When I was 16 years old, there was nothing I wanted more than to become 1st mate on one of the many charter boats that fished out of Dauphin Island, Alabama. It was my dream to follow in my brother’s footsteps and earn the big payday that I saw the other deckhands pulling in. $80 bucks for 15 hours of work? Get paid to go fishing? Sign me up! What could be better? One fateful morning as a lay in bed, the phone rang and I got my opportunity. “Can you be at the dock in the next 20 minutes?” the captain asked, and I immediately said yes. Turns out, the first mate had a little too much fun the night before, and this wasn’t the first time. Lucky for me, my window of opportunity had opened, and I wasn’t about to let it close.
I learned a lot that first day, mostly that I had a lot more to learn. The predominant way to bottom fish back then was to have 3-4 anglers of the stern off the boat fishing “sow rigs” while the remainder of the fisherman walked up the sides of the boat armed with a two-hook rig and a bucket of cut squid and mullet. You had to fish this way, because the sow rigs were typically fished with an 8 ounce egg weight higher in the water column, where they were more susceptible to current and boat movements. If they were fished up the sides next to the two hook rigs, they would quickly tangle with the 12 ounce bank sinkers that were resting on the bottom. I didn’t know this of course, so I let my fisherman take the sow rigs all around the boat, creating tangles the likes of which few have ever bee seen. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen 8 guys on one side of a boat fighting the 8 guys on the other, all screaming that they’ve got the big one. I can’t say they were wrong.
When I got back to the dock that afternoon, all my tackle was busted, and I knew I better get smart quick if I wanted to keep this job. So I did what any 16 year old would do. I found the wisest person I knew at the time, 20 year old Skipper Thierry. I begged Skipper to show me how to tie rigs for my trip the next day. Skipper spent about 30 minutes with me that evening, showing me how to tie what we called the “two-hook rig.” After seeing my work, he recommended I go home and tie rigs until I fell asleep! He gave me a handful of sow rigs to use because he knew I wasn’t ready for that challenge yet.
I did what he said, and within a week I could tie two hook rigs with amazing speed. As one of my fisherman would ask me EVERY SINGLE DAY, “Are you going to be the master baiter today?” I would answer, “Nay sir, I am not a master baiter, I am a master of the two hook rig.” I usually tied 50 or more rigs each day. There is no telling how many of these rigs I have tied in my lifetime. Call them what you want: The two hook rig, double hook rig, or the chicken rig, but I’ve seen this rig land 70 lb cobia, giant red snapper, huge grouper, and tons upon tons of beeliners and triggerfish (two at a time in many cases). No bottom fish is safe from it’s tantalizing offering. One piece of fish, one piece of squid? Heck I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. So lets get into it.
To tie this rig, you will need the following:
Clear Monofilament or Flourocarbon (I like 80 lb test, but I have used as small as 40 lb and as much as 100 lb) I like monofilament because it is less expensive. Flourocarbon certainly helps in some applications, but I do not think it is necessary for bottom fishing this way.
Circle Hooks: 8/0 is a good size, small enough for the gulf aggregate species like vermillion snapper and triggerfish, but strong enough to handle a large red snapper.
Styrofoam “Card” (This is a rectangular piece of styrofoam, usually cut from an old cooler. It is the only way I have found to store these types of rigs without tangling them.
Now, we’ve written about classic live bait rigs before. Although some like to use three way swivels, I find that time consuming and more expensive. Also, generally speaking, less terminal tackle equals more bites. With Snapper season fast approaching, you should learn how to tie the two hook rig and put a few out on your next fishing trip. It is a fundamental rig that every angler should know how to tie.