Saltwater Edge Tackle and Tactics: Hand Line Basics

Newport is recognized as one of the sailing capital’s of the world. As a result every fall we get requests from sailors who are headed to the Caribbean to provide a rig for trolling at sailing speed. Storing rods and reels and stopping the boat to fight the fish are not really an option on most vessels. Therefore hand lines are the most efficient way to score a fresh meal. Here is a primer on hand lining essentials for offshore sailors and fisherman. In this post we will cover equipment and some basic rigging for a hand line. To start, here is the list of components in the picture and a short description:

  • 9” hand reel with 100′ of 400lb mono line.
  • Rapala X-Rap lure rigged with 10′ of 180lb fluorocarbon leader.
  • Rigged squid with 5′ of 200lb mono leader.
  • Hand line monofilament: 400lb test is a popular line class to pull in a fish by hand.
  • Leader material: What pound test line to use as a leader (attaches the mono to the plug) can vary, but the basic idea is; the heavier test line will be more visible to the fish, decreasing hook up probability, while lighter test line will increase the liklihood of losing a bigger fish from the leader breaking. I chose 180lb fluorocarbon for the diving xrap lure to accommodate mahi, wahoo, small marlin and tuna.
  • Crimp Pliers and Sleeves that fit the line test accordingly (match diameters).
  • Split ring pliers, heavy split rings, heavy swivel for attaching heavy mono section to leaders. The swivel is key because it prevents the line from knotting and twisting. A very large snap swivel can supplement the split ring and swivel system.
  • Optional gear not shown: gloves for handling line and fish, bungee cord and paracord.

Lures. For this particular hand line kit I chose a Rapala X-Rap, a Carlson Rigged Squid, and two daisy chains. All are extremely productive lures and can be used for different occasions or at the same time with multiple hand lines.

The X-Rap is a swimming lure that dives to 30′. I used a long fluorocarbon leader instead of heavy mono to help disguise the line since it will be below the surface. This lure is great for cruising at faster speeds (4-7 knots).


For night, fog and slower speeds I chose an artificial glow squid. Pink and rainbow are some other popular colors. 200lb test mono leader or heavier can be used since the squid will swim on or just below the surface with the leader out of plain sight of the fish. squidlurewDaisy chains in all green and rainbow are lethal lures offshore and can be trolled at all different speeds. Make sure the daisy chain is built with heavy mono!



Rigging. From boat to lure: thick paracord section; one end tied to cleat and other to the loop of the 400lb mono hand line section. Then from the swivel/split ring end of 400lb mono attach the split ring to the loop end of the leader (lure on other end of leader). The split rings or snap swivel are the key because they allow easy change between leaders and lures. Here are some shots of the connections I used in this system:

This end attaches to the paracord (flemish eye loop)
RopeEndSwivel with split rings for interchangeable leaders and luresmonoTOleader handlinecloseuploop end of the leader for connecting the split rings of heavy mono hand line section
xrapotherendconnectionleader crimped to X-Rap
xrapconnection Crimp pliers, cimp sleeves, split ring pliers, split rings, and swivelscrimpsPliers


Using a snubber. A snubber allows a little give in the line when the fish hits so lighter leaders wont break on impact and so the hook doesn’t rip out of the mouth fishes mouth when it strikes.

handline-fishing-snubber(photo from

Lastly the lures can be trolled anywhere from 10 – 100+ feet behind the boat. This should depend on the captains preference and how much exercise you need while at sea.

Call us at the shop 401-842-0062 to have a custom hand line rigged to your needs!

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