This is probably one of the most common bait types used along the South African coast today. Sardine is available at most tackle stores and still reasonably affordable, compared with the rising cost of squid due to the strong US dollar. It won’t be long before we are relying on bait collected along the coast – like redbait and sand prawn and mullet – as our main bait types when going fishing.
I always make sure I have a few sardine in my bait box when going out for fishing or a competition, as the high oil content contained in them can attract fish from kilometres away. This particular sardine bait should always attract attention from most fish – sharks, rays, kob, shad, steenbrass, poenskop, musselcracker, grunter, Natal stumpnose and rockcod – to name but a few.
Most fish along our coast won’t pass up this bloody and oily sardine bait; by using the sardine this way you will attract loads more fish into the area as the sardine releases the blood, fish oil and particles into the water. I very seldom cast a sardine without exposing the flesh side on the outside of the bait.
When fishing for shad, I use a size 5/0 7958 Mustard hook as I find the longer shaft helps to make up a longer bait when using sardine. Start by slicing the sardine tail section to use as a base onto which to cotton the flesh and guts of the rest of the fish. Insert the hook into the side of the fish, keeping it very exposed (I use Ghost cotton); tie the tail section onto the hook firmly before starting the next stage of preparing the bait.
Cut the tail section of another sardine to wrap around the base of the first bait already tied onto the hook. Split the tail section and remove the center bone.
Once you have removed the bone section, split the tail into two pieces and add one fillet at a time, cottoning them on to build up the bait.
Remove the guts from the sardine belly and cotton it on to add the extra blood and fish oil contained in the liver of the sardine to the bait. I use a lynx bait float with a short 20cm 60lb nylon-coated bite trace and an 800mm length of 0.80mm MAXIMA hook trace behind the nylon-coated wire.
I find if you use thick nylon, you tend to catch bigger shad that don’t often bite when using nylon-coated wire. I also push a toothpick into the bait float to hold it in place behind the sardine bait.