Thought it might be useful to put together a short discussion on my experiences bottom bashing off Sydney, hopefully to help other raiders improve their results and catch some fish !
Bottom bashing is a very easy and common method of fishing. Most of my fishing involves bottom bashing, and it can be a very productive way to fish. I certainly wont say that i know everything, i am sure there is a wealth of knowledge out there that can add to the info below and alot of it may vary. But i can say that what i have outlined below works for me, and the way that i fish on my boat.
Probably the most important aspect of bottom bashing is the location (DUH). Of course one would say thats very common sense, but very often i hear "fish on the 50m line infront of that lighthouse" or "Line up that headland and this that on the 30m line". As such it does appear that some fishos dont really spend a tremendous amount of time actually researching where they are about to drop their baits. It therefore doesn't surprise me that some people will land on the fish by chance, and others wont.
I am sure that this advice stemmed from the days where fishfinders and electronic GPS didn't exist, and this worked OK back then and really there was no other choice. The reality is we now have access to a wealth of information online and GPS chart plotters that can tell us exactly where we are.
Certain parts off the seabed off Sydney can be perpetual sandy deserts, and often setting up anchor or a drift an extra 200m away from the reef/structure or kelp beds can be the difference between catching some fish, and not.
My advice is to do as much study, and as much trial and error to find the locations where the fish are likely to be. This requires a combination of online research, reading and then trialing outside. For the first year or so i had very hit and miss results, however as the years have gone by and my database of locations has increased, i more often than not will find the fish on at least one of the spots which are known to produce.
In terms of what to look for i would suggest sandy or gravel bottoms adjacent to reef/structure & kelp beds. I have caught fish seemingly in the middle of no where with no structure or reef in sight, but this is normally the exception and not the norm. As an example in the image below you will see that there is a lot of sandy bottoms (Orange) interspersed among hard/reef bottom (Brown) east of bluefish point, the sandy bottoms between those reefs would be the places i would be looking for. A decent chart plotter should be able to show you the reef ridges and pinnacles and allow you to mentally formulate a 3D image of the seabed in the area.
Once you find a patch of fish, mark the spot, drift over it again or if your biceps are big enough, drop the anchor !! A good test of time for me is about 30 minutes. If i haven't had any strikes in about 30 minutes its safe to say there is nobody home. This is of course redundant if your method is to anchor, burley and wait for the fish to come to you.
Bottom line, you will always catch something, but if you want to produce good consistent results, spend the time and energy to learn the underwater seabed topography, where the reefs are, get a handle on what reefs fish best in what conditions, currents and the like.
Drift Speed & Direction
For me, the next most important aspect of bottom bashing is your drift speed. This can be rather complicated as the right answer for you will take into account the type of boat you have, the depth your fishing, the type of rigs your using and the conditions on the day.
Whatever your circumstances are, the two most important things to consider are:
1. Your drift should be slow enough to allow the lead/weight to hit the bottom and,
2. Your drift should be slow enough to allow prospecting fish to see, inspect and attack your baits or lures. (ie, no point having 9 ounce leads but drifting at 4km/hr!)
The ideal drift speed for me is between 1km/hr and 1.5km/hr. Any slower and i find that we dont cover enough ground, and any faster i find our hookup/catch rate declines.
When bottom bashing Always have a sea anchor on board, appropriately sized for your boat.
In respect of drift direction, and circling back to the earlier discussion on locations, my ideal drift is one that travels parallel with the reef structure, but note this is not always possible due to current and wind. If a parallel drift is not possible, i prefer a drift starting about 200-300m away and drifting towards the reef/structure. Just keep your eye on the chart plotter as i have lost many rigs to the reef by drifting straight over it.
My go to rig for bottom bashing is the humble paternoster with two droppers. I usually allow about 70cm from the lead to the first dropper, with a size 5/0 or sometimes 4/0 octopus hook. The next dropper can be anywhere between 50cm to 80cm further away from the first one. Another rig i have been trialing and found to be successful is a hybrid paternoster/snapper rig. This involves a 1.5m trace from the lead to a single dropper. The dropper is extended at about 30cm in length and has two 5/0 octopus hooks. This will allow a whole pilchard to be snelled with a half hitch over the tail, or even a larger fish strip of about 15cm in length to be rigged. I have found this rig to be quite deadly on the snapper. Another rig which is also good for snapper is the snapper rig (DUH), which essentially involves a ball sinker in varying weights straight to two snelled hooks. Again this will allow a whole pillie to be presented with a half hitch over the tail. The snapper rig is better used when at anchor and with a burley trail out.
For water below 30m in depth i usually use a 3 or 4 ounce lead and for water over 30m in depth i usually increase to 5 or 6 ounce lead.
Some things to be mindful of:
1. A well presented bait can go a long way to enticing a bite
2. Whatever bait you are using, always expose your hooks. Fish will very often swallow a bait, try to swim away and then spit it back out. An exposed hook will increase your chance of hook up.
3. Size 4/0 and 5/0 hooks are best, for larger baits you could even go larger.
I also like to have multiple rods out, all with different configuration in terms of rigs, hook size, bait ,dropper distance separation and the like. If i find one configuration producing more than others on the day, we would generally swap the others over gradually.
Mix it up, fish can be inexplicably choosy preferring one bait over another on certain days. For an average bottom bashing session i will have a mix of pillies, squid and prawns. Medium to larger prawns work best, especially in deep water. If a sargeant baker, pike, barracoutta, slimey or yakka come onboard as bycatch, they make excellent fresh strip baits when filleted and presented. Freshly caught and/or salted bonito is also very good bait.
You can always try a soft plastic too even on the paternoster rig.
Again, i will usually have a different bait on each rod, and keep an eye on which baits are producing, if one is producing more than the other i will usually use that bait more or until it runs out. I put all my baits in an esky with ice to make sure whatever i dont use on the day is still frozen or semi frozen by the time i get home.
Dont forget, If your fishing at anchor a burley trail is mandatory !!!
So there you have it raiders, i hope this has been informative, and that it will help you all catch some more fish !.
Thanks for reading