There are two styles of bait fishing reef structures, on the drift and at anchor. I mainly fish at anchor over suitable fish holding structures such as pinnacles and drop offs, preferably with fish showings on the sounder. The rigs that I empoly reflect this. Occassionally I do drift over reefs.
There are basically only two styles of anchor fishing reef complexes. These are vertical and horizontal (horizontally at least at the start). Vertical fishing is merely dropping the bait and line over the side of the boat and setting it at the required depth. Horizontal fishing means dispensing line out away from the boat either by casting or playing out a surface float. Most of my fishing is vertical. The most important thing to remember when fishing vertically is to keep the hooks off the bottom. There is an old saying that 'if you fish the bottom, you'll catch the bottom'. If you don't hook the rocks, the chances are your bait will be pecked at by rubbish fish. It is important to keep your bait off the bottom by at least 2-3 metres. All of the decent fish (kingfish, jewfish, terraglin, snapper etc) will rise several meters to a bait.
When targetting kingfish, jewfish and other big fish, I try to use a 2-3 metre double on my vertical rigs for 2 reasons. Firstly there is the added knot strength when attaching the snap swivel. Secondly is the added line strength when dealing with a large stubborn fish near the boat. If I need to cut the line for any reason I do not retie the double, instead I use the uni knot to attach the ball bearing snap swivel.
When I fish with live bait such as yellowtail or slimey mackeral I use the standard live bait rig. This consists of a 2-3 metre double (if possible) on the main line with a snap swivel attached to a brass ring, about 30 cm of 50lb mono with a suitable barrel sinker and another brass ring, then about 2 meters of 50 lb trace attached to the live bait hook. All knots to the brass rings are uni knots. The sinker is a minimum of 250 gm. A heavier weight may be required depending on the current.
When live baiting it is possible to have a number of different hook placement locations. The most common is to have the hook placed in the shoulder of the bait fish (first figure). This is the method I use for about 90% of my livebaiting and is ideal when there is not much current. The second figure has the hook placed in the mouth. This is the desired method of there is a medium to strong current, or if slow trolling a large live bait as the bait tends to stay alive longer. The third figure has the hook placed on the underside near the tail. This is the situation if the sinker is to be set on the sea bed, with the bait above the sinker. You will need a sand or mud floor for this. The last picture has the hook placed near the tail from the top. This is the situation when you want the bait to swim well down from the sinker.
When vertically fishing at anchor with dead baits and targetting bigger fish I use a running Paternoster rig. About 1 meter of 50 lb mono is terminated at both ends with brass rings. This mono has running ring to which is attached a long (say about 2 meters) dropper to a snapper lead. This dropper is attached to the lead with a Figure of Eight knot. From the two terminating rings are attached short droppers to the hooks. Sometimes double hooks are employed for a particular bait such as squid baits. Knots to all rings are uni knots.
If I am drift fishing over reefs I use the standard Paternoster, with 2 droppers in a 10 kg trace above a snapper lead. At the top end is a brass ring which attaches to the snap swivel on the main line. This rig is only suitable for small baits such as fish strips to 2 inches long. I do not use it for larger baits such as whole squid as the loops tend to twist around the trace.
Horizontal fishing with live bait done with a running float on about a 30 cm length of 50 lb mono, terminated at both ends with brass rings, and a small ball sinker on the underside of the float. The lower ring has attached to it about 2-3 meters of 50 lb leader with the live bait hook.
Using a float is suitable for small livebait such as small yellowtail. An alternative for larger live bait such as large yellowtail, large slimy mackeral, even bonito and tailor, is to have the livebait under a balloon. The standard balloon rig has a light line of about 2kg attached to the balloon, and also onto a small swivel on the main line. This light line will break when a strike occurs. An alternative balloon rig has a small length of line tied around the balloon neck, and also is attached to a torpedo float. When there is a run, the balloon will slip off the line.
Floater rigs using an unweighted or lightly weighted bait which drifts down the berley trail are also used. This has either a 4 ganged hook (3/0s and 4/0s) or a single 1/0 to 4/0 hook tied directly to the main line, or tied to a swivel on the main line. The amount of weight can be important, with even the use of a swivel providing enough weight to carry the bait to different depths. During March/April/May when the bream move from the estuaries to the inshore reefs, a lightly weighted floater will tend to catch the bream (and trevally) while an unweighted floater will tend to be taken by bonito and and striped tuna.
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