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Bluewater bait rigging
  |  First Published: December 2016



The warmer months see a noticeable increase in the number and variety of pelagic species in our bluewater environment. Numerous billfish species including black, blue and striped marlin, as well as sailfish are caught – with the occasional spearfish as well. Additionally, desirable pelagics such as wahoo, mackerel (Spanish, spotted, shark and school), mahimahi, yellowtail kingfish, cobia and tuna (yellowfin, longtail, mack and striped) are all also on the agenda. These as well as many demersal species, all prey predominately on baitfish species – so using whole fish baits for these species is a wise choice. Rigging these baits well will make them more enticing and natural in appearance, which increases your chance of a solid connection to the attacking predator – due to more aggressive strikes and prominent hook positioning.

Anglers commonly use baitfish species such as yakkas, scad, cowanyoung, slimey mackerel, garfish, pike, and pilchard, as these are the species most likely to be preyed upon by pelagics and numerous demersal species in our area. Rigging, for each of these baits, is a fairly similar process – though it will depend on the target species and the location being fished, whether the baitfish will be alive or dead. Greater consideration needs to be given to live offerings, as you still need good hook coverage yet want to minimise damage to the baitfish to guarantee it is still swimming strong and healthy until a predator engulfs it.

Although experienced anglers all have their own preferences for rigging baits for certain species and situations; following are a few of the ways I rig baits for fishing throughout Southern Queensland. The first picture instructs the rigging of live bait for either slow trolling or dropping back into a baitfish school or adjacent to a structure. This rigging is especially popular with anglers targeting billfish in open waters where the bait is scattered. In this scenario, the billfish are usually cruising around plucking off what they can from what’s on offer. The rigged baitfish is slowly trolled (1-2 knots) with plenty of stopping to allow the bait to slowly sink down. Also, when large baitfish balls are located (these are formed when lurking predators condense the bait into a tight conglomeration), anglers will commonly use a bait jig to secure a few live baits out of the school, then rig the baitfish in the following way, and feed it back into the school.

These are just a few basic rigs, which can be used when targeting bluewater adversaries with whole live or dead fish baits. Many anglers have preferences for one or the other, and this will just expand from your personal experiences over time. However, this basic grounding in rigging of your baits will hopefully give you a decent idea, encouraging you to try some live baiting when you’re next out on the bluewater.

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