January is my favourite topwater month for both the salt and the fresh out here in Sydney’s north.
First and foremost, let’s start with the obvious pelagics in the salt. Tailor and salmon schools are common catches at the moment from the shore and from the boat. Casting into a thrashing school of fish provides unparalleled fishing action.
As the summer winds move in, be sure to pick a well-weighted popper or surface stickbait. It’s likely you’ll be casting into the breeze, and a heavier topwater lure will help punch through the wind. My favourite lures for this style of fishing are Strada Tournament poppers in 80mm and 120mm, and the Rapala X-Rap Walkers and Skitter Pops.
When the action hots up or if it is bigger fish you are after, try your tricks on the kings. They’re not called ‘kings’ for nothing! If at first you don’t succeed… just get hungrier, swap out lures, change your actions, try different speeds and so on. Anywhere there is saltwater in coastal NSW there will be kingfish, including the upper reaches of all estuaries. When choosing your land-based spots, assess whether the terrain will let you land your fish. It’s no good hooking them if you are unable to get them up.
My favourite topwater lures for these fish include Shimano Orcas, River2Sea Dumbbells, Strada Poppers, Evergreen Amazons and Maria Loadeds.
If you’re after the kind of fishing that’s a little more relaxed, I recommend that you go and topwater the flats. Venues like Palm Beach, Bayview, Narrabeen Lakes, North Harbour and Clontarf all have superb sand flats to target whiting, bream and even flathead.
Before wading in, be sure to get a cast or two from the edge because whiting in particular often frequent super-shallow water. Small poppers and topwalkers (walk-the-dog lures) are well suited to this style of fishing. You’ll need an extra-light graphite rod and fine braid to cast those lightly-weighted lures and get them walking. Super-short leaders up to 20” will help to prevent lures being dragged down and losing their action.
Some of my favourite lures are Strada Viral 70mm, Bassday Sugar Pens, Gladiator Kozamis and Berkley 3B Crank Scum Dogs. These fish can also be a bit iffy, so try sunup and sundown.
Although these are popular lures, some tweaking may be required if the fish are shy. I am a big fan of replacing rear small trebles with Ecogear ZX stinger hooks on various models, because they just seem to hook more fish on the turn. Don’t be surprised if you catch more than the odd flathead while chasing whiting, as flatties are pretty partial to eating anything small that comes too close.
Out here on the beaches we have a few creeks in which to chase bass, and the balmy evenings are my favourite time to hit these topwater spots. We also have a freshwater impoundment (Manly Dam). The fish here might not be big, but they are fun on the light gear and certainly don’t mind attacking lures crossing the surface.
Finally, one of the most important aspects of surface fishing is the barometer. Most bass fisherman prefer the falling barometer or just slowly rising, so next time you see a weather change coming over, check the barometer and get out there.Reads: 1848