Rigging bait for Western Port
  |  First Published: October 2013

Bait presentation is a vital part of fishing regardless of where you live in the country. Whether it’s presenting a mudeye to a trout or rigging a live bait for a marlin, bait presentation is an important piece of the equation, especially when targeting finicky fish.

Snapper in Western Port can be shy to a bait if it is not presented in the correct manner or they may not ‘get hooked’ if the hooks are buried in the bait.

Early in the season, when the water temperature is low and snapper metabolism is slow, feeding patterns are quite sporadic. While a spike in the barometer might spur on a quick feeding frenzy, anglers that are on the water at such times need to have everything in place so that when they get a bite, the fished is hooked solid immediately.

Hook position and presentation of the bait is vital in this instance. As the season progresses the fish will be feeding more actively with the increased water temperature and bait presentation is still just as important.

Incomplete hook-sets can still occur throughout the season, particularly if the right bait rigging procedures are ignored.

Being heavily affected by tidal current, baits in Western Port tend to spin. Spinning baits are certainly going too be uninviting to any fish, which is why taking your time in threading hooks into baits is paramount.

Once a bait has been threaded onto a hook set, the bait should be placed into the water boat-side to check if it will spin or not. If the bait does spin, remove it from the hooks and try again until you get it right.

With myriad different baits available to use on snapper, here are some rigging examples of the most popular used throughout the season.


Pilchards might look simple enough to rig and by and large they are, but from time to time they just won’t do as they are told.

In areas of strong current, pilchards can be used either whole or in half. In both instances, the tail should be cut off to prevent the bait from spinning.

Half baits should be rigged on either a single circle hook or a single octopus. Should a circle be used, the half pilchard should have the hook point passed through the tip of the tail section about 5mm from where the tail was removed.

If an octopus hook is used, the hook can be placed into the skin of the pilchard, rotated around so it protrudes back through the skin on the same side. The hook will lay flat long the body of the pilchard and two half hitches will secure it to the pilchard keeping it inline with the leader.

Whole pilchards are an entirely different kettle of fish to rig. It is important that the tail is removed as this will cause all the spinning. A whole pilchard is best rigged on a two hook snelled rig. The first hook, or in this case the bottom hook, should have its point enter the middle of the pilchard right through and be pulled out the other side. The hooks point can then be passed a few millimetres behind the gill plate and rotated around so the hooks point protrudes back through the gill plate.

Doing this will have the hook in the most sturdy location of the pilchard. The snelled hook can then be pulled tight a little to tighten the line between it and the bottom hook that is already threaded into the pilchard. The snelled hook can then be placed into the skin of the pilchard in the back third section. The hooks point can be rotated around so its point comes back out and the hook will lay flat along the pilchard’s body.

Two half hitches around the tail and the snelled hooks shank will secure it in place.


Calamari are the most versatile of all baits for Western Port and can be used in numerous ways. Calamari can be divided into the head, hood, tentacles, strips and rings. While each segment has its own unique rigging procedure, the best section and the easiest to rig is the hood when cut into rings.

We like eating calamari rings and snapper feel the same. If you are unsure of what I mean by a calamari ring, it is the calamari hood cut into thin rings, like you would normally purchase from a fish and chip shop.

Instead of eating it yourself, as bait the rings are perfect in everyway. They are small in size, let off enough scent to attract fish and easy to swallow in one mouthful.

In Western Port, I prefer smaller sized baits these days as I find that fish tend to grab and run so they don’t have to fight other fish for a feed. Rings, being as small as they are, are easy to gulp and go. Rings tend to sit well when rigged on a snelled two hook rig although a single circle hook rig is also worthy. The snelled hook can be threaded into the top section of the ring while the bottom hook can be threaded into the bottom of the ring. Either way, once in the water, there will be no angles in which the current can catch on it sending it into a spin.


Despite garfish being very tasty on the plate, they make sensational snapper baits in Western Port. Due to their length, they are best to have the head and tail removed using only the trunk. The trunk can be rigged on a two hook snelled rig in the same manner as with a whole pilchard.


Another very popular snapper bait is tuna. Tuna is a very oily bait but can be quite soft and difficult to rig. If not rigged in the correct manner, it can quite easily fall off the hook during a cast or be torn off the hooks from the force of the current.

When tuna is purchased, it is frozen and either comes as a fillet or as a whole fish. Either way, the fillet needs to be cut into 1cm wide strips. Once this has been done, the strips then need to be cut into 10-15cm lengths. Once you have these set aside, you’ll notice that each strip is quite thick. With the skin side down and with a sharp knife, slice the strip in half so that it is not so thick, this will make rigging it much easier.

Once you have this in place, get the snelled rig and pass the bottom hook into the skin on end of the tuna fillet rotating the hook point around so it protrudes back through the skin. The snelled hook should then be pierced through the very tip of the opposite end of the strip to hold it straight and inline. Providing you leave the skin on, the strip bait will not fall off the hooks.

As you will notice in all of these simple bait rigging procedures, hook position is vital in securing the bait to the hooks but most important, the hooks are ever so lightly embedded into the baits so that you are maximising the most hook exposure that you possibly can. Burying hooks into baits is only going to have you miss the bite and hook-set, but providing you can have as much of the hook points exposed as possible you’ll have more solid hook sets.


The author’s selection of terminal tackle for tying rigs:

Snelled two hook rig:

Hooks – Black Magic C-Hook 5/0 and 6/0

Leader – Black Magic Tough Trace 80lb

Swivel – Black Magic 10kg Rolling Swivel

Single hook rig:

Hooks – Black Magic C-Hook 5/0

Leader – Black Magic Tough Trace 80lb

Swivel – Black Magic 10kg Rolling Swivel

Single Circle hook rig:

Hooks – Black Magic KL 6/0

Leader – Black Magic Tough Trace 80lb

Swivel – Black Magic 10kg Rolling Swivel

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