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RIGGING EELS IN A ZIP

Rigging eels just got a whole lot easier!
By Bryan Oakley
Tags: surf

Few techniques for targeting striped bass have captured the loyalty of so many while discouraging so many others as the rigged eel. Fishing with rigged eels can be lethal, but rigging eels is a time consuming and messy task—one stray chopper and you can kiss your hard work goodbye. Like many anglers, I like to tinker with my fishing gear, constantly tweaking, adjusting and changing things. Even when it “ain’t broke”, I often feel the need to “fix it”. I’m also not particularly handy, so I’m usually looking for an easier way to get something done. Rigging eels is no different, and after sewing and mangling countless eels over many seasons, I decided there had to be a better way. One day, I was digging through my toolbox and I came across a bundle of red cable (zip) ties. After some experimentation, I came up with a way of rigging durable rigged eels in a matter of a just a couple of minutes! Here’s how:

STEP 1: PREPARE THE EEL
The easiest way to acquire eels for rigging is to buy live eels, fish them and then use whatever eels don’t survive for rigging. I just stockpile my dead eels in the freezer (Make sure you tell your wife what container NOT to open, trust me!) and after a few nights of fishing, I usually have enough to start a rigging session. Eels should be frozen as soon as possible after they pass on; if they sit too long they start to pick up that familiar dead eel aroma. I prefer a range of sizes. If it is a rough, big water night than a hefty 18-inch eel that will be visible in the whitewater is my go-to, but I actually tend to opt for a smaller 12-inch eel rigged with a single hook 75-percent of the time.

STEP 2: ASSEMBLING THE MATERIALS
Before rigging, make a trip to your favorite local tackle shop, and stock up on the needed materials. To rig a dozen large eels, use the list of materials below. One thing I swear by is adding a large (250lb) swivel to the front hook, an idea I picked up from “Doc”, a fellow Newport, Rhode Island Fishing Club member with Montauk roots. This prevents the bass from gaining leverage as they try to detach themselves from your hook.

STEP 3: GENTLEMEN, START YOUR NEEDLES
The hardest part of rigging an eel is getting the back hook positioned properly, and keeping it there. With that in mind, I like to start there and work toward the head. Begin by tying a double length Dacron to a closed eye siwash hook; I use a clinch knot, usually with an extra half-hitch or two for good measure. Tie the Dacron so the closed portion of the loop is at the opposite end of the line from the hook, this gives the rigging needle something to hook onto. Insert the needle into the eel an inch or two behind the vent and run it through the body until it comes out the mouth. Pull the Dacron through and position the hook so that it’s straight and centered. At this point, I like to cinch a zip tie around the eel, just forward of the hook bend, to keep the hook in place. Now feel around for the eye of the hook, and push the rigging needle up through the eel and through the eye of the hook. Once the needle is positioned, give it a wiggle or two, remove it, insert a zip tie in the hole, and pull it tight. This locks the back hook into place, and will keep it upright as well. If you have eels under 12”, you can rig them with a single head hook as described below, or downsize to 6/0 siwash hooks if you prefer the tandem rig. If you elect to use the single-hook method, you may want to insert a nail-style weight into the eel’s vent, which helps to balance out the front hook and prevent the eel from swimming nose down.


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