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July 07, 2014

Rubber-Band Bridle

Simplified rigging pays big catch dividends.

The in-line circle-hook revolution continues to convert more hookups into successful catches, while simultaneously bolstering the survival of game fish destined for release. Once a circle hook latches in the jaw of a fish, it’s nearly impossible for that fish to throw it. And because of its design — the in-line style especially — fewer fish are hooked in the gills, throat or stomach. It’s a win-win for both anglers and the released fish.

For a circle hook to be most efficient, however, it should be bridled to a bait. By establishing a slight gap between the bait and hook, the entire circle hook remains exposed for a clean, unobstructed hook-set. Equally critical is maintaining a fully exposed hook, so when a fish takes the bait, the hook hasn’t turned back into the bait, resulting in a missed ­opportunity. Bridling, primarily used with live baits, becomes just as effective with dead baits, whether you’re drifting whole fish or slabs for sharks, or ­soaking chunks for striped bass, snook, tarpon, cobia and bottomfish. Bridling unquestionably improves hookup-to-catch ratios.

If bridling has a ­disadvantage, it’s the perceived difficulty in fabricating loops of Dacron, the most commonly used material, especially for larger live baits. Because the actual bridling process sometimes appears daunting, many anglers simply impale a bait on a circle hook, unaware that this is where their story about the one that got away usually begins.

Enter rubber bands, which provide a quick, simple way to secure a circle hook to either live or dead baits. An open-eye rigging needle (to snatch the rubber band) and a pack of small orthodontic-type rubber bands — the small ones used on children’s braces — make up the kit. For large live baits, No. 32 rubber bands get the nod.

Orthodontic-type rubber bands work exceptionally well on small baits, such as herring, pilchards, and ­menhaden, and even larger ones, like goggle-eyes, hardtails, and mullet. There’s no premeasuring and cutting (i.e., tailoring bridles to the size and types of live baits), and a rubber-band bridle can be mastered in seconds. What’s more, the rig works even with J-style hooks.  ­