Fishing with soft plastics seems to have no limits. A few years ago it was deemed just another craze that will come and go like the rest of them but now we can see it’s well and truly here to stay.
Along the NSW coastline bream and flathead are perhaps the most popular plastics targets, although snapper and jewfish aren’t too far behind. All of these fish, and plenty of others, can easily be tricked into munching on rubber but there are also times when it takes more than a ‘chuck and chance’ for success to come your way.
There are a few basic steps one can take to ensure reasonable consistency when using plastics, whether that be in the estuary, offshore or in other environments. Here is a shortlist of those basics.
• Start by using plastics that are well-known and popular among successful anglers, such as the big-name bream or bass tournament anglers or well-known fishing writers. Berkley, Atomic, Squidgy and Storm are good brand names to start with.
• In most situations, and especially so in the estuary, use fine diameter braided lines with a light fluorocarbon or mono leader about the same length as your rod.
• Use jig heads that appropriately match the size of the plastic, water depth and current strength and, of course, the species you’re chasing.
• Always make sure you put the plastic on the hook nice and straight so it’s not buckled or spins in the water.
• Finally, fish with a confident attitude so that you’re more inclined to put in the effort it may take to catch fish. Without effort you’ll be catching bugger all.
Regardless of where you fish or what species you’re hoping to catch, those important basics of plastics fishing remain pretty much the same. The more you do it, the more you’ll understand the importance of what I’ve outlined above.
Most people start off by catching a few flathead in the local estuary and the good news for beginners is that flathead are present in all estuaries along the NSW coast.
As your experience and confidence build, more flathead will be hooked, along with the odd bream, flounder, whiting and, if you’re really lucky, a jewfish or two.
It’s important to note exactly what you’ve done each time a flathead or any other type of fish is caught and then repeat the process to hopefully catch more.
If more fish aren’t caught by repeating the exact process, slightly change things and see if that works. A slight change could simply mean casting in different directions or changing the jig head or trying a different colour plastic.
More subtle changes could be to slightly slow down or speed up your retrieve, tie on a lighter leader that fish can’t easily detect or cast your offering just that bit closer to structure like weed beds, rocks or submerged timber. The whole idea is to repeat successful patterns.
Some experienced soft-plastics anglers start modifying their plastics rather than using them straight from the packet. No doubt you would have seen plastics of different colours rub their colours off onto other plastics if they are stored together in the same tackle box compartment. In most cases you don’t want this to happen.
If I buy a packet of white plastics I want them to stay white. In the case of tournament anglers trying to get that all-important edge in a competition, a slight colour variation could mean the different when it’s weigh-in time.
Lake Macquarie tournament angler Rick Cooper mentioned to me how he would mix his Berkley PowerBaits in the one packet to achieve the subtle colour variation that he wanted.
At first this could seem a little picky or extreme but I can assure readers that slight colour variations can make a difference when it comes to bream. For example, in the majority of instances the pearl/blue Berkley Bass Minnow won’t catch as many bream as the pearl/watermelon Bass Minnow, even though they are very similar in appearance.
Plastics can also be easily cut or trimmed with scissors to achieve a desired result. A plastic shad can be trimmed to give it a thinner profile which will sink faster and won’t be pushed around so much by a strong current.
Trimming up a shad in such a way could also allow the use of a lighter jig head, making for a more realistic presentation. Some may ask, ‘Why trim a shad to create a thin plastic when you could simply use a thinner stickbait style plastic?’ Well, a shad has a paddle tail that creates vibrations which can be better for species like jewfish or barra in a low light situation or after dark.
It’s also easier to modify a lure that’s already on your line, rather than scrounge through the tackle box looking for something that may not be in there anyway.
One of my favourite plastics to trim up is the Berkley Gulp 4” Finesse Minnow. I’ve been using these for about a year now and I constantly find it surprising that the Berkley Turtleback Worm is a much more popular plastic than the Finesse Minnow.
The reason I compare them is that they are both 4” Gulp baits but I am extremely confident that the Finesse Worm is by far the better bream plastic of the two.
I use watermelon colour Finesse Worms and cut about 15mm off the nose and slightly round it off neatly with scissors before threading it over the hook. I trim it only to make it a bit shorter to help increase the hook-up rate on bream.
If you’re yet to try the Finesse Worms, get some in watermelon, trim up the nose and see how it compares to the Turtlebacks.
While on the subject of Berkley Gulps, here’s something else to try: Simply cut them up and use them like conventional bait. A small Gulp Minnow or Jerk Shad can be sliced into little cutlets, making quite an effective bait to catch livebaits like yakkas or slimy mackerel.
White Gulps could also be used in conjunction with a bread-based berley mix for drummer or bream off the rocks. Gulp makes quite a tough cut bait, not unlike squid.
As with all forms of fishing, there really is no limit to what you can do with soft plastics. It’s largely a matter of persisting and repeating those successful patterns in the first place and then using your imagination to experiment as your plastics fishing becomes more advanced.Reads: 603