Lure fishing finesse: saltwater
  |  First Published: May 2014

Finesse is a word we hear a lot throughout the fishing industry. It is a technique that any lure angler can use in most fishing situations to increase their catch rate when the fishing is a bit slower. Whether fishing for bream in the canals or snapper on the shallow reefs, a lot of anglers will find that fishing with a finesse approach will produce the goods.

To fish this technique, you need to down your line/leader size, using smaller lures, and using a slower presentation. To define in simpler terms, it basically means fishing light and subtle. In most situations, I will use the lightest gear that the fishing conditions allow. It’s fishing on that edge where you will get a lot more hits and takes from fish, but it turn may get busted off on a slightly more regular basis.


In saltwater estuaries and on the onshore shallow reefs, lures are used a lot! Many people will use gear that is just too heavy for the fishing situation, whether it would be line/leader size or lure and jighead size.

My favourite form is fishing the shallow reefs for snapper, sweetlip or whatever other reefies there may be on offer. I predominately use bream gear as I find it makes fishing so much more of a challenge, and it’s great fun! Fishing light produces more hits, rather than busts you off easily. If fish keep getting the upper hand then I’ll upgrade my gear size, just slightly to keep getting those hits and to turn their heads when they try and run for home!

However you don’t have to downsize everything. Just as an example, if you’re using a regular snapper set up, I’d use a strong 10-20lb rod, 16lb mainline, 16lb fluorocarbon leader, and a larger plastic rigged on a 1/2oz jighead in 20m of water. If the fishing seems slow, try downsizing to a slightly smaller jighead. I have caught many good fish using 1/8oz jigheads on 3” Berkley Gulp Minnows in about 15m of water. This is finesse fishing with your plastic sinking all the way down a lot more naturally, triggering more hits!

My general estuary gear for chasing species in clearer and open water, such as trevally, mulloway, tailor, flathead and jacks, is using 8lb main line and 8-10lb leader. The jighead size will normally depend on the current. If fishing a slack tide or a place where there isn’t much current, keep the jighead weight ranging from 1/16oz to 1/8oz.

Where there is a bit more current, use slightly heavier jigheads to keep your lure connected to the bottom after the drop. I have found the fishing can be slow when in stronger current. Not too long back I was fishing the rocks at the Noosa River mouth when there was a lot of tidal flow. I put on a tiny 60mm Squidgy Wriggler rigged on a 1/20oz jighead, and let the current take it parallel to the rocks. Not too long after putting it in the water it was intercepted by a big tailor that eventually chewed me off at the boat! The finesse presentation would’ve imitated a helpless prawn or shrimp in the current and the fish could not resist!

Bream fishing is another story. It’s finesse fishing at its best! I love fishing for bream in the canals amongst the jetties and pontoons, especially when they are all fired up and will take most appropriate lures chucked at them. But at times these fish can be very finicky! If they are, using very light main lines and double-rod length leaders of 3-4lb is definitely a good starting point. Small plastics, such as the Ecogear Grass Minnows in okiami colour and Z-Man 2” Grubz, and small profile silent divers of natural colours are the go. Fishing these with the ultimate finesse approach using a very subtle and slow retrieve will most definitely trigger more bream bites.

In general, fishing the lightest gear that the fishing situation allows will make all the difference between you getting no hits at all to getting fish in the boat. Yes, sometimes the fish will get the upper hand when fishing with the more finesse approach, but that’s what makes fishing such a great challenge!

• If you’re in the Noosa area, drop into Hooked On Angling and Outdoors in Tewantin as the friendly team will give you great advice on what gear and lures to use in the area!

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