Hook Rigs for Marlin Lures

One question that we are asked often, second only to questions about color is, “What hook rig do you recommend?”

The opinions on this subject are not only strongly held, but are as widely varied as color.  The owners of BFD even have differing opinions.  So what you get here is only one opinion of the best hook rigs for marlin lures.

Dan Magers provides you with his own experience and a brief tutorial on rigging marlin baits below:

I have tried all of the different rigs that I am aware of with many charter captains using different set-ups.  I have read the blogs and hook-up percentage claims and the opinions.  My experience has been that on 7”, 9” and 12” lures, the single hook swivel rig far and away provides me with the highest hook-up percentage.

One of the pics in our photo gallery shows 8 marlin flags (all fish were released.) We had 11 marlin hit, 9 hooked up, and 8 landed … all on BFD lures rigged with a single hook swivel rig.  Other days on that same trip gave us counts like 4 of 5, 4 of 4, and 4 of 6.  On November 22, 2014 we had 8 of 10.  Of interest was another trip where the fish were in more of a bill-whacking than biting mood.  Two were “bill hooked” when the marlin whacked it with the bill, and the limber swivel rig flipped around and hooked up about half way back on the bill.

This November on a trip to Cabo, I asked my favorite Charter Captain, Luis, and First Mate, Salvador, of The Blue Marlin how they were doing with this rig since I introduced it to them over a year ago.  “That’s all we use now, Dan. Our hook-up percentages have gone way up since you showed us this rig. And it is a lot safer than our old double hook rigs.”

Doesn’t make sense, does it?  By simple math, two hooks should give you twice the chance of a hook up as one, right?  Not necessarily so.  Peter Pakula figured this out, and even sells single hook swivel rigs premade.  The theory, which has been proven to me, is that this rig makes the hook point ride “up” behind the lure, resulting in more hook ups in the top or softer part of the fish’s mouth.


This is the same as the reasoning behind a rubber stopper glued to the back of the head “fixing” the hook point(s) up.  The swivel rig uses gravity and hydraulics to keep the hook point riding up instead of glue and rubber.

Maybe it’s just a mind thing, but I seem to have more bites using a single hook swivel rig for my marlin lures as well.  This rig allows for better lure action, since the head is free to work on the line alone, unencumbered by all the gear glued to its arse that would mute its action.

I make my own hook rigs to match the lure length just like below.  There’s nothing sacred or sexy about crimp or cable size – but don’t overkill the cable size.  The shrink tube is there for the protection of the leader man.   And as Keith Posedel, our lure maker, says, “It’s free advertising” so you may as well add a little color.

So what about 12” lures?  On the 12” plungers, I shorten the skirts up to about 12” in total lure length and use a bigger hook single swivel rig (#440 Buoy Swivel) on those as well.  On the heavier, longer 14’s I use a double hook shackle rig, which, again, Pakula markets.  Both points on those ride up as well, and there are a lot of other handling and rigging advantages.

I use Fluorocarbon leader because it has the same refractive index as water, making it all but invisible. It is more abrasion resistant and more UV resistant. The premium grades seem to be more limber and don’t take as much “coil memory” as mono. Fluorocarbon is smaller in diameter and denser making it sink faster. Fluoro does not stretch as much as mono. I think there is enough shock absorbing stretch in my mono top shot.

Last of all – and most important – single hook rigs are a LOT safer than doubles for anyone handling leaders and fish.


Added together, the materials pictured (below the lure)  total about $14 – without the fluorocarbon leader. From left to right – a rubber bead – 1.4mm crimp – thimble – 330# Buoy Swivel – crimp – 270# Stainless 49 strand cable – ½”dia. shrink tube – 1.4mm crimp – 8/0 Jobu Hook. The bottom loop and tube is a different way to rig shorter lures using one-1.7mm crimp.


Crimp the cable to the swivel on one end and the hook on the other and apply the shrink tube.


Put the thimble through the swivel eye then thread the leader through the crimp, around the thimble and back through the crimp. Put the rubber bead over the end.


If the hook isn’t positioned where you want it, remove the rubber bead and use spacer beads.


Once it is spaced like you want it …


Install the clip hardware on the other end, coil the line and you are done.


These two are rigged with about 12 feet of 200lb Seaguar Premier Fluorocarbon, which costs about $.80 a foot. Rigging materials alone will run you about $25 per lure. For 7”, 9” and 12” lures, this rig allows the point to run up improving hook-up rates and allows the lure to work free on the line giving it better action.  Last of all, if you are not using a belly weighted lure, and your lure spins as it moves through the water, this rig will allow the lure to spin around the line only, eliminating leader twist.  When a hooked fish spins, the swivel keeps the leader from twisting as well.

Hope this helps you with rigging marlin baits!  Feel free to call or email us if you have questions!




Take Marlin Off the Menu

Take Marlin Off the Menu is a joint campaign of Wild Oceans and the IGFA. For more information, go to www.takemarlinoffthemenu.org.

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