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These time-tested rigs will work magic on this popular trio of bottom dwellers.
By Capt. Tom Mikoleski
Tags: inshore
Rigging right at the terminal end is critical when it comes to hauling tog like this from structure laden bottom. Photo courtesy of Capt. Joe Wenegenofsky.

Blackfish, porgies, and sea bass are three popular species which many local anglers target with great relish. These bottom dwellers are all expert bait stealers that prefer to congregate on structure oriented bottom consisting mainly of shell beds, boulder fields, wrecks, and artificial reefs. This type of hard, sticky bottom means that you will be donating your share of rigs to the bottom, so keeping them inexpensive and easy to tie makes the most sense.

Blackfish are tenacious fighters, and upon feeling the sting of a hook will immediately try to get back into the safety of their lair. As a result, many large bulldogs are lost because anglers simply cannot turn the fish before it becomes lodged inside some hidey-hole. To best handle such a situation, your rod and terminal gear should be rated from medium to heavy action so it is capable of stopping a hard charging blackfish. I would recommend using 40-pound braided line as your main line, and to the end of this line I attach a 10-foot section of 40-pound fluorocarbon with an Albright knot. This terminal end of your line is now where all of your rigs will be tied into. Once this shot of leader becomes all nicked up simply cut it off and attach a new 10-foot section with the aforementioned Albright knot.

The basic rig used by most bulldog sharpies begins by attaching a surgeon’s loop at the bitter end of your leader. Depending on where you are targeting tog, weights for sinkers will range from 4 to 16 ounces so make sure this loop is large enough to accommodate these varied weights. The next step is to tie on a 4-inch dropper loop about 5 inches above your sinker loop, and this dropper is where your hook is going to be attached. You have two options here as one can either attach a snelled hook similar to a # 4 Virginia, or you can forgo the snelled hook, and simply attach an unsnelled hook like a 4/0 Ultra Point Beak directly to the dropper loop.

Now this rig is pretty snag-proof but their will be times when you hook a large blackfish and despite your best efforts, it will still manage to peel off some drag and get into the safety of the structure. When this happens don’t be in such a hurry to break off and re-tie the rig. Try putting some slack in your line, and let the rod rest in a holder for a few minutes. Oftentimes a blackfish will respond to the lack of pressure by believing the threat is over, and once it begins prowling for another snack you may notice your line twitching. Grab the rod, and with a little luck that bulldog might be yours.

A final option with this rig is to tie in a simple overhand knot right above your sinker. If and when your sinker becomes hopelessly snagged in the bottom, pull hard on your main line and snap the rig free at the sinker. Well, one might think big deal, I still lost my sinker and had to re-tie the rig. True, but if you had a fish hooked up when your sinker became snagged you’ll now be able to land a fish that would not have been caught, and who knows, it might even be the pool fish for the day.

Another rig popular with anglers that specifically target big blackfish is known as the Snafu Rig. I tie my rigs by starting off with two appropriately sized hooks that are snelled onto short leaders, which are then tandem tied together as was outlined in last week’s rigging article. Next, tie in a dropper loop and surgeon’s loop as mentioned above, but then attach your tandem tied rig to the dropper loop. When baiting up, place both hooks into one large bait such as a whole green or hermit crab, being sure to allow the hook points to protrude slightly to allow for a quick penetration upon the hook set. One final step to make this rig even more appealing is to take your sinker, and whack the crab a few times to break the shell. Now you will have a mini chum line wafting right from where your hooks are located.

My favorite rig for both porgies and sea bass is the high low rig, and to make this rig I begin with a 30-inch piece of 30-pound fluorocarbon leader. On one end of the leader I’ll tie in a surgeons loop for my sinker, and to the other end I’ll tie on a 50-pound black barrel swivel. The remaining eye of the barrel swivel then gets attached to the terminal end of my main line with a Palomar knot. In between the swivel and the loop tie in two 4-inch dropper loops, spaced evenly about 6-inches apart. Now pass the loop from the dropper through the eye of your hook, and then pull the hook through the loop,cinching the dropper tight up against the shank of the hook. Repeat with your second hook, put a nice sliver of clam meat on both hooks, and you now have a rig that is very efficient at hooking both porgies and sea bass.