The writer, Paul Lennon with two long-fin perch caught on the same drop with a Snapper Snack rig.
When it comes to putting food on the table, good old fashion bottom bouncing is still pretty hard to beat. It’s probably safe to say that drifting around with a paternoster rig (a.k.a. ledger rig) has accounted for more snapper, flathead, nannygai, morwong, pearl perch and a host of other tasty species than any other method of fishing out there.
While simple and extremely effective, it still needs to be done in the right way and in the right areas to have success. Probably the biggest mistake anglers make with this style of fishing is trying to do it in waters that are way too shallow and more suited to anchoring up and casting lightly weighted baits away from the boat.
Fish, especially snapper, are very wary and will quickly spook in shallow water when there’s a boat drifting over the top of them. This is why drifting around with big sinkers and fishing virtually underneath the boat in waters less the 15m is not too far short of a waste of time.
The most effective depths for bottom bashing are from 40-200m as boat presence to bottom feeding fish is not usually an issue.
Breaking it down further inside this window of ideal depths, each species will have its own ideal range and bottom territory it prefers. For instance, flathead will be found over sandy muddy bottoms in 40-80m of water while fish like long-fin perch prefer the deeper reefs around 100-200m.
Then you have snapper and morwong that cover the whole range up to 200m of water and other fish that cross over in between like pearl perch and nannygai.
This is why bottom fishing when done right can produce a real mixed bag of species.
Getting your drift right is a really important factor that will greatly increase your catch.
Work out what way the wind and current are going then move in the opposite direction until you’re just off the reef to give you maximum drift coverage back over it.
Plot your start point on your GPS and as soon as you finish your drift go back and move a short distance away either side to give yourself a different line to go over new territory.
If, however, you find a patch of fish on the first drift, be sure to mark it on your GPS and then try to do a re-run over it. Drift speed as well as water depth will dictate what size sinker you should be using, which should be the lightest possible that easily finds the bottom. A sea anchor can also be a handy tool to slow your drift down, especially on days with a lot of current or wind.
While bottom fishing gear can be either overhead or spin set up, the most important thing is braided line as the zero stretch makes bite detection and setting of hooks instant. Braid also cuts through the water much better then mono, which is a big advantage when fishing in this manner especially in the deeper water or when you have current. I use Black Magic Rainbow Braid in 30 or 50lb as it’s colour coded every 10m. The best benefit of this is you can count your colours going down knowing exactly where in the water column you are and this can be particularly handy if you mark a patch of fish say in 70-100m of water.
The paternoster rig is by far the best way to set up for bottom fishing and is just basically a 2m piece of mono leader with a loop on the bottom for a sinker and two short lengths of line off the sides about 60cm apart.
While you can easily tie these yourself, Black Magic tackle has a range of pre-made flasher rigs that are hugely popular and lethal for this type of fishing.
My first experience with these was fishing with a paternoster rig I had tied next to a mate using a Black Magic Snapper Snatcher rig and was pulling in snapper at a rate of 5 to my 1.
Ever since that day I’ve used the pre-made flasher rigs and never looked back.
Another reason they work so well is you can bait them up and when you do unknowingly lose your bait, or after a missed bite, the flasher rig alone will usually still get nailed meaning you never waste your time in the water.
The Black Magic range is always growing with a huge expanse of colours and sizes, now with 1/0 to 8/0 available in suicide and circle hook patterns. Personally, I prefer the ones rigged on the KL circle hooks as the fish tend to hook themselves with a slow lift on the rod all that’s needed.
I’ve also been testing a new product by Black Magic, the Snapper Snack, which is truly deadly.
While they are the same concept these don’t use the flasher type material but rather thin small plastic and this gives more movement than traditional flasher rigs teasing shutdown fish into a bite.
They’re on the market now, so keep your eyes peeled!