Knowing how to rig live shrimp involves an understanding of your fishing environment. If you’re planning to bait game fish with live shrimp, you’ll want to ensure you hook your shrimp appropriately, as you’ll find certain fishing conditions unaccommodating to some live rigs.
Two through-the-carapace rigs work well when you’re attempting to drift or float your shrimp. The first of these has you run the hook through the middle of the carapace, between the shrimp’s pancreas and stomach. This hooking method allows you to hang the shrimp in a current or just below the water’s surface, where the shrimp’s kicking motion should encourage game fish to bite.
The second through-the-carapace rig has you start the hook beneath the shrimp’s head then guide it through the carapace, so that the shank points forward just above the eyes. The shrimp won’t live as long as it will when hooked through the middle of the carapace; that particular rig allows the hook to pass between, not through, the vital organs. But this rig is much sturdier and better-suited to longer casts.
Best Way to Rig Live Shrimp for Long Casts
This next rig is designed for longer casting while allowing you to use the shrimp’s kicking and scent to lure fish. Start the hook through the shrimp’s tail rather than its carapace. You’ll first have to remove the tail fan. Then run the hook’s shank in through the end of the tail and up through to the tail’s middle, so that the shank pops out of the tail bottom and the eye and the knot of fishing line are buried inside the tail’s end. This puts the heavier carapace forward when casting out; your shrimp will lose a little of its kick when hooked through the tail like this, but the rig reduces the likelihood of the shrimp tearing off the hook before hitting the water. And when a shrimp’s tail fan is removed—you should make sure you do this first, before starting the hook—a scent is released which game fish often find as enticing as the shrimp’s kicking.
Two additional through-the-tail rigs are ideal for drift-fishing. You might wonder: how to rig live shrimp without sacrificing the shrimp’s luring qualities? These two rigs show you how to rig live shrimp in ways that allow the shrimp to work its legs while leaving the hook’s shank exposed, so that it can easily set itself in the mouth of a game fish that takes the shrimp on head-first.
The first of these rigs works particularly well when you’re casting into grassier water. After removing the shrimp’s tail fan, start the hook down through the tail’s tip. Once the shank has passed through the tip, turn the hook so the shank is facing up and pull the hook back until the shank is fully embedded within the meaty part of the tail just behind the carapace. Concealing the hook like this ensures clean, grassless retrieval.
If you’re fishing from an anchored boat and attempting short casts into nearby currents, then running the hook up through the tip of the shrimp’s tail should prove effective at keeping the hook’s shrank from snagging on bottom debris. And though you don’t have to, removing the shrimp’s tail fan will release that enticing scent into the water, drawing more game fish and increasing the likelihood of a catch.
Really the way you rig your shrimp should be dependent on the size of the shrimp you are using, where you are fishing, how you are fishing and what species you are fishing. The key with any rig is keeping the shrimp alive, because that live shrimp movement is what triggers bites and keeps you hooked up.