Bait Fishing: How to catch fish with a ledger rig

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Time to hook up

Let’s look at the basic boat fishing technique for ledger/dropper rig fishing.

It’s time to put all that you’ve learnt in previous videos and tutorials together and catch some fish. 

Ledger rigs are a really effective deep water fishing technique. They can however be used in a variety of situations - shallow water, deep water, or from the shore. When the water is more than, say 20-30 metres deep a ledger rig is a good way to go fishing.


Ledger/dropper rig

Ledger/dropper rig - Daiwa fishing New Zealand

Let’s go…

Step 1: Choose your sinker weight.

Unlike the strayline fishing technique the aim of fishing with a ledger rig is to get your bait straight down to where the fish are, so it’s better to have a heavier weight.

Make sure you select the right shape weight, either a teardrop or torpedo style sinker. Both sink quickly because of its streamlined shape. A good rule of thumb is to have a range of sizes in your tackle box. Size 4, 6 and 8 are a good spread to start off with. 

Teardrop Sinkers

Teardrop Sinkers

You choose the weight of your sinker by checking:

  • the depth of water your fishing in:  deeper = heavier weight
  • the size of your bait:  bigger = heavier weight
  • the speed of the current/water flow:  more current = heavier weight.

Attach teardrop sinker

Attach teardrop sinker

Ridgeline -

Step 2: Drop your bait

Ledger fishing is a straight up and down style of fishing. You don’t need to cast your line, simply drop it straight down over the side of the boat.

Spin reel:

Open the bail arm so that the line goes out freely, and let it drop straight down under the boat.

Overhead reel:

Put the reel into free spool, meaning the spool spins freely. Keep your thumb on the spool (that the mainline is wrapped around) so it doesn’t go out too fast and end up tangling or bunching (otherwise known as a birds nest).

Drop ledger baits over the side

Drop ledger baits over the side

Step 3: Touch down and positioning

Feel for the point that the sinker touches down, you’ll feel a gentle thud and the line may go a bit slack. Get the reel ready to wind line in by flicking the bail arm back over or clicking the reel into gear.

Wind your reel up a couple of times. This will take up any slack line so you can feel the bites. It also stops the sinker dragging and getting snagged in any weed or rocks.  Try to keep your sinker as close as you can to the bottom (without it getting snagged).

Keep line taut to feel for bites

Keep line taut to feel for bites

Step 4: Hooking up

Setting the hook is the next important step. This means ensuring the hook sinks into the fish and holds there.  Depending on what type of hooks you use will determine the technique you use to set the hook.

Circle hooks:

When you feel the weight of the fish pull the rod down so it bends over, and stays bent, rather than twitching up and down from nibbles. Lift your rod tip up in a smooth motion so the line is nice and tight. You don’t need to "strike" with circle hooks.

J hooks:

When using a J hook you need to set the hook in the fishes mouth with more force (than simply lifting).  This is called "striking" the fish. Again when the rod bends down and the line becomes tight quickly, and sharply lift the rod up in a sweeping up motion.  

For both hook types this will set the hook in the fishes mouth.

Lift rod tip up in a smooth and swift motion. Don't need as much force as a J hook (i.e. don't need to "strike".

Swiftly & sharply lift the rod upwards to set a J hook (strike).

Step 5: Lift and wind

Just after you’ve set the hook, when your rod tip is at its highest point, start to wind the reel - to ensure the line is nice and tight while at the same time lowering the rod tip down towards the water.

Once you reach the bottom lift the rod tip up again (without winding), then wind the reel as you're lowering the rod.

So the motion is LIFT the rod tip (no winding) LOWER the rod tip (wind the line in).

Make sure you keep the line nice and taut and at the very least a slight bend in the rod. This is really important. If the line goes slack the fish can shake their head and spit the hook out - and see you later fish!

Alternate between lifting the rod and the fish up while not winding the reel with winding the reel while you lower the rod down.

Repeat the lift and wind motion until you get the fish to the boat. You’re basically lifting the head of the fish and keeping it turned toward you, leading it to the boat.

Lift your rod till it's at about a 45 degree angle.

Keep the line nice and taut, don't let it go slack or your hard earned fish could get away.

Step 6: Let it run

If the fish is big enough to pull line out, that’s awesome. Don’t wind your reel while the fish is running the line out. Simply hold the rod (strong and firm) and wait till it slows down enough for you and lift and wind again.

You can increase the resistance of the line running out by tightening the drag on your reel. 

Continue to lift and wind until the fish gets to the boat.



If the fish is running line out just hold on, then lift and wind when it slows down

If the fish is running away with line just hold on. When it slows, then lift and wind again.

Ledger rigs can also be used for fishing:
  • from a drifting boat, where you simply drop the bait to the depth the fish are showing on the sounder.
  • on the wharf, simply cast, let the sinker drop and wind in the slack line.
  • in deep water at depths of 100 - 300+metres. You would use a super size version of your general bait fishing gear to catch deeper sea fish like bass and hapuku.

With each different method of fishing there a tweaks you can make to your technique to be more successful, and in coming months we'll cover some of these topics in more depth. 

More videos

In case you missed the videos before this one, you can check them out here:


Strayline fishing with bait, squid