Rigging trolling lures like plugs and spoons is fairly straightforward, your main consideration will be limited to the length and material for the leader. From all other aspects, you're pretty much stuck with what you've got.
But skirted trolling lures are a different matter, as they're made up of individual components that can be customised to suit the precise requirements of the angler.
Unlike all other trolling lures - except the cedar plugs and their derivatives - the ultimate strength of the skirted trolling lure is entirely up to the angler rigging it.
The skirt and the lure head don't take any of the load - it's all down to the hook and the leader and the connection between the two. It's no wonder that skirted trolling lures are so popular with big-game fishermen.
But how do you go about rigging trolling lures of this type...
My first venture into the world of offshore trolling was through trailing a plastic squid lure astern of my sailboat. It was only after losing fish after poorly-hooked fish, and having the hook straightened out a few times did I come to the conclusion that all was not as it should be.
Now I only use hooks that are truly up to the job - either the Mustad 'Southern and Tuna' pattern or the Mustad 'Sea Demon' - and I keep them razor sharp. And they're definitely not as sharp as they could be when they come out of the packet, so you'll need to do some work on them with a hook file before using them for the first time, and check them after every fish.
How to check them? Just run the point lightly over your thumbnail - if it tends to catch or dig in, it's sharp. If it just skates over the surface, it isn't.
So far so good - right hook, properly sharp, but what about size?
I can't remember who showed be this trick - but it works. Just check the hook against the head of the lure. If the gape of the hook is pretty much the same as the diameter of the head, then the hook size is about right.
Just one more thing, the location of the hook within the lure.
You don't want it hanging out the back of the lure where it might spook the fish, nor do you want it too far forward where it might not gain a secure hold in the fish's mouth. It needs to be close to the back of the skirt, but still concealed within it.
The precise location can be fine tuned by incorporating plastic beads between the hook and the lure head.
The most popular leader for trolling lures is heavy nylon monofilament line, and rightly so for most applications.
Recently though, having convinced myself that it really makes a difference, I've been gradually swapping these as they become due for replacement, with fluorocarbon line.
Two things to know about fluorocarbon leaders - one is that this stuff is almost invisible under water, and two it's mighty expensive. Much more so than mono, and especially in the high breaking strains that you'll need for offshore trolling. So before you click on the adjacent link, take a deep breath...
Neither of these will stand up to the treatment handed out by predators with a well-developed set of dentures, like wahoo for example. For these you'll need a wire leader.
Think carefully before going down the single-strand wire route though, as it can work-harden and fail when you'd much rather it didn't. This is particularly true when using a trolling lure with a good swimming action. Think of how you snap of the end when tying a haywire twist and you'll see what I mean!
Plastic covered multi-strand wire is a good choice for the toothy chaps, but watch out for nicks and scratches in the coating. Once water gets trapped between the wire and the coating it will quickly corrode - with predictable results.
For the ultimate in durability plain wire cable is the way to go. Nothing, but nothing, will chew through this. But its equally as visible to the fish as is the lure, which is not good news...Read more about choosing the best type of wire for trolling leaders...
Unless you're using a mono or fluorocarbon leader of not more than 100lb breaking strain, knots aren't going to work.
More expense - you'll need a crimping kit for rigging trolling lures with anything other than single-strand wire.
Steer well clear of the $10 crimpers which are intended for squeezing sleeves on light bottom fishing rigs, as they won't last 5 minutes. Get a good quality heavy duty set together with a selection of double-barrelled sleeves (or figure of eight crimps as they're also called) and they'll not let you down.
Crimps though, won't hold in single strand wire - the wire will pull straight through when any load is applied to it. The only way of making a connection in this stuff is with a Haywire Twist.
Whilst that pretty much concludes this article about rigging trolling lures, I should at least mention that there's a deal of mystique surrounding the terminology for lure head designs of skirted lures - jetheads, diggers, straight runners, chuggers etc.
Read more about lurehead design and what each type is best suited for.
And whatever lurehead you're using, sooner or later you'll need to change that tatty old skirt for a new one. Should you worry about its colour?
Read more about replacing lure skirts.