatural action. I then tried hooking the bait in a non-vital part of the head. The action improved, and I was getting lots of pick-ups. However, due to the tough tissue in the head region of most baitfish, the hook would not pull free from the bait. I was getting pick-ups but pulling the hook on most fish.

Being determined I finally came up with a variation that has proven to work extremely well. I use a large #56 Berkley double-lock snap. I attach the small side of the snap to the eye of a single 7/0 or 8/0 live bait hook. This must be done in an orientation that sets the open large side of the snap turning opposite to the bend in the hook. I then use the hook or a needle to make a small hole in the tough head or nose tissue of the baitfish. The point of the large side of the snap is then passed from the top of the head or nose, through the hole, out the mouth and snapped closed. The hook remains free swinging along the side of the head. Fish caught with this rig are almost always mouth hooked meaning they may be released relatively unharmed. One additional hook arrangement should also be a part of the live-bait fishermanís arsenal. Big bluefish have a nasty habit of attacking a bait from the tail and are therefore rarely hooked. Even if they do manage to get hooked, they almost always chew through the mono leader and are lost during the fight. For such situations I have devised another little addition to my tackle box. I prepare tail hooks on a short piece of vinyl coated braided or single strand wire. I make them about six inches long with a barrel swivel at one end and a 7/0 hook at the other end. If the bluefish show up I can quickly add the tail hook to my double-lock snap and use a rubber band to fasten the hook to the tail of the bait. I can then have fun catching and beating the bluefish at their game.

One additional point to consider for the safe release of fish in the spirit of conservation or when tagging, gaffing a fish that is going to be released is not acceptable! Fish that are to be released should be carefully netted and handled gently while onboard. Even netting is detrimental to the fish as it removes some of the natural protective slime from the body. When it is possible I use a device called a "BogaGrip" that locks onto the jaw of the fish. I simply lean over the side of the boat while holding the leader and lock it on the lower jaw. I can then remove the hook while the fish is still in the water or gently bring it aboard. It works quite well and it also has a built-in accurate scale for weighing your trophy. If the fish is brought into the boat, a wet towel placed over the head and eyes will keep it calm. Remember to return the fish to the water as soon as possible and not to handle it by the gills. Placing your hand in the gill slits can cause irreparable damage to the fish.

The "terminal end" is a critical part of fishing tackle. I have spent much time developing and perfecting terminal rigs that are effective. I have found this both challenging and rewarding. Experimenting and being innovative is part of what makes fishing so much fun! I hope my suggestions will work well for you.

Good Fishing, Capt. Al Lorenzetti Copyright: Al Lorenzetti ©1990 Published in "The Fisherman" 1990


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