Thursday, November 22, 2007

Build Your Own Hellbender-Pet Spoon Rig

In the fishing circles I'm involved in, this trolling rig is known as the Hell-Pet rig because it uses two different lures tied together in tandem with a drop line. The Heddon Hellbender must be modified in order to get the trailing Tony Accetta Pet Spoon to a precise depth with less line having to be let out. Steve Bradbury first showed this method to me several years ago.

Modifying the Hellbender
Picture #1 shows several different sized Tony Accetta Pet Spoons. Only the #12 and #13 sizes are recommended for the Hell-Pet rig. A 3/4-ounce casting weight is also needed. The distance between each black mark in the picture is 1-inch so you can see the sizes when compared to the Hellbender. The Hellbender comes in a variety of colors but the two colors I prefer are solid white or chrome.
Click on the pictures to enlarge them, then click on the Back arrow to come back to the article. The blue object you see in the pictures is only a prop I used to help steady the Hellbender for pictures.


Picture #1 - Parts of the rig

Picture #2 shows what components need to be removed from the Heddon Hellbender. Note the little tail spinner blade that comes with the Hellbender is removed from the small swivel and the swivel is left in place on the lure. You can either 1. cut the split ring that holds the spinner to the swivel with a pair of side-cutters or 2. spread the split ring with your thumb nail and remove the spinner with its split ring from the swivel. You will attach the 4-foot drop line for the Pet Spoon to this swivel to help eliminate any drop line twist.

Remove both of the hook eyelets and their bell housings from the lure using a pair of pliers to unscrew them with. If your Hellbender came with treble hooks on them, you will need to remove only the treble hook that is hanging on the front eyelet. You can do this by following the eyelet opening procedure shown in Picture #3 and #4 instructions below.

Picture #2 - removal of HB parts

Picture #3 and #4 shows you how to carefully open the front eyelet of the Hellbender once it is unscrewed from the body and then crimp it closed again after the casting weight has been installed. Use a pair of regular pliers and grip the shaft of the eyelet in the pliers as close to the eyelet as possible. Then take a small, thin-bladed straight slot screwdriver and place the tip of it in the gap where the eyelet end stops. Lever the screwdriver against the pliers and pry the eyelet open just enough to slip the 3/4-ounce casting weight brass stem eyelet onto the slightly opened threaded eyelet and crimp the threaded eyelet closed again with the pliers.

The brass stem on the casting weight should allow the weight to swivel around 360° both directions.

Picture #3 - open the eyelet

Picture #4 - crimp the eyelet back

Picture #5 shows the completed re-assembly. You need to replace the front screw eyelet-with-weight and its bellhousing to the front of the Hellbender. The back eyelet doesn't need to be re-installed. I personally prefer to use a very small Phillips head screw and a dab of silicon and screw the screw into the rear eyelet position with the head of the screw nested into the cavity that once held the bellhousing. This helps prevent water from entering the lure which would severely affect the Hellbender's action.

Picture #5 - fill the rear eyelet hole

Tying on the Drop Line
I use 12 or 15 pound test on my baitcasting reel and a quick tip 7-foot baitcasting rod. I tie a 10 or 12 pound test drop line 4-feet long to the back swivel on the modified Hellbender. Cut the drop line to about 54" to allow for any line used at both ends for tying.

I then tie a #12 or #13 Pet Spoon to the other end of the drop line. The finished line length between the Hellbender and Pet Spoon shouldn't be any shorter than 36" or any longer than 48". I like to use the #13 size because smaller sandbass tend to shy away from its large profile. I like to set the drag loose (I can pull line off the reel with one hand) in case a hybrid or striper decides to unload.

Setting the Depth of the Rig
Once I have the rig ready to fish, I put the boat in forward gear and get it moving between 2.5-3.0 mph (GPS reading) on the trolling line I want. I put my reel in free-spool and with my thumb on the spool, lower the Hell-Pet rig into the water making sure the drop line is not fouled on the Hellbender, let the Hellbender down into the water until it begins digging in and wobbling, then let line free spool off the reel while counting 1 mississippi, 2 mississippi, etc. I carry a permanent black marker with me so when I let the line out on the first pass, I can color mark the line just ahead of the reel with the black marker. Then I don't have to keep counting every time I let line out. If the fish go deeper, all you have to do is use the length of your rod and the black mark to judge how much additional line you need to let out.

I prefer to keep the rig off the bottom, so I will count down to 2-feet above the bottom reading. For example, if it is 18 feet deep, I will 1 mississippi count to 16. I like to keep the rod tip about a foot above the water surface. If the bottom starts coming up, raise the rod tip accordingly to keep the lure from striking bottom, even if you have to stick your arm and rod straight up into the air!

When you get a fish on, start reeling with your rod at about the 10 o'clock position. The Hell-Pet will come to the surface and you can basically "water ski" the fish back to the boat (unless it is a hybrid or striper).

I recommend the original Tony Accetta Pet Spoon and not the knock-off brands. The knock-off brands have been known to fail (the screw that holds the single hook to the spoon loosens and fish pull the hook out).

Good luck and have fun with the Hell-Pet rig.

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