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Kayak Fishing Live Bait Tips with Shelley Bradish- Cooney
11:54PM 25th Apr 14

In this guest blog post Shelley Bradish-Cooney shares her tips on Live Bait Fihing, some great tips, read on....

Using live baits to catch fish is a technique that has been around for years.  It is responsible for the first large kingfish I caught on my kayak, and since then I have had it on my list of things to master.

In this two part series I will explore the terminal tackle side of catching and deploying live baits, and the next instalment feature the modifications to my Viking Reload Tackle Pod™  to allow it to function as a live bait tank.

You will need the following:

  • Sabiki rigs
  • 1 oz ball lead sinkers
  • Needle for threading (bridling) the live bait
  • Dental floss
  • Rod for live baiting
  • Spare spool 12 lb fluorocarbon
  • Salted bait
  • Elastics
  • Plano Tackle Box

The range of sabiki rigs is extensive; they vary in price in NZ from $2 to $10 per rig.  I prefer to purchase at the lower end of the range, as these are often used once for the day then disposed of.  You can chose to rinse them in fresh water, and spray the hooks with olive oil spray to get another day out of them if you are on a tight budget – the choice is yours.

In my experience the hook range of 8 to 10 has served my purpose well, as I am looking to catch small baits.  On a recent trip to Australia I hooked an 80 kg black marlin on a yakka live bait that measured only 15 cm long (yes, from my kayak).

The key with setting out your sabiki rig is to place a sinker at the end that is heavy enough to get your line to the bottom.  I carry a few spare lead ball sinkers that I attach to the bottom swivel with a spare bit of 12 lb fluorocarbon.  To get a better hook up rate it also helps to bait the sabiki hooks with small pieces of pilchard, or leftover bait from the day before.  I will often prepare a “starter” taking some fillets of bait fish caught the previous day, then salting it and adding a touch of baking soda to preserve the colour.  Kept in the airtight plastic bag in the fridge this “starter” can last up to three weeks.  Cutting this bait in tiny 3 mm squares ensures that small baits attract small baitfish.

Locating the Bait fish

Using your sounder to locate bait schools, you ensure that you are prepared to receive the live baits you catch.  As mentioned earlier I will cover the details of the Viking Tackle Pod™/Live Bait Tank modifications my husband Stuart has helped me install, but at this point I will keep it brief by saying I fill the Tackle Pod™ with salt water.

To locate bait schools you can look for birds, find evidence on your sounder, and if really struggling you can improve your chances by using burley.  A good recipe for home-made burley is to prepare a container of 4 parts water to one part chicken pellet food, and one part pilchard tinned cat food.  This works well on the shoulder part of the season when the bait schools are not as plentiful. Prepared the night before this slurry will draw fish to your kayak.

Some may choose to use their soft baiting rod – mine is set up with 10 lb braid, and all that is required is for me to replace my standard 25 lb fluro leader with a lighter 12 lb leader.  The idea is to make your line as invisible to the fish as possible.  I chose to purchase a small children’s rod, and upgraded the reel with 10 lb braid.  This makes for great sport, and gets the day off with a laugh when you manage a 40 cm snapper.

Once you have sourced all your live baits – I am currently working on approximately 6 small kahawai for the Viking Live Bait/Tackle Pod™.  Using a system to oxygenate the water I can then shift my focus to paddling out further offshore to target reef structure for kingfish, tuna, marlin or snapper.

Live bait fishing from your kayak

(Part 2 of Shelley's tips on live bait fishing will cove this set in more detail) 

Part of the beauty of the Viking Reload is the transducer scupper.  Temperature is key to part of your strategy to hunt big game fish, particularly marlin.  Warm water causes the hull to heat up, and in those kayaks that do not feature transducer scuppers (improvising with transducers mounted in foam in the hull) – these are likely to feature false high temperature readings.

I have recently made the investment in a Synit Jigging Rod paired with an Accurate Boss 500 Lefty.  This rod has the sensitivity combined with lifting power, and together with the Accurate twin drag system it features huge stopping power.  On this combo I have loaded 50lb braid followed by 40 lb mono.  The idea behind the mono is that you need the stretch of the mono along with the ability for it to blend in with the blue water.  The leader needs to be about 4 metres long, and finished with a hook that you have already tied your bridle material to.

Hooks are a personal preference but logic supports a sharp hook to allow a light leader.  I was using the Trokar laser sharpened hooks this summer with fantastic results.  It is so sharp it  needs to be handled with a great deal of respect, but after a recent tussle with a Cobia in Australia I swear by them.  I had to tow this fish on my kayak for one hour before it was ready to be gaffed, and that hook was so firmly bedded in the corner of its mouth it was going nowhere.

Once you have paddled to your fishing location, my preferred method to attach the live bait to the hook is using dental floss.  The key is in preparation of loops made off the water, so you can reach into your supply to attach them to your hook.  I have started using the Plano tackle storage box, preferred as it features a silicone O-ring and ensures your tackle stays dry in wet areas.  Given that I am using the Tackle Pod™ wet for live bait I have chosen to store my tackle in the Chill Pod™ behind me.

Using a piece of light guage stainless welding rod with a small loop at the end, you can draw your dental floss through the top of the eye socket of the live bait.  Tackle stores offer two types of stainless needles, one a mortician’s needle (with eye) and one made from stainless rod that is lighter guage and has a hood rather than an eye.  I prefer the hook, as the knots in the dental floss can be difficult to thread.  In NZ some boaties use elastics, but dental floss is very strong, and does not cause as much damage to the live bait.

live bait fishing with slimey mackeral

(slimmy mackerel I was using in Australia when targeting Marlin) 

Once the live bait is lowered in the water, and swimming happily I will measure out 30 metres of line. Depending on the water temperature and the presence of bait schools and fish sign I will then decide to run the live bait on the surface, or to use a 6 oz sinker on the line to create a downrigger.  Secured by an elastic, this downrigger is quite easily broken off as you retrieve the line, by reaching up and pulling.  My mentor Grant Ashwell runs a permanently mounted downrigger, but he has spent years learning to use it, and in my case I was using a borrowed kayak that did not have this facility.

Once deployed, the key is to paddle at a rate of about 1 km/hr.  Any faster and the live bait will spin – the important thing is to have the fish swimming as naturally as possible.  Bigger live bait will be stronger, so use your judgement.

When these big fish take the bait, it is important to ensure that you have your rod placed on the kayak in such a way that a run will not disturb your balance.  When trolling I have my rods placed in front of me in my RailBlaza rod holder, always with the rod in line with the kayak and easy to access.  I learned this the hard way many years ago when I hooked up a shark, and it was towing me side-ways because it was applying so much force to the rod I could not remove it from the rear rod holder.  In hindsight I could have lessened off the drag, but it would not have made for a very good story would it?

It is good practise to frequently check your bait to ensure that it is still in good condition.  Fresh live bait will swim with greater urgency, sending out “dinner bell” signals to large predatory fish.

Some might read this article and think, soft-baiting is much easier.  And they would be correct.  However the layers of technique around live-baiting are there to challenge the serious angler, and the rewards – well those speak for themselves.  My first 18.5 kg kingfish 5 years ago, a recent 80kg black marlin hook up (sadly the trace severed), and a 10.6 kg cobia (the last two both in Australian waters).  To quote my good friend and mentor Grant Ashwell – Hooley Dooley!!!!!! Shelley Bradish-Cooney

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