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.

bridle live bait rubber band circle hook rigging
Bridled live bait is a great way to convert more hookups into successful catches.George Poveromo

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. ­

bridle live bait rubber band circle hook rigging
Step One: Slide the rubber band onto the rigging needle, and loop it over the hook.George Poveromo
bridle live bait rubber band circle hook rigging
Step Two: Pass the rigging needle through the bait, and pull the rubber band through behind it.George Poveromo
bridle live bait rubber band circle hook rigging
Step Three: Pass the hook point through the loop of the rubber band, and remove the rigging needle.George Poveromo
bridle live bait rubber band circle hook rigging
Step Four: Spin the hook a few times to consolidate the four strands of the rubber band.George Poveromo
bridle live bait rubber band circle hook rigging
Step Five: Pass the hook point between the tight space between the bait and the twisted bridle, making sure you don’t miss a loop, or the bridle will unravel. That’s all there is to it!George Poveromo
bridle live bait rubber band circle hook rigging
Honed Presentation: This cobia took a live bait at the surface, rigged with a rubber band and a circle hook. Affixing the hook to the bait prevents the hook from turning and burying itself into the bait, resulting in more and better hookupsGeorge Poveromo
bridle live bait rubber band circle hook rigging
Clean Hookup: Circle hooks prevent gut-hooking a fish, making it easier for an angler to catch, dehook and release.George Poveromo