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How to Hook Live Shrimp: Three Techniques to Improve Your Odds

The enduring popularity of live shrimp as bait is a testament to just how effective they are at enticing a bite from redfish, snook, specks, and other inshore game fish. 

And while other options will catch fish - cut mullet, minnows, crabs, and the like - in my experience, nothing beats shrimp.

But as experienced fishermen will tell you, there’s more to rigging shrimp than simply stabbing one with a hook. 

Rigging shrimp under a popping cork, on a jig head, for long casts, or for moving tides demands different techniques, and a little knowledge goes a long way to getting the most from your live bait.

If you want to know more about rigging live shrimp on a hook, keep reading!


How To Hook Live Shrimp: Three Techniques to Improve Your Odds

Hook selection

Right off the bat I want to recommend that you use circle hooks with live shrimp - indeed with any live bait.

Gamakatsu Straight Eye Inline Octopus Circle Hook-Pack Of 25 (Black, 8/0)


The reasons are simple. The sweeping bend that brings the point back toward the shank is an ideal shape to hold bait, that’s true. But the real secret of the circle hook is that it’s self-hooking, sliding into place as the fish takes your bait and starts to swim.

All you need to do is start reeling, and you’ll have a lock-tight hookset.

Pros, charter captains, and seasoned veterans all agree that their hook-up percentages improved when they switched to circle hooks, and you’ll also experience a lot fewer deep hook scenarios.

Under a popping cork

Many anglers on the Gulf coast are addicted to sight fishing reds in shallow water. They’ll spot their tail fins cutting the surface, pull in as close as they dare, and cast to them with a live shrimp rigged under a popping cork.

Big orange popping corks and live shrimp are great for redfish

Big orange popping corks and live shrimp are a deadly combo on reds.

The excitement of seeing that big cork disappear and watching your line take off to the right or left is heart stopping!

To get the most from your shrimp under a popping cork, you want it alive and kicking. Shrimp swim with pulsed convulsions of their tail, and you want to preserve this predator-attracting motion as much as possible.

Bomber Salt Water Paradise Popper Xtreme Jigs, Orange


Popping corks like this one from Bomber Lures are easy to rig and use, and simply murder with live shrimp.

I like to run my hook through the shell on the back, above the tail and behind the head. Don’t go deep - you want to avoid any organs and pass the hook only through flesh and shell.

This will secure the shrimp pretty well, leave it alive and kicking its tail for quite a while, and place the hook where it’s ready for an immediate hookset.

An alternative is to run the hook through the top of the head between the eyes and the dark spot at the back of the head. You want to penetrate just below the long “horn” that runs down the middle of the head.

This has many of the same advantages as back hooking, but the hook is placed even more favorably in that fish are going to hit the shrimp head first.

On a jig head

Running a shrimp on a jig head allows loong accurate casts and is perfect for working deeper water.

And while hooking a shrimp with a jig head is far from rocket science, there are lots of ways to get it wrong and only one that’s right.

Strike King Saltwater Flats Jig Head/Pearl ,0.5-Ounce


¼- and ½-ounce jig heads are ideal for rigging live shrimp.

Start by removing the fan-portion of the shrimp’s tail. Then carefully feed the hook into the center of the meat, bringing the point up and out of the shrimp’s back.

how to hook live shrimp on a jig head

This is the right way to rig shrimp on a jig head, and it really will make a difference.

Don’t bring the hook through the belly, as the shrimp will just slide down the hook and be presented poorly.

Pompano, reds, and triple tails just can’t resist a live shrimp rigged this way. I’ll typically start with a ¼-ounce jig, moving up to a ½-ounce jig head if I need greater casting distance, the current’s getting heavier, or if the fish are holding deep.

For moving tides and heavy currents

Reds love a moving tide, and they’re far from alone. Lots of predatory species like a bit of current, as it drags prey items along with it, allowing them to wait in ambush.

The secret to a secure live shrimp in a heavy current is simple: head hooking.

We’e already discussed this technique as an alternative to back hooking under a popping cork, but it bears repeating.

If you look carefully at a shrimp’s head, you’ll see three features: its eyes, a long “horn” running the length of the head, and a dark spot at the rear of the head. 

You want to pass your hook just under that horn, centered between the eyes and the dark spot.

This will offer a life-like presentation, keep the shrimp alive, and offer a great hookset.

Final Thoughts

Rigging live shrimp on a hook is easy and effective - once you know what you’re doing.

We hope that you’ve learned something from this article today, and as always, we’re here to answer any questions you might have.

Please leave a comment below and we’ll be in touch!

About The Author
Pete Danylewycz
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Pete grew up fishing on the Great Lakes. Whether he's casting a line in a quiet freshwater stream or battling a monster bass, fishing is his true passion.