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Bait-fishing Basics

By Andrew Badullovich.

The fundamentals of basic bait-fishing are regularly overlooked; therefore, resulting in a poor day’s fishing. Often, the best results are achieved by keeping the process simple! There are three important steps which I tend to follow when fishing the estuary, and I hope that after reading this blog, these small tips will help you catch a feed of fish.


Step one: fresh is best

Attempt to gather a supply of fresh bait. Prawns, bait-fish, worms and molluscs are all ideal; however, there is one particular bait source that is easy to obtain and dynamite bait for bream, whiting, and flathead. The Bass Yabby or Pink Nipper (saltwater yabby) can be irresistible to feeding fish…especially when fishing shallow sand flats. You’ll require a nipper pump in order to suck the yabbies from the silty sand-bars. You simply slide the shaft of the pump into the sand, pull the handle back, and then squirt the contents from the pump onto the sand. Look for small yabbies wiggling and flicking among the tailing of silt that you have just exposed. Gathering pink nippers is easiest at low-tide; nonetheless, you can still obtain them when the sand-bars are flooded with water, by squirting the contents into a floating sieve. Gathering your own bait can be as fun as fishing itself and it’s an activity that the whole family can partake in.


Step two: keep it light

Keep your tackle on the light side. A light spin combo; such as, the AIRD Pre-mounted combos are ideal. I prefer monofilament fishing lines when bait fishing as they convey a considerable amount of stretch. This stretch helps keep delicate bait on the hook, as braided line can have a tendency to tear the bait from the hook when loading the rod for a cast. I personally use 4lb breaking strain, and find this more that strong enough. The rig is simple, and basically consists of a size 6 long-shank hook, connected to 50cm of 4lb fluorocarbon trace which is attached to a swivel before the mainline. Select the lightest sinker you can, in order to cast your offering to where the fish are. If the fish are keeping their distance from you, then increase the size of your weight to enable you to cast further distances. Try to avoid extra-large weights. Once you have made your cast, have the patience to leave your bait out there until the fish find it. It may take a little time for the fish to locate your bait; however, the fish will never find your hook if you constantly retrieve your line in to check your bait. I call it the “set and forget” method. Place the rod in a rod holder, and allow the fish to hook themselves.


Step three: shallow secrets

I am yet to find an estuarine system that does not harbour sand flats and sections of shallow water. The shallow sectors of an estuarine system are the first places that I will prospect for bream, flathead, and of course…those succulent whiting! In fact, you’re likely to encounter most of your typical estuarine species in less than one meter of water. It makes good sense to fish where the fish will be feeding: and given the fact that the sand flats are fertile “bait-gathering” grounds, it is definitely worth fishing these areas as the tide begins the rise and flood the sand-bars. Some flats will fish better as the tide falls, as fish may hold up in small gutters and deeper pockets of water within the flats system and feed on anything that is flushed from the flat with the falling tide. My favourite time to fish my local river is during the last of the run- out tide, and I am generally fishing in water that barely covers my knees. I believe shallow is the key, and I am still amazed at the amount of anglers who ignore the shallows as fish holding grounds.


So there you have it…obtain a fresh supply of bait, be patient whilst using light tackle, and fish the fertile shallow sand flats for some rod bending action! It works for me.

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