Offshore Fishing

The Ultimate Guide to Ballyhoo Fishing: 

Pro Tips and Techniques for Success

Welcome to "The Ultimate Guide to Ballyhoo Fishing: Pro Tips and Techniques for Success." Whether you're a seasoned angler or a novice just getting started, this comprehensive guide is your go-to resource for mastering the art of ballyhoo fishing.

In this article, we'll dive deep into the world of ballyhoo fishing and explore the techniques used by professional anglers to land trophy fish. From catching and storing ballyhoo to rigging and trolling strategies, we'll cover it all.

Our experts have shared their firsthand experience and insider tips to help you enhance your offshore fishing game. Learn how to effectively rig a ballyhoo, choose the right lure, and attract the attention of pelagic game fish including mahi mahi, wahoo, tuna, sailfish, and marlin.

This guide will equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to make your ballyhoo fishing adventures more productive and rewarding. So buckle up and let's dive into the ultimate ballyhoo fishing guide!

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Understanding Ballyhoo fish and their behavior

Ballyhoo fish, also known as Hemiramphus brasiliensis, are a popular baitfish species found in tropical and subtropical waters. They have a distinctive elongated body shape, with a pronounced lower jaw and a deeply forked tail. Ballyhoo are known for their vibrant colors, ranging from iridescent blues and greens to dazzling yellows and oranges.

These fish primarily inhabit offshore waters, often congregating near reefs, wrecks, and other structures. Ballyhoo are a favorite prey of many game fish species, making them an excellent choice for anglers targeting larger game fish such as marlin, wahoo, and mahi-mahi.

Ballyhoo are schooling fish and tend to swim in large groups. They are attracted to areas with abundant food sources and cover. By studying their behavior, you can increase your chances of success when targeting these fish.

How to Catch Live Ballyhoo

Some areas in the US are fortunate to have access to native, live ballyhoo. Catching live ballyhoo can be a rewarding and effective way to ensure a fresh and enticing bait supply for your offshore fishing adventures. Here's a guide on how to catch live Ballyhoo:

Location and Time: Look for ballyhoo in areas with clear water, seaweed, or structures like buoys, weed lines, and debris, as ballyhoo are attracted to these environments.

Early mornings are generally a productive time for catching ballyhoo. They tend to be more active near the surface during these hours.

Chumming: Chumming involves attracting fish by dispersing small bits of bait into the water and is often essential in catching ballyhoo.

Use small pieces of cut bait or fish food to create a chum slick. As ballyhoo are drawn to the commotion and scent, you can cast your net into the chummed water to catch them more effectively.

Use a Cast Net: A cast net is a versatile tool for catching live baitfish, including ballyhoo. Opt for a net with a radius suitable for the depth of the water you'll be fishing in.

Approach the area quietly and cast the net over the school of ballyhoo. Practice your throwing technique beforehand to ensure the net spreads out fully in the water.

Sabiki Rigs: A second effective way to catch live ballyhoo involves using Sabiki rigs. These are multi-hook setups with small lures or flies. They are effective for catching many kinds of baitfish including ballyhoo.

Drop the Sabiki rig into the water and jig it up and down to attract the attention of the ballyhoo. Once they are hooked, reel them in gently to avoid injuring them.

Keep ballyhoo in a Live Well:  Maintaining the liveliness of ballyhoo is crucial for their effectiveness as bait. A live well is a necessity for live bait fishing. A well-designed live well provides a controlled environment with proper water circulation, and aeration. This ensures that the ballyhoo remain healthy and active, mimicking their natural behavior in the water.

Frozen Ballyhoo 

Most anglers do not have access to live ballyhoo. Even in areas where they live, they are often difficult to locate and/or catch. Frozen ballyhoo are a viable and often preferred option to live ballyhoo.

When purchasing frozen ballyhoo, choose baits from reputable vendors. The ballyhoo should be in vacuum sealed bags with clear eyes and minimal blood in the package. Ensure the tails are not damaged.

Brining Ballyhoo: Enhancing Durability and Attractiveness

Brining is a popular method for preserving and enhancing the effectiveness of ballyhoo. Anglers use a brine solution—usually a mix of water, salt, and bleach (to enhance color)—to soak ballyhoo. This not only helps preserve the bait but also firms up the flesh, making it more resilient on the hook.

Prepping Frozen Ballyhoo

Bait prep is a critical step to ensure your baits always perform optimally. The key steps for prepping baits are as follows:

• Quality baits- Offshore fishing is way too expensive to jeordardize a trip with poor quality baits. Baits should be fresh with clear eyes, minimal blood, and not refrozen.

• Thoroughly thawed- This is a very important step. Partially thawed baits will likely have a bow to them and will not swim properly. Always thaw baits in saltwater to keep the bait firm.

• Remove the eyes- The eyes are typically removed so they don’t get distorted unevenly and cause the bait to spin.

• Remove the fins- Many anglers clip off the ballyhoo’s pectoral fins to make the ballyhoo more streamlined with less opportunity for the bait to distort and spin.

• Empty the digestive tract- By running your finger along the under-belly of a thawed ballyhoo from the pectoral fins down toward the anus, this will push out the feces and empty the digestive tract. This is good practice and helps to ensure a limber, flexible bait.

• Limber the bait up- Lastly, grasp the ballyhoo firmly slightly behind the pectoral fins and flex the tail back and forth in a simulated swimming motion. As the bait begins to limber up, increase the flexure in a more S-shaped pattern. The idea is to get the bait as flexible as possible with the goal of producing a natural swimming motion as it trolled through the water.

Ballyhoo fishing techniques and rigging options

Once you have the right bait, it's time to learn the various techniques and rigging options for ballyhoo fishing. Here are some of the popular techniques:

Live bait rigging and tactics:  Live ballyhoo can be hooked through the nose with a live bait hook. A stinger hook is trailed behind the nose hook and accounts for the majority of hook-ups.

How to Make Live Bait Rigs

Live ballyhoo can be slow trolled. The best trolling speed is only just enough speed to keep the lights tight and separated.

Balloon Fishing involves attaching a balloon to your line and suspending the the live ballyhoo at a desired depth.

Kite fishing is a technique commonly used to target sailfish. It involves flying a kite with multiple fishing lines attached to it. The ballyhoo bait is suspended from the kite, mimicking the motion of a swimming fish. Kite fishing keeps your bait on the surface and splashing, increasing your chances of attracting fish.

Trolling: Trolling a properly rigged ballyhoo is a versatile technique used in ballyhoo fishing. Experiment with different speeds and depths to find what works best for you.

The most popular rigging technique for trolling ballyhoo is pin-rigging and involves threading an 8/0 or larger j-hook through the body of the ballyhoo.

This technique produces a swimming ballyhoo. There are many other rigging techniques intended to produce different presentation.

TrollTrue lures provide another option for rigging ballyhoo. The beauty of TrollTrue lures is the ease and speed of rigging. The simplicity of rigging with TrollTrue is that everyone can be professional results each and every time.

Pro tips for maximizing success in Ballyhoo fishing

To help you take your ballyhoo fishing game to the next level, here are some pro tips from experienced anglers:

Research and Preparation: Spend time researching your target species, fishing locations, and techniques before heading out. Preparation and knowledge are key to success.

Stay Flexible: Be willing to adapt your strategies and techniques based on the conditions and fish behavior. What worked yesterday may not work today.

Pay Attention to Detail: Small details, such as the quality of your bait, the sharpness of your hooks, and the cleanliness of your gear, can make a big difference in your fishing success.

Keep Learning: Never stop learning and expanding your knowledge. Read fishing books, watch educational videos, and talk to experienced anglers to continue improving your skills.

By following these pro tips and incorporating them into your fishing routine, you'll be well on your way to becoming a successful ballyhoo angler.