The first question most people ask when the idea of trolling tiny lures is mentioned is why bother? Trolling isn’t usually the most exciting way to fish and if you are going to troll, why wouldn’t you use good-sized lures to give yourself the chance of tangling with something worthwhile?
If you take a passive approach, trolling can be a bit monotonous and normal sized lures will generally fool the larger fish we all love to catch. But what about all the smaller and more prolific species that get overlooked along the way? Trolling tiny lures is a great way to make the most of these average-sized fish and have a whole lot of fun.
Another plus for this approach is that tiny lures appeal to such a wide range of species that you never know what is likely to jump onto your line next. Even species like whiting, which are normally considered to be a bait only prospect, will pounce on little lures if you give them the chance; it can be a real lucky dip at times. It’s quite common to hook four or five different types of fish on any one outing.
If you have young kids or inexperienced anglers aboard, than that’s another good reason for trolling tiny lures. When you are trolling, as long as the skipper knows what he is up to, everyone in the boat has virtually the same chance of catching a fish. This is a much fairer approach than casting, where the more experienced anglers in the boat tend catch the most fish.
Trolling tiny lures also brings out the best in the sort of fish you are likely to encounter. Because you are using small lures, you need to use light gear and a 1kg trevally on 2kg line is a real handful. Small queenfish and tailor really get going and will be jumping and splashing all over the place. You’d have to be a pretty hardcore angler not to get excited with all that going on.
While tiny lures are really versatile and there is no reason not to use them, they really shine in our coastal creeks and estuaries, as well as on our man-made impoundments.
In the estuaries, target the shallow sandflats that are scattered with areas of weed. They’re great places to troll and are normally the first place I investigate. These are best fished around high tide, when they have the most water over them.
Flathead are the number one target and small lures pick up lots of small to middle sized flatties. They may not be ideal for the really big ones we love to boast about, but with the sensible slot limits now in place, smaller lures give you a decent chance of connecting with some nice tablefish.
Bream can also be induced to have a go at tiny lures as they bounce across the flats and good-sized whiting will probably be more common than you would have expected.
If you move into the deeper channels, your typical estuary pelagics like tailor trevally and queenies will often be willing to get involved and oddballs like tarpon and wolf herring are always on the cards. If you go anywhere near structure, then small cod, Moses perch and other lutjanids may get in on the act as well.
Unless you have a big bank balance however, try to stay away from submerged rockbars and large snag piles. It’s not that the lures can’t handle them, it’s just that such places are likely to hold mangrove jacks and they love collecting little lures!
On the sort of gear you will be using, you’ve got a better chance of picking next year’s Melbourne Cup winner than you have of landing a good-sized jack on 2kg line amongst the snags. Leaving lures stuck in fish doesn’t help anyone so it’s best to stick to relatively clear areas for this sort of trolling.
If you enjoy fishing our freshwater impoundments, then trolling tiny lures is a good technique for producing consistent action. Depending on where the waterway is situated, working the edges of the weedbeds could fool plenty of bass, redfin or even the odd golden perch. Trolling tiny lures also puts you in with a real chance of tangling with silver perch, which are rarely encountered on larger lures.
If you fish amongst the flooded timber, you might also find yourself tangling with a few sooty grunter and even some surprisingly large saratoga. Unlike barra, saratoga are quite keen on very small lures, as their diet includes plenty of insects and other smaller prey items.
Aussie anglers are well catered for when it comes to tiny minnows and these days there are plenty to pick from, including a good selection of locally made lures from manufacturers like Merlin, StumpJumper, Predatek, Deception, Attack, and Lively Lures.
I’m happy to provide a bit of a form guide the following tiny lures. Despite being small in size, they are all well built and will hold together on surprisingly large fish when fished on sensible tackle. I’m sure there are plenty of others out there, which can also do the job, but these are the ones I have had success with and feel comfortable recommending to anyone keen to give trolling tiny minnows a try.
When it comes to selecting a tiny minnow, my first choice is usually a Baby Merlin, simply because everything eats them. I remember seeing one that had caught so many bream and flathead that the plastic around the rear eyelet had eventually been chewed away to nothing and the rear hook hanger had fallen out. The bloke who owned it was still catching fish on it, even though it only had the front hook still in place.
Predatek Min Mins are also right up there and have the advantage of coming in a deep diving version which gets the lure down to a depth that not a lot of genuinely tiny minnow lures can go. The elongated ‘Ace of Spades’ bib looks odd, but it makes the deep Min Min a very stable lure, which will hang in at quite fast trolling speeds.
Then there are the Mini and Micro Mad Mullets. These Aussie made minnows have established a phenomenal track record at the Flathead Classic on the Gold Coast, where they always seem to fill a top slot amongst the highest fish takers. From my experience, sooty grunter are also very partial to them.
While soft plastics have stolen all the limelight of late, Halco’s tiny 35mm Scorpions are right up there with the best. These lures revolutionised bream fishing when they were released and continue to fool all sorts of fish.
A relatively recent additions to the tiny minnow ranks has been the No. 3.5 StumpJumper. I’ve just started to play with these little guys but the early results are very encouraging and I’m sure they will earn a permanent place on my boat.
Of the imports, Rapala are probably the best ones, especially in southern waters where the rainbow trout pattern is hard to beat. Rebel also make some great mini lures and specalise in imitating all sorts of creatures including frogs, crickets, tadpoles and nymphs. My best results have come from slowly trolling a Wee Frog or a Crawdad around the edges of shallow waterways as the sun goes down.Reads: 3310