Berley - An essential technique when bait fishing (Part 1)

Medres 7All it took was chopped up weed and cabbage to bring these luderick undone
Gary Brown
The trick to successful berleying is to have the correct combination of ingredients, consistency of the flow and timing, and to my way of thinking those anglers who don’t use berley are mad, as it would have to be the most effective way of attracting the fish to you. But when using berley, no matter what the combination is, you need to use it as a technique of getting the fish to you. Not as something that feeds the fish or takes them away from you. The main thing that you have got to remember is that the largest object that is floating down that berley trail is your bait with a hook in it.

If you have been using berley and have found that it has not been very successful or you may have never ever used berley, you need to ask yourself some of the following questions;

Does the berley take the fish away from where you are fishing?

Are you just feeding the fish so much that they will not want to eat what you have on offer?

When should I berley or when should I not berley?

How often should I berley?

Is it a waste of time and effort?

What types of berley should I use for each fish species?

Do I have to berley differently from a boat than to when I am fishing from the shore?


It is these questions that I get asked time after time and it may come as a surprise to many anglers when I tell them that I berley about ninety five percent of the time when I am bait fishing, and about ten percent of the time when I am lure fishing and believe me I wouldn’t do it any other way. To help you on your way to being more successful when using berley I have broken each of these questions up so that I can explain to you some of techniques that I use.

Don't throw away those shells and prawns heads. Chop them up for berley when targeting leatherjackets
Gary Brown


Does the berley take the fish away from where you are fishing?

The only way that the berley will take the fish away from your bait is if the current is racing so fast that as soon as your berley hits the water it is taken away from where you are fishing. To counter react this you will need to either use a berley device that will enable you to lower the berley down to near the bottom, don’t soak the bait before it gets into the water or throw it up current. If I am fishing is say five metres of water and the current is racing, I will throw a handful of the larger dog pellets up current. This will allow them time to sink down to the bottom and roll along with the current to where your bait will be positioned.

Bream will respond extremely well to bread and chicken pellets
Gary Brown

Are you just feeding the fish so much that they will not want to eat what you have on offer?

Sometimes when anglers who are new to using berley will actual throw out so much berley that they will actually feed the fish to a point that the fish will not take the bait that is intended for them. What you need to do is keep the berley pieces to a smaller size than the bait you are using. A couple of years ago I had a chance to go cubing for yellowfin tuna out at Browns Mountain off Sydney. We had taken out six blocks of WA pilchards that were to used for both whole for bait and cut up into three centimeters pieces for berley. Once the pilchards had been cut up into 30cm pieces and fed out from the drifting boat, the whole pilchard with a 7/0 Mustad Big hook in it was then fed down the berley trail to the waiting yellowfin. It took me just over an hour to land a 29 kilo yellowfin on ten kilo line, but that’s another story.

A mornings catch after using chicken pellets for berley
Gary Brown

When should I berley or when should I not berley?

If you were using a combination dog or cat pellets, chicken layer pellets and small chopped up pieces of pilchards to attract snapper, bream or mulloway into your berley trail I would prefer to disperse them by throwing out a handful of the larger dog or cat pellets, then a handful of chicken layer pellets, followed by a few pieces of chopped up pilchards. The order of this combination is critical, as the dog or cat pellets will sink the fastest, then the chicken pellets, followed by the pilchards giving you an even spread through the water column and over the seabed. Initially you would repeat this process every two to three minutes. Once the fish are starting to pick up your baits, you would space it about every five to six minutes apart.

If you were fishing off the shore, for example a break or retaining wall for mulloway you could try a combination of the larger dog or cat pellets, half pieces of pilchards and pieces of cut up mullet. All of these ingredients would be placed into a twenty-litre bucket and then thrown out into the water at about every ten minutes. The main thing to make sure is that the current does not take the berley away to quickly, so keep the berley rather large in size.

A combination of chciken pellets and smashed up left over pilchards brought this trevally and bream unstuck
Gary Brown

How often should I berley?

For me, that is a very easy question to answer. Every time that I go fishing and I am using bait, not lures I will berley. It doesn’t matter whether I am fishing from the shore or out of a boat.

Is it a waste of time and effort?

I find that the only time berlying is a waste of time, is when I am not doing it. If you want to increase your catch rate the next time that you go out for a fish and you are using bait, Berley!

Keep an eye out for Part Two of Berley, an Essential technique everyone should know how to when bait fishing.