The best knots and rigs for estuary fishing
THE months of spring bring with them some of the best fishing opportunities on our coastal rivers and lakes. Rising water temperatures bring many of the most popular estuarine species on the bite and the onset of warmer weather brings plenty of keen fishos out of winter hibernation.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the key rigging fundamentals for anglers hoping to improve their results on popular species such as bream, dusky flathead, whiting, mulloway and tailor. Our estuaries receive plenty of fishing pressure from both commercial and recreational anglers – especially around our major population centres – so you really have to be on your game to achieve consistently good catches. I’m a firm believer in the theory that 10 per cent of the anglers catch 90 per cent of the fish so we’ll go through some of the rigging techniques that those gun anglers use to consistently get amongst the fish.
Use light lines
One of the keys to producing consistent results on heavily fished waterways is to fish light. I’ve spent a lot of time over the winter months fishing from a Hobie Mirage Outback kayak I recently bought and it really drove home to me the point of how many more bites you get fishing light leaders and main lines. The first weekend I took my Hobie out for a trial run the waters of Lake Macquarie were crystal clear due to the ubiquitous winter westerly winds. I didn’t have a single bite, mainly due to the fact that I’d only really thrown a bit of fishing gear in to go for a paddle and had no light leader material. The next weekend I was ready for battle with my light SP threadline outfit rigged with new 4lb braid main line and 4lb fluorocarbon leader. I went back and fished the same spots in the same clear water conditions with the same soft plastics and got amongst some really nice bream. Of course, to successfully fish light lines and leaders requires the use of the best knots available with the highest break strengths. Connections such as the Uni-Knot for connecting hook to leader, Triple Surgeon’s Knot for connecting leader to main line, and the Lefty’s Loop Knot for connecting lures to leader come highly recommended. They are all worth learning if you want to fish lighter lines and improve your overall results.
Nowhere has the importance of fishing light in our estuaries been more clearly demonstrated than by the most successful competitors fishing the popular bream tournaments. When expert estuarine anglers like Fisho’s Kaj Busch recommend you fish light to improve your results you know it’s fair dinkum good advice.
Use the right hooks
Most keen anglers are tackle hoarders and I’m no different. When I look in my tackle cupboard at the old style hooks and jig heads we used estuary fishing years ago and compare them to today’s superb patterns it highlights the vast improvements in fishing hook technology. The development of chemically sharpened hooks has forever changed the way we fish our estuaries, and has been a key factor in the evolution of fishing soft plastics for bream and whiting on poppers. The multitude of strong chemically sharpened hook patterns available allows you to find the perfect match for any size or type of bait you can think of using. You can even choose the colour of the hook to suit the bait, such as a green needle sneck when fishing weed baits for luderick or a red long shanked pattern when chasing whiting on blood worms. When it comes to hook patterns anglers have never had it so good.
Less weight = more bites
Whether you’re fishing with baits or with soft plastics you’ll usually catch more fish by using the lightest possible sinker or jig head. Generally speaking, the lighter the sinker or jig head, the more realistic the presentation will be. Easily spooked or gun-shy species will often drop a bait when they feel the resistance of a heavy sinker anchoring it to the bottom. A lighter sinker (or no sinker at all) will allow the bait to move with the tidal flow or current, covering water and presenting the bait in a more natural manner. Check out the four basic rigs drawn up over these pages by Fisho illustrator Chris Palatsides – these simple but effective rigs form the basis of most estuary bait fishing.
When estuary fishing these days I’ve reached the point where I’ll only use either the freshest baits available or soft plastic lures. I honestly believe the modern scented soft plastics are a far superior fish catching option to any frozen bait.
There’s no one big secret to being a better estuarine angler – it’s more a matter of getting out on the water, putting in the time and accumulating knowledge and skills. Don’t be afraid to try new locations, techniques, baits or lures – experimentation is the only way to broaden your knowledge. Speaking of knowledge, I highly recommend that you keep a diary and record all details of your fishing trips, including catches, techniques and conditions such as tides, moon phases, barometric pressure and water conditions. And make sure you go to the Fishing World website at fishingworld.com.au for a video demonstration of five highly effective estuarine rigs by our very own Pat Brennan.