Sabikis and Sardines

Ken Jones

Staff member
Date: December 15, 2006
To: PFIC Message Board
From: hoozangie
Subject: Sabikis and Sardines

Hi! How come sardines only bite "Hayabusa" Sabikis but not the "Asi" brand? I have discovered that the "Asi" actually has smaller hooks. Any help would be great. -Angie

Posted by whiskerfish

Angie, It's not the brand of the Sabikis. It's the color and size of the flies. Duplicate it and you'll be fine. wf

Posted by dompfa ben

Remove the glow beads if they're on there. I've found that the sardines eat the flies a lot better if you remove the glow beads found on some Sabikis. You can carefully remove them with a pair of needlenose pliers, or if you have good dental insurance, just bite them off.

Drop the Sabiki slowly... the sardines jump on a lot better on the drop, then lift briskly. If you feel weight, or if the line goes limp on the drop, wind in your sardines. :)

Posted by KawtNuffin

Yes, I'd second all of that. Homemade rigs with gold egg hooks and nothing else are very much to their liking. I've found that using 6-8 lb on about 2" droppers spaced closely (6") cuts way down on the frequency of badly twisted rigs when you have a full house. The stiffness holds the hooks out a bit. Hang a bucktail below your 1 oz torpedo sinker and you'll know when the macks are around too, but remember to stay with 6 hooks or fewer. As Ben says, count on getting fish on the fallback and be smooth about it, sardines have very soft mouths. It often seems that jigging vertically draws fewer hits than does a more horizontal retrieve. Some days nothing works well, but the advantage is that in any crowd of 10,000 there is always one nonconformist.

Posted by hoozangie

Thanks for the advice everyone! -Angie

Posted by tackleholic

What's the best size, style hook for sardines? I want to make some of my own Sabiki rigs for sardines, have tons of hooks, but what is the best size and style of hook...short shank.. long shank? Also, does using fluoro make a difference when jigging for sardines?

Posted by Ken Jones

Some thoughts —

1. I agree with eliminating the glow beads. I try to buy the types that do not have them.

2. With sardines, large jacksmelt, jack mackerel, and Pacific herring, I've typically had better success with a cast and retrieve approach. Cast out, let it sink 15-20 feet, and then retrieve at a moderate pace with an occasional slight jerk to the line. BUT—sometimes they're on top, sometimes they are deeper, and sometimes they want a slower or faster retrieve. You have to experiment until you figure out what is working.

3. For small smelt, an up and down motion near the top of the water should produce.

4. For queenfish (called herring in the southland) go mid-depth (and sometimes almost all the way to the bottom) and then go up and down in slow motions.

5. Sweeten a small Sabiki hook with an equally small piece of worm and drop to the bottom—a couple of feet off the bottom—or mid-depth—and you should have no problem getting shiners for bait if they're around.

Schooling bait fish such as these are not shy and should not be hard to catch but it can take a little time each trip to figure out what they need that day.

Posted by dompfa ben

Ken's assessment is right on the money. Sardines can be finicky feeders when it comes to eating a Sabiki. I do know that they eat the really, really small (size 12 hooks, 5 lb. mainline, 3 lb. dropper loop arms) Sabikis without the glow beads, and they tend to be a little deeper than the surface feeding smelt. Smelt look bluish green in the water, sardines appear dark in the water.

Posted by Raidersfan1

Another thought... Correct me if I am wrong, and this is in no way meant to be disrespectful to Kawtnuffin... but in his post he mentions using 6 hooks or less... are there some places that allow up to 6 hooks to be used on one line as in the case of a Sabiki, or regardless of where in California, the amount of hooks to be used is always 3? Just trying to learn about different areas is all... thanks! Fishing - there's always something new to learn.
Mike, RaidersFan1 Support UPSAC/PFIC

Posted by KawtNuffin

I was referring to a homemade Sabiki, and noting that if you add a larger hook below the sinker remember that the total number of hooks on a bait rig can't exceed 6.

Posted by Raidersfan1

I did not know that a bait rig could have 6 hooks on it regardless of the positioning of where the hooks go on the line, as a previous posting on this board stated that inside the SF Bay that you could only have 3 hooks on a line. Perhaps I did not do enough research to see in which area she was in or referring too which is why I posted my rebuttal in the form of a question, my apologies if I offended you Kawtnuffin. Mike, RaidersFan1 Support UPSAC/PFIC

Posted by Ken Jones

Typically ANY number of hooks can be used on bait rigs such as this in ocean waters. The main exception to the rule is in San Francisco Bay and San Pablo Bay where only three hooks may be used.

Article 28.65. General — Except as provided in this article, fin fish may be taken only on hook and line or by hand. Any number of hooks and lines may be used in all ocean waters and bays except: (a) San Francisco and San Pablo bays between the Golden Gate Bridge and the west Carquinez Bridge, where only one line with not more than three hooks may be used.


Well-Known Member
This is great information! Thanks for reposting! Catching sardines was my first exposure to saltwater fishing as an adult. We had gone freshwater fishing four times with pretty poor results. Just a few small sun fish / crappie in four trips. We went to HB pier and I rigged my girlfriend up with a 6 hook Hayabusa sabiki with tiny hooks (size 3 Hage/Kawa Red style). I thought it would take her a while to get a bite so I set about getting water in a bucket. She started pulling up sardines right away. From then on we were hooked on saltwater pier fishing.


Active Member
+1 on the Hayabusas! They work best! Sardines get scared from the glow beads and also the fish skin on the hook. Bare gold hooks work best, with the green or red paint on the shank. Hayabusa calls them size 3, im not familiar with their sizing scale. The other brands will work if thats all you got, but not so well. The hayabusas are worth the extra couple of dollars.
As for making your own, have at it if you have the time and the right tools, I tried at one point, but I just dont have the time and it is really tough to tie those tiny hooks, easier and faster to just buy them.


Active Member
Hey "Bill", those are beautiful rigs you tied up! I have posted links to Paul Adams videos in the recent past. This is great stuff. Thanks for the info and the encouragement to get back to tying my own rigs.