How To Do Decoy Rigging: Tips & Secrets


Decoy rigging is an easy task, but you can easily underestimate the importance of rigging decoys correctly.

Properly rigged decoys can make the difference between a great hunt, a day of chasing decoys, or fighting a tangled mess.

You do not want to remain focused on your decoys instead of focusing on waterfowl.

Decoy rigging must be light enough to transport easily, quick to deploy for the correct water depth, and securely hold decoys in place.

Decoy Rigging

decoy rigging

Anywhere there is water, you will find waterfowl, and they are hunted in a wide range of weather conditions and water depths.

For waterfowlers, wind is both a blessing and a curse.

Typically, waterfowl land into the wind. I have seen some ducks, especially teal, give little regard to wind direction when landing.

This makes it fairly easy to predict the direction from which waterfowl will approach for landing, and it tells you the best decoy placement for your area.

Today, there are numerous companies marketing decoy rigging systems and system components covering a variety of water conditions, such as shallow water Texas Rigs, deep water gang rigs, fast water rigs, and jerk rigs.

You have to realize that no single decoy rigging system works for all conditions.

By choosing a rigging system that is quick and easy to change, you can put together a couple of different rigging systems to allow hunting a wider variety of areas and conditions.

Consider The Depth Of The Water

To determine the best decoy rigging system for your type of hunting conditions, you have to first consider the depth of the water.

If your anchor line will not contact the bottom, the rig is useless.

At the same time, using a deepwater rig in shallow water areas will cause problems from the excess line.

In tidal areas, a shallow water system will have problems maintaining contact with the bottom, if the water level is rising.

Chose Your Anchor Style

decoy rigging

The next consideration is the anchor style. Different water conditions require different anchor styles.

For example, if you hunt open water divers in rolling waves deeper than 5 feet, a heavy anchor designed to bite into the hard bottom will provide greater decoy security in stiff winds or choppy water.

There are various commercially available anchors that meet these requirements, and the mini mushroom anchor is a great choice.

If you chase mallards or other puddle ducks in the shallows, lead strap anchors and 4-8 ounce egg sinkers work great.

Lead straps are great for wrapping around decoy necks and securing anchor lines, but egg sinkers are easier to retrieve from submerged vegetation.

If you hunt heavy, fast currents or tidal waters, a simple one pound lead ingot with a small hole drilled through the center makes a great decoy anchor.

Lead ingots and ingot molds are available from lure making suppliers, as well as reloading suppliers.

Lead ingots are shaped like a long, flat-topped pyramid, with a wider base and narrower top.

Attaching the decoy line with the wider base of the ingot towards the decoy and knotting the line on both sides allows the ingot to bite into the bottom and hold securely.

When the hunt ends, this set-up will allow easy retrieval.

For gang rigs, or long lines, decoys are “anchored” to a main line by decoy clips that are attached to a short, 3-foot length of decoy cord attached to the decoy with a heavy-duty snap swivel.

The mainline is held in place by a 3-6 pound folding anchor.

This style of folding anchor allows it to take up less space when stowed.

Its grappling hook design lets it firmly hold to the bottom when it is deployed.

This style of folding anchor is extremely effective for jerk rigs, as well.

Pick Your Decoy Line

The type of decoy line you choose could mean the difference of having to re-rig your decoys every season or having ones that will last.

Just as important as anchor choice, the type of decoy line you choose could mean the difference between having to re-rig your decoys every season or having ones that will last.

Stout, high-quality decoy lines are commercially available and are relatively cheap, and they are designed to resist abrasions and damage from gasoline and other petroleum products.

For shallow water, heavy duty 250-500 pound test monofilament fishing line works great.

The stiff, rugged mono reduces the risk of tangled decoy lines, as well.

For decades, decoy lines were simple, braided or twisted cords.

Many of these lines were tar-coated to prevent rotting and increase their strength.

To this day, tarred, braided lines are still the most commonly used decoy line for deepwater rigs, heavy current rigs, and gang rigs.

These coated lines are available through commercial fishing suppliers and decoy supply sources.

Coated lines offer a lifetime of service and are darkly colored to disappear in bottom muck.

Length Of Your Decoy Line

The length of decoy line should reflect the water depths you hunt. Typically, puddle duck decoy lines should be 3-6 feet long.

For deep water diver decoys, it is fairly common to use lines up to 20 feet long.

For gang rigs, a mainline of 100-300 feet is standard. Jerk rigs are usually 100 feet long to accommodate various set-ups.

In this modern age of waterfowling, the Texas Rig has become the king of shallow water decoy rigging systems.

This rig is very simplistic, yet very effective. It consists of a length of heavy, stiff monofilament fishing line, an egg sinker, a large, heavy-duty snap swivel, and two line crimps.

Once you have determined the water depth for your location, cut the monofilament to the proper length.

A good rule to use for length is 2 feet longer than the water depth.

Now, take one end of the mono and pass it through one side of the line crimp.

With this section, form a loop about the diameter of a D-cell battery, push the tag end of the mono into the other side of the line crimp, and squeeze the crimp with a pair of slip-joint pliers or crimping pliers, if you have them, to lock the crimp in place.

Thread the other end of the mono through the egg sinker, the swivel, and one side of the other line crimp.

Form another loop like before, push the tag end into the remaining side of the line crimp, and squeeze the line crimp to lock it into place.

Your Texas Rig is now complete.

Simply snap the swivel onto the decoy keel, and it is ready to hunt. For simple and tidy storage, slip one loop onto a carabiner and hang the carabiner on a wall hook.

Your decoys are now properly stored and protected, and your rigging remains tangle free.

Hunting In Deep Water

If you hunt deeper water or just prefer braided decoy cord, these decoy rigs are fairly simple as well.

This rig consists of an anchor, decoy cord, and a large, heavy-duty snap swivel.

Again, you must determine the water depth you are hunting and cut the cord to an appropriate length.

This set-up offers the advantage of anchoring decoys in a wider range of water depths as the excess cord can be wrapped around the decoy keel.

Once you have decided on a cord length, you must choose the style of anchor that best suits the water conditions.

For shallow water, egg sinkers, lead straps, or lead J-shaped anchors work great.

For heavy current, wind, or tides mini mushroom anchors and lead ingots are top performers.

After you have decided on the best anchor, the only thing left is putting it together.

Tie one end of the decoy cord to the anchor with a strong, secure knot.

Tie the other end of the cord to the snap swivel, and you are done. Snap the swivel onto your decoy, and it is ready to hunt.

If you want a more permanent set-up, eliminate the snap swivel and tie the cord directly to the decoy keel.

Using a loop knot will give the decoy a greater freedom of movement in wind or current, much like the snap swivel does.

When stored, wrap the cord around the keel or Figure-8 the cord around the neck, back, and tail.

How To Deploy A Large Flock Of Decoys

If you want to deploy a large flock of decoys quickly and efficiently on the water, a gang rig is the answer

If you want to deploy a large flock of decoys quickly and efficiently on the water, a gang rig is the answer.

A gang rig, or long line, consists of a folding anchor, a heavy, braided mainline, line clips, short, three feet lengths of decoy cord, and large, heavy-duty snap swivels.

The length of the mainline should be tailored to the depth of the water.

For shallower water, a 100-200 feet mainline is recommended.

For deeper water, a 200-300 feet long mainline works best.

The size of your folding anchor can vary with the water depth.

A shallow water set-up with calmer conditions works well with a 3-4 pound folding anchor.

A deepwater set-up with the potential for rougher conditions will benefit from a heavier 6-pound folding anchor. To start, tie one end of the mainline cord to the folding anchor.

Building The Rig

From here there are a couple of ways to build the rig.

The first method, and in my opinion the easiest, use decoy line clips.

Take one of the short, 3 feet sections of decoy cord, tie one end to a decoy line clip, and tie the other end to a snap swivel.

Next, attach the snap swivel to a decoy.

When you are ready to hunt, simply drop the anchor, clamp a decoy line clip onto the mainline, drop the decoy into the water, and attach the next decoy in the system.

The second set-up uses line crimps and barrel swivels, instead of decoy line clips.

After attaching the anchor, slide a line crimp onto the mainline and crimp it in place where you want the first decoy to be positioned.

Next, slide on a barrel swivel followed by another line crimp.

Space the second line crimp about one inch away from the first one and crimp in place.

The two-line crimps prevent the barrel swivel from sliding up and down the mainline.

Repeat this process for the number of decoys you want in your gang rig.  You can position your decoys as close together or as far apart as you like.

A general rule of thumb is to position your decoys from 4-8 feet apart.

Next, tie a short, 3 feet section of decoy cord onto each barrel swivel. Then tie the other end of each decoy cord onto a snap swivel.

The rig is complete and only needs a decoy attached to each snap swivel when it is time to hunt.

The Benefits Of A Gang Ring

Setting up gang rigs allows you to set out and retrieve a large number of decoys quickly and easily.

Setting up gang rigs allows you to set out and retrieve a large number of decoys quickly and easily.

Instead of handling several yards of line per decoy, you retrieve one short line and unclip each decoy as they are pulled on board.

Gang lines are easily stored in a bucket.

This makes deployment quick and easy.

The gang line feeds out as each decoy is clipped on and dropped overboard.

Once all of the decoys are deployed, simply drop the folding anchor into the water.

In some situations, such as precise decoy placement or without regard to wind or current direction, a second folding anchor is attached to the other end of the mainline.

Also, gang rigs have added benefits in high winds or heavy currents.

This system reduces the angle of the mainline, which increases the natural look of your decoys.

With a steeper line angle, decoy movement is reduced, and decoy bounce and diving increases.

Jerk Lines

You cannot talk about decoy rigging without talking about jerk rigs, or jerk lines.

We all know that natural movement attracts waterfowl, and ripples from a swimming duck are as natural as it gets.

To reproduce this movement with decoys, we use a jerk rig.

One pull of the cord and you can add motion and realism to an otherwise dead-looking decoy spread.

A jerk rig consists of a folding anchor, decoy cord, snap swivels, and bungee cord.

The length of decoy cord is dictated by your distance from your decoys.

A practical starting point is 100 feet of decoy cord.

You can wrap the excess cord around a length of dowel rod, or another type of handle or line holder, if you need to shorten this distance, and you can tie on another section of decoy cord if you need to extend this length.

Putting It All Together

The anchor must hold the rig securely in place when you pull on the cord, and a 3-6 pound folding anchor works extremely well for this.

Another anchor option for shallow water is a 4 feet length of steel rod or rebar driven into the bottom.

To put it all together, start by tying the bungee cord to the anchor.

Then tie one end of the decoy cord to the other end of the bungee cord.

Now, you have to determine where you want your decoys positioned and attach the snap swivels.

To do this, take the decoy line at each tie-in point, pinch it into a small loop, and push this small loop through the swivel.

Take the small loop and pull it over the top of the swivel to the other side.

Then pull on both sides of the decoy cord to tighten down the small loop and lock the swivels into place.

This is a quick and easy method to add or remove decoy attachment points.

You can space the remaining tie-in points wherever you prefer, but a good starting point is spacing every 3-5 feet.

Another method for attaching decoys to a jerk rig is using line clips and snap swivels.

Slide the swivel end onto a line clip, and then you simply clamp the line clip anywhere on the jerk line that you choose.

Snap the swivel onto a decoy, drop the anchor, and you are ready to make waves.


Decoy rigging is not a one-size fit all choice.

Every hunter has their own preference for the system that works best for them.

Since one type of rigging does not cover all conditions, hunters can build a couple of different types of decoy rigging systems to fit a variety of needs.

By using snap swivels, you can quickly and easily change from one type of rigging system to another.

If you only hunt one type of water depth and condition, then one rigging system may be all you ever need, but for the rest of us, there are decoy rigging options to fit any situation.

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