Beating the mean bream blues
  |  First Published: July 2017

Sick of your mate hooking all of the bream on lures? It has happened to all of us. You spend a day on the water with a good mate and they releases a whole swag of bream. Meanwhile, you have a terrible day and land a few little ones, or maybe nothing at all! Even worse, you use the same lures, identical rods and even the same length and size of leader.

This heartbreaking scenario has happened to me quite a lot and I’ve been on both sides of the equation. This article is not about how to lure fish for bream – it’s all about those awful and perplexing days where one angler smashes the fish while the other fails dismally. It goes way beyond the right lure, leader and where or how to fish. Those things are easy to change.

What about when two or three boats are all out together and between, say, eight very experienced anglers, just one of them smashes the fish while the rest look on dumbfounded? I just know this has also happened to you and if it hasn’t yet, be prepared! Can we turn such dreadful and demoralising days around? The answer is never easy.

One angler gets all the bream – how can it happen? Short answer is I don’t know. I fish for bream a lot and share the water with plenty of very keen, hardcore anglers. More often than not, one of us hooks the bulk of the fish while the others struggle along. Lures and techniques are quickly changed by all, but still, one angler gets most, if not all, of the bream. This is stranger than you think, because I’m talking about very keen, skilled bream anglers that really know their stuff.

Just recently I watched mates totally outscore me on a hot bream bite. Hot for them, at least! I have joined a swag of top local anglers including Joel Petzke, Jason Deenan, Justin Dingwall, Anthony Havers and Mick Dee recently for about eight sessions searching our local Gippy Lakes.

Most days, three of us are out together. For nearly two months we have been catching the heck out of these big bream and it has been incredible sport with hardly a fish under 36cm and heaps of 42-45cm trucks. It has been a real blade-fest and sometimes working metal blades means tweaking them in just the right way.

Havo and Mick got the technique fully mastered and were scoring 20-40 big bream every trip. Meanwhile my efforts were dismal! One day I lifted in just a single bream! Other trips saw me struggle to score 10 fish and only once I had a good day with 21 bream released. What did I do different?

That was a strange day, because I also got the biggest bream with two at 44cm, one at 43cm and about six 42cm bream. For the record, the other boys still outscored me, Jason with 24 bream and Mick with 38! During most other days I struggled to get fish, while Havo, Jason and Mick were getting hit or hooked up with about every third cast.

Here’s the real strange twist though, I tried the best I could to imitate everything they did and I still struggled! Even worse, I actually showed each one of those blokes how to blade up bream. They were catching heaps more fish than me, by using my technique. That stung! Weird, I know, but I’m sure this sounds familiar to you and it can happen to all of us at times.

Swapping rods

On another day, my mate Joel had my problem, as once again we watched Mick haul in fish with his usual incredible ease. After hours of trying to fix the problem we came to the conclusion that there was something about Mick’s outfit. The two anglers simply swapped rods. Surely that would do the trick.

Mick grabbed a rod and lure that he had never used and pulled a bream up in seconds. I don’t need to tell you the dismal result for Joel, so what’s going on? For me, I’ve just come to accept that tiny and seemingly insignificant tweaks of a lure can be the difference between a swag of fish or almost none at all.

I fail to comprehend the logic at times, but this much I can tell you. The difference between success and failure is sometimes so minuscule it becomes impossible to measure. Other times it is a blatant wrong lure or silly technique mistake that causes failure. These obvious things are fixed within seconds.


Is it all about the lure? Short answer: absolutely not. It’s even less about the colour. You’d be forgiven for thinking that all you have to do is tie on the gun lure. In all the years I’ve chased bream with dozens of different anglers, I’ve rarely seen a single standout lure, even with small differences in lures.

It’s not like smashing bream on a soft plastic fished deep while another angler fails with a surface lure. That difference is too extreme and obvious. I’m talking about a 35mm blade against a 37mm blade, or a slow sink lure against a heavier one, a fast medium retrieve versus a slightly slower one. In all my years of experience, those small differences have hardly ever made any impact on an angler’s catch rate.

Some people will swear their success is all about using the higher priced or even most expensive lures on the market. It’s true that not all lures are created equal and undeniably a few exceptional brands are out there, but I’ve caught literally thousands of bream on some really rough looking homemade lures. In fact, I’m always joking about how I will only catch fish on the ugliest lures I can make! I’ve used the best and dearest lures on the market as well as the cheapest eBay fodder, so I’m qualified to comment. Always dismiss lures as being the primary or only explanation of an angler’s success.

Using light lines

While fishing with dozens of different gun anglers over time, including some of the best bream nuts around, I’ve always wanted to prove that light leaders are better. I mean, if it were true, how good would that be? Just go light and catch a heap of bream – easy! I’m going to, once again, blow this myth right out of the water before I even get started.

I’ve done the homework on this subject and the proof goes back years and years. I’ve made too much noise over the years about how I fish up to 8kg leaders when chasing bream. Some of you will be utterly bored with my rhetoric but I’m gonna tell you once more, I’m totally sick of watching and hearing about big bream getting busted off by so many other anglers! Why won’t anyone be brave and upgrade their line classes and stop the silly angling with cotton-like lines? If you never use heavy leaders, how can you prove them good or bad?

Sure I’ve been out-fished at times, but that was probably due to the other guy being a superior angler or having a better technique on the day. Over time I have more than held my own and I can promise you that I hook plenty and hardly ever lose really big bream. Over more recent years I’ve been happy to use 8 or 10lb line all day, every day.

When fishing deep water of 3-4m+ with blades, lighter lines may indeed get more hook-ups. In fact, the deeper you fish, the lighter you should go, apparently. This may have merit, so I’m still experimenting with the idea. I will admit that lighter leaders convey more subtle knocks, bumps or taps up the line, but getting back to the amazing number of bream that Mick and Havo have been getting on blades for months now, you should know they are fishing 10lb leaders or bigger! End of subject.

The real answers

How can one angler dominate the catch while others fail wretchedly? I’d be a very rich angler if I knew just one of the answers. What I’m really talking about here are extreme delicate technique subtleties. To put a fine point on it, the angler catching all the fish can’t even explain their success. It’s sort of like a natural, hidden or innate ability and maybe just more luck.

Sounds like rubbish? Until you find me a better answer I’m going to run with that theory, because I know you have also seen this many times over. All too often one angler gets most of the fish. I forgot to mention, there’s something even worse that happens! The harder the fishless angler tries to emulate his successful mate, the more convincing his failure!

It’s a discussion all of us have and rarely find reliable answers for. The solution just might be out of reach for my brain. That doesn’t mean I accept defeat or resign to disappointment, because on most days I hold my own. I will always study others who have more success than me and be happy to learn from them, but it’s hard to enjoy watching somebody else get all of the fish!

I’m just letting you know that this scenario is fairly common. Don’t ever let it beat your head in. And while it is nearly impossible to figure out, the angler having all the success can suddenly stop catching fish. It’s hard to keep achieving something you’re not even aware you’re doing! Sadly I’ve hardly unveiled concrete answers to this puzzling riddle, but this I can assure you of: your day in the sun will eventually return. Many years of perseverance and strength of mind has shown me that we all shine in due course. The extreme ups and downs of fishing are what fuels our addiction!

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