Shallow catches for sweetlip
  |  First Published: November 2013

It just seems to be northerly after northerly lately with very few days in between that they are not blowing. This makes it quite hard to fish the bay as there is not a lot of protection from them. In saying that, there are still some good fish to be had if you can get out. Species like mulloway and snapper are still in good numbers, you just need to do a bit of searching to find them schooled up.

Snapper are normally associated with the cooler months of the year, because they are generally schooling up ready to spawn so they are a little easier to target. In saying that, it doesn't mean that it is a waste of time chasing them through summer. You will still find the juveniles up to about 45cm schooling up but the bigger fish will normally be in ones and twos.

Fishing around the shallow reefs through summer will also see the grassy and spangled sweetlip turn up, one of the tastiest fish getting around. Sweetlip, for their size, are probably one of the toughest fighting fish. These fish inhabit the same sort of areas as the juvenile snapper and bream. You will find them out along the drop-offs, and my favourite area to target them is up the 4-8ft range. I love throwing small hardbodies or plastics for them, and you can also target them on bait.

If bait is your option and you are up in the shallows then berley is a must. This will bring the fish to you while you are anchored. Small squid or squid strips would be my first choice of bait with small green prawns a close second. The only shallow rig that I would tie on would be a 2/0 or 3/0 circle hook; you shouldn't need a sinker fishing in that depth. If the current isn't allowing your bait to get down then tie on a little sinker, only enough to just get you to the bottom.

Targeting sweetlip on lures is a lot of fun and you will have plenty of heart-in-mouth moments as there are lots of rocks and bommies to bust up on. When a sweetlip comes on your lure, the bite is very subtle they won't come up and belt your lure. This isn't a problem if you are using hardbodies as they have a rear treble and 99% of the time they hook up on that, but if you’re using plastics then a small 3-4” plastic is much more effective.

Use a slow roll retrieve for your hardbodies. When using plastics I tend not to do the standard retrieve (hopping the plastic back), I use a 1/8oz jighead and a curl-tail or paddle-tail plastic with a slow roll as well. I use a heavier jighead in shallow water so that the lure tracks at the same depth and doesn't work its way up in the water column.

When you are throwing hardbodies for them, you don't want to be fishing too light as you will loose a lot of lures, so with out going too heavy I use 10-12lb braid with a leader of around the same breaking strain. By not going too heavy will also give your smaller lures a better action.

Some of my favourite lures for targeting sweetlip and smaller juvenile snapper on hardbodies are the Maria Cranks 38mm, Maria Shad 45 and the Lucky Craft Bevy Shad 60mm. When using plastics the Z-Man 2.5” Grubz, 3” Minnowz and 4” Streakz Curly Tailz rigged on a 1/8oz TT Headlockz 3/0.

I hope this information helps a few people out in targeting one of the most fun and tasty summer species, the grassy and spangled sweetlip. It’s time to start packing and head down for the Annual Gold Coast Flathead Classic so next month I will have a run down on how it all goes. Until next month!


Sweetlip of this size are a lot of fun in shallow water and pull really hard. This one fell victim to a Maria MC-1 Crank.


Bream are a welcome bycatch when up in the shallows, this one was also on a Maria MC-1 Crank.


Nabeel Issa landed this mulloway, which are still around in reasonable numbers. This one took a liking to the New Z-Man 3' Minnowz in mood ring.

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