Understanding Skirted Lures

Ben Knaggs doesn’t skirt around the issue of Skirted Lures in this article. As Ben explains ” To really get the best out of these lures and catch really good fish really consistently requires a fairly involved system of fishing with many small tweaks to it ” . Ben explains in this article how to rig them , when and why to use these lures and how effective these lures can be. skirt At first blush, a bunch of skirted lures hanging on a tackle store wall resemble a zany looking, very rudimentary imitation of a squid, and don’t really look like they’ll fool many fish. Put them in the water and troll them at a consistent, reasonably fast pace though, and all preconceptions go over the side. Skirted lures do an incredible job of mimicking a fleeing baitfish, which is why these lures are so effective on large pelagic species like marlin, tuna, wahoo, dolphin fish and so on. Anyone can chuck out a skirt and troll up a pelagic, but to really get the best out of these lures and catch really good fish really consistently requires a fairly involved system of fishing with many small tweaks to it. Rigging Skirts Skirt 3 Skirted lures can be rigged in a wide variety of ways and still catch fish – perhaps more ways than any other lure type. While there’s no one ‘correct’ way to rig a skirted lure, there are a few constants regardless of how you go about it. To start with, always rig your skirts with a single hook. Despite what you may think, there is no appreciable difference in hook-up rate fishing one hook compared to two hooks. But what that extra hook definitely will do is weigh the lure down more which dampens its action and could cost bites. Skirt 2 The way the hook is positioned within the skirted body of the lure also has a large affect on the action of the lure. It is essential that the hook sits point up, so that the shank of the hook essentially keels the lure, helping to stabilise it and reduce the chance of it spinning through the water. This is a vitally important aspect of rigging skirted lures as it ensures the lure looks natural and also swims right side up which can be critical with some head styles or colour schemes. This issue of ‘stabilising’ or balancing a skirted lure can be significant with some (not all) head styles that are finely tuned to produce a certain swimming action. A good way to keep the hook in that upright position is to glue a small rubber bung to the back of the lure head. By pushing the top crimp into the bung, you can essentially lock the rig and hook into position with a high degree of accuracy. Alternatively, a couple of toothpicks jammed into the back of the lure head against the leader line and snapped off flush will achieve a similar result, although without as high a degree of accuracy or security. There are probably two main schools of thought as to the best way to attach your hook to the terminal end of your skirted lure leader line. Either use a simple open loop connection with the hook allowed to swing free on its loop or bind every connection to create an inflexible stiff rig that keeps the hook in complete alignment with the lure head at all times. Skirt 1 Both of these approaches will work, but keep in mind that stiff rigging can again inhibit the action of finely tuned lures. For this reason I like a semi-stiff rig which can be achieved by using a short length of multi-strand wire or by doubling over your leader line and crimping in place, finishing off with a small section of heat shrink tubing over the hook eye to stop it from swinging. Speaking of crimps, it’s worth mentioning the importance of learning how to make good crimped connections when rigging skirted lures. Crimps should be used instead of knots for connections in any leader over about 100lb leader line, regardless of what you’re rigging. In the case of skirted lures which are generally used to chase large fish that require heavy leader line, crimped connections are the only way to roll. Setting the Spread In game fishing terms, a ‘spread’ or ‘pattern’ as it’s sometimes also referred to as, is simply the collective term for whatever number of lures you are trolling behind the boat. As skirted lures tend to be most effective when fished in combination, from a trailerboat set up this will typically be a minimum of three and up to five lures. Skirt 6 One of the major things you must get your head around when fishing skirted lures is considering the spread as a whole, with each lure playing a particular part in the collective. This is a fundamental for successful fishing with skirted lures, as a well thought out and well set spread of lures will catch a pile more fish than a random hotch-potch of skirts thrown out the back wherever.
For this reason, it’s important to choose skirted lure types, sizes and colours to suit certain positions in the spread and therefore, contribute to raising more fish more often. For example, big, strong actioned or splashy lure in close on the short corner position may not get eaten very often, but might bring a lot of fish up into the spread, whereupon they eat another lure. So while that big short corner lure may not catch much in its own right, it’s actually helping the other lures around it catch fish. With a little experimentation it quickly becomes evident which position in the spread any one lure is best suited to. As a general rule to help you when purchasing though, the further back in the spread a lure is to be set, the smaller and tighter actioned it should be. So by this logic a big, slant-faced pusher will work best in the short corner position not far behind the back of the boat, whereas a small bullet or jet head skirt that has a straight running, very compact action will do its best work way out the back in the shotgun position. With a well set up spread of skirted lures it’s plain to see why this style of lure is so popular the world over for offshore trolling applications. They really are killers out in the bluewater. Skirt 4
Ben Knaggs

About Ben Knaggs

Born and bred in South Australia, Ben’s love of fishing developed from a very early age and evolved to become an obsession which would ultimately shape his life. Actively involved in fishing related journalism from his mid teens, Ben has written articles for most Australian fishing titles and served as editor of Saltwater Fishing magazine for eight years.

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