Go Pinless

Go Pinless

Ken Neill

photos by Tricia Neill

published in the Chesapeake Angler

Tuna, dolphin, wahoo, and billfish, what a fantastic mixed-bag fishery we have in the offshore waters of the mid-Atlantic! We troll all kinds of stuff out there and we have favorite baits to use when targeting a specific species. The standard, all-purpose, catch anything bait is the pin-rigged ballyhoo behind a Sea Witch.

On the Healthy Grin, we go pinless. This has to do with a billfish bias. Billfish anglers do not like a pin sticking out the nose of their ballyhoo baits. Billfish tend to squeeze the bait and then swallow it. During that initial crush, a sharp pin might encourage the fish to let go. We want the only pointy thing on our baits to be the hook.

We start by tying our leader to the hook via a 3-turn nail knot. We tie instead of crimping because this gives a stiff connection to the hook. The hook does not wobble which is easier on your ballyhoo’s belly. The nail knot is used because it is a good non-slip knot that is easy to tie with even heavy leader material. We attach a piece of rigging wire to the hook.

Prepare your ballyhoo however you normally do. You will want to remove the eyes. To add a chin weight, simply slide an egg sinker over your leader and rigging wire. For this ballyhoo, we are not using a chin weight.

Place the hook into your ballyhoo as you would with the standard pin rig.

Now, we are going to insert the end of the rigging wire up under the gill plate and out through the eye sockets.


Wrap the wire under the gills and through the eye sockets two or three times.

Next, we are going to use the rigging wire to take the place of a pin. Poke the wire up through the lower jaw and out the hinge of the upper jaw.

Now simply wrap the remaining wire around the bill and leader.

Slide the lure that you want to use over your leader, a Sea Witch, Ilander or something else and start trolling.

If it is good for billfish, it should be good for tuna and dolphin. On the Healthy Grin, we always go pinless.