Best Bait – It’s all about looks!

Best Bait – It’s all about looks!

Question : What is the best bait?

Answer: The one the fish want!!

….yes I know that sounds like a lame answer but….IT’S TRUE!!!

If you catch a big fish, or a lot of fish, or best of all ….a lot of big fish then anglers will ask you two things – where did you fish and what bait did you use?

I’d like to have a look at bait, cos this is the easiest thing to get right.

If you read fishing reports you can get a lot of info on fish being caught and bait used….so I used to think it would make it easy for me to catch fish  too….right?


What I didn’t know was that half the attraction of good bait is the way it is presented.

You’ve probably found the same thing….

…you go to the right place, use the right bait….and then leave without a fish!

After doing this too many times I started investigating what the best anglers did and I was amazed at what I learned…


Bait presentation is just a fancy way of saying that your bait should look natural when you put it on the hook. Get it wrong and even hungry fish won’t touch your bait but get it right and you could go home with a truck load for dinner.

Bait presentation gets more important at certain time…when weather conditions make the fish stop feeding, when you fish a spot that gets heavy fishing pressure or when you target very choosy or nervous fish.

I know a Mulloway specialist who fishes the estuaries close to the City of Melbourne. These areas get heavy fishing pressure so the fish are very suspicious of anything in the water. He spends a lot of time putting each bait on the hook…because he knows nervous Mulloway won’t touch anything that doesn’t look right.

The larger the fish you are targeting the more important bait presentation is. Large baits are big enough for fish to easily look at…and reject…

…but all baits need to look right.

So what are the rules on presentation?

Part of presentation is how palatable the bait looks. It should look fresh and tasty…not old and ‘yukky’.

This just means that you go with proven facts on bait quality –

  1. Live bait is best – it’s great
  2. Freshly killed – very good
  3. Fresh frozen – works OK
  4. Dried (dehydrated) – works at times
  5. Defrosted then frozen again – very limited value

So once you get the right bait for what you want to catch and you get the right quality….now you need to make it look like something fish will want to eat.

The first thing is to make sure the bait size is right for the size of fish in front of you.

While big baits catch big fish small baits can too.

If the fish in front of you are small they might not be able to swallow a big bait….in fact they’re more likely to pick at it and leave you with nothing…and no hope of catching anything. So keep your bait right sized!

If your main goal is to catch fish and just get some action, any action, then you can start even with smaller baits than normal. This is especially important if you’re struggling to get a bite. Go down to a smaller hook, and lighter leader…to make the bait look absolutely natural in the water, just like any other piece of bait.

Heavy line and a big hooks make bait move and sit in the water differently to pieces of bait just dropped in.

European and Asian anglers have mastered bait presentation and spend a lot of time working on the line they use, hook size, knots and swivels to make sure their bait looks right.

They fish in commercial lakes, ponds and rivers. They pay well to use these places and want to make sure they catch fish. The problem for them is the massive angling pressure these waters get. They have to get everything right or they won’t catch. They have mastered bait presentation, of all types, and catch plenty of fish.

So lets look at things you can do when you hook your bait…

…starting with small baits –  make sure they match hook size!!

The bait should fill the curve of the hook and only leave the top part of the shank exposed. You always want the point of the hook to stick out of the bait. It looks best if only the tip of the point is exposed.

Cover  as much of the shank of the hook as you can. This is where bait holder hooks really help as they have little barbs up the shank that will hold bait in place.

If the bait looks OK to you then test it by dropping it into the water in front of you and drop in a similar sized bait next to it.

Do they look the same?

You want them to look the same so a fish couldn’t see any difference either.

To test it even further, if you can , stir up the bottom and see if it moves the same way as the lose bait. If it does…then you’ve got it right. If it doesn’t and you don’t catch fish then you could tie on a lighter leader. A light leader of pre-stretched supple line will make the bait move more naturally. My ‘Survival Pack’ uses this principle. It contains a very light set up you can tie on your line to catch fish when fish aren’t biting.

If you are not an experienced ,big fish,  specialist then for larger baits, the first principle is to cover as much hook as possible.

Large hooks are easier to see and keep big fish away. There are many exceptions but if the fishing is hard and noting is biting then the rule is –  cover the hook!

Baits like fish pieces, squid, prawn, chicken,  corn, bread, dough and cheese can be easily cut or moulded so they cover the hook.  Baits like worms which always try to get off the hook are managed a bit differently.

If using garden worms I like to thread the first worm up the hook so it covers the shank. Then I put a number of worms on the hook by just pinning them in 2 points on the body. This keeps them alive longer and makes sure they have plenty of wiggling ends.

If you use big worms like night crawlers of scrub worms then their size will cover a lot of the hook. You can follow the same process as for small. You can also cut one up to cover the shank then put another on so it adds plenty of movement. Bait holder hooks help keep them in place.

The attraction of worms, maggots, live fish baits, crickets, grasshoppers and other live baits is the movement they make in the water. As with all baits, when you hook them make sure you test how they look by dropping them in the water in front of you. You want plenty of action to lure fish into the area…and drive the fish to smash your bait.

When you fish, after you wind in, always check your bait to make sure the hook is covered and the live bait is moving. If it isn’t then put on a new bait. Sometimes fish just won’t bite anything that isn’t moving!

So bait presentation is real important. The best anglers do a number of things right and bait presentation is one of the first things they look at.

Next time you go fishing make sure you pay attention to how your bait looks and performs in the water….it might just get you a few more fish on the bank.



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