With the season upon us and the water starting to warm up, it’s probably a good time to kick your lure collection into action.
The warmer months are prime time to lure up some surface fish and also are your best shot at taking bream and flatties on artificials.
Before I get into what lures to use on what fish I'll go over a few tips on making sure that your lure kit is up to scratch.
The most important part of your lures are the hooks. Inspect hooks for rust, which can make them weak and blunt. A rusty hook will not penetrate as smoothly as a shiny one and will snap under pressure. Replace rusty hooks and split rings.
You might decide to replace your hooks with chemically sharpened ones, which will improve your hook-up rate. If you decide to go with standard hooks then take to them with a sharpening stone and get those points razor sharp.
Check that your lures are performing correctly.
Minnows are most likely to get out of tune. A bump on the bib last season can put them out of tune, usually making them swim off to one side. In really bad cases they might even spin.
Adjust by bending with pliers the tow eyelet just a fraction in the opposite direction to which the lure is swimming. With some lures, the Rapala CD series for example, it’s near impossible to bend the eyelet due to its solid construction.
In this case you can make the same adjustments by bending the bib itself. Naturally this is only practical with the metal-bibbed lures and should not be attempted with the plastic bibs.
Other maintenance might include cleaning dirty painted finishes, polishing tarnished metal reflective surfaces and patching up torn soft plastics with a hot wire.
Organisation of your lure collection in your tackle box is equally as important. There's nothing more frustrating than reaching for a suitable lure and finding that it comes out in a tangled mess with 20 others, all the while with tuna busting out all around your boat. The time taken sorting out the mess can often exceed a feeding spree.
Plastic hook guards are a great remedy for this but remember to keep the WD40 up to them because they have a tendency to hold moisture.
Sort your lures into types and sizes and familiarise yourself their positions in the box.
And don’t forget your squid jigs. Squid make up the mainstay of big predatory fishes’ diets so obviously fresh squid make a logical choice of bait, particularly if kings and jewfish are your targets. They are also top tucker on the dinner plate.
Check over your jigs and make sure that the jags are needle-sharp. With some degree of difficulty the jags can be touched up with a sharpening stone.
Make sure that the jags, weights and eyes are securely in place and loose ones can be secured with a dab of two-part epoxy like Araldite.
Ditto with any loose cloth coverings. If you notice the cloth starting to lift, smear a bit of Araldite through the material. With the price of jigs these days a bit of preventative maintenance can add up to substantial savings.
Here is a rundown of some of the lure-munching species that you might encounter in the Harbour this season
Tailor are very reliable lure chompers but they are either there or they’re not. If they are about they will usually bite and aren't very fussy about lure size or type. Just because tailor are feeding on tiny baitfish doesn't mean they will only take tiny lures.
Trolling minnows is a good way to find them if you can't see them on the surface. If they are chomping on top then you can throw almost anything at them, with a preference to metal slugs or spoons.
The tailor rules also apply to bonito.
Kingies are among the tougher lure opponents found in Sydney Harbour. They’re tough in that they don't respond very well to most of what we throw at them, and tough because when finally hooked, they fight hard and dirty.
They can be taken on minnows but in general they largely ignore them.
When they are schooling and feeding on the surface they begrudgingly take metal slugs and show quite a bit more interest in surface poppers.
The best lures, by a long stretch, are soft plastic stickbaits.
Mack tuna and frigate mackerel are very similar in the way that they hunt and in their food preferences. Very small metal slugs are the order of the day. Occasionally mack tuna will take a trolled minnow but in the Sydney region it’s a rare occurrence.
Striped tuna also venture inside the Harbour on occasions and are suckers for a metal retrieved fast or a soft plastic stickbait on a lead head. The trick with stripies is anticipating their direction and keeping up with them; they move fast and you need to make your first cast count.
Salmon can be the most or least fussy of lure takers. There are plenty of times when they eat any reasonable offering thrown at them.
Trolled minnows are a good way of finding salmon when they are not feeding on the surface.
When they are on top, casting small poppers or metal slices is the way to go. When they get fussy, only the tiniest lures will tempt them.
Bream like very small lures. Small soft plastics and minnows work well in casting situations.
Bream love structure, which can be anything from oyster-covered rocky shores to moored boats and jetties. They generally like shallow water and I have had bream hit tiny surface lures in 30cm of water.
They are most abundant in the upper reaches of the Harbour where the cloudy water makes them more susceptible to lures. They can be taken in the clear waters of the lower reaches if you target them in low light.
Flathead eat any style of lure and it seems that the bigger lures attract the bigger fish. For casting, spoons, soft plastics and stickbaits are all effective. Spoons and jighead-rigged plastics are ideal for working in deeper water and down drop-offs, while soft stickbaits are awesome over the shallow weedy areas. Minnows are most effective when trolled.
All of the abovementioned species respond very well to a fly, which can be one of the most deceptive lures we can present.
It must be remembered, though, that because of the means of delivery, fly-fishing is relatively inefficient. However, it is a great test of an angler’s skill and a lot of fun.Reads: 1124