It seems like every time you pick up a fishing magazine at the moment, there is an article about catching bream on surface lures. These techniques are nothing new, especially to those fishing the east coast of Australia, but consistently catching black bream on surface lures can be a different matter altogether.
Luckily, the answer is a simple one and does not necessarily involve forking over bundles of cash on expensive Japanese hard-bodied lures.
In my experience, the humble pink grub is the most effective surface lure for black bream. This is because it perfectly imitates a shrimp, prawn or wounded baitfish and it can be fished both on the surface and sub-surface, which makes it exceptionally versatile. They are also very inexpensive compared to premium hard-bodied surface lures.
So what is a pink grub? It is the name is given to a 2.5” Ecogear Grass Minnow M in colour 119. This lure is a paddletail style of soft plastic, and is pink in colour – which no doubt gave rise to the name. The translucent body and colour of the lure make it a perfect representation of a skipping prawn or baitfish, especially when eyeballed from underneath – just ask old mate bream when you talk to him next.
The pink colouration is also vitally important when the lure is allowed to sink through the water column after you have attracted the bream’s attention. This is because it is highly visible beneath the surface – more on that later.
The technique for fishing pink grubs is very simple, but can be tweaked as much or as little as you like. They are most effective in shallower water, which can be found on bank edges and at the backs of bays, as well as across expansive weed and sand flats.
I encourage you to throw a pink grub anywhere you can see cruising fish, or around any likely areas that hold the type of food source you are imitating. Or, if you are like me, you’ll chuck pink grubs all day long over every bit of water you can see, because it’s so much fun.
I was first introduced to pink grubbing by Steve Morgan about two years ago during a couple of sessions in the Gold Coast canals. I was amazed by how many fish we caught, and how many others were interested. Since this time I have hurled pink grubs all over the state, and have enjoyed every minute of it.
Essentially. All you need to do is make a long cast, and immediately begin winding your pink grub back across the surface. The first thing you’ll notice is how easy and long they cast, and how cool they are wiggling all over the place on the surface. Sometimes, but very rarely, this will be all you need to do to get a bream to take. More often than not, the cunning old bream will follow your happy little pink grub all the way back to your boat or your feet, then see your ugly mug and promptly scream off at a million miles an hour in the other direction.
Most of the time, you will have to pause the retrieve once you have gained the bream’s attention and allow it to sink back through the water column. There is no rhyme or rule to perfect the timing of this: only practice and time on the water will get it right. Often, you will see the bream inhale your grub, or the grub will disappear, or sometimes you will only get a tiny ‘tick’ in the line.
A bream will normally give his presence away by a noticeable bow wave behind your lure. A super aggressive fish will make a distinctive kissing sound as he tries to munch your grub off the surface as you retrieve. The bigger fish will follow all day long, and will normally eat as soon as the grub sinks, especially if you have had them interested for a while. This is the time when timing can be crucial, but a keen eye and plenty of practice will see you grinning more times than not.
Sometimes you will need to restart the retrieve and get your grub back on top if you miss a strike or a fish loses sight of your lure. Simply wind your grub back through the water column and continue the retrieve. Your choice of leader can dramatically alter the sink rate, but more on that later. Also, I often like to employ some action during the retrieve to give the pink grub a more erratic dance. This can also help attract the bream’s attention while winding slowly, especially at times of low light.
Pinkies are rigged on an unweighted worm hook and a long, light leader. The worm hook and plastic provide more than enough casting weight, and a light leader allows longer, quieter casts over shallow water and spooky fish. I have found Owner straight-shanked worm hooks to be the best, in size 1-2. These hooks are fine wire, have very sharp cutting points, and more often than not produce hook-ups in the corner of the mouth, allowing easy release. They are also longer shanked that other worm hooks, allowing the hook point to be positioned further toward the back of your pink grub, providing a better hook up rate.
The length of your leader is another personal choice, but I would recommend a longer than normal length, probably about 3m. Standard fluorocarbon leader of 3-4lb is fine, especially if you are fishing around structure, or if you need a slightly greater sink rate. The only drawback is that this leader is heavier, and takes longer to return to the surface to re-start your pink grub.
The alternative is to use a monofilament leader, which is my preference. This line will sink much more slowly, and allow a quicker recovery to the surface. Any low diameter line will do in the right colour, but my recommendation is Yamatoyo Fighter leader, which is specifically designed for use with surface lures. This line is very low diameter and gives a perfect sink rate for shallow water pink grubbing. It is also very abrasion resistant, and much cheaper than fluorocarbon line.
If I’m rigging for a pink grubbing session, I’ll have one rod rigged with mono, and one with fluorocarbon. The mono rod will be the mainstay, but sometimes a greater sink rate can be very useful, especially as the sun gets higher later in the day.
Most of today’s bream spinning rods will do the trick for pink grubbing, but those that are a little longer than normal are an advantage for making longer casts with the relatively light lure. Rod lengths of 7’ or more are fine, preferably with a light tip and strong butt section, and a line class of 2-3kg. Berkley Pro Tactics and Shimano T-curves are great off-the-shelf rods. Personally, I use a purpose built rod custom crafted by Adam Royter, which is 7’4” long and has very light components.
Reel type is not crucial, but ideally they should be a 1000-2500 size threadlines. More importantly, they should be spooled with light braided line. I use the new Stren Microfuse in 2lb, which is rounder than other fused braids and casts really easily. Berkley Crystal Fireline is also good in 1-2lb, as well as 2lb Platypus Super Braid. The colour of your braid is not crucial, but I would stay away from super bright colours and stick with white, grey or green. This is another reason why I use Microfuse, as it reflects light for better visibility above the water, but becomes almost invisible in the water. This is a real plus considering that you are often casting over cruising fish while pink grubbing.
Many other species can be caught pink grubbing, either when specifically targeted or as by-catch. For us humble Victorians, the estuary perch is the most likely, especially near bankside structure. Don’t discount salmon, tailor and flathead either, especially when you are prospecting over flats. I’ve also caught heaps of sand whiting using this technique, although they tend to like it moving faster than bream. Squid are also suckers for pink grubs, as I discovered during a session in Newlands Arm, Paynesville last year.
Fishing your pink grub slightly sub-surface can also be effective and is achieved using slightly more weight, like TT HWS jig-heads of 1/60oz and 1/40oz. This can be a good modification when bream are holding under floating structure like boats and pontoons, as Brad Hodges proved during this year’s ABT competition at Nelson, catching the lion’s share of his big fish using this technique to take the crown. Brad was one of the guys I introduced to pink grubbing a while ago, and shares my passion for this technique.
Well, enough talking from me, it’s time you grabbed your bream gear and a handful of pink grubs and headed for your local water. You’ll be amazed with how effective they can be, and how willing the cunning old black bream are to eat them.
GEAR FOR PINK GRUBBING
Ecogear Grass Minnow M 119
Light rod 7’ 2-3kg fast action
Small threadline with 1-3lb braid
Light mono and fluorocarbon leader
Unweighted worm hooks size 1-2
Good quality polarised sunglasses