How to Rig a Pilchard
  |  First Published: August 2006

Pilchards or mulies – whatever you call them, are probably the most popular saltwater bait amongst Victorian anglers.

Pilchards land some highly prized fish every year and took more than their fair share of snapper last season. But for newcomers to fishing or those more familiar with wetting a line in the fresh, there are a few things to know about rigging pilchards for best results.

Because they’re soft skinned and have quite mushy flesh, pilchards have a tendency to fall off the hook and break up during a cast. They also get savaged by small scavenger fish that like their soft and oily texture.

Regardless of how you fish a pilchard, they require some delicate rigging to help secure them onto your hook(s).

The rigging technique outlined in this article should prevent excessive spinning of the bait and keep your hooks in the bait for as long as possible.

To rig whole pilchards I use a two-hook rig. I’ve labelled the top hook as hook 1 while the bottom fixed hook is hook 2.


Firstly, insert hook 2 into the middle of the pilchard. Push the hook all the way through until it exits the other side and only the leader line is running through the bait.


Take hold of hook 2 again and insert it into the start of the gill plate.

Push the hook a quarter of the way through the fish and roll the hook point out through the middle of the gill plate.

The hook point should now be facing toward the tail with the eye of the hook lying flat along the main body of the bait.


Gently pull any excess line tight between the hooks. Then insert hook 1 into the skin of the pilchard approximately 2cm from the base of the tail, but on the opposite side.

The point of hook 1 should now be facing the tail end of the bait.


Place two half hitches around the tail and the eye of hook 1. You should be left with a perfectly presented pilchard.

You can wrap the whole bait with Bate Mate to strengthen the entire rig but I prefer to leave it as is.

Step 1

Step 3

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