Barra bait basics
  |  First Published: May 2012

Whether you fish with bait, soft plastics or hardbodied lures, the popular barramundi can be your target. But unlike your catch result, big is not necessarily better.

The following article will look at the various types of bait/lures that can be used to hook barramundi.


If you want to catch a barramundi then you need to know how they live and behave.

Barra grow up to about 1.8m but are more commonly found between 60-70cm, which is still quite a large fish. They can be found hiding and waiting for prey in structures such as trees, rocky outcrops, mangroves, drop-offs and even man-made structures such as bridge pylons.

These popular sports fish will engulf lures/bait by inhaling vast quantities of water into their bucket mouth. As soon as they are hooked, expect a big fight of aerobatic jumps or deep runs – and a mixture of anything in between.


Barramundi are not fussy when it comes to bait but as the rule stands, fresh is best. This can be in the form of fish like perch or poddy mullet; both are top barra baits. If you are unable to access fresh bait, all good tackle stores will have frozen poddy mullet or even mullet strips.

For best results, the live baits are better off hooked through the shoulders or tail with a 3/0 to 6/0 circle hook connected to 20lb or higher mono leader. The frozen poddy mullet or mullet strips can be hooked using a 3/0 suicide out of the side and a half hitch around the tail, this method is extremely effective for lobbing into timber or a snaggy region.

The gear of choice for bait would be a sturdy rod, capable of casting baits and bringing home the big ones; a 3-6kg 6ft rod will be ample.

Reels can be whatever suits your style of fishing. Baitrunners with their secondary drag engaged are popular for bait fishing, along with baitcasters and a loud ratchet in free spool. Your normal spin reel with a loose drag can also be just as effective: when the fish takes the line using this method, open the bail arm, tighten the drag, close the bail and watch the rod load up.

Soft Plastics

Soft plastic lures are the most common and widely used lures in this modern era of fishing. Whether it’s the price, the extremely customisable actions or the vast variety of styles and colours, all fishers these days have a few trusty plastics in their tackle box. Plastics often range from shrimp imitations, gar copies, mullet, curl-tail grubs, baitfish, and a variety of bugs, worms, and shapes you cannot match to any living creature!

Barra will take what looks like their main food source. If there is a river teaming with mullet use a mullet style plastic, such as Gulp Pogy, Sebile Stickshad Hollow and the well-known Squidgy Slick Rig. When estuaries are chockers with prawns it would be a good time to throw out prawn profile lures, such as Gulp 3” Shrimp, Ecogear Bream Prawn and D.O.A Shrimp. In the estuaries most barra are not normally over 60cm but most specimens will engulf these shrimp look-a-likes.

If there is a spot where the barra will hit anything, a lure with a hot swimming action will surely help turn on the bite just that bit more. Lures like the Atomic Guzzler and Sebile Magic Swimmer Hollow will work well.

Lures like Squidgy Pro Slick Rig and Pro Boof Frog work great in dams and waterholes around timber, weed beds or lily pads. Z-Mans Pop Frog also account for large numbers of fish. Each of these lures are rigged weedless.

All soft plastic lures require different movements to suit the actual plastic. Sometimes even a different weighted jighead can make the action different, lift and drop, slow roll and twitching are a good basis. Once you’re fishing, look at how the lure moves best, customise the retrieval to suit the day, lure and outfit.

The outfits for soft plastics on barra are a 7ft 2-5kg spin rod and a 2000 size spin reel. Areas with larger fish, such as Lake Awoonga, would need a 7ft 4-7kg spin rod and a 3000-4000 size reel. For the mainline, braid from 6-20lb will suit, and use leader the same as the main and up to twice as heavy.


Hardbodied lures come in a range of shapes and sizes from poppers and stick baits to deep divers.

Remember to throw out lures that match your area: deep divers suit trolling in a river or lake, shallow divers for casting at snags, and surface lures for fishing the top. Likewise, hardbodies have different bib sizes or no bib at all and they come in varying styles from floating and suspending to sinking and fast sinking.

If you are casting at snags along riverbeds or estuarine inlets, a shallow diver 60-100mm long and floating will do the job almost everytime. A few twitches to get the lure down and letting it rise back to the top will entice even the fussiest of barra. Lures like Bombers, Barra Classics, Koolie Minnows, X-Raps, and River Rats would be some go-to lures for this application.

Rubble patches, deep pockets in rivers or trolling in lakes require you to find the bottom, as barra will munch on a lure that is just touching the bottom and kicking up a little dirt. Try to estimate how deep the water is and look on the box of the lure to see how deep it dives. Lures like Classic Barra come in sizes 3ft, 10ft, 15ft, and 30ft; and Sebile Koolie Minnow lures also have the bib size marked as SL (small lip) all the way through to LL (large lip) and BRL (big round lip). For trolling and casting into deep pockets and rubble patches, use the same lures as you would use for casting at snags just in deeper diving forms.

Barra on the surface is one of the most amazing spectacles. Whether the lure is a bug, prawn or fish imitation swimming along the surface, if a barra hits it and clears the water you are in for a real treat.

For top water action, slow retrieve with heaps of splashing to imitate insects, large pops then a long pause to entice the barra out of the lily pads. The constant pop on a medium retrieve to cover the vast distances of water are effective retrieves. A little walk-the-dog retrieve in an opening of water in a weed bed gets them all the time too. Lures that will do this, and more, are R2S Bubble Pops, Rapala Skitter Pops, Sebile Splashers, and 3B Pop Dogs.

The outfits for hardbodies are the same as for soft plastics, except for the mainline. Braid from 10-30lb is more suitable.

Each barra experience will be individual so just remember to match the area and don’t use too heavy gear. See what other people in that area use and try it out. Fish light and get the bite!

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