Working the angles
  |  First Published: February 2004

Here’s a heap of ways you can improve your fishing

SECTION: features




THE THIN gelspun line cut through the flotsam and jetsam in the current line. We had come across this streak of debris about 10 minutes earlier and, as a reel hadn’t turned since we left the boat ramp, we prayed this trail of dirty water was going to be our salvation.

I felt myself silently willing a fish onto the hook, relying on the power of positive thought to give some action. As if on cue, the Ugly Stick in the port rod holder doubled over and the ratchet on the Daiwa Sealine sung its song as a salmon of about 2kg pounced on a Jinkai Li’l Jerk.

We had tried another angle and won. Whether it was the current line or the power of positive thought, I’ll never know, but it had worked.

When out fishing, there are many factors that come into play that will make a trip fruitful or barren. To try to get as many positives on side, all the angles have to be worked, even though some might be less obvious at first glance.

Predatory fish such as flathead, bass, flounder, jewfish and so on lie in wait for their meals while others such as bream, snapper, whiting, kingfish etc are always on the prowl as they are opportunist feeders. Different methods are employed in seeking out the various feeding groups and it is important to copy and emphasise the food source of your chosen species.

Fish senses include taste, smell, hearing, touch and sight, as well as their ‘sixth’ sense of feeling vibrations through their lateral line sensory cells. When fishing, it is important to try and appeal to as many of these senses as possible. Being creative with the use of bait scents and colour for lure and bait presentation is one of the angles.

Some species are very territorial and get aggro when their space is invaded, attacking to drive off an intruder. This trait can be used to advantage on such species as mangrove jack, bass and flathead by the use of noisy, active lures, live baits or bait cut in such a way that it flaps around and looks menacing. Remember, all Mr Bass is thinking about is food, mating and keeping alive, and not necessarily in that order! He has worked out that by keeping behind a sunken tree branch he can satisfy at least two of his basic instincts: Feeding by ambush and keeping well out of the way of any troublemakers. More bass are taken when lures flirt close to snags. Another reason to work the angles, giving lures the best chance of being hit.


When targeting snapper, the time to fish is just as the sea is subsiding after a big blow. Putting to sea as soon as the ocean is fishable will increase tenfold the odds of landing a good feed of reds. The reason for this increase in activity is that snapper feast on food torn from the rocks by the large seas. By working this angle, big snapper can be caught very close in when the wild weather abates.

On neap tides (low high tides and high low tides, mostly around first and third quarters of the moon), bream seem to loose their shyness and will more readily accept a bait. Here there is little water movement so fish are more inclined to leave cover and feed in open water. Once again, by working the angles a greater window of opportunity is revealed.

Game anglers set a pattern of lures to imitate a school of baitfish. About 10 metres behind the boat they troll a teaser, a device up to a metre long with plenty of reflective surfaces. The teaser has no hooks and its only purpose is to attract billfish to check out what the disturbance is all about. As the teased-up marlin approaches the boat, its visual senses are aroused further as it spies the spread of lures, and hopefully a hook-up occurs. The teaser is just another angle to increase the chance of catching a fish.

I was hanging over a bridge one afternoon, idly looking at a little plastic bottle top going round and round in a current eddy as all the other rubbish sped downstream. As my eyes became accustomed to the dark water, I was surprised to see the shape of three bream gently finning in the same eddy as the bottle top. It was obviously a good spot to wait for a feed. I didn’t have any fishing gear with me at the time as we were on a bush walk, but I did store that scenario away in my memory. Fishing minute current eddies is just one more angle to remember when next going breaming.

When lure-fishing for lizards over the sand flats, most hits will come right on the drop-off into deeper water. This is good ambush country. Look hard to find a spot that will allow parallel casts to the drop-off, therefore keeping the lure in the strike zone for nearly the whole length of the cast. Doing this will be imitating the way baitfish swim in relative safety, parallel to but away from the deeper water. Find swirls, eddies, structure, anything a bit different from the norm and fire out a few casts. Try fishing areas that don’t look fishy – it has amazed me where some of my hits have come from.


A few seasons ago, we spent many Summer nights being bumped around on the deepwater reefs in our quest for jewfish. Our catches were sporadic, to say the least. We blamed the current, the moon, water temperature and even the current Government for our lack of success. My fishing partner suggested we go back to beach fishing for mulloway as we had had more success from the sand. Lying in bed that night, I thought, why not shorten the odds and try combining both methods?

After pulling some live beach worms at low tide, we launched the boat one evening and headed out to sea. Instead of setting course for the reefs, we anchored about 80 metres out from the surf line and to put out unweighted beachworm floaters. After about 20 minutes, one of the floaters coughed out line and after a short struggle, a snapper of 2kg was hoisted aboard. This in itself was a whole new angle in snapper fishing.

Later on, as the sun disappeared behind the hills, my rod bucked and line tore off the reel at an alarming rate. I gained some of the lost line but then it unwound in intermittent bursts as the fish headed away from the surf. Eventually the runs were less energetic and I was back in control. Ten minutes later, the gaff was sunk into a beautifully conditioned 14kg jew. Two more jew were landed that night and more valuable information was collated and stored away in the memory for future use. It was another angle on the art of catching mulloway and snapper.

In murky water, a fish’s sense of sight is diminished dramatically. It is important to compensate for this by ensuring that the bait features a high level of smell or noise. One way of boosting the smell is by soaking baits in fish oil or coating them with bait scent. To make the bait ‘noisy’, add a soft plastic lure, like a Berkley PowerBait, to the hook. The fish’s sensitive lateral line system locks on to the pulses of the lure and then the odour of the bait takes over.

Another angle in cloudy water is to use two small sinkers instead of one large one when drift-fishing for lizards. The clicking together of the sinkers as they drift across the bottom will raise curiosity in the flathead.

The prime time to go prawning is when there is no moon. The prawns, under cover of darkness, make their dash for the sea. In Summer the poor prawn has to run the gauntlet of many thousands of net-wielding families and hundreds of professional fishermen until it reaches the open sea. Still, millions escape to grow into sexually mature adults, ensuring stocks are replenished the following year. Knowing the tides and the phase of the moon before you go prawning will help give a better angle on getting a feed of these delicious crustaceans.


Shore-based anglers always seem to want to cast out as far as they can, looking forward to the day when they own a boat and can get right out there where the big fish are. When an angler does eventually buy a boat, he or she then snuggles as close to the shore as possible to fish! This scenario is due to preconceived ideas of where the fish should be.

Fish are at different places at different times. At certain stages and in certain conditions, fish will come into shallow water, while at different times, they will be found out in the deep.

Just for a moment think of fish as people. Hypothetically, if you were fishing for people you should target the main CBD between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday for maximum sport. Saturday and Sunday would prove fruitless. Mind you, if you were lucky enough to anchor over the Sydney Cricket Ground when there was a match in progress, you would have a ball! This is the sort of (weird?) thinking that is needed to get on par with your chosen quarry.

Watching others and asking questions is a proven way of learning. Generally fishos are very happy to give advice and discuss the various angles that they have found successful. Fishing techniques are as varied as the landscape around us and improvisation in angling is the mother of invention. I wish I had made a note of all the rigs, systems, casting techniques and so on that I have seen or been told about since I was a boy.

I am now a great believer in logging all my fishing trips and noting precise details of as many of the variables as possible. By doing this, patterns emerge that help when chasing particular species. These patterns are the angles needed to stack the odds your way.

There will be trips when all the signs are wrong but you still fill the creel and, unfortunately, vice-versa. These empty trips can blow all your valuable statistics out of the water. Don’t despair; take comfort in the thought that if fishing was easy, every man and his dog would be doing it.


• Try to fish either early morning or late evening – these are prime times

• Check out tide charts before a trip and ensure you fish through a tide change

• Fishing after a storm or a big blow can be fruitful, especially on or around estuaries or close offshore

• Fish light. This improves the stealth factor enormously.

• Employ as little lead as possible. If conditions allow, fish weightless

• Berley consistently, attracting and keeping fish in your zone

• If one method refuses to fire, change. Sitting there all day and night using the same rig or bait is fruitless

• Record all captures, tides, moon, wind, current, times and rigs in a diary. Patterns emerge which are an enormous help at different times of the year

• Make sure you don’t transmit odours like tobacco, sunscreen and sweat to bait or lures

• Keep fish for the table well away from bait.

• Remove and replace line at least once a year, depending on how often you fish. Line gets nicks and abrasions which lower the breaking strain

• Ensure reel drags are working and not sticking. When the big one comes along, this brake must work at its best

• Invest in quality tackle. The new carbon/Kevlar/graphite rods have enormous power for their weight. They are also light and ergonomic

• Chemically sharpened hooks have incredible penetrating properties. Also, if fish are to be released, they leave little oral damage



Adding a bit of ‘noise’ to bait will increase its appeal in cloudy water. Here a soft plastic tail will help this cut pilchard be noticed.


Snapper like this will come on the chew close in after a big blow.


Bream are opportunistic feeders. Fishing small eddies can help boost catches.


Having help like this tide watch will ensure you fish when water levels and tide changes are just right.


Fresh bait will always deliver better quality fish than packet bait. Another angle in securing a regular catch.


Fishing the drop-offs is very productive. Parallel casts keep the inducement in the zone much longer.


Bass will lie in wait behind structure. To get hits, lures must be cast as close as possible to snags enticing these predators to strike.


Trolling parallel to the drop-offs keeps lures in the ‘zone’ longer and the net result is more fish.


Planning fishing sorties early morning or late evening is one easy way to increase catch rates.


This flathead swallowed a live tailor under a bobby cork. As the bottom was very weedy, working the angles with a suspended bait paid off.


Salmon are ocean roamers and have a fantastic turn of speed. Fast tracking lures like this Raider imitate fleeing baitfish.


Looking for gulls working over a school of bait will tell you where the fish are. Only fish the perimeters so as not to scare the fish.

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