Please select your home edition
Edition
Barz Optics - Polarised and non-polarised readers for sailors

Small baits big fish

by Jarrod Day on 1 Jan 2013
Snapper are one species that like smaller baits making it easier to swallow hole. Jarrod Day
There was once a saying 'the bigger the bait, the bigger the fish' and while this is a nice thought, it is farther from the truth.

Think about it, can a 10kg snapper really fit a 1kg salmon in its mouth? Maybe, but I bet it misses the hooks and your left with only the head of your bait.

From the moment I began fishing I can still remember those words, 'big baits catch big fish' and while I now do the total opposite, I can guarantee that my catch rate has increased considerably.

Obviously, this baiting technique depends on the species you’re targeting. If it was a mako shark, then sure a big 2kg striped tuna will fit into the mouth of a 100kg shark, but you really need to know the species you’re targeting as to the size of the bait to be used.

Snapper for instance are mostly a scavenger species. Sure they feed on bait schools and target white bait, anchovies, calamari and the like, but more often than not, a piece of free floating fish flesh or calamari tentacle is easily thrown down the hatch.

Snapper have to compete for food, especially the school fish. When a bait is present in a feeding school, it becomes a race for the prize, similar to that of a flock of seagulls. When one gets the food, the others harass it trying to rip it from its grasp, snapper are no different. In this case, a larger bait maybe taken, dropped, picked up by another fish and so on, eventually you’ll get a hook-up by why wait. Slipping on smaller 'bite' sized bait will enable an easier hook-up whereby the fish only has to swallow it in one mouthful.

This also increases the possibility of catching larger fish as they often feed by themselves away from the masses. Larger fish are slower fish. Not as agile and competitive as the younger generation. When you are fishing for big fish, the smaller bait theory pays off. With the ability to continue swimming in the tide and being able to swallow an entire bait along the way, your chances of getting a fish over 5kg’s is greatly increased.

With this theory, I put it to the test this season and found the hook-ups were instant, no waiting for the rod to load, rather the reel just screamed.

The baits: Depending on where you’re fishing, different baits will be used. In Port Phillip Bay, like most anglers, I am a fan of pilchards and silver whiting. When it comes to actually fishing for snapper in the Bay, berleying is a huge part. Anglers cut pilchards into chunks and toss them about allowing them to fall to the bottom in an attempt to attract the fish to their baits. If this is the case, why not use a Black Magic Snapper Snatcher rig (without a sinker) and thread on two cubes of pilchard and free spool it down the berley trail.

Think about it, the snapper are feeding on the cubes and what better way to catch them than in the berley trail at the back of your boat. Sure I still cast baits out the back, but these are often half pilchards and silver whiting, a calamari tentacle or strip. By having the half baits also in the trail, fish are quick to swallow them in one mouthful. The smaller baits, especially in Port Phillip are also lighter in weight, meaning they will take longer to get to the bottom.

This also aids in getting a fish as the baits hover in the strike zone longer than a heavier whole pilchard or silver whiting.

In Western Port however, things get a little different. Pilchards are not used as the current is often too strong and can have the bait fall from the hooks. Small fish like yakka’s, salmon and even crabs on the bottom devour pillies in mere seconds.


Small strips of tuna fillet, barracouta, pike, snook, salmon and trevally are dynamite. When I say strips, I mean exactly that. At the most, a strip is only 1-2cm wide and 8-10cm in length. This is the perfect size to be swallowed in one mouthful.

On the other hand, my favourite bait is fresh calamari. Being so readily available throughout the Port, calamari is about the best bait you can get. It is the most versatile and easiest to swallow for a red.


Calamari can be cut in many ways, as strips, tentacles, and heads or as rings. Because your cutting your baits so small, stripping the hood can create a lot of waist, heads are often too big and chunky and tentacles too long. I have found the best way is to cut the hood into rings. This gives you a nice sized bait, plus the added bonus that it won’t spin in the current. Often larger baits will spin in the tide and passing fish won’t look twice at it as it is hard to grab. A bait that site naturally in the current is the perfect sized to swallow is the best choice.

The rigs: Just because you’ve chosen to use smaller baits doesn’t mean your rigs need to change either. In fact, nothing changes, not even your hook size.

I have been using circle hooks for year now and found the smaller baits sit better on the hook. Circle hooks are difficult to bait up for some anyway and by attempting to thread on a whole bait, you more often than not will hide the barb of the hook.

A circle hooks design is to allow the fish to completely swallow the bait before the hook rotates around pinning the jaw hinge. By threading on a smaller bait, the entire hook gape and point is exposed giving the maximum hook exposure for a perfect hook-up.


Last season, a good friend of mine and local Western Port angler Ron Smith fished off Corinella in search of school sharks. Ron’s theory was to fish smaller baits, circle hooks and no wire leaders. During his session, Ron nailed one of Western Ports most highly prized species, a Mulloway and a cracker at that weighting 16.73kg’s. What’s so special about this is the fish was caught on a Black Magic KL 8/0 circle hook with a very small of a yakka’s head, it just goes to show that even big fish, will take smaller baits. what’s more, is that when Ron cleaned the fish, all it had in its stomach was the tail end section of a trevally fillet that someone had discarded.

The proof’s in the pudding, smaller baits = big fish.


Related Articles

Pantaenius – Smooth sailing is more than a favourable weather forecast
Pantaenius get ready to launch into their fourth year operating in Australia As Pantaenius get ready to launch into their fourth year operating in Australia, we get to see why they continue to grow their happy crew of customers. Sitting down with Pantaenius Australia’s MD, Jamie MacPhail, you immediately get a sense that the smooth sailing is a direct result of both their unique product and the marketplace’s willingness to embrace the better mousetrap
Posted on 27 Apr
Pantaenius Insurance - Gone in 180 seconds!
It was all ablaze and we were off in just on three minutes”, was how Noel Elliott described the scene 'It was all ablaze and we were off in just on three minutes”, was how Noel Elliott described the scene you see here. “The most horrendous thing is how quickly all the wiring burns. Remember, on a boat you’re encased in the stuff. It’s a bit like being in a single garage with wires in all the roof and wall cavities, as well as the floor.”
Posted on 20 Mar
Pantaenius Insurance - Close is more than deep enough for some.
As the sun finishes its day low behind the Nelson Bay marina, many a soul gathers above the rocks at the weigh station As the sun finishes its day low behind the Nelson Bay marina, many a soul gathers above the rocks at the weigh station. They could be local, from nearby or way farther afield and it is definitely not a sense of the macabre that draws them in. Rather, it is fascination and wonder, because for the sweeping majority, this is as close as they will ever get to Mother Nature’s marvels of the deep.
Posted on 14 Mar
Seabin- Saving the world, one marina at a time
Now and then you hear of an idea that’s so jaw-droppingly simple and yet so effective that it makes you shake your head Every now and then you hear of an idea that’s so jaw-droppingly simple and yet so effective that it makes you shake your head and wonder, ‘why not me’? Such is the case with the Seabin project, an automated marina rubbish bin that was designed to help remove plastic and other unsightly debris from the water.
Posted on 8 Jan
Eco-warriors Sea-Bin crowd sharing critical stage with nine days to go
The automated marina cleaning SeaBin project has raised 86% of their target with 9 days left. The automated marina cleaning SeaBin project has raised $198,020 of $230,000.00 with nine days left on their Indiegogo crowdfunding platform, but they need more help now.
Posted on 29 Dec 2015
Don’t be a Tosser – Not your usual environmental article!!
The word ‘Tosser’ in the Oxford English dictionary means – ‘a person or thing that throws something’. The word ‘Tosser’ in the Oxford English dictionary means – ‘a person or thing that throws something’. There is no need for me to tell you the other meaning that is commonly used around the world. However in this article it will refer to both at the same time as someone who tosses trash into the ocean, truly is a tosser.
Posted on 3 Dec 2015
Pay attention, YOU can make a difference to the marine environment!!
THIS is a life exam subject and when you reach the Pearly Gates, your results today will count towards your destination OK, Sit up and pay attention, THIS is a life exam subject and when you reach the Pearly Gates, your results today will count towards your final destination
Posted on 16 Nov 2015
Flash and Crack is not a new pop band
To anyone who has been on an airliner hit by lightning, the flash and crack of the strike are vivid memories. To anyone who has been on an airliner hit by lightning, the flash and crack of the strike are vivid memories. It certainly gets your attention and when you land, all the technicians definitely run to the aircraft and give it a very close inspection. So now that we have heightened your senses, let us all remind ourselves that a lightning strike is not always fatal,
Posted on 15 Nov 2015
Scheduled server maintenance - 23 September GMT+2 11pm onwards
Scheduled server maintenance - 23rd September GMT + 2 11pm onwards Scheduled server maintenance - sites will be unavailable for some hours between 11pm and 7am GMT + 2
Posted on 23 Aug 2015
Pantaenius Insurance – How good does it get?
Insurance may not be the buzzword. There is not unobtanium for keels, spinach enhanced sails or vibranium fuel cells Insurance may not be the buzzword. There is not unobtanium for keels, spinach enhanced sails or hulls of cut diamond and vibranium fuel cells powering arc reactors to rave on about. No. It is numbers, facts, risk and documentation. Boring? No. Quite the contrary if you happen to have put your boat up on a reef or Hughie blows it off its mooring, smashes her through everything in sight...
Posted on 29 May 2015
Barz Optics - FloatersPantaenius - Worldwide SupportGAC Pindar Freight