One feature of fishing with plastics that I love is the ease at which it can all happen. Grab a light spin rod, a few jigheads and a bag of plastics and you are on your way to catching fish. No stinky old bait, no bait collecting and not having to change baits after a bite, and the light tackle adds to all the excitement. Fishing with plastics is all too easy.
Around a year ago, during a stay on South Stradbroke Island, I had the boat on the western side of the island all loaded with soft plastics and light spin gear and the surf rods ready for the eastern side of the island. During a brief moment of inspiration, I decided to head east with the spin gear and try my luck in the surf with plastics.
I know it is not the first time that it has been tried but what was significant about that day was that I managed to land some great fish. This included a kilo plus bream that put his nose into the receding waves a number of times and pulled like a freight train. I just had to do that again.
Twelve months later and I am heading off to the surf with spin gear more often than I am with Alveys. Much to the disgust of a few traditionalist mates, I am also doing reasonably well on the fishing side of things. So leave the surf gear at home, saving it for those serious surf-fishing sessions, and throwing some lures and jigheads in a light back pack and pop down the beach for a quick flick.
The gear I use is standard bream jigging tackle. Brands are personal preference but for me it is a Diawa Procaster Z and a little KIX or Sol threadline loaded with 4lb braid. Leaders are dependent on whether there are many flathead around.
This winter and spring has seen a great run of flathead on the Gold Coast beaches. I was running a 8lb fluorocarbon leader but I prefer to keep it lighter at 4lb just for the fun of it and to tempt shy bream and whiting.
Jigheads are dependent on swell and casting distance required. If there is a little swell, the heads need to be 1/4oz to get them out far enough and to keep them down in the turbulence. If conditions are light, then 1/8oz is great or for a little more casting distance 1/6oz is preferred.
Bream, whiting, dart and flathead all feed off the churned up bottom so having the lure off the sand is a waste of time. Tailor will take a lure mid-water but the 4lb leader means I just retrieve leader minus the jighead. Therefore, I pack a couple of light 10g and 15g slugs just in case I am missing a nice patch of tailor.
I have more luck lip hooking a tailor on a fast moving slug than a slow moving plastic. And keep the slugs tiny due to the light tackle.
Lures are still in the experimental stage. I have had good results with Berkley Gulp 2” Shrimps in the new penny colour but have not had many hot sessions to try a wide range of styles and colours.
The prize fish for me in the surf is the big sea bream. Some days when I land a few dart, maybe a little flattie or two, and all seems to be going along nicely and then a big bream takes the lure. You soon remember just how hard a 40cm+ bream goes, especially in the surf.
Dart are good fun and I have had a lot of luck using the little 2” Power Bait Minnows with the old favourite pearl watermelon being the best colour. Whiting are a rare catch but it seems that once they decide to eat a lure, they crash tackle it, so they too are heaps of fun.
Flathead are just a sure thing if they are in the gutter. They eat any lure and I have watched them chase a lure that I have been retrieving all the way into shore and eat it in ankle deep water.
The technique I use involves getting a backpack on and start walking. Anything that resembles a gutter, hole or a rip gets a few casts before moving on. It is great exercise and it is also a bit of a numbers game. The more water that you can cover the more chance you have of finding good patches of fish.
The retrieve is often dependent on the size of the surf. As waves crash over the fishing line, it puts slack in the line and actually moves the lure. In mild surf, I find myself retrieving the lure quite quickly. On a day when there is very little swell, then you may be able to get a lot more creative. Just remember to keep in touch with the light lure, as it will dictate most of the retrieve. In big surf, I take the boat out and give the surf fishing a miss altogether.
One golden rule that I have with all surf fishing is never wreck a gutter that is pushing hard up against the shore. If the waves are lifting just out from the beach and dumping on bare sand, you have found a goldmine of fish. However if you walk straight up to it and start fishing, you will scare them all off and catch nothing. This is because the fish are waiting for all the worms, pipis and crabs to be washed out from the churning sand. They will sit just behind the dirty sand only meters from the shore, so either cast parallel to the beach or stand well back so not to spook them.
At this stage, my surf plastic outings are a little hit and miss but even my fishless outings are great fun. Exercise, good scenery and the odd cracker surf bream make it all worthwhile.
Jig heads in 1/8oz, 1/6oz and 1/4oz with size 2 through to 1/0 light gauge hooks.
The best plastics include Berkley 2" Gulp Shrimps (natural or new penny), Berkley 3" Powerbait or 2" if targeting dart (pearl watermelon for both).