What You Need to Know
Sabiki rigs, hailing out of Japan, literally mean “to catch bait,” and these rigs certainly deliver. The specialized hooks prevent fish from swallowing them, resulting in the highest post-release survival rate of any other rig. Experienced anglers prefer sabiki rigs over netting, as it causes less damage to the bait.
Fisherman use sabiki rigs to catch flathead mullet, threadfin herring, short mackerel, sardines, and other small fish that hunt smaller prey. It is comprised of between 6 and 10 small hooks, each on their own individual, short dropper line, and all of which are tied off to a longer, weighted leader. Each individual hook can be decorated as lures or tied into flies, and they most often are outfitted with a metallic coating to entice fish.
While sabiki rigs can be attached to a standard pole, the collection of hooks quickly become tangled. For this reason, most prefer using this type of rig with a specialized sabiki rod. Featuring a hollow center and a funnel-shaped tip, the line feeds through the rod rather than outside of it. This allows users to draw the rig in without injuring the angler.
How to Use
Outside of getting a handle on using a sabiki rig, catching sabiki bait requires that you start fishing in a good location. Bait often gather around markers and buoys, although water birds pecking at the surface are a good indication that a school of bait is just below. Once you have a good location, weight the sabiki rig so that it goes straight down once hitting the water. In most cases, the rig will do the work for you, although light jigging can help. Then, real in the bait. The key to a good catch is working quickly: you want to catch as many as you can before the school swims off.
While mastering weighting and fishing with the sabiki rig takes little to no time for even the average fisherman, removing the bait from the hooks can be tricky. With six to ten different hooks, it’s easy to get caught yourself, so work with gloves and work carefully. Remember, you want to keep the bait live, so care when removing them is essential. Then, transfer them to a live well.
Sabiki bait rigs make gathering your own live bait efficient and simple. Other methods of bait fishing, including nets, tend to stress the fish, causing them to die off much more rapidly in the live well than they would when caught with a rig. Different weights ensure that a standard 7-foot rod or sabiki rod will allow you to fish nearly anywhere and for any size bait, and the multitude of hooks means you reel in more bait per cast than any other fishing rod option. Fresh, recently caught bait attracts more fish than bait swimming around in a tank for weeks on end. While catching your own bait can be time consuming when compared to simply purchasing it before heading out, the results are certainly worth it.