Size Matters

Chris Raimondi explains in this article that size does matter and important factor to consider is bait and lure

It’s Christmas time and if you’re anything like me, you’ll spend most of this month eating copious amounts of ham, turkey, prawns, trifle, chocolate and basically anything I can get my hands on.

Eating habits of fish are often very similar to that of humans. That red hot bite period amongst fish, like Christmas Day for us, is something we yearn for but often doesn’t eventuate. Bait and lure size is a really important factor to consider whenever you head out and that initial red hot bite doesn’t eventuate.

Grass sweetlip taste fantastic

Grass sweetlip taste fantastic

What’s your plan B and C and even D? Think of Christmas Day, it’s 3.30pm in the arvo and you’ve been eating all day, you’re full as. Someone offers you another massive slice of pudding and you feel sick at the sight of it. Yet when the bowl of M&Ms is passed round with one left, you snaffle it in a heartbeat.

This analogy is a really important one to keep in mind when you’re finding it tough to get fish to commit to biting bigger baits or lures. Downsizing your offering can be a really effective technique for triggering a bite from a dormant school of fish.

Fishing northern Moreton Bay over the summer months can be really hit or miss so it’s important to have a game plan. The warmer months see the annual run of pelagic species make their way into the bay, chasing the massive schools of bait that congregate in the warmer water.

This big snapper ate a bite sized bait

This big snapper ate a bite sized bait

School and spotted mackerel as well as mack and longtail tuna are often in abundance. Reef species such as grass sweetlip, cod, moses perch, parrot and snapper are all viable targets as well. Plan A normally involves heading to one of the many shipping channel markers in search of school mackerel, live bait or both.

Metal lures are a really effective way of catching ‘schoolies’ and with plenty of bait aggregating around the structure, it’s often as simple as dropping your lure to the bottom and retrieving it quickly. When they’re schooled up and in the mood, it doesn’t take long to put a few nice school or grey mackerel on board.

Live bait are often dynamite in most offshore scenarios so catching a few yakka (yellowtail scad), slimey mackerel, pike or herring is normally a major part of the day. Again, the shipping channel markers in this particular area of the bay are like magnets for bait fish.

This big parrot ate a really small flesh bait

This big parrot ate a really small flesh bait

The structure gives them a place in which to hide from some of the larger predators. Having said that, large schools of bait can be found in other areas of the northern bay, particularly the reef edges and hard structure. The live baits are more an option for bottom dwelling reef species with a larger, live bait often getting the attention of a better quality sweetlip, snapper or cod.

If all is going well, our live well will be full and our esky will be housing a few school mackerel at least. It’s then time to deploy some live baits to the bottom and this is where it can be dust or diamonds.

Bigger baits will normally attract bigger fish and one of the advantages of using them is that the majority of smaller fish will not be interested in you live bait. In an area like the northern bay, that’s important because the vast number of smaller fish will notoriously harass your bait making it impossible to keep it in tact long enough to coax a bigger fish into striking.

Cod, and big cod at that are normally absolute suckers for live bait, they simply can’t resist it. To fish livies though, you’ll need patience. Cover plenty of ground and use a big enough sinker to keep your bait in close proximity to the bottom.

Quality school mackerel love metal lures

Quality school mackerel love metal lures

Fishing live baits requires you to upsize your gear. That means heavier leader, normally in the vicinity of 60lb or more, and a heavier set up. I prefer to use an overhead combo when using live baits as it allows you to put a bit more drag pressure on the fish with your thumb.

When the fish are in the mood, a heavier set up won’t bother them but if they’re not really on the job, it’s very unlikely they’ll hit a big live bait with any regularity. Think back to the Christmas pudding at 3:30pm analogy; sometimes you just need an M&M.

Downsizing your baits is often a really productive way of increasing your catch rate. It may come at the sacrifice of quality fish but you’d also be surprised at how often a bigger fish will nail a small bait. If you’re going to downsize your bait or lure size, make sure your also downsize your sinker weight, leader and your outfit.

20lb braid and 20/30lb leader is a good starting point and use a spin set up. A lighter bait will appear more natural in the water column. If we’ve got live baits on board, we’ll often use them as dead baits as well; cut into smaller pieces and rigged on a single 5/0 Gamakatsu Octopus hook. A running ball sinker direct to that hook is very effective and will allow your bait to waft naturally through the water column.

Again, you’ll need patience when you downsize your bait but it’s a different kind of patience to fishing with livies. With a live bait, you might go an hour or more without a touch whereas with smaller baits, you may cop a permanent peppering from small fish. The key is to not strike at them; just allow them to nudge your bait causing some commotion. Their feeding can creative a hive of activity from a previously dormant school and if there’s a quality fish in the area, it’ll quite often be drawn over for a look.

Small plastic, nice squire

Small plastic, nice squire

On a recent trip, we downsized our baits relatively early on a reaped the rewards. Although we caught a lot of undersized fish, there were some really nice sweetlip and moses perch amongst them before a 7.9kg snapper decided it wanted my bite sized piece of flesh. Lucky, the fight was won on this occasion but that’s not always the case on 20lb gear.

Another really effective downsizing technique is to use smaller soft plastics or micro jigs. Typically we’d start fishing with 5” or 7” soft plastics offshore but don’t hesitate to try them in the 3”, 4” or even 2.5” range. Slow pitching micro jigs is also a really effective way for enticing a bite and you’re always a chance of hooking a quality fish using these techniques.

Moral of the story is that size does matter when it comes to bait and lure presentation. If the fish aren’t biting, chances are they felt like you did after Christmas lunch, so downsize and see if they’ll eat the equivalent of the last M&M. Catch ya!


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