Bait Fishing Techniques – times 3

Handy tips for fishing is what we all need. Gary Brown has some great tips for the Baito’s.

Running ball sinker Rig 1

Sinker running down onto the swivel and a 1 to 1.5 metre leader

Sinker running down onto the swivel and a 1 to 1.5 metre leader


An ideally laid out bait board ready for a session on the bream, trevally, flathead whiting or your species of choice.

An ideally laid out bait board ready for a session on the bream, trevally, flathead whiting or your species of choice.

It doesn’t matter whether you use a ball, barrel or bean sinker with this rig, as long as it freely runs above the swivel. The size of the sinker will depend on the speed of the current that you are fishing in. This rig can be used while fishing off the shore or out of a boat. You can use this rig to target bream, trevally, snapper, whiting, flathead and many other species while fishing over sandy or muddy bottoms. Not the best rig to use when targeting fish over reefs or rock bars as the movement of the long leader will allow it to get tangled in and around the rocks.

When using this rig I will usually cast out the required distance and then place the rod in the rod holder and then I won’t touch the rod until I get a bite. By bite I mean one that bends the tip of the rod over. Not those little picker bites that you will see.

By doing this, it will give the fish the chance to swallow the bait and the hook. This is where the Owner circle hook will do its job by getting caught in the fishes’ mouth. What you need to remember is that the drag needs to be done up enough so that I a larger fish takes the bait into its mouth without feeling too much tension on the line. If the drag is set correctly it will help the hook penetrate the fishes mouth and also slow the fish down. This same technique can be used when fishing from the shore. You will just need to find somewhere to stick the rod so that it doesn’t get pulled into the water.

Paternoster Rig

Paternoster rigs

Paternoster rigs


The author with a mulloway that fell to a pink nipper on the ball sinker and long leader rig.

The author with a mulloway that fell to a pink nipper on the ball sinker and long leader rig.

Once again this rig can be used while fishing out of a boat or off a wharf or a pontoon. It may be where you have a snaggy bottom, rock bars, a reef and weed beds. The idea of using the paternoster rig is to keep the hook and bait above the bottom to try and avoid the snags.

My preferred length from the swivel to the sinker is no more than a metre and the off-set leader length is no more than 30cm long. This tends to lead to less line twists.

If fishing from a boat (whether at anchor or drifting) for bream and trevally I tend to use a No 1 to 1/0 Owner Circle hook. For snapper it will be a 2/0 to 6/0 and for leatherjackets in shore it will be a no. 8 to 12 long shank hook. While offshore fishing for leatherjackets it will be a 1/0 to 2/0 long shank hooks.

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On the other hand, when I am drifting in a boat and I am targeting flathead I will have two hooks, instead of one. The trick to using this rig is to put the sinker on the second loop. This allows the sinker to kick up puffs of sand or mud. Many a time I have caught two flathead using this rig. Just remember that when you are lowering this rig over the side of the boat don’t let it go down to quick as the bottom hook may tangle around the sinker.

Have you ever thought of using the paternoster rig off the beach? I have been using it for years now and I find that not only does it slow down the sideways drift that you sometimes get while fishing off the beach. You hardly get any line twist. The other advantage is that if you use two hooks you can use two different baits to see which one works the best on the day.

Running ball sinker Rig 2

Running ball sinker down onto the bait

Running ball sinker down onto the bait


Silver trevally can be caught on the 3 rigs in this article.

Silver trevally can be caught on the 3 rigs in this article.

In my estuary tackle box I will have a range of ball sinkers from a 000 to a number 6. This will then allow me to up size or decrease the sinker weight up to 9 times and the tide slows down or speeds up. Over the years I have tried using bean and barrel sinkers, but they will cause too much resistance in the water and cause the bait to twist and turn. Ball sinkers are the go.

Sure you may have to re-rig a number of times during the six-hour time frame of the tide. But if you stick to one size only you will find that the bait will either float to the top or just stay anchored on the bottom.

A couple of my favourite baits to use in the estuary, off the rocks or on close offshore reefs is either the live pink nipper or a peeled prawn. Being what I class as a light weight bait it can be very hard to cast any distance with it. So this is where you need to have a range of ball sinkers, so that you can change the weight of the whole rig to suit the conditions that you are fishing.

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One technique that I use while fishing in a boat while at anchor is to have a small steady berley stream going. I then just drop the lightly weight bait over the back of the boat and then slowly feed out line. This will then allow the bait to follow the berley down to the feeding fish. The indication that you have a bite is that the bait will speed up as it peels off the spool. It just a matter of either winding the handle to engage the reel or flicking the bail arm back over. Bait runner reels are ideal for this type of technique.

Another technique to try casting it out as far as you can out from the back of the boat or off the shore and then just allow the bait to slowly sink down through the berley trail. Once again while using this technique you can hold onto the rod or place it in a rod holder. Remember not to have the drag set too tight, as a sudden bite or lunge of the fish may result in a bust off.

So whether you are targeting bream, whiting, flathead, trevally, snapper, kingfish or mulloway, the three rigs displayed in this article will enable you to fish either from the boat or the shore. It’s now up to you to get out there are try them out.

Gary Brown

About Gary Brown

I have been fishing from a very early age (around # to 4) in the estuaries from Qld to Victoria for bream, whiting, mullet, flathead, leatherjackets, john dory and luderick. Having owned my first boat at 12, I was able to fish further afield in many different estuaries up and down the NSW coast with my dad. In my early teens I started to fish from the beach for bream, whiting, tailor and salmon and then progressed onto the rocks for bream, trevally, tailor, salmon, drummer, luderick and snapper. I also targeted snapper, morwong, other reef species off shore, plus a variety of tuna. In his teens Gary brought his first boat and started fish out to sea on the south coast of NSW where he could chase snapper, tuna, morwong, pinkies, leatherjackets, mulloway, bonito and many other fish species. Over the past 22 years I have been teaching many anglers how to improve their fishing ability in my “How, Where, When and Why to Fish” classes throughout tackle shops in Sydney. In 2002 I had my first book published (Fishing Sydney’s Waterways) by AFN and it has been revised 3 times. Since then I have now had 4 more books published: 2005 Beach and Rock Fishing Australia. 2010 Fishing guide to South of Sydney. 2011 How to catch Australia’s Favourite Saltwater Fish. 2013 Land based Fishing GUIDE FOR Sydney Harbour. I have also produced along with Scotty Lyons 2 dvd’s; A Day on the Bay and Port Hacking – The Jewel of the South. Over the past 11 years I have successfully competed in a number of bream tournaments. Ranging from ABT, BETS and the Southern Bream Series. I am currently sponsored by the following companies: Pure Fishing/Pflueger/Shakespeare now for 22 years as one of their Pro Anglers. Australian Fishing Network (AFN) Tackle Tactics. Strike pro.

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