Halibut live bait rig

#1
What’s the best way to rig a live bait for halibut off a high pier like the ones in Monterey Bay?

I’ve been using a sliding sinker (fish finder) or Carolina rig with egg sinker to a 2 ft Fluoro leader with a live bait hook (the type with a short shank), but I worry that the hook is too small or will require close attention on the rod (ie. holding it) to get a proper hook set. I’ve used circle hooks in the past, but those seemed to lead to the live bait to die more quickly. The live bait hooks have been keeping them alive pretty well.

I’m also going to try the three way swivel setup. I’ve had limited success with it in the past as it gets tangled fairly easy.

Any tips appreciated!
 

K1n

Active member
#2
In my opinion, I'd use a three way or a dropper loop setup. It keeps the bait higher off the bottom. Yes, it leads to a little more line twist, but keeping the bait away from the bottom feeders is well worth it. Funny thing is, I like run my dropper loop high. It sits about 3' from the sinker minimum. I've caught all of my halibut fishing higher. Used to us a hi-lo and ended up always getting the halibut on the top hook. I reason since the line sits at an angle, the higher hook is more visible to fish. But I am not ashamed to admit dumb luck too.
I like to use a thin wire circle hook, think gamakatsu nataulis light or owner mutulight circle hooks to lessen the impact of hooking a live bait. I haven't been good with using live bait hooks because I get distracted fishing while bait fishing. Either I miss the bite or the fish swallows the thing and I have to cut it for short fish. Circle hooks do all the work for me.
 

Red Fish

Well-known member
#3
  1. Owner Mutu-light circle from size 4-3/0. Hayabusa light wire circle work too.
  2. If your live bait is dying from you hooking it, you’re perhaps hooking it wrong? Match the size hook to the size bait. Perpendicular to the nose is always good.
  3. I have used any type of rig you can imagine and had success with them all. My motto now is “the one that doesn’t tangle up is the one you want.” And I have noticed at different piers different rigs work better. I.E. - the ocean piers from Santa Cruz south, a sliding egg sinker with 2-5’ of line seems to work best.
  4. At SF Bay piers: I have used slip-float rigs, two to three dropper-loop rigs, one or two three-way swivel rigs (with variable lengths on the hook or weight legs), trolley rig (throw out a weight/slide bait down on a snap swivel, and the “packaged halibut rigs” that I make myself with sliding beads.
  5. They all have caught Cali Hali
 
Last edited:
#4
Follow-up: how do you set your reels and do hooksets?

My understanding is that the drag should be loose to let the halibut take the fish and run a bit, since halibut often like to mouth the bait. Once it seems the halibut has the fish in its mouth, tighten the drag and simply reel down (if using circle hooks) or do a hook set (on regular j hooks).
 

Red Fish

Well-known member
#5
Follow-up: how do you set your reels and do hooksets?

My understanding is that the drag should be loose to let the halibut take the fish and run a bit, since halibut often like to mouth the bait. Once it seems the halibut has the fish in its mouth, tighten the drag and simply reel down (if using circle hooks) or do a hook set (on regular j hooks).
-Okay, you could let the fish run (if you have a light, light drag running set) and then tighten up as they take off (if you catch up to your rod while they are still running).
-Really, you can set a couple pounds of drag and the halibut will hang itself on the hook. I have set it just right where I just go to get my net while I see the road load up. Work’s especially well on limber, slow action rods.
-Finally, on an offset circle hook, you have the option to just set the hook the same way you would with a hook that is not a circle.