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By Rich Johnson

The hot summer months can make catching game fish on artificial baits extremely tough. The surest way to entice inshore game fish in warm water is tempting them with something off their own dinner menu…live bait! Depending on where you live dictates the forage base used, but all can be rigged as the examples shown here.

LIVE EELS: This is just one example of many rigs for stripers on the East Coast. Tie a 3-way swivel to the running line (40-pound test), while tying a lighter (15# test) piece of mono (12 to 18 inches) with a sinker loop to act as a breakaway to the other eye. Next, use a 3/0 or 4/0 short shank tuna hook tied to a three-foot (slow tide) or six-foot (fast tide) leader of 50-60-pound test leader, connected to the remaining eye. The eel is hooked from below the chin and out an eye socket, then fished with the sinker a couple of handle turns off the bottom. When you feel a bump, "bow" to the cow, let the line come taught and set the hook…hard!

BAITFISH: Includes any species from menhaden to sea bass, but all bait used must be legal in size!

ONE HOOK RIGS: When trolling live forage for game fish, hook size depends on the bait, not the game fish! Use the lightest hook you can get away with, so the bait survives the ordeal. Live bait must stay alive! Tie hook to a short length of leader attached to a barrel swivel to diminish line twist. Hook bait through fleshy part of the back just behind the head, or place hook through hollow area between nostrils as in the case of herring.

TWO HOOK RIG: Use this rig when game fish seem to find the area of a bait without the hook. Using a barrel swivel rated for 50-75 pounds tied directly to your running line, tie off two equal lengths (8-12 inches) of mono or braided wire (for toothy critters) to the other eye. Use 6/0 hooks and tie to the equal lengths of line. Insert one hook in the nose and the other in the tail of the bait. This allows bait to swim freely while on the drift, doubling chances of a hook up.

CRABS: Another delicacy for game fish and blackfish.

BLACKFISH: Cut crab in half (quarters if large) and remove legs and shell. Slip a 5/0 Virginia style hook through meat of crab, making sure hook is exposed. If using a whole crab (smaller than silver dollar), take off two crab legs from the same side, slip hook through one knuckle and out the next, making sure hook point is exposed. Fish right on bottom, close to sinker.

WEAKFISH & SEA TROUT: Use whole crabs (3 inch diameter) or shedder crabs when possible. Use a 4/0 to 6/0 hook tied to an 18 to 24-inch leader which in turn is tied a barrel swivel. This can be fished on the drift, with sinkers or from the surf. Use a rubber band to hold crab onto hook. 

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