How to set up a burley trail

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What a burley trail does

Burley is a trail of minced bait that you set in place to helps kick off the feeding chain.  A feast for the fishes!

Imagine you get a waft of fresh bread cooking, you think "hmmm I'm hungry". That's the effect you're after with your burley on the fish.  

Made of mushed up bits of fishy delights there are many different types of burley but most contain a mixture of minced up bits of certain kind of fish and shellfish like kina, mussels and pilchards. 


Burley attracts hungry small fish. They start feeding on it and this feeding action that occurs along the trail of wafting burley comes to the attention of bigger predatory fish. These are the ones that we’re after, the "keepers" (to take home for dinner).

You want one of them to feed on your nice big piece of bait (that is presented beautifully), floating naturally down the middle of the burley trail, along the current, behind your boat.



How to set up a burley trail

Mushed and minced fish food, yum!

How to set up a burley trail

Pieces of burley attract bait fish

A burley trail is key

Setting up a burley trail is a key to bait fishing, especially for strayline fishing or straylining.

Creating a nice steady wafting stream of burley should be the first thing you do when you’ve finished anchoring the boat because it can take up to an hour, or more to work. You’ll know it’s working because the fish will be biting. The more feeding fish around, the more likely you are to catch a feed.

Burley is made from ground-up bits of fishy goodness, like salmon, pilchard, mussels and other shellfish. You can buy burley made from fish, shellfish or both from most petrol station and fishing retail stores. Or you can also make your own if you're keen.

How to set up a burley trail

A nice steady waft of burley

Set up your burley

Follow these easy steps to set up your burley trail.


Step 1:

As the frozen burley defrosts it lets out tiny pieces of burley that floats along in the current and drifts down through the water column.

Prepare the burley pot by taking the plastic off the burley pack and putting it into the pot. The frozen burley will likely be surrounded by a mesh, this can be left on.

Frozen burley is best. Trust us, when used defrosted it's pretty gross if it gets everywhere.  As important though is that it's less effective because it disburses too quickly.




How to set up a burley trail

Mesh bag around burley - Daiwa fishing New Zealand

Step 2:

Tie the burley pot to a spot that is least likely to interfere with your fishing – but will still run out a good trail out with the current. Anywhere from the mid section to the back corners will work.

To start off, set the burley pot quite close to the surface so you can see how well it is dispersing, and how fast the current is moving. If the burley is just racing across the surface you can drop it down deeper.  Depending on how deep the water is you may have it 2-3 metres from the bottom.  


How to set up a burley trail

Check how the burley is disbursing

Step 3:

Once you've sussed out how fast and far your burley is likely to waft away, tie off your burley pot.

As the tides and current change during the day you may need to adjust the burley. Remember it's about how effectively it's disbursing and being carried through the water to the fish in the surrounding area.

How to set up a burley trail

Tie burley pot to side of boat

Step 4 - Chunking

In deeper water intermittently throw in little chunks of fish, like small pieces of pilchard. These extra morsels work well to bring in the bigger fish. A slow steady trail is what you're after.

Throw the chunks in one by one and as one sinks out of sight, toss in another.  You're just offering taste testers, an appetiser and you don't want the fish to get full before the main course, your bait.  

If you’re fishing in a group, you can throw out new chunks every time you re-bait your hook. It’s important to remember to not throw in too much food, otherwise the fish will be too full and not interested in your bait. 


How to set up a burley trail

"Chunking" small pieces of bait

Ridgeline -

Don’t have to be flash

We’re using a wobble pot in our video. The good thing about this type of pot is that you can vary the depth of the burley and adjust it through the day. It's also designed to move with the current which helps disburse the burley (rather than having to shake it from time to time).

If you don’t have a burley pot you can just use the mesh bag that comes with the burley or the plastic bag.  Simply slash cuts in the plastic bag or tie a piece of rope through and around the mesh bag and secure it to the boat. The main drawback with no burley pot is that it sometimes doesn’t sink down towards the fish and if the current is too fast the burley may only skim along the top of the water.

How to set up a burley trail

Plastic burley bag tied off on boat

Alrighty then, with the burley trail disbursing nicely in the water it's time to bait up and get some fish on!

Next articles

Check out the next how to tutorials in this series for bait fishing:


Strayline fishing with bait, squid