How To Rig Live Bait for Downrigging

I was out fishing with (top bloke and fellow Sydney Angler) Kantong yesterday, who was unsure of the best way to rig a trolled livebait when fishing for kingfish. We took a few pics which I hope might be helpful.


You’ll need the following:


A short shank straight gape hook, appropriate to the size of the bait being used. You want one that’s big enough for a solid hookset, but not so big as to overpower the bait. 6/0 Mustad Hoodlums work well with small to large yellowtail.


A bait needle. There are two types, open and closed eye. Closed eye needles are a little slower to disengage, but you are less likely to lose your rubber band in the process. The spring wire one shown below corrodes fairly quickly but work well:

Size 12 rubber bands. These are available in boxes of around one thousand at Officeworks for just under $3.


How to rig the live bait:

Preparing to thread the bait needle through the live bait

Select a good bait from the tank. You’re looking for one that’s a light colour, swimming well and without a torn mouth. Yellowtail which look darker than the rest of the fish in the tank are usually stressed, or injured. Use a small bait net to catch the yellowtail, and grasp it firmly–without squeezing- behind the gills. Pick up your bait needle – with the rubber band already fitted – in your other hand. Pass the needle through the front of the eye socket, being careful not to injure the eyeballs

Thread the rubber band through the live bait just in front of the eye

Draw the needle completely through, so that a loop of rubber band can be seen on either side of the yellowtail’s head

The live bait with the rubber band successfully threaded through

Both loops should be of equal size

Attach the hook the the rubber band in the live bait

Taking the two loops of rubber band between finger and thumb, allow the yellowtail to swing freely. Pass the hook through both loops. Twist the hook 180 degrees, and then pass it back through the loop again

Trolling the Yellowtail live bait rigs behind the boat on downriggers

Rubber bands are great because they will absorb the shock transmitted down the line – especially if you’re fishing with braid, which transmits more boat shock. Your yellowtail will last for a long time and (if it is not taken by a fish) can even be released, at the end of the day. If you don’t get a strike the bait can be carefully unwrapped from the hook and placed back into the live bait tank with the rubber band still in place. When you move to another area, that bait can be caught in the net and quickly put back in the water.


If anyone has any questions, comments or improvements on this method, please go right ahead and email them to me.


Cheers to all, Andrew