If you are a little unsure as to what bait to use, where to throw or whether there is likely to be weed in the water or not, it is always best to test the spot you intend fishing with a slide, by using a throw-bait first. This will help you to establish the following:
1. Are there lots of peckers or small fish in the water? This will determine what type of bait, how big and how long to leave it in the water.
2. Is there any weed or anything else that may cause the Shake Down to not get all the way down to the stopper? Fine weed can sometimes build up on the leader knot and if one does get a pull, you are almost guaranteed a burn-off. Big pieces of weed tend to foul on the Shake Down and can cause tangles. Once again, any pressure will result in a burn-off.
3. Determine and confirm the strength and direction of the current so that you can use it to your advantage when getting the bait out.
Timing is critical when using a Shake Down or slide, especially if the sea is very strong and in particular where there are big sets and a big shore-break. The whole process of getting a bait ready as well as getting in a good cast and securing the sinker can often be wasted when the bait is launched into the surf at the wrong time resulting in a dislodged sinker, tangles in the line and baits washing out again.
It is well worth spending a bit of time studying the sea prior to launching your bait. If you are launching into a rip, it is definitely best to wait for the biggest possible set to come through and immediately it looks as though it is subsiding, one should launch the bait. The huge volume of water coming in will ensure that your bait is in the water at the time when the rip is sucking out at its strongest.
LAUNCHING A BAIT
Invariably people who have not had much experience really battle to get the bait into the water on their first attempt. The shape of the bait is obviously very important as the more streamlined it is, the better. One should always try to ensure that the bait is not going to spin in the water. Very big baits often have to be carried and thrown into the water, whereas smaller baits can be launched over the shore break or through the rocks very effectively.
Big shore-breaks are a problem when somebody is trying to get bait going through the surf. Sometimes it is critical to get the bait 10 or 20 metres out before the set comes otherwise it just pushes it back at you. In order to ensure that this does not happen it is very important to wait until the set has just passed and launch the bait during the lull.
A technique that works very well is to remember that a bait on the surface can be pushed back far easier than a bait that is well under water. In these very heavy conditions a fairly heavy weight on the Shake Down can help you enormously. The idea is to make sure that if you are going to be caught in that critical area, because you can see that a set is coming and you are not going to make it, you need to try to get the bait as deep down in the water as possible by lowering the rod or running forward and putting the tip as low down in the
water as you can. Quite often this actually gets the bait going even better as it is pulled seaward by the underwater tow of the big rolling foamy. Just remember though a very good anchor sinker is critical in these situations.
Really big baits such as a whole Eastern Little Tuna or a Couta head often requires a lob over the lip or off the edge of the rocks. These baits are too heavy to suspend on the line and the only thing that one can really do to try to ensure the quickest possible progress is to try to keep on top of the bait. In a surf situation, the closer one can get to the bait and the higher you can lift the rod, the better. It often pays to wade as far as possible behind the bait lifting the rod high at regular intervals, but putting it down low when encountering a big rolling wave. On a high point, a significant amount of weight on the Shake Down will help and it is also a good idea to ensure that the bait actually sinks. Remember frozen fish bait has a tendency to float until it defrosts sufficiently.
SHOOTING THE SHORE BREAK
There is a very effective technique that one can master when using baits like whole Mackerel, Shad, Chokka, etc., as well as smaller heads. There are times when the bait is quite heavy but you are still able to give it upward momentum by lifting and tightening your line, which sort of throws the bait up and forward. This is quite easily done but definitely gets better with practice. Once you have cast your sinker out and are satisfied that it is firm, get yourself into a position as close as possible to the water, but ensure that you have maximum height advantage. Wind the line fairly tight with your rod in the vertical position.
Pull it back so that the line lowers to your reach. Grab the line and slip on the Shake Down with one hand then with the hand that does not wind the reel, hook your finger around one of the hooks letting go the line and the trace. Now with the rod almost in the vertical position, but pointing in the direction you want the bait to go, you stand ready waiting for the right moment. When you identify the lull, you dip your rod slightly forward, winding a bit at the same time and letting go the hook that you have your finger over. As it starts to move off, you pull the rod back and this shoots the bait up and forward. It is possible to do this three or four times in succession after the first release, almost bouncing the bait forward and over each threatening foamy. Sometimes one may need to recover a little bit of line in between bounces with your hand on the reel. A little bit of practice at this and you will look like a master!
One must always try to maximise the effect of the wind when shaking baits out. Generally, a rule of thumb would be that with the wind in your face, put weight on the Shake Down and get it under the water as soon as possible. With the wind at your back, no weight would be better and keep the bait on the surface for as long as possible. Just like in sailing, or kite flying, a wind from the left or right can be used to sail the bait out at an angle. It is always best to walk up-wind before releasing the bait to maximise the effect.
In the case of a side-wash, one wants to use it pretty much the same way you do with the wind, but always remember that there is going to be a bow in your line as soon as there is a current coming at an angle from the side. If your line is not tight enough, your Shake Down might progress only as far as the bulge in the bow and won’t get anywhere near your leader or stopper. We all know how critical it is to get down to the stopper so one needs to make sure that the line is incredibly tight so that the Shake Down gets as close as possible to it. In situations like this where one is a little doubtful as to whether it is in fact at the end or not, as a precaution, it is always best to start gently tightening up as soon as one feels strong movement on the line. What we are hoping to do here is to dislodge the sinker fairly slowly so that it might run to the Shake Down before the fish gets the chance to take off at speed resulting in a burn-off.
A seaward rip is always first choice and prime location for a Shake Down slide-bait. More because the scent of the bait is going to call fish from far and wide and the fact that it is also going to help the bait progress down the line much quicker. With a bit of experience, one can pull off a pretty amazing trick that is going to guarantee your bait is much further out than anybody else’s bait in the ‘gang’. This works particularly well off deep water points that have a strong close rip and also on long shallow sloping beaches that have strong channels pulling out on a low spring tide. Here the plot is to throw your fairly light wired or shallow angled heavy-wired grapnel sinker as far as possible across the rip at its strongest point. It is very important to have your bait with you when you do this because as soon as your sinker has settled, you need to free-spool a big bow between you and the sinker into the rip. Once you have a nice big bow going, pulling quite hard in the rip, you can launch your bait. This will progress down the line at a rapid pace and you can start putting a little more pressure on the line which will start dragging the sinker out into the main stream of the rip and your bait will keep moving down towards it until it reaches the end. If it is possible it is advisable to try to change the angle at this point. In other words, move in the direction that you initially threw your sinker. If it is possible, this will then help to straighten out your whole line ensuring that the bait is at the end. Remember it is always best for your bait to be just in the rip and not over the edge of the point where the rip fades out. This way you can often have your mates scratching their heads at where you are throwing your sinker and how come you are getting all the bites.
The two most important things that one should never forget when fishing with slide baits are to keep your line as tight as possible and to start tightening up immediately you feel some serious movement on the other end. Get this right and you are guaranteed some tight lines and good fish.