Over the years a lot has been written about soft plastics and their effectiveness on a wide range of saltwater species and rightly so. There very versatile lures can be used on the surface, midwater and depths few hard lures on the market could reach.
Plastics have opened up a whole new aspect to fishing that 10 years ago would have been put into the ‘you’re kidding’ basket. Snapper on plastics are one phenomenon that I bet southern sport fishos would have had a laugh about not so long ago.
Living on the South Coast, I’m in an enviable position that enables me to target a wide range of species offshore and in the estuary. It’s great tangling with monster flathead, mulloway and bream, but what about those stealthy trout that live only a stone’s throw away from my home town of Merimbula? I just had to go and check them out for myself.
Trout are generally known as a fly-fishing target and some purists will say this is the only way to chase them. While l love to target these opponents with the long wand, trying something different on a species such as trout was always going to be different and exciting at the same time.
Location will determine on how you target trout with plastics and where. Most of my plastics fishing for trout haS been by boat on Lake Eucumbene but other locations like Lake Jindabyne, Talbingo, Hume and Tantangara reservoirs are all capable of producing outstanding results depending on water level, water temperature and angling pressure.
Fishing by boat in my books is the gun way to target trout on plastics. It enables me to reach places that are impossible to get to by foot and lets me fish tree lines, drop-offs, gravel beds, rock bars and shoals and rocky banks.
Generally speaking, I like to target rainbows in August, September and October, and browns in April, May and sometimes June. This is when they’re getting ready to spawn and both species like to venture as far up the bays as possible, wallowing among the trees and fallen timber.
These areas provide great cover for rainbows before they head upstream to do their thing. I have also found that when lake levels are low that rainbows will congregate on the steeper banks close to the fallen timber and trees, making it a little easier to target them when casting.
When looking for areas like this, just don’t pick out any steep bank close to the timber. We’ve had great success fishing banks that have larger granite boulders on and them, not just the sandy shoal gravel that comprises a lot of the banks.
I think that these rainbows in dams at lower levels are false spawning on this rougher granite surface; it may seem a little far-fetched but results speak more than words.
On quite a few occasions when this scenario has happened, almost all the trout we have caught have come from this type of area. The rougher the better and don’t be afraid to pepper your plastics into one same area, it’s not uncommon to pull four or five fish out of the one spot.
We have found that the deeper banks are best. Quite often we’re sitting in 15m to 18m of water and casting our plastics right to the bank.
Trees and fallen timber are another structure that trout love. They provide great cover and a worthy food supply for any hungry trout. I’ve found that a lot more browns hang towards this type of cover, this meaning they sit a little higher in the water column, sometimes only a few feet under the surface. Quite often they’ll be sitting under a sunken branch or limb and always on the shady side of it.
Depending on how the boat is positioned, I like to cast the lures along the length of the branch/limb and keep the plastic at the desired depth.
I’ve had good browns smash the plastic right at your feet – it’s exciting with all the visual aspects but it can also scare the proverbial out of you.
Again, don’t be afraid to have a few casts at a likely branch or limb, often there’s more than one willing trout to keep you on your toes.
Fishing reef, large boulders, gravel patches and sunken trees will require you to have a decent sounder and to know how to use it. Rainbows and browns find these types of structure to their liking and almost all dams will have something like that.
If I’m fishing a bay or an area that I don’t know too well with no standing structure available to the naked eye, I use the sounder to find structure beneath the surface.
You may need to enhance your viewing screen by hitting the zoom or bottom lock button so you only see the bottom half of the water column, that’s what is important.
Work out what structure you’re looking at and try and visualise how you’re going to fish it. If I find a likely-looking fish-holding area, I’ll pinpoint it with the GPS and fish it according to the conditions like water depth, type of structure, and wind. You can then determine what type of plastic and jighead weight you’re going to fish there.
Yes, I know a lot of people will be thinking, ‘that sounds like too much time and effort for a fish’, but take my advice – some of the biggest browns I have seen have been caught this way. I would even go as far as saying areas like this have never seen a lure before, let alone a carefully-presented soft plastic.
Fishing structure is extremely important when targeting trout but fishing other areas that look featureless can produce results, too. Trout sometimes hold close to thermoclines and quite often feed openly. Finding them can be difficult but, again, a good sounder and knowledge of how to use it is very beneficial.
Fishing thermoclines can be difficult with plastics, mainly due to the depth and trying to keep your lures in the strike zone. I’ve found that if the thermocline is around 10m below the surface, this is the gun time to target trout with plastics.
Bear in mind though the thermocline can be anywhere from 5m to 20m, depending on water temperature and, in particular, the depth.
Keeping your lure at the required depth is the key. This can be hard with wind, drift and the like. A little fine tuning here with jighead weights and size of your plastics will soon bring you results.
I’ve found an electric motor is mandatory because I like to go forward slightly when presenting the plastic. The retrieve is pretty simple. Once you get your plastic to the desired depth, just hop the lure up around a metre and drop it back down and repeat.
Don’t worry about reeling in the slack, when dropping the rod after the lift try and keep tight with your braid at all times.
The hit can happen on the drop or lift, depending on the fish’s behaviour and feeding patterns. Sometimes they smack it and other times it’s a little tap, like a flathead hit.
Experiment here to with your lift speeds, some days slow is the go and others more speed is required. When using this method, rainbows are the predominate species landed with fish around the kilo mark the norm.
Soft plastics and trout, who would have thought so. Its great fun and it works, get out there and give it ago for yourself, you won’t be disappointed.
Fishing soft plastics for trout isn’t that hard once you get the hang of it. We’ve all heard the term when lure fishing ‘what works one day doesn’t always works the next’ and this also applies to trout.
The single most important factor is retrieve speed. Sure, you have to be able to cast accurately at structure and be in the zone, but it’s not much point being there if you rip out the lure too fast and don’t give the fish a chance to eat it.
If I’m fishing trees or fallen timber I never let the lure hit the bottom. I’m concentrating on fishing the water column where submerged limbs or branches lie. They may only be 2m under the water or 6m, every cast is different and every tree is different.
Fishing your plastic with a slow roll is very effective here, keeping the lure close to the structure. The hit is usually quite solid and a gentle lift of the rod is all that’s required.
Be wary, though, as the biggest brown trout I have landed have come this way and their power is mind-blowing for that first few metres. Once you have them coming to you, they have a tendency to roll up the trace so be wary of this with light leaders.
If fishing steeper gravel banks or granite-covered slopes, I like to position the boat around 20m from shore and cast as close to the bank as possible. Let your lure hit the bottom and start a slow roll (winding slowly with no lift of the rod) for four or five seconds. Stop winding and let the lure hit the bottom again.
Keep repeating this process until the lure is almost straight under the boat or you run out of line due to the depth of water.
What you’re trying to do here is fish the bottom with your plastic at a variety of different depths. You’re hopping the lure down the bank and keeping in contact with it at all times.
The depth will determine how long a cast will take to complete, but I fish this way in depths from 1m to 12m.
The strike generally comes just after you start the roll when the lure is leaving the bottom. The strike is quite solid and the hook-up rate would be 70/30 our way.
On occasions the trout hit the lure when it’s dropping after the roll and a gentle tap or twitch will be seen or felt and a solid strike is needed to hook up.
Sometimes a faster roll is required to get that lure moving and the trout interested. When using a faster roll, the hook-up rate is not quite as good as slower presentations but that’s the way it goes.
The word ‘finesse’ gets bandied about a lot with estuary sports angling and trout on plastics is no different. An outfit you would use for bream on plastics will double as your trout weapon.
I like to use 3lb, 4lb or 6lb Crystal Fireline, depending on lure sizes and what terrain I will be fishing. Having an outfit that can cast lightly weighted plastics a long way is a great advantage, especially if you’re casting into a breeze.
What type of plastic I use depends on conditions, water depth, time of year and structure type.
As a general rule I like using shads or paddle tails for deeper water and grubs or wriggler-type tails for shallower areas. I find the extra vibration that the paddle tail provides gives trout from further away a chance to locate it.
The plastic should be between 50mm and 70mm on most occasions.
My favourite is the 60mm Squidgy Fish in rainbow trout pattern. No doubt other colours work too, with brown trout imitations and greens also getting results.
Jig weights totally depend on water depth but 2g or 3g ball heads with lighter wire No 2 hooks are preferable.
Remember to try different styles of plastics with different weights of heads until you come up with one that works for you.
TIPS FOR TROUT
1: Use braided line, it’s an absolute must.
2: Know how to use a good sounder.
3: Slow to medium presentations, a slow roll is best.
4: Fish some sort of structure – trees, drop-offs, granite banks.
5: Have patience in the cold; you will be rewarded!
Squidgy Fish 50mm, 60mm, 80mm in rainbow trout, brown trout, black/gold, neon.
Squidgy Wriggler 80mm in rainbow trout, bloodworm, gary glitter, flash prawn
Berkley Dropshot Minnow 3” in pearl watermelon, smelt, pumpkinseed
Berkley Gulp Minnow Grub 3” in pumpkinseed, watermelon
Storm Wildeye Finesse Minnow 3” in FM and SS colours
Jigheads: 1g size 4, 2g size 2, 3g size 2, ball head with fine gauge hook.