December Topwater Tactics
  |  First Published: December 2006

Who doesn’t like surface fishing?

The explosive surface feeding attacks from GTs that send whitewater everywhere, light surface hits from tuskfish and jacks in shallow water or the ka-booming of an unidentified large object that monsters your popper from a reef edge?

Surface fishing certainly has its place in the Whitsundays. If you have ever thought of learning how to surface fish in the Whitsundays, here are some tips to get you in amongst the action.


There will always be predators close to schools of baitfish, so if you find concentrations of bait, fish the area with surface lures that match the size of the bait.

When drifting along the northwestern reef edges of Hook Island when the sun is low, you will often see ripples and splashes of baitfish. You might also spot bait schools boiling on top of reef bommies. These are the perfect locations to cast your surface offering as queenfish, trevally or mackerel are likely to be in the area. Other great areas to try are the reef bommies near the long island jetty, the reef flats in Hook Passage and the northern tip of Haslewood Island.

If you want to fish a little closer to the mainland there are still plenty of surface smashing options. Try targeting species such as tuskfish and mangrove jack. These fish love to feed around many of the expansive mangrove-lined bays and inlets close to Shute Harbour. Fish these areas early in the morning or late in the afternoon with a rising tide just flooding through the mangroves. On the mangrove rooted edges search for fishy features. Rock bars, fallen trees or drop-offs on the edges are great spots to concentrate your casts.


Queenfish, trevally and mackerel like big and noisy surface lures. To get the fish excited use cup-faced poppers like the Killalure cone popper or the Cotton Cordell pencil popper. Try to create a lot of commotion with these lures chopping and churning as much water as possible.

Also, mix it up! Use fast and slow retrieves until you find out what works. We have found the Rapala Skitter Pop, the Killalure Cone Popper and the Classic Lures Tidal Wave popper to be the best big fish catchers.

When fishing closer inshore, it’s best to use more subtle surface offerings for mangrove jack and tuskfish. Quieter retrieves such as walking the dog which pulls the lure from left to right works well in this situation. Cast small surface lures right up the back of the mangrove roots and other features of the shore. Then pop it back to your boat pausing for a few seconds over the strike zone. Pull the fish out hard when they are hooked using a locked drag and 20lb leader. Also, try to move along the edges with the tide or an electric motor for best results as you can cover and discover more fishing locations and catch more fish.

The Whitsundays in December is definitely a prime location to get the topwater lures out of the tackle box and give them a go. No matter what type of species you are targeting in this location it’s surely one of the most fun and exciting ways of catching fish.

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