Tiny lures, big fish
  |  First Published: October 2007

Over the cooler months discoloured water from rain and big seas contributed to minimal john dory catches but more than compensated with one of the best flathead runs I can remember.

Add the fact that salmon and kings stayed feeding on top through Middle Harbour until mid-August and the cold-water fishing wasn’t that bad at all.

After a lot of experimentation, small, slender-bodied soft plastics turned out to be the key to success on the cold-water flathead with the bonus of salmon, kings and trevally by-catch. The success of tiny lures on big fish has recently been highlighted by the number of big jewfish taken by fishos throwing small plastics aimed at bream and flatties, but the secret isn’t new.

When the tiny minnow-style Darwin Darts hit the scene a few decades back, anglers targeting smaller species like jacks, saratoga and sooty grunter, for which the lure was designed, often found themselves tight on some massive barra, fingermark and GTs. This tiny lure quickly became the ‘secret weapon ‘ for a handful of switched-on angles chasing big barra.

My own experiences with small lures include taking big jewfish on little plastics aimed at flatties, flatties so big that they could have inhaled my tiny bream jigs through their nostril, big kings inhaling 2” stickbaits aimed a fussy ‘eye’-feeding salmon, longtail tuna to 10kg eating 15g slices aimed at frigate mackerel and Jules Verne-proportion cuttlefish eating No 1.5 squid jigs.

The obvious dilemma that presents itself here is that you are going to be throwing light lures with light tackle – not the ideal scenario for big fish.

Micro-jigs are the most tackle-specific lure fishing we can do. With most other types of lure fishing, the range of tackle you can use is fairly broad. You can go barra luring with an egg-beater, baitcaster or even an Alvey. Many indigenous Australians very successfully cast lures with handlines. But with micro jigs you are limited to a very narrow spectrum of balanced eggbeater outfits.

The introduction of braided lines and braid-specific rods and reels and the availability of tiny jigs are equally contributory to the rise of this style of fishing. Braid with the diameter of 1lb mono and the breaking strain of 10lb or the diameter of who knows what and the breaking strain of 6lb (actually breaking at almost double that) allow us the spool capacity to land some pretty big fish on what would have traditionally been deemed ultra-light gear.

The point I’m making is that you are not going to land those big fish on the traditional mono that would be required to cast the ultra-light jigs. Most of the time you are going to catch your target species but it’s nice to know that when a big fish takes off, you have the line capacity to handle it.

The mistake I’m often seeing made by people wanting to get into micro-jigging is buying the jigs and then trying to run them on their old lure outfits. You will have to accept the fact that if you want to seriously get into this style of fishing you need to go into the tackle shop with enough cash for the lures and a new outfit.

Fish, both big and small, often choose to feed on small prey. Jewie Jim Siriakis will use his sounder to find upstream whitebait clouds to locate Winter jew and then micro-jig for them. Many of the fish he lands have been clearly feeding on the tiny fish.

It’s hard to say why salmon, for example, will spend all day feeding on bait that is no bigger than a pin or why a 10kg jewfish would go to the effort to get a bellyful of whitebait. One theory includes the need to vary their diet but most likely it’s simply just that they target the most readily available and abundant food source at the time.

The old saying ‘you will catch a big fish on a small bait but you won’t catch a small fish on a big bait’ can be equally applied to lures.


Spring is in the air but unfortunately not in the water. There’s always a lag between water temps and land temps and the water will remain cool for at least another month or so. The salmon run should be well and truly on by October and the first schools are already starting to congregate at North Head now.

They will most likely be fussy on lure size so this will be a good opportunity to put the abovementioned micro-jig gear into action. Tiny 1” or 2” unweighted stickbaits usually do the trick.

Blackfish are on fire at the moment and will only get better until December. The good news is that after a prolonged scarcity due to a rough Winter, the weed is back in force. Cabbage is the weed of choice on the lower Harbour and you can get plenty on any of the ocean rock platforms.

Trevally have been around in good numbers and we have been getting them on bait and small jigs while targeting flathead. Their numbers will increase until Christmas when the warm water comes in. Trevs will often be found under the salmon schools so it’s worth occasionally letting your jigs fall well below the salmon before starting your retrieve.


The new DPI Fisheries 65cm size limit for kingfish will have a substantial impact on the numbers of fish taken. I estimate that 70% of all kings taken in the Harbour will now be undersize and NSW Fisheries has clearly gone overboard on this one. A reduction of the bag limit to three fish would have been a much better option and everyone I have spoken to agrees. The only up-side is that this size also applies to commercial fishos.

Samson fish and amberjack have been grouped together in a bag limit of five total. So, in other words, you can keep a bag of five mixed samson and amberjack. This will have very little impact on rec fishos.

The luderick (blackfish) length has been raised to 27cm, again a bad call by Fisheries because it is very rare to catch a luderick under 27cm but quite common to catch over 20 in total. With a little bit of research any numskull could tell you that a better conservation option would be to leave the size at 25cm and decrease the bag limit to 10.

Bream and tarwhine have been grouped into a combined bag limit of 20. This is a token measure only and of little conservation value.

Trevally have a size limit of 30cm where they previously had none. This will have little impact on fishos as a trev under 30cm would have normally been released anyway. As a conservation measure, a lowering of the bag limit down to 10 would be more obvious.

Flounder and sole have now a size limit of 25 cm and a combined bag of 20 where before they had neither. Once again, a complete waste of time. Find me someone who has ever caught 20 flounder in one session.

Overall, the revised size and bag limits, as a conservation method, are a complete waste of time. A much better alternative would have been to get some more Fisheries officers in the field policing the old regulations.

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