Try bait – it still works!
  |  First Published: August 2006

All the Winter species have been co-operating, with the first schools of salmon arriving around the bays and headlands and good reports of trevally and bream.

The bream can be found around the many wharfs, pontoons, moored boats and other structure and the best way to target these fish is with soft plastics or live baits.

One of the most effective methods is bait spinning. When I was younger we would drift close to the banks in the Hawkesbury, casting lightly-weighted or weightless live prawns close to the bank, letting them sink slowly down and wait for a bream, flathead or whatever to grab it.

This method of live-baiting is very much like the way we fish soft plastics. We cast ahead of the boat and drift towards the bait/lure, keeping in contact with it by winding the line in as it drifts and keeping our eyes on the line for any movement.

If the line moved we would strike and clear the fish away from any structure. The best way to present a prawn is to hook it through the very end of the tail, allowing it to swim and kick freely.

When the tide is slow or slack, we cast the bait with no weight. As the tide’s run increases, we add a minimal amount of lead to keep the presentation as natural as possible. You can use dead prawns if you can’t get live ones but you may have to give them a twitch with the rod tip occasionally to give them ‘life’. Just make sure the prawn is as fresh as possible.

Another method I have found effective is to use soft plastic jig heads and with a live prawn instead of plastics. When I use jighead-rigged live prawns fish them as I would a plastic: Cast it out, let hit bottom and work it back close to the bottom.

I was fishing up the Hawkesbury one day for EPs and bass with little result when the crew of one of the prawn trawlers offered me some live prawns. We did not have any hooks or sinkers on board, only jigheads. We hooked the prawns through the tail and cast them out in the same area we had been fishing – with instant results. We caught bream, bass, EPs and flathead.

I sometimes wonder why we use lures when bait fishing can be so much fun!


I must admit this kingfish season is the first that I have use live baits consistently on my tours, mainly because of the lack of surface action. In the past I have concentrated on targeting kings on lure and left the bait to others.

What I have found is that the smaller the live yellowtail, the more kingfish love them. The yakkas around the Harbour are pretty educated and you have to use small hooks with bait just covering the hook barb and 2kg fluorocarbon because often the yakkas will turn noses up at heaver lines.

In the deeper water I use bait jigs, cutting them in half to three hooks to save the tangles when you have when using a six-hook rig. Or I use the new three-hook bait jig that Pioneer have released.

I like to slowly troll my livies and when I see fish and or bait on my Humminbird 97x I mark the position with the GPS, then circle back as slowly as I can and I often pull the boat out gear to allow the baits to get down deeper and in the kings’ faces.

I use heavier tackle than when trolling lures because most of the time kingfish hang close to structure or the bottom and will bust you off in a split second on light gear. Even small kings pull hard. I use 50lb Pioneer colour braid and 50lb to 80lb fluorocarbon leader on a Shimano Trinidad 20 or 40n on a Shimano T Curve or a Pioneer Tuna Taker.

I fish with the drag set around 10kg and I love to watch some of my clients struggle to get the rod out of the holder after a hook-up.

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