With winter setting in on us and the unsettled sea states and miserable weather conditions it brings, it could be easy to become despondent, but it’s not at all bad news for all us bass anglers out there. Some great winter Bass fishing is on the cards with a good chance of finding a specimen size fish too during a session!
One of my favourite rigs to use whilst targeting bass during the winter months, if it’s not fishing worm baits off the beaches after a big blow, has got to be using the bait slider method with either dead or live baits. Using this rig enables you to fish over pretty much any ground whether your fishing from piers onto sand, beaches casting onto mixed ground or perhaps a rock mark that’s host to some extremely rough ground to your front such as boulder formations and deep rocky gullies which are all easily fishable using the bait slider method with minimal tackle loss. The basic idea is so simple yet can be very effective used at the right time in the right conditions.
What is Bait Sliding?
The bait Slider method allows you to cast your lead only, out to your intended area and then slide your chosen bait down the line to present it in just the right place. The bait slider design means that the bait can only travel in one direction so it always finds its way down towards the lead and cannot in the instance of using live baited pout, whiting or mackerel swim back up the line. It’s the Perfect way for getting a dead or live bait just at the back of the surf line for the bass or by using a rotten bottom attached to the lead fished over treacherous rough ground from a rock mark, which would perhaps be almost impossible to fish with any other rig such as a pulley, running ledger etc, without having to pull for a break and losing the lot. Even with a rotten bottom in use you can’t guarantee you’ll get your gear back or the fish.
What is the bait slider?
The Bait Slider is easy to rig and comes in two parts with two complete sliders to a packet. The first part of the slider in the pack is a large solid O ring with a swivel connected and secondly accompanied with the bait slider boom. (These come weighted for dead baits or unweighted for live baits).
How to rig the bait slider?
For one of the most basic ways of setting up the rig, all you need to do is simply unclip the large ring from the bait slider boom so they are now separated.
Attach/tie the swivel on the O ring to the end of your leader/main line. Then tie your desired drop length of line to the O ring then the other end to your lead incorporating a rotten bottom as appropriate.
Your zip slider will end up stopping at the O ring, so adjust your line drop accordingly to the height you want your bait to end up from your lead. If you’re fishing over kelp or boulders for instance, you may want a bit more clearance.
On the bait slider boom, tie your trace line to the swivel then the other end to your hook of choice, of which I find circles work really well with live baits.
When fishing a bait slider I like to fish a trace line of fluorocarbon around 2-3 ft in length for the bass, as this encourages the fish to take the bait without instantly feeling the resistance from the slider rig body, but this is just a personal preference and it’s generally a case of trial and error to see what works best on your marks. A stiffer line such as fluorocarbon on a shorter snood also prevents live baits getting in a tangle!
This completes the basic ‘terminal tackle’ bait slider setup and all that’s left for you to do is simply cast your lead to the spot where you want to present your sliding bait, tighten up the line and place your rod in the rest.
You’ll find that using grip leads whilst fishing out over clean/mixed ground will work better at keeping your line taught. If fishing into rough ground plain leads will work fine providing you get the lead nicely anchored into position. You’re aiming to achieve a zip line effect from rod tip to the lead.
So now, with the lead cast out, your line tight as possible, all there is to do is get your bait slid down the line. Simply twist the spring around the mainline until it runs freely up and down the main line. I say simply but it did take me a while to figure out how it’s done during my first session using them, so get familiar with it at home first. It’s a straightforward 4 wraps round the coil once you are used to it.
Once the slider has made its way down your line and into the water, a few raise and drops of the rod tip are in order just to bounce the slider down the line. If you are using a dead bait you may need to repeat this a few more times to get it further down the line. Let your live bait do the work at getting down to the stop ring. Once it’s out of site there’s a chance of a fish hitting it as it swims down the line into position.
Now you can sit back, and relax, at least until you get a bite! A big bite can come at any time and as a fish may take it on the move if the slider is up in the water, the bites can be savage! However, it’s really important NOT to strike as your slider bait may have been taken by the fish half way down your main line to the O ring and a strike will not fully connect and perhaps spook the feeding fish. Simply wind in until you feel the weight of the fish. The majority of fish I have caught on the slider have been self-hooked and rarely come off after hooking themselves. Circles certainly help with the hook up ratio.
A few things to consider when bait sliding.
Probably the most important thing to consider when fishing the slider rig is the ground your fishing over. Not only the area that your lead and slider will end up at but the route that the sliding bait will take to get there. You want a clear route free of any reefs or ledges from rod tip to O ring giving your sliding bait the best chance of fishing properly without getting caught up on any features on the way down.
If your fishing from the beach or pier its more straight forward and sometimes just a short lob or cast from the pier or a gentle flick out just past the breaking waves from the beach is all you need to find the feeding fish.
If you’re fishing a running tide, try to cast down tide where possible as this will ensure your bait slides better and it gets down to where you want your bait, as opposed to being sat in a large bow.
The higher up you are the easier it is. Fishing from an elevated rock mark, pier or sloping beach will often make it easier for you to get your bait down the line as apposed to fishing sand flats where slightly more effort may be needed to get the bait sliding, so just keep lowering and raising the rod tip if you are on and fishing over level ground and your bait will go out eventually. The sliders were originally deployed with large baits for shark fishing in South Africa from fairly flat beaches, so depth isn’t critical to get them working.
Once I have slid my bait down the line I often leave my rod in the rest with the rod tip up high for the first few minutes just to aid the bait sliding. The back wash on a beach will then keep dragging the bait down the line too.
Fishing mainline straight through without a leader seems to be the best bet for the slider rig as iv noticed in the past even the smallest and tiniest of leader knots can prevent the sliders from going past the knot. So you may want to step up to a heavier main line. Alternatively, tapered mainlines are ideal for them.
Ensure your mainline is of adequate breaking strain to the ground your fishing and the lead you are casting. Also style of cast. If you intend to power cast, then the rule of thumb of 10lb per oz + 1oz should be followed, but for a gentle lob it isn’t as critical. From rock marks where little distance is required I will tend to use 25-30lbs straight through.
If using live baits keep an eye out for line twitches or slack line bites. More often than not a live bait will go bonkers when a predators in the area. Slack line bites will occur if the bait gets hit and the bass tries to swim back up the line. Just be ready to react to the slightest of takes as the fish could be on.
Set your drag!
Fishing with a slider and a well anchored weight may take the rod out the rest if it’s hit by something big, if it doesn’t break your weak link to the lead.
Always have a stop ring or equivalent before the lead… if you lose your lead and you haven’t tied a stop ring or equivalent on you’ll lose your slider and more importantly that chunky silver prize!
What baits work best?
Live baits work best I’ve noticed for the bass, but if you have no time to go and catch them then dead baits work too. Whole Mackerel fillets and whole frozen squid have produced good fish for me in the past and if your catching a few squid on the jigs this winter for the deep fryer save the heads as they are a lethal bass bait when used on the bait slider during winter. There’s rarely a better bait than fresh local caught squid when they are in the area!
When it comes to live baits, pout and whiting have done well over the winter months, whilst small Scad and mackerel are also a good choice if you can get one.
Keeping your bait in the water longer than usual is much more possible as you’ll be less likely to get any crab and dog trouble using this method, so long as you’ve rigged it for the bait to be just off the bottom.
The way I rig it
Depending on the ground I fish dictates the height I want the bait from the bottom.
In most cases I fish this rig into rough ground so if I intend on fishing mid water in let’s say 30ft of water, for the bait to stop mid water I’d need to be casting out a 15ft drop of line after the O ring, then followed by a rotten bottom weak link to the lead. This would seem pretty impractical to try casting i’d imagine. The way round it is by adding a large bait clip set upside down onto the O ring. This enables you to clip your lead up on the O ring which releases on impact with the water.
So if your out on the rocks, beaches or piers as we move into winter and you’ve got a spare rod to hand, give it a try and you might just strike gold… or should I say silver?!