2015 Flathead Classic
  |  First Published: September 2015

Move over Gold Coast Marathon and the Super V8s the biggest annual event happens in spring on the Gold Coast – The Flathead Classic.

This year is the 22nd year the Flathead Classic has run and it has become one of the biggest catch and release fishing tournaments in the country. It is so popular that anglers make their annual pilgrimage far and wide from Australia and even overseas to fish this iconic tournament.

The Gold Coast Sport Fishing club ran a survey after 2014 Flathead Classic and the economic value to the Gold Coast community was estimated around the $500,000 for a four-day event. This is not bad for a humble flathead. It’s a great ‘bang for your bucks’ tournament and Gold Coast Sports Fishing Club committee do a wonderful job in keeping the entry cost to a minimum.

The Flathead Classic attracts a diverse range in fishing teams. Some are pro anglers, some fish as a family and some are just good mates getting together for a good time fishing. A real feature of this tournament is the increasing number of juniors getting involved in the sport. Being the school holidays it is great time to get out and have a fish as a family.

This is my 19th consecutive Flathead Classic and for all 19 years it has been a family affair as Team Sands. Starting off in the early days fishing with just my brother George, but the last couple of years I’ve fished with my uncle Kevin who is 73 years old, and still travels all the way from Tasmania, and my son Cooper.

George and I started 19 years ago by trolling up and down Coombabah Creek. We did pretty well but we were way off the top 20 place-getters. Those 3 days of fishing the Classic and going back every night and catching up with fellow anglers sharing stories, this tournament reeled me in hook, line and sinker.

I was pretty lucky in two ways; I was born in Runaway Bay and fished for flathead from an early age and, secondly I worked in a printing business and worked three days on and four days off. On my days off I would troll and cast plastics up and down the Broadwater from the seaway all the way up to Russell Island. I kept a diary of all I learnt, such as what colour lure I used, what tide, where I caught them, what size they were and what lure I used to catch them on.

Three Flathead per Hour

The teams that do well put in the hours in the lead up to the Classic. Some teams work on three legal flathead per boat, per hour. With 26.5 hours of fishing time that’s roughly 80 legal flathead for the tournament. So best you get out there and work out a game plan and keep a diary. This might be handy if you get stuck and need something to fall back on if you get a mental blank where to fish next.

Location Location Location

The boundary area for the Flathead Classic is from the Nerang River, in the south, all the way to Russell Island in the north. Between these boundaries the environment and habitat changes dramatically from south to north. The environment that the flathead are in can determine the size of the fish you are catching.

Flathead are an ambush predator with lighting short speeds. Those that are caught on hard sandy bottoms are usually small and lack in numbers. They like areas that have soft bottoms, like mud, silky bottom, soft sandy patches in between sea grass and coffee rock.

There is no big secret that you can catch any size flathead from rats to 90cm+ fish from the seaway and Jumpinpin Bar. Fishing the last two hours of the run-out and the first hour of the run-in is the most productive, as the flathead are concentrated due to them being pushed from their lies on high tide.

Our biggest flathead in the Classic has come from mangrove-lined banks at high tide and the numerous drains that run from banks and mangrove systems at low tide. Flathead are like barramundi, last to leave and first into a drain.

Drains provide a very easy meal for a flathead. These flathead are usually dark brown to almost black in colour but more important they are all good point scorers.

Fishing the flats for flathead is still the mainstay of catching flathead at high tide. A good pair of polarized sunglasses are a must so you can concentrate casts on weed beds, deep gullies and, one of my favourite spots, prop marks that have been dredged out from boats that have hit weed patches at low tide.

When fishing the flats I still like to use small plastics anywhere from 2-4” in size with a 1/4oz jighead. Another great lure on the flats are lipless crankbaits. It’s a pretty simple technique, the secret to using these lures is in the retrieve. The best retrieve is a fast wind with long sweeps, or cast it out as far as you can, let it hit bottom and crank it back at a medium pace, with a few twitches along the way, just like using a plastic.

Fish Light

Downsizing definitely seems to get more bites; it gives better lure running depth and a faster sink rate. The lighter the main line and leader you use, the more bites you will get.

Over the years, the technology in fishing lines for braid and fluorocarbon leaders have improved a lot, which has given me the confidence to fish really light. I like to use 4lb mainline and 8-10lb leader when fishing on the flats and drains. Because I fish small plastics, a lot of flathead tend to swallow the lures so I need a good abrasive leader. I have found FC Rockfish leader by Yamatoya and Vanish by Berkley are really abrasive and have caught heaps of flathead over 80cm.


Usually around the Flathead Classic, we cop a lot of wind.

The southerly wind is the kindest wind we could have as it keeps the water relatively clean throughout the Broadwater, and with clean water comes good fishing.

The northwesterly winds combined with large tides and boat traffic can turn the Broadwater from crystal clean water into lifeless brown water making flathead fishing very tough, especially on a run-out tide. Fishing places that are out of the main run of water flow can be dirt-free, places like Tipplers Passage and the mouth of south and north arms of the Coomera River are great places to fish.

Flathead respond well to trolled hardbody lures in these conditions, lures like Micro Mullets and Zerek Tango Shads work extremely well in bright colours like pink and bright green.

Mix It Up

If you are trolling hardbody lures or casting soft plastics or lipless crankbaits always try to mix it up. When casting plastic lures we never have the same lure on or shape or style. I like to use jerk shads in bright colours like pink or chartreuse worked on a erratic retrieve, another person has a paddle-tail on and the third person usually has a plastic that has scent on it.

We like to work an area we know that holds fish until we can crack a pattern then we change our profile of lure to that shape and retrieve. We never leave biting fish until we know that we have covered all bases, including trolling the same area with hardbody lures.

Boating Needs

Fishing for almost three days in the wind and the glare of the water then backing it up every night at the tournament venue can take its toll on your body. Make sure you cover up everyday with long pants and a long sleeve shirt, a wide brim hat, a buff, a pair of sunglasses and lots of sunscreen every two hours.

Make sure you have a little esky on board with heaps of water and food. I like to carry a couple of bags of lollies this will keep the sugar levels up and wash it down with a couple of cans of coke. A half cut storm water PVC pipe may take a lot of room on a boat but it is worth it as a flathead have less time out of the water and can be released in good condition. Always carry two of braid scissors, pliers, boga grips and two nets, just in case you lose one overboard like me a couple of years ago.

Flathead are a people’s fish and the flathead classic is a people’s tournament for all to have a great time. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on gear and anyone could walk away with a $30,000 Bluefin boat package.

Hopefully the tips will help you catch a few and I will see you at the Flathead Classic.



Sign on30 September to 3rd October
Briefing and dinner4pm, 30 September
Fishing and dinner1-2 October
Fishing, dinner and presentation3 October


Southport Amateur Fishing Club, GR Thompson Park, Broadwater Parklands Southport (adjacent to Howard’s Landing Tackle Shop)

Entry includes

• Meals from professional catering service (extra meals available, please enquire)

• Commemorative 21st Anniversary Event Shirt for every competitor

• Team Bag containing lots of lures and other goodies courtesy of our sponsors

• Tournament Handbook for every competitor

• Opportunity to share in $250,000+ worth of prizes


Whether you’re a first-timer or a pro angler everyone has the chance of getting into the major draw. The major prizes in the flathead classic are allocated on a lucky draw for both juniors and seniors. The last junior and senior walked away with a Bluefin boat fully kitted out worth $30,000 for the senior and $3000 for the junior.


Rays Resort and Thornton Towers are offering a discount on mention of the Flathead Classic for competitors.

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