Get something for nothing
  |  First Published: February 2006

It’s a phenomenon that’s hard to explain: why do we catch so many fish at those times when we’re doing nothing? You can be deadsticking a lure, letting a topwater sit motionless, drifting a soft plastic stickbait, gliding an ice jig, dragging a metal lure across the bottom with the rod in the rod holder and catch a fish without doing a thing with the lure.

It’s a commonly-held belief that the most important thing about lure fishing is getting the correct action from a lure. Much has been written about the various retrieves and the importance of getting the cadence just right to work your lure tantalisingly in front of or past a fish – or at least the structure where the fish should be hiding.

By contrast, relatively few articles have been written about the very subtle approaches of ‘no action’ lure fishing. Some might even be so cruel as to call such techniques ‘no brainers’ – but there’s more to this kind of fishing than many anglers might think.

So let’s look at the ‘no action’ scenarios that can get you into the thick of the action this summer. Some of the suggestions that follow are quite extreme examples of no-action fishing, but they’re simple and they have worked, so they are always worth a try.


No matter which species you’re targeting, surface luring is a very exciting way to fish, and when you take a break it’s a good time to try a no-action approach. It’s interesting to watch and see what happens when you cast a topwater lure out behind the boat and just let it sit on the surface while you drift about.

A wide range of fish take these lures – we’ve taken bass and bream, and even flathead. Normally the strike comes about a minute after the lure touches down, and I recall one instance of the lure bobbing around for about 15 minutes before it was eaten. Using the floating lure tactics over a known squid hangout is also a great way to put calamari on the BBQ plate.

DEADSTICKING Paddle-tail Grubs

I’ve caught many bass just by holding the rod still with a 3” paddle-tail grub rigged on a 3/8oz ball jighead suspended above the bottom or in amongst a school located on the sounder. Some days it makes me wonder if I need to move the lure at all!

Spraying on some catch scent can increase your chances, and of course there are days when you do need to swim the lure through the fish. However, don’t be surprised when you’re standing there doing nothing and thwack – you’re on and the drag is screaming. Fun, fun, fun! Just remember not to look surprised and you might just be able to fake it that you planned it that way.


Another productive approach is to use light jigheads and gentle gliding retrieves using upward flicks of the rod tip to glide the lure back to the boat at mid-depth. This technique has been producing huge snapper and mulloway for soft plastic anglers using light shad-style jigheads and 5” straight-tailed shad and jerkbait plastics.

The best fish I’ve heard about, a massive mulloway jew from Mud Island, gives an indication of the quality of fish that can be taken. (If you want to know more about Mud Island, grab a copy of the Fishing Queensland annual. The jewie was taken right where ‘X’ marks the spot.)

The yellowtail kingfish is another species that’s partial to straight-tailed jerkbaits fished in this way. The kingies smash these lures as they waft slowly downwards on the pause between jerks. A good set-up for kings is a 5” shad fished unweighted and rigged Texas-style on a ‘Z’ bend worm hook, but they also work if rigged on the same jighead that you’d use for snapper or mulloway. The brass and glass rig set-up that I mentioned last month also works very well – it’s certainly been very productive for me.

Whilst the jerk part of the cadence is generally considered important to attract the fish’s attention, it is on the pause (just after the jerk) when most of the hits come. But some fish are taken after the lure is cast out and simply let sink, and never jerked at all.


All manner of fish are caught with lures that are dragged across the bottom. Every kind of lure, from soft plastics to hard metals, can be successful when presented in this way, and you can fish a wide variety of depths and terrain. I’ve seen bream and whiting taken in a few centimetres of water and reef fish taken in over 100m of water.

And there’s nothing tricky here at all. When dragging I prefer to fish soft sand and rubble bottoms to reduce snagging, but I’ve seen guys drag metal across reef and catch fish after fish. Snapper and squire can be particularly partial to this approach. Just let the jighead take the soft plastic all the way to the bottom and drag it with the drift.

Carolina rigs and light split-shot rigs, although seldom used in Australia, are great when dragging soft plastics for every species, from bass to bream through to snapper.

Doing Nothing

The benefit of the ‘do nothing’ approach isn’t just that it produces the goods – it’s also great for when you just want to sit back and take it easy for a while. Next time you’re out on the water and ready to have a cuppa, throw the lure out, drift around and you just might be surprised with what happens.

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