Land-Based Fishing: Improving Your Odds With Fresh Bait

Looking down onto the ledge with high expectations (early in the morning)
Early in the morning; looking down onto the ledge with high expectations

I experienced a great fishing session two weeks ago at this very spot, where I tried my best to land a kingfish but ended up (only) with a bag of trevally (see: how to catch trevally). With 14 days being half of the lunar month, the tides thus being again the way I prefer and other conditions being very promising as well, I got up for an early session last Friday. The goal was to do better than last time and – something that is always in the back of the head – to perhaps hook into a kingfish as well.

My timing was slightly better than usual, I deployed the berley at 0730 right at dawn. Further, I had three rod and reel combos with me. One designated for live-baiting, one for catching (bigger) snapper and one specifically set up to hook smallish trevally and kahawai.

Determining the size of the hook(s) on a rig can very often be a compromise.

  • If you put too small hook(s) on (like 4/0), you’ll end up hooking lots of throw-back snapper, chances of gut hooking them are high as well. This can be both frustrating and also holding you back.
  • If you put on 6/0 sized hook(s) you eliminate much of the above but you’re still compromising. Now, you just have little chance of hooking live-bait sized trevally or kahawai.

In my opinion, there is no question about it. You should always have a rod and reel combo with you which is set up to catch bait. We’ve all heard it often enough; fresh bait makes the difference. Yes, you can catch huge fish with a piece of old pilchard or salted bait, but serious anglers also know how a piece of fresh bait can increase the odds at catching something bigger.

0745, my rods were all set up and my first cast using the bait combo yielded a 20 cm (throw-back) snapper. Second cast and I had a small trevally, which went out immediately under a balloon. Now I could concentrate on catching a feed while simultaneously targeting kingfish. If only it could always be this easy.

30 minutes later and I had a backup of two more perfect-sized trevally captured in the bucket. I started using the snapper rod combo and sure enough caught heaps of them but they were all between 25-30 cm, and went all back. There was a frenzy amongst the fish in the berley trail, 20 odd trevally and a handful of snapper feeding right at my feet.

You’ll see about 1/5th of the action in this video due to the glare. When I tried filming through my polarized shades, all the fish disappeared momentarily, a good indication of a big predator fish approaching, which in turn made me stop filming.

Cucking pieces of bait into the water gets the fish really going.
Cucking pieces of bait into the water gets the fish really going.


Those cubes won't last long.
Those cubes won’t last long.

Every now and then I spotted a larger snapper. One problem of frozen bait is that – unless you are using squid – it tends to come off the hook easily. This being specially the case when there are many fish in your vicinity. As the bait sinks down, small fish will have a go at it and the bait is usually gone before it even sank 5 m. Thus it never reaches down to the bottom where often the bigger and older fish lurk since they are more cautious than juvenile fish.

One way to circumvent this is to use sinkers. While there are times when it is wise to use sinkers, I prefer stray-lining whenever possible. Another take at this is to use fresh bait which stays much firmer on the hook. With the skin on it is even difficult for me to get it off the hook.

It was just past 0900, just after low tide, when I decided to cast a trevally head out as far as I could. I allowed for the bait to sink to the bottom by releasing line as required, then put the rod into the rod holder.

One live-bait making its rounds by the ledge, one fresh trevally head on the bottom and I was on my way to get the bait rod combo to have another go at catching some bigger trevally. I grabbed the rod and turned around to see that rod number two was bending down heavily. Something was having a go at the trevally head and it wasn’t even in the water for 5 minutes. By the time I had the rod in my hands, line was peeling out, so I flicked the bait-feeder off and had a decent hook-up.

A few moments later, I had secured a 3 pound+ snapper. I put two stripes of fresh trevally fillets on the hooks and cast them out. 5 minutes later and I had an even bigger snapper on the line.

My bag was plentiful after just two hours; two snapper and three trevally. I briefly hooked two kahawai but managed to lose both of them. I wasn’t sure if I wanted the first one, so I played it for a while. When it leaped out of the water and freed itself from the hook, I realised I would have liked to keep it. It disappeared however. The second, much bigger, kahawai swallowed the bait but I managed to screw it up and lost it.

Snapper and trevally were on the menu for the weekend.
Snapper and trevally were on the menu for the weekend.

Interestingly, both kahawai got spooked away by my actions and never came back.

I packed in at 11 o’clock, again no kingi to show for…

One thing is sure though, I would have not landed those two decent snapper had I not used fresh bait.

While packing in, I noticed movement on the far end of Pitokuku Island, which would potentially be a another superb fishing spot. So far, I was under the impression that there is no access around the island on foot.

An angler getting ready on Pitokuku Island. He must have spent the night on the rocks though. He also seems to be wearing a wetsuit.
An angler getting ready on Pitokuku Island. He will most likely spend the night on the rocks though.

I enlarged this picture on the laptop and am sure that he is wearing a wetsuit, so I assume that you will get wet on the way in and out. In any case, I sure would like to get out there, too.

Here a few more pictures for you:

The ever-popular fish and shoe picture.
The ever-popular fish and shoe picture.
On the way out.
On the way out.
On the way out (2).
On the way out (2).



2 thoughts on “Land-Based Fishing: Improving Your Odds With Fresh Bait”

  1. Good write up, good session, good feed. Glad to see those boots doing some work. Looks like a lovely day there and considering it’s winter the fishing seems consistent. That really is an excellent spot. Keep up the good work sir, Paul xxxxx

    1. Yeah buddy, fishing is very consistent, although I have been mostly to the same spots. Almost needless to say that at some stage a kingi showed up as well, but as usual I think it was there the entire time and couldn’t be bothered with my trevally live-bait. But hey, a few decent snapper and I’m happy anyway. Smoked trevally is delicious, too. So no complaints. Cheers Paul, B

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