Basics of the Bite

Hooking, playing, landing and releasing your target species.

Dean Dickinson – Catch Cook Editor

On our Youtube channel, we have covered various fish species including their feeding habits, their favorite baits as well as techniques to use when targeting them. It is however fairly difficult to describe each fish’s feeding pattern, bite and fight in detail, these details come with experience and following some simple techniques of hooking, playing and landing your target species will definitely help.


First and most importantly you have to ensure that your hook point is not choked by the bait. i.e. you must make sure your hook point is proud. Next you have to ensure that your hook is super sharp, I prefer to use chemically sharpened hooks as they are generally razor sharp and no sharpening is needed.

Once you have the above done the rest is really up to the fish. many species of fish will first “ test “ the bait, this will be transmitted through your line as a series of knocks or light tugs on the bait, other fish will just grab hold of the bait and set off with it, this will be transmitted up the line as a solid pull on the rod, firmly pulling the rod point down and sometimes almost out of your hands. Unfortunately there are no written rules as to exactly how a certain species of fish will bite, some do however have the same or similar bite and one can with experience start predicting the fish species by the type of bite it gives. With most species it is important however to allow the fish to move off with the bait before attempting to set the hook, however smaller fish like black tail, karanteen and shad need to be struck while they are ‘nibbling” on your bait, this is very important when it comes to shad fishing, the shad can remove every morsel of bait from your hook and without striking it will usually end up satisfied while your hook ends up bare. 

Striking a fish is also a point which is up for serious discussion as many peoples opinions vary on just how hard and how many times one needs to strike in order to firmly set the hook. Personally I like to firmly lift the rod and wind line onto the reel when targeting edibles and when targeting non – edibles I like to firmly lift the rod two or three times to set the hook in the harder jaw of the non- edible species.

Playing/fighting and landing a fish

Again this is a rather debated subject as there are no hard and fast rules on how to do this, again, the more you fish and fight fish the better you become at it. When it comes to large fish like big kingies or big non-edibles then allowing the fish to take some line and fighting them for longer in deep open water allows you to tire the fish out a little before bringing them closer to shore in order to land them in shallower structure filled water. I like to give a bigger fish plenty of line and then work them towards a more suitable area to land them. When fishing from rocks it is always a good idea to work the fish to the closest beach as this is firstly much safer for the fish and secondly much safer for the angler. When it comes to edible species keep your drag settings lighter as these fish often dart off with no warning, this won’t necessarily cause your line to part but more often cause the hook to tear out of its mouth, obviously when using lighter hook snoots in order to get the bites it is a good idea to fight the fish with a lighter drag so that it does not part your lighter hook snoot off when it darts for cover. Some species of fish need to be bullied in order to land them, hound sharks, gully sharks and rock cod definitely need to be pulled as hard as possible to get them clear of the structure they hunt in so that you don’t get cut off.  

Following the basics of lifting the rod to pull the fish closer then dropping it as you wind the line onto your reel then repeating this until the fish is closer will help if you are not too experienced at playing a fish. One could actually practice this on a rugby field if you are brand new to angling by tying a heavy object on the end of your line and winding across the field by lifting the rod to draw it closer and dropping the rod to take up the slack line, remember however that when fighting a fish it is of utmost importance to keep the line tight at all times, any amount of slack line can result in the fish being lost due to the hooks falling out as the line becomes slack.

Releasing your catch

When angling we do encourage catch and release but don’t say you have to release everything, if you intend keeping a fish as a meal it is important to bleed it properly, cut its gills below its head and allow it to bleed. To keep it cool one can bury it in the sand, even on the hottest day one would be very surprised as to how cool the sand is less than 10 centimeters deep. If you have filled your quota or want to release a prize fish then reviving your catch is of utmost importance, to revive it hold its head into the current and allow the water to run over its gills, if you can hold its mouth open as this allows more water flow through the gills and thus more oxygen to be pushed through. You will notice the fish’s body language improve, its pectoral fins will start moving and it will start moving its tail, this is a sure sign that it’s ready to go.


Happy angling…..

Share this article

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

Related Articles