Troll An Eel
Ken Neill, III
published in The Fisherman
The American eel is a fantastic bait to use to catch monster striped bass. Dropping live eels around the pilings of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel or drifting with eels suspended under bobbers off of the Concrete Ships are wonderful ways to catch large striped bass. Sometimes though, you need to cover more ground to find that tournament-winning fish and trolling is the way to go. This does not mean that I’m going to give up fishing with my favorite big-fish bait, eels are just part of the trolling spread.
Rig and eel
The first thing that you have to do is to get yourself some eels. You can trap them yourself or visit your local tackle shop and buy some. Rigging a live eel is a rather difficult proposition. The best way that I have found to deal with this is to freeze them first and then thaw them for rigging. I was giving a seminar when someone said, “I did what you told me and put the eels in my wife’s refrigerator freezer in the kitchen. She was really mad when she opened it up and found that the eels had gotten out of the container and were all over her freezer.” I had a lady come up to me at a tournament and tell me, “ I did what you said and when I was thawing the eels on my kitchen table, they came back to life and slimed up my whole kitchen!” Now, let’s be perfectly clear so I don’t get yelled at again. Put the eels in something that they will not get out of, like a 5 gallon bucket, and put them in a chest freezer. Leave them there until they are eel-sicles. They should be rock hard and their eyes should be white. Now it is safe to thaw them out.
You make a rig with a hook that is sized based on the size of your eel. The hook is crimped to a leader of about 150 pound monofilament. The other end of the mono is attached to a swivel. When you crimp the swivel to the mono, adjust the length to match the length of your eel. The bend of the hook should line up with the anal opening of the eel. The swivel should line up with the mouth so that outer ring of the swivel just reaches past the eel’s mouth. Now that you have your rig made, you need a few more things. You need a rigging needle to pull your swivel and leader through the eel. You will need a regular needle and some rigging floss. You will also need something called a squid head. I guess there is a reason for this but they go at the head of your eel. They can be made out of tin (tin squid head) or out of lead. They come in various sizes, pick one that matches the size of your eel. You will also need another piece of leader material.
Use your rigging needle to pull your swivel into the anal opening of the eel and on out of the mouth. Next, take your rigging floss and sew the eels mouth closed around the swivel. Make sure that your first pass of the needle goes through the back ring of the swivel. You have now sewed the eel’s mouth shut and you have sewed the swivel to the head of the eel. Now take your squid head and run the hook up through the jaws of the eel. Your last step is to attach the outer ring of the swivel to the provided eye on the squid head with another piece of leader material. Let’s go fishing!
Your main line goes to a 3-way swivel. Off of another ring of the swivel, there is a 12-15 foot leader to your eel. Attach the squid head to the leader with a snap swivel. Off of the third ring of the swivel is a leader of about 4-5 feet. What is on the other end of this leader depends on where you are fishing. If we are trolling up and down the pilings of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, we will have a sinker of about 28-32 ounces attached to this leader. We don’t need something else to snag the structure. If we are trolling in open water, we will have a heavy jig, a mojo, of about 48 ounces off of this leader. Now, we are trolling with two big baits off of the same rod. It is not unusual to have monster rockfish hooked at the same time on this rig. Now, that is a lot of fun!