A garfish rig is a great way to catch Spanish Mackerel

Garfish rig for trolling up mackerel – How To Video

Here’s possibly the best garfish rig for trolling up mackerel and other toothy sportsfish.

While jigs and metal slices are great for mackerel when they’re on the bottom, a trolled garfish rig is the best way to entice a bite when they hit the surface.

When riggiing, first check out our previous blog on making a wire trace for mackerel as this is used in the garfish rig.

Spanish Mackerel

Catching mackerel on jigs is great when they’re on the bottom.


A great way to troll for mackerel is using a garfish rig.

A great way to troll for mackerel is using a garfish rig.

Items required to make a garfish rig

  1. Gar spring or rubber bands to hold the garfish rig in place
  2. Gang of hooks dependant on garfish size – typically 3×8/0 for larger gar and 2×8/0 or 3×6/0 for smaller gar
  3. Preferred wire trace material typically single strand stainless.
  4. Wog head or other such lure

The gar spring or rubber band is used to hold the gar in place while trolling. Without them the bait will tear off the hooks under the water pressure. The wog head is weighted and keeps the gar under the surface where they are deadly for catching big mackerel.

Troll speed can vary on the tide but usually 5-6 knots.

Occasionally when I mark fish on the sounder I’ll pull up and let the garfish rig sink till it’s almost vertical, then drive off at a brisk 8 knots. Doing so pulls the gar vertically towards the surface stimulating them to bite.

Spanish mackerel are susceptible to ANY vertical retrieve.

Regarding hooks, I like to use the Tarpon pattern, model 7766 in the Mustad and model 6026 in the Eagle Claw.

How to attach the gar to the rig is demonstrated in the video below;



While spanish mackerel have been implicated in outbreaks of ciguatera poisoning,  they are a top grade food fish and very safe to eat if you avoid the larger varieties. I myself have had a dose of ciguatera and believe me, it's no fun.

As a sportsfish, mackerel pull like steam trains and are some of the fastest fish in the ocean. They also have razor sharp teeth, which is why we recommend using wire when rigging gar for trolling them.

Good leather deck shoes are also a must when you have mackerel flapping around on the deck.

When we used to marlin fish we quite often used thongs or bare feet. But mackerel fishing we always used deck shoes.

On one occasion there were several mackerel on deck, and one slid across with the rocking of the boat and clamped down hard on my leather deck shoe.

The boys worked quickly to open the mouth of the fish while I stood stock still. Once prized open, my shoe had been chomped and luckily I was almost unscathed with only four pin holes on the top of my foot where the teeth had penetrated the leather.

If I had thongs on I could have lost my toes. They are THAT dangerous - even near death that fish could have done some major damage.

If you've had a near miss (or maybe not so miss) with mackerel or other toothy critters, I'd love to hear your war story in the comments below.




Learn how to read your sounder to pick up mackerel and other fish in our Sounder Skills 1 online course. At only $19.99 what have you got to lose?



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About The Author

Ryan Moody

Ryan Moody started his fishing career on the reef boats before catching bucket list marlin for the likes of champion heavy tackle angler Johnno Johnson, INXS and the King of Sweden. Branching out in the late 80's to guided barramundi fishing, Ryan has made a name for himself as a Big Barramundi specialist and to date has put clients onto over 2000 metre plus barra. That is over 2 kilometres of metre plus barra! With attitudes changing from 'keep all you can' towards catch and release, Ryan has decided to share his extensive knowledge and hopefully inspire people of all ages to get out from behind the computer screen/TV and into the fishing outdoors lifestyle he has spent his life perfecting.

Facebook comments


  • Jeffrey

    Reply Reply May 19, 2022

    Hi Guys,

    Nice video on rigging garfish to troll for mackerel. Two quick questions – have you tried using rubber bands rather than gar springs, and are there any colours that work better for the wog heads, or do you use what is available?

    Thanks in advance of a helpful response, and have a good one.

    • Ryan Moody

      Reply Reply May 20, 2022

      We used to do the same but went to the springs so there was no rubber bands ending up in the environment. It seems insignificant in when compared to how much the ocean is polluted by plastic already but every but helps. We used white green and pink mixed colours mostly
      Cheers mate

  • Geoff Zerbst

    Reply Reply March 25, 2021

    What speed do you trawl the gar ? Good information Thanks

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