Mackerel are one of the most effective baits for swordfish, especially for anglers drifting at night. Any species of mackerel can be used. The wax floss helps the mackerel rig hold together after multiple slashes from a swordfish bill, and the exposed J-hook helps improve the hookup ratio when a sword eats the bait.
Supplies for this mackerel rig include wax thread, rigging needle, crimping tool, one High Seas 1.7 mm aluminum crimp, a 10/0 Mustad 7691S Hook, six feet of 200lb Blue Izorline monofilament leader, a sharp knife, and a 10- to 12-inch mackerel with the tail clipped off.
Cut a three-foot piece of rigging floss and pull half of it through the eye of the rigging needle. Doubling the floss will add strength to the rig and toughen the bait.
Insert the rigging needle through the mackerel’s head behind the eyes and exit through the opposite side.
Pull most of the floss through the head, leaving about four inches exposed on the side where the needle was inserted.
Wrap the floss underneath the mackerel and insert the needle back through the top of the gill plate.
Pull the needle through the opposite gill plate and run the remaining floss through the mackerel.
Use a knife to cut the floss where it meets the eye of the rigging needle. This will allow you to tie a knot that will close and secure the gill plates.
Run one end of the floss back under the mackerel and connect it to the other end with an overhand knot. Tighten the knot over the gill plates.
Tie at least four overhand knots to keep the floss connection from slipping.
Use the knife to cut the tag ends of the floss. The gill plates are now secured to prevent the mackerel from “washing out” in the current.
Make a small incision in the mackerel’s skin about an inch from its tail.
Crimp the hook to the end of the 200lb monofilament leader, leaving a one inch tag end. The tag end will help secure the tail of the mackerel at the end of the rigging process.
Line up the crimp with the incision near the tail of the mackerel. Lay the hook along the side of the mackerel, making sure the bend of the hook is centered along the body of the bait.
Make another incision with your knife where the middle of the hook bend meets the skin of the bait. This will be the exit point for the point of the hook when the rig is complete.
Insert the hook point into the incision that was made near the tail, with the hook point facing the mackerel’s head.
Carefully bend the mackerel to accommodate the shape of the hook; then run the hook point underneath the skin towards the forward incision. It is important to avoid ripping the skin of the mackerel as the hook is pulled through the body.
Slide the point of the hook out through the forward incision and pull the entire hook through the mackerel until the crimp meets the incision near the tail.
Insert the crimp into the rear incision while pulling the hook through the forward incision until the tag end completely disappears inside the mackerel.
Pull the leader towards the tail. Slide the tag end underneath the skin until it protrudes out the tail end of the bait. The hook should be positioned so the middle of the bend meets the skin at the incision.
This is how the tail end of the mackerel should look after the tag end is pulled underneath the skin.
Double up a three-foot length of floss and run it perpendicular along the backbone on the side where the leader is.
Now run the floss back through the mackerel along the other side of the backbone.
Both ends of the floss should exit the top of the mackerel on opposite sides of the backbone.
Tie the ends together with an overhand knot. Note: Do not over-tighten the knot or else you risk breaking the skin of the mackerel.
Tie at least four overhand knots to ensure that the connection does not slip.
Take either tag end of the floss and begin wrapping it around both pieces of leader at the tail of the bait.
Connect both ends of the floss with an overhand knot.
Continue securing the connection with at least four more overhand knots to prevent slippage.
Cut both tag ends of the rigging floss with the knife.
This rig originated in South Florida, where anglers commonly drift for swordfish at night in the Gulfstream current. The mackerel rig is most effective when fished in conjunction with a breakaway weight up to 400ft below the surface. When rigged properly, the mackerel will last for hours before it washes out.