Bait basics
  |  First Published: September 2004

Lures are great but fresh bait works wonders

SECTION: bait feature




THERE’S no doubt about it, lure-fishing is really taking off, particularly soft plastics.

More and more anglers are turning away from traditional hard-bodied lures and catching plenty of quality fish with the new softies. Reading many of today’s fishing magazines, you’d get the impression that virtually no one uses bait any more but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

It’s only after you have spent some time in and around a tackle store that you soon realise how often the bait freezer is opened compared with those picking lures from the racks. Anglers buy bait over lures at a ratio of at least 10 to 1 so despite all you may hear or read, bait fishing is far from dead!

With so many anglers using such a wide variety of baits for so many different species, you don’t have to look too hard to find people using totally inappropriate baits and rigs for the location and the species they’re hoping to catch.

The proficient lure fisho has specific lures for particular species and locations. So, too, should the bait angler. In this article we’ll look at some of the more commonly used baits, examining suitable rigs that best present them as well as the species they best suit.


Among the most commonly bought bait is the frozen prawn. The list of species that eat prawns is nearly endless, with the most sought-after fish being bream and flathead. Both types of fish can be caught on the same rig, with a single 1/0 to 2/0 hook being ideal.

There are quite a few different patterns of hooks that will present a prawn nicely, with the Mustad Bait Holder (9555B) perhaps being the best.

This pattern of hook has two very small ‘slices’ in the back of the shank, helping prevent soft baits like peeled prawns and squid sliding off the hook. It is one of the most commonly used patterns for bream, snapper and flathead.

Prawns should be presented in a natural fashion, not curled up so that they look like a shrivelled mess. Avoid forcing the point of the hook from the tail all the way through to the head or the body will bend unnaturally. A good exit point for the hook would be just behind the legs.

A live prawn will keep that enticing kicking and clicking going for some time if you hook it just once through one of the last tail segments. Don’t worry that the hook is too far back from the head, any hungry fish will swallow a live prawn whole.

The same Bait Holder hook pattern is ideal for many other baits such as freshwater yabbies and saltwater nippers, cubes of pilchard, small pieces of mullet, bonito and other soft flesh baits.

Those fishing the ocean rocks for hard-pulling critters like drummer and groper tend to use heavy-duty hooks like the Mustad 540 in 3/0 to 5/0 sizes. These hooks are built like a brick outhouse and can handle the abuse only these inshore heavy weights can dish out.

For drummer, use a virtually unweighted rig with baits of cunjevoi, abalone gut or bread moulded into dense balls.

Two methods of presenting prawns. The upper drawing shows a good point to insert a hook so a live prawn will keep active. The lower drawing indicates a method of rigging a dead prawn so it lies naturally.

(Drawings courtesy of Jamie Robley’s Rok Art.)

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