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Top 10 tips for luring
  |  First Published: September 2015



At this time of year, with warmer weather and more daylight hours many anglers turn their attention to casting lures rather than good old natural bait. Common species such as bream, flathead and bass become more active now and will continue to do so as we move through spring, towards summer.

During this earlier part of spring though, many fish still haven’t fully woken from their cold water doldrums and may not yet be overly enthusiastic about hitting lures. Because of this, it’s easy to assume that lures may simply not be working and a switch back to bait soaking is a better idea. To some extent this may be true, but for those who really want to get this lure fishing business sorted, it’s best to persist.

Something else that is important to understand is that the lure fishing game is a bit different to using baits. The biggest individual difference is that lure casting is largely about the angler moving around and casting to seek out fish, while drowning a natural bait is a way of attracting fish towards your offering, which is generally in a stationary position.

Casting lures and actively looking for fish can be done from shore-based spots, by wading around shallows, from a kayak or a powered boat. Whichever approach the angler takes, the following ten tips are all valuable and when combined, that all important success or goal should be achieved.

SPECIFIC TARGET

As with any form of fishing, from outback creeks through to your local estuary or deep offshore waters, aiming for a particular species will always have an advantage over simply getting out there and hoping for ‘something’ to come along.

By specifically targeting one fish or another, you’ll be setting yourself up with appropriate tackle or lures for that species. Of course, doing a bit of research by talking to mates and reading fishing reports or articles should provide a clearer picture of exactly how to go about catching the fish.

Bream, flathead, tailor, mulloway, cod or bass all bite lures and all have some things in common, but they’re all different to each other and respond to different lures and techniques, so pick a target and aim for it.

LOCATION

Of course, heading to a suitable location is the next step and once again, each species has its preferred habitat. While species like bream are very widespread and it’s not hard to find a spot worthy of putting in some time casting lures, other fish like mulloway or Murray cod are much more specific in their habitat requirements and this could mean a long drive or quite a few hours spent just to reach a spot worth trying.

While this seems incredibly obvious, such basics are a vital part of the lure fishing game and repeatedly casting for hours in the wrong place can soon diminish an angler’s enthusiasm.

So firstly consider your target species, then factor in whether it’s worth chasing in your area or will it require time and effort to reach a place where the fish are more likely to be.

TIMING

As a broad guideline, most fish in the fresh or salt are more active and looking for a meal around sunrise and sunset. So casting lures during these short periods for anything ranging from bream and bass to tailor or trout tends to be more successful than persisting through the middle of the day.

Most saltwater species also react according to tides and water movement. In many cases a rising tide is good, but a falling or outgoing tide may also be fine for some species in some locations. Most fish go off the bite and sulk during the slack water, around the top or bottom of the tide. In some places though, mulloway or other predators use this calm period to hunt their prey.

Understanding a little bit about the target species helps an angler decide exactly when or when not to put in the effort. If in doubt, simply concentrate more around sunrise or sunset to begin with.

TACKLING THE TASK

Nicely balanced tackle that isn’t too heavy to use for a few hours at a time goes a long way towards success. A lightweight outfit is more enjoyable when casting and fighting a fish. In most cases, lighter gear also translates to more efficient casting to attain distant and accuracy.

The outfit needs to match the lure weights being used, the chosen target species and the environment. So an ultra-light 2kg outfit may work great for bream out in open lakes, but when chasing the same species around oyster racks or a creek full of timber snags it’s best to use beefier gear, which may also be a bit heavier in weight.

Similar comparisons can be made when casting lures from a beach or boat for tailor compared to doing the same thing from the ocean rocks. You may be throwing the same lure weights for the same sized fish, but the rocks, cunje, kelp and wave action mean that a much longer and heavier rod is required to achieve similar results.

Good gear certainly isn’t always about using more expensive stuff. Replace the word expensive with ‘suitable’ or ‘appropriate’ and you’re on the right track.

LURE LOGIC

We live in a world absolutely choking with an enormous variety of different lures, suited to all manner of fresh and saltwater applications. Thankfully, we also have access to plenty of excellent advice or ideas, courtesy of publications such as this, as well as all the TV programs, Internet websites and forums. So choosing a lure to match the situation or species shouldn’t be too hard.

The best piece of advice I can add to all of this is to stick with well-known brands or lures with a proven track record before trying lesser-known or more obscure types. When considering soft plastics for example, this means taking a look at the Berkley, Squidgy or Atomic ranges to begin with, as these are very reputable brand names and I can honestly say they do have some brilliant plastics in their stables.

Lure size is another thing to think about if you’re new to lure casting or want to improve results. Overall, it’s generally best to try smaller lures, rather than larger. A lot of the time (and particularly so at this time of year), fish of any species are in a wary or hesitant mood. This means they’re simply more inclined to bite a smaller, less threatening looking lure than something larger that could potentially bite back!

THE RIGHT RETRIEVE

Regardless of the chosen target species, environment, tackle, time or lure being used, we must always remember that even the world’s best lures will not catch fish by themselves. They only start working when the angler puts them in the right spot and then brings the lure to life, with the retrieve.

Occasionally, a very simple, straight retrieve catches fish. Obviously trolling a lure is a dead straight retrieve, so yes it does work. When it comes to many of our favourite fish like bream, flathead or bass, results will improve greatly when the lure is ‘worked’ in a manner that makes it look alive or like an injured prey item. So this simply means mixing up the retrieve with some sudden stops, faster rips, rod twitches and even very long pauses where the lure does nothing, but just sit there motionless.

There is no one specific right or wrong retrieve technique and what works one day may be less effective the next. Lure fishing is all about trying to fool or entice a fish into biting an artificial offering, rather than a real meal, which natural bait is. So it’s important that the lure is brought to life by the angler.

THE BUSINESS END

Failing to pay attention to a few simple things down at the business end can easily waste all the money, time and effort put into lure fishing. In short, this means making sure hooks are pin sharp and not bent or buckled in any way, split rings and clips are closed up correctly and knots are firmly tied.

Bream are notoriously bad at destroying hooks, with their powerful crushing jaws. So the serious bream angler needs to constantly check and replace defective hooks as required. Sure, good quality hooks aren’t cheap, but there’s no point using a $20 lure if its hooks are rusted, bent or blunt.

WATER TEMPERATURE

Some species, like Aussie salmon and tailor and trout are very active through the cooler months. Others such as bream and flathead also need to eat during winter or when the water is quite cold, but they’re normally easier to catch with lures when the water is much warmer.

So at any time of year, better results may be achieved by paying attention to water temps, via the sounder or even by dipping your fingers in the water. If it seems extra cold, move around and try to locate some warmer water. Chances are more fish will be in warmer places, even if it’s as little as 1-2°C warmer.

WATER CLARITY

Another aspect of water quality is the clarity. Once again, each species or area is a bit different, but in general, fish become more difficult to fool in extremely clear water and a bit easier to trick if it’s a bit murky. Once water becomes overly muddy, after flooding rains, it’s still possible to catch fish, but some adjustments may be required.

A basic guideline here is to use finer, less visible lines and leaders in super clear water, with subtle or natural coloured lures. If the water is quite muddy the line or leader becomes less important, but lures may need to be brighter, bolder colours in order for fish to see them in the first place. Models that have inbuilt rattles can also be beneficial, as can scented or flavoured types such as Berkley Gulps.

CONFIDENCE

Finally and just as important as all of the above, simply having the confidence to keep casting or trolling lures goes a long way towards success. It can be easy to think that the lure isn’t working and switching back to bait is a better idea. While this may be true at times, fishing with lures can be every bit as effective as natural bait, if you’re in the right place, at the right time, where fish are hungry.

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