Bait spinning for native fish is a tactic that was taught to me at a very young age by some old land cockies around Nyah West in north-western Victoria.
It’s a simple technique that increases your catch rate incredibly and the best part is, you can do this with any bait you want.
Bait spinning simply means tossing the bait out and slowly working it back to the boat. You can do this in still water or in running water and you can use a single or double paternoster-style rig or use a running sinker rig either with a leader or no leader. It’s versatile, simple and effective.
In rivers I prefer to use a paternoster-style rig. In areas I know well I will use a two hook rig and when I am exploring new snags I will use a one hook rig. In lakes I prefer a running sinker rig and I almost always run the sinker right down to the hook.
Taking on rivers first I will tie the boat up or position myself upstream of the snag I want to fish and prepare the rig. My favourite bait to use is a 1” (2.5cm) yabby and I rig this so the hook point comes out the back of the tail where the main bend is. This rigging allows the yabby to kick and flick at will and their tough exoskeleton keeps them firmly on the hook.
Cast the bait out to a likely area and let the rig settle to the bottom. I leave the bait here for a minute or so to let the fish settle down and let the yabby send out a scent trail and a few enticing flicks. My first move after the pause is to flick the rod tip and make the rig jump off the bottom with the aim to make it look like the yabby is panicking. I then allow the rig to settle again before starting a really slow wind in. This drags the sinker along the bottom and the movement annoys the yabby causing it to flick even more.
You can work this rig through pretty tough country and the hits are not muck around hits generally. The fish pretty much smack the yabby in a crunching tackle to stop it getting away.
Make sure your line is good, your rod work is excellent and you work the fish hard at the start because your rig is literally in tiger country at is always a chance to get snagged.
In the lakes I prefer to use a running sinker rig with a tiny ball sinker running to the bait. Again yabbies in the 1” range are my preferred bait, but shrimp and shrimp/worm cocktails run a very, very close second.
I start by exploring the base of trees first – the places where the root balls and roots create a tangled mess that makes ideal habitat for a cod, or a golden or even a redfin. I let the bait fall to the bottom and I really don’t allow it time to rest. The reason is simple, the little yabbies will actually crawl under the snag and hang on for dear life, more often than not snagging your rig.
As soon as the rig hits the bottom I engage the reel and begin a slow yo-yo of the bait, moving the rod tip about the boat to present the bait to as many hidey holes as possible. After this initial yo-yo I will start a super slow wind with a few rod tip bobs thrown in for good measure.
On the way up, if I know there are overhanging branches, I will stop the wind and yo-yo the bait along, around and over the overhang to capture the attention of any mid-water goldens. This gives me a great chance to nail a cod down low or a golden up higher.
Fishing baits for native fish has been lost in all the commotion of lure fishing and even I am to blame for that. I simply love the crunching strike. However lures are not always the best option and having the ability to adapt and fish baits in an effective manner is a sensible idea for anyone fishing the rivers and lakes for native fish. We all know how fickle they can be at times and bait spinning takes the best of bait fishing and throws a little bit of lure fishing into the mix giving the fish a moving target that is actually real.
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