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Soft side to bream
  |  First Published: October 2014



Bream nowadays would have to be one of the top fish to catch on a soft plastic. When you hook a bream your reel starts screaming and the line starts peeling off, giving you only a few seconds to tighten your drag and pull them from the structure. If you’re not on the ball you’ll be dusted up and end up with a nice frayed leader. This challenge, and the associated adrenalin rush, is why I always go back for more.

Best Seasons

When using soft plastics you have to think like a fish. A soft plastic isn’t like a bait where you can just sit it there and wait – you actually have to work the plastic to represent a wounded baitfish. The key is presentation, so you really want to match the hatch.

The best time to chase these spooky species on soft plastics would be at the end of summer and right the way through winter and half way through spring. When winter arrives and the cold snap comes on, you will find bream will stop feeding off the surface very quickly and will start to move deeper to get ready for spawning. That’s when soft plastics come into their own, and it’s also when the big sea bream move in on the high tides. This can be an advantage because when bream spawn they tend to hang in schools and can be very aggressive at some points. This means you can hook and pull in more than one bream out of the school. However, some schooled-up bream can be very timid which means you will get one touch or one fish before the school will be spooked, quickly swimming off to different structure or deep water eddies.

As spring starts moving in the bream will move closer to the top of the water column and start hitting the baits off the surface, really committing to your surface lures. Some people may think surface fishing for bream is easy but it’s not. Why? Because bream tend to hit the surface only in the early morning and late afternoon, because as the sun rises it starts to create shadows and movement which bream hate. On some occasions when it is very overcast and dark, bream will hit your surface lures all day depending on the tidal changes, but that’s not the norm.

When I talk surface lures I mean using soft plastics on the surface with unweighted worm hooks or even a lightly weighted jighead, as some types of plastics float. You should work your surface plastics with a slow roll or a twitch with the rod tip.

Finding the Bream

Today’s bream are getting smarter because many more anglers are chasing bream on soft plastics, giving the fish a chance to learn the difference between plastics and bait. To fool these educated fish you really have to concentrate, persist and watch what the bream are feeding on and match the size of the bait, because they are probably smart enough to figure out which is which. If you present your soft plastic correctly and make it look as natural as possible you should be able to trick them into eating it.

The key when bream fishing is to find structure. Find some good structure and you’re in with a good chance of success. When fishing any type of structure for bream it is important that you position the boat correctly, fish the structure on the right angles and stay the right distance away to eliminate spooking any fish. Possibly the best structures of all are jetties and moored boats. Those two types of structures provide food like crustaceans and baitfish, shelter from the boat traffic and direct sunlight, and are a great spot for spawning.

Although you can catch bream all day long (particularly if you’re using bait), I have found early morning is best. At first light there is hardly anyone on the water which means no boat traffic, and often the bream are really firing and quite aggressive.

Another prime time for bream is late afternoon. During the day bream normally cruise the deep open water and the shallow flats hunting for food like prawns and yabbies, and when the sun starts to fall the bream swim back to find shelter like jetties in which to spend the night. This provides another great bite time to use soft plastics on bream.

With bream fishing you need a good tide. At high tide all the structures like pontoons and jetties are well underwater, but as the tide drops and the water gets low the bream slowly move out into the deeper water and shallow sand flats. Then, as the water rises the bream move back into the structure. The best time to be chasing bream around structure is one hour before high tide as they are starting to move back to the structure and are normally hanging in schools. All of the structure is well underwater at that time, and the bream will be waiting for baitfish and crustaceans to swim by.

If the bream are quiet and not too hungry I fish all of the run-out tide, when the bream start moving out of the structure into the deeper water. They normally start feeding as the tide lowers. They generally don’t eat as much when they’re right out in the open because of fear of predators like sharks, whereas in structure they feel safe enough to focus on food.

Whatever time of the day or tide you’re fishing, it’s important to match the size of your plastic to the size of the bait. If you’re fishing a bigger soft plastic and not having much luck, you may think the bream aren’t there. In actual fact they could be, they just mightn’t want a food item that big. Try downsizing your soft plastic and see what happens.

There is a surprise bream fishing can bring and that is sighting bream at a type of structure. When this happens the best thing to do is position the boat on the opposite side on an angle against the tide, while making sure you can still cast at them. Position the boat a bit further out than normal because if you can see them they can see you! Cast your soft plastic with the lightest jighead possible about 5m in front or behind the bream so you don’t spook them, then just let your plastic sit there and slowly drift. Let them have a play with it and hook themselves. Just remember – you must have the right-sized soft plastic on or you’ll spook them. Bream are very spooky fish.

Techniques and Tackle

When fishing for bream you need to go light as possible. That means a nice, light rod and reel combo with light braid and leader. Inexperienced anglers look at the size of the soft plastics you’ll be throwing around and ask, ‘How will you cast that plastic and achieve so much distance?” The answer, I tell them, is you having the correct gear set up for this form of ultra-light fishing.

The combination to choose is an ultra-light rod and reel set-up. A nice thin-profiled graphite rod with a rating of 1-2kg or 2-4kg (depending on the area you’re fishing) matched up with a 1000-2000 sized spin reel is the perfect combination.

When chasing bream on soft plastics it’s good to choose a rod with a soft tip section. This doesn’t mean get a rod that’s soft right the way through the blank down to the butt – only the tip should be soft. The advantage of a soft tip is that it allows you to work a small plastic (around 60mm) correctly, and allows the plastic to swim freely and look more natural on the retrieve as there is no pressure on the soft plastic when retrieving. A rod that’s too stiff will impede the action of the small soft plastics because there is no play in the tip. Your casting distance will also suffer.

Line choice is also important. There are braids out there that are super thin and super smooth, but some of them can cause non-stop wind knots and breakages around the knot area. For that reason I tend to use a slightly thicker braid for trouble-free angling when fishing all day. The diameter of the braid I use ranges between 0.1mm and 0.15mm in diameter. If I’m only casting short distances around structure I’ll go for a thinner diameter, around 0.1mm. Using 2lb right the way through to 8lb is perfect for this style of soft plastics fishing.

The next thing to consider is which leader to use (you can’t tie your plastic straight to braid because it has zero stretch and is visible underwater). When fishing for bream I like to use a thin diameter and high abrasion resistant fluorocarbon leader. Why fluorocarbon, you ask? Because the fish can’t see it and because it sinks, which is excellent when using soft plastics.

Now that you’re correctly set up, you can work your small profiled soft plastics with ease and won’t have to stress about getting wind knots and so on. Small paddle tail soft plastics around the 40-55mm size can be slow rolled with your rod tip facing down towards the water. Alternatively you can naturally let them drift under structure looking like a wounded baitfish with the tail vibrating side to side and with your rod just up to the end of the tip under water.

When it comes to using minnow styled soft plastics it is best to work them then let them sit there, imitating a small shrimp. A good technique is to twitch the rod tip three times then just let the plastic sink back to the bottom with the rod at waist height to feel those finicky bites.

The last main key to bream fishing using soft plastics is what size jighead and hook size to use in each plastic. The easiest explanation I can give you is to use the lightest jighead possible depending on the current. You want your soft plastic to look natural when you’re working it, and you want it to sink slowly to give the bream a chance to hit the plastic on the drop, which happens most of the time.

Use a hook the fits your soft plastic perfectly; you don’t want the point to hang way out the back near the tail. If you use a heavy lead around the 1/8oz mark around structure for bream you’re wasting your time – it will sink too fast and make your soft plastic look too unnatural. It will also make too much of a bloop when it hits the surface, scaring the bream.

All in all, the key word for fishing for bream is ‘finesse’. Without finesse you will struggle a lot!

Facts

FISHING STRUCTURE

Good bream structure includes overhanging trees, submerged timber, oyster racks, rock bars, mangroves and concrete walls.

When approaching the structure, position the boat on an angle facing the tidal flow. Sit about 5-10m away from the structure so you don’t spook the bream. Always approach the structure with as little as noise as possible, so no vibrations go through the water.

Facts

LINE AND LEADER

Suitable lines include 6lb Sunline Super PE, 3-6lb Stren Microfuse, 2-6lb Berkley Fireline Exceed, 6lb SAS Braid (Tasline) and 6lb Ikuza Braided Fibreflex.

I use a wide range of leader material from the cheap stuff to the most expensive stuff. The best fluorocarbon leader I have ever used is Sunline FC Rock in 3-4lb. I use it a lot because it’s extremely thin in diameter and is super clear and has very good abrasion resistance.

Facts

JIGHEADS AND PLASTICS

I use a wide range of jighead sizes from 1/20oz right down to 1/60oz, depending on the current. When it comes to hook sizes I use a 1, 1/0, 2 or 2/0 depending on the size of the soft plastic. I like to use ‘Hidden Weight’ jigheads as they give the plastic a more natural look and don’t make a loud noise if they hit a boat.

The following plastics have proven to be the best for me:

• Ecogear Grass Minnows 3” - pink

• Berkley Gulp 2” Shrimp - banana prawn, pepper prawn, molting

• Berkley PowerBait Bass Minnows 3” - pearl watermelon

• Z-Man GrubZ 2” and 2.5” - motor oil and bloodworm

• Squidgy Wrigglers 65mm and 80mm - silver fox and bloodworm

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