Bait - using smelt for saltwater fishing

With the whitebait season well underway, a golden opportunity presents itself for both shore fishers and boaties. The well-used ‘mudfish’ angler expression of ‘match the hatch’ can be used by sea anglers to good effect.

Often, when catching whitebait, large quantities of smelt are caught, too; predatory fish should therefore be well used to seeing groups of smelt in amongst the much prized schools of delicious and succulent whitebait (damn, I’m drooling down my shirt front again!).

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So instead of throwing the smelt back or feeding them to your pets, try saving a few and free-flow freezing them for your next fishing expedition; correctly attached to the hook, they will appear to be an easy mouthful.

Baiting up in the method I’m about to show you also allows the thinking angler to prepare a number of these smelt baits well in advance, perhaps placing them in the freezer in separate small plastic bags. Another good option is to wrap the little bundles in cling-film; that way just a handful or two can be taken on each trip, ready to go.

Still-frozen ‘groupie’ smelt baits work well for surfcasters, as these hard baits take the shock of casting much better – rather than becoming an explosion of fish bits in mid air once thawed! A small chilly bin with ice should keep them frozen solid for all but the longer, hotter fishing missions.

You should also make up a lot of traces, because each bundle needs to be traced up before freezing. This shouldn’t present too much of a problem at present, since we have wet windy weather to endure during the equinox months. Besides, prior preparation is the key for any type of fishing expedition.

However, it’s not compulsory to fish smelt baits after they’ve been frozen. If you’re lucky enough to catch some fresh ones while fishing, they can be bound up on the spot – provided you’ve packed some good bait-elastic, such as the Black Magic Bait Buddy. And who doesn’t?

You don’t have to restrict yourself to smelt, either. Anchovies, sprats and even small pilchards work well, too. I’ve even seen a certain ‘yeti-type’ individual going by the name of Pete Lamb use larger pilchards in this manner, hence the birth of the ‘pillie sandwich’.

Using smelt in this manner allows you to make the bait any size you wish. Two or three smelt makes a nice, small bait, with as many as you think you can cast being the general ‘rule’ for larger specimens.

I’ve found the larger-sized baitfish really need a two-hook trace to cover their extra length better. This saves much wailing and gnashing of teeth upon retrieving your gear after a good hit and finding the fish has missed the hook and left just half a smelt groupie.

The easiest way to assemble a smelt groupie is to first lightly bind together as many smelt as you wish to use. My personal preference is to have them all facing in the same direction, so they look like a small school.

Next, thread the hook or hooks into the groupie just as you would a whole- or half-pilchard bait. Now finish off by binding the whole lot together a little more firmly. Don’t over-bind it though – leave some heads and tails sticking out for a more natural look.

Trace length is a personal preference, although I like longer ones to allow a bit of movement in the water.

Next, curl it all together and place in a re-sealable bag – and if you like a bit of fish oil on your baits, now’s the time to add it.

Once frozen, groupies can be placed in a container ready for taking on your next mission.

Preparing baits in this manner really becomes invaluable when fishing in competitions: you can take full advantage of the prime times at dawn and dusk, instead of wasting good soak time by frantically tying new baits on the spot.


November - 2014 - Bruce Basher

New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
Copyright: NZ Fishing Media Ltd.
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited

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