Good things come to those who bait
  |  First Published: July 2004

FIDDLER crabs of the mangroves and ghost crabs on the beach sit just outside their holes for most of the time, usually retreating long before you can get a hand anywhere near them. To shift the odds in your favour, just take a handful of sand or sandy mud, take aim and let rip with all your might! If the shot is good your crustacean quarry will be disorientated as it does half a dozen cartwheels from the impact. If the throw is very good, the crab’s den will be blocked at the entrance. You’ll soon know when you’ve followed your throw in a quick 10m dash for bait.

A lot of anglers reckon that bait gathering is as much fun as fishing itself. In fact, a successful bait gathering session goes hand in hand with a successful fishing session. When you have a good understanding of bait, its whereabouts, movements, seasons and territory, you’ll gain an insight into its predators’ movements, whereabouts and seasons. A good example of this is the presence of schools of baitfish in Moreton Bay, which may mean the presence of mackerel, tuna and other hungry pelagics. Sandbanks or mudflats rich with molluscs, prawns, crabs, yabbies or worms within an estuary system are usually great places to try for flathead, bream and whiting.


Most of the more popular areas used by bait gatherers in Southeast Queensland have already been over-dug, netted or pumped. For this reason it’s crucial to take only what you need. If need be, mix your baiting style up a little. Fish co-ops, bait and tackle outlets, and butcher shops can supplement your self-sourced bait. It’s really important to limit the gathering of bait to only what you’ll immediately need to ensure there’s enough there for your next fishing trip.


Livebaiting offers the angler the greatest opportunity of a rewarding catch. The appearance, movement and scent of a livebait is best displayed in its most natural form, stimulating the predators’ instinct to feed. Storage and handling of bait can be a tedious job – whether it’s worms, yabbies, prawns or baitfish – but it’s well worthwhile.

Check out the article in Fishing Queensland Vol 3 titled the ‘Where, When and How of Bait Fishing’ for more bait gathering tips and storage ideas.


Pudding mixes are popular among anglers who prefer an easy alternative bream bait. Using such ingredients as fish oil, cheese, garlic, bran, oats, tuna, sardines, or cat food, the dough mix should be kneaded until it reaches a texture which will mould to a hook.

A good recipe can often out-fish natural baits. Experiment a little and you may become a pudding expert.


Butchers should never be overlooked as a source of bait. Scrap bones go well as a mud crab bait, while heart, steak, and liver have also been popular baits for a variety of fish species over the years.


Fish co-ops stock a large range of products that make good, unfrozen, fresh bait. These include tailor, whiting, squid, mullet, pilchards, gar and fresh uncooked prawns. Co-op prices tend to fluctuate depending on the season; compare your prices to that of some bait suppliers and you may be pleasantly surprised.

If you are worried about running out of bait, a handful of lures certainly won’t go astray.


Bait presentation on the hook is as important as the bait itself, and successful presentation is dependent on fish species and their feeding habits. Some species will suck a bait in and spit it out before actually swallowing [whiting], while others will strike first to maim their prey before taking the bait [bream]. Aggressive feeders such as cod, tailor and flathead will often take the bait in one swoop.

In all these scenarios, it is quite possible to be left with bare hooks and no fish attached so it stands to reason that ganged hooks are generally used on big-mouthed aggressive feeders. When using single hooks on smaller-mouthed feeders, it may pay to load your hook up with several pieces instead of single strands of bait, as this will often give the angler a second chance and the fish a second bite.


Casting a bait out and leaving it to sit in one spot all day may attract a fish or two eventually. Personally, I prefer to cover some ground until I find an area which offers more than a straggling stray. Even livebaits need a little encouragement to look more active, such as a little twitch every now and again, and a slow or quick retrieve depending on the species targeted.

When using deadbaits, sometimes all you need to encourage a fish to come alive and strike is a little movement in the bait. Don’t wait for the fish to make the first move.

Lures have attracted a lot of interest in recent times, but for the complete fishing experience it’s well worth revisiting some tried and tested bait techniques.


1) A small diced-up gar is excellent bait for those picky winter bream.

2) A 1/0 hook baited with three pieces of gar. The bottom piece is only finely attached to the hook making it an easy steal. This gives the fish a good taste and a little more confidence to take what’s left, and at this stage you should be prepared for the second or even third bite.

3) Poddy mullet are very highly rated as bait and deservedly so. There aren’t many flesh-eating fish that won’t be attracted to a well-presented fresh piece of mullet.

4) A versatile bait and a versatile rig – two small mullet fillets are cut to suit a pair of ganged short shanked 1/0 hooks.

5) Laying the fillets flank to flank optimises the scent, with the skin on the inside securing the bond of bait to hook. This bait and rig is one I used 30 years ago for catching sole, and since then it’s also taken bream, flathead, tailor, jew, tarwhine and more. If I had to recommend only one bait and rig for this winter season, this would be it.

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