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Battlin’ Big Bridge Bream
  |  First Published: July 2006



Any artificial structure will hold bream at certain times, but one type in particular – bridges – will hold bream for the bulk of the year.

Coming from Melbourne, I am lucky enough to be within 30 minutes of some of the country’s most outstanding big bream water. From dock pylons and rock walls to deep reef, I consider bridges my bread and butter.

The Rivers

The Yarra and Maribyrnong rivers have been my tournament competition training grounds for many years. The techniques I use in my day-to-day bream fishing around the highly modified sections of river, and within the Port of Melbourne, have allowed me to develop an arsenal of weapons when it comes to enticing the Yarra’s ‘hesitant to bite’ bream. This article outlines some of these methods, which might be interesting to both experienced and novice bream prospectors alike.

Bridge busting for bream is one of the easier forms of attacking the species with lures because most bridges have relatively solid and predictable form and design. This makes them easier to read than other underwater structures such as snags or deep reef.

Fishing bridges for southern black bream is one of the most enjoyable ways to bag a personal best, both in terms of size and the sheer number of fish on offer. Added to this is the fact that a range of other species will gladly take up residence on bridge structures, making for an interesting mix.

ABT south Oz Angler of the Year, Mick Presnell, showed me how it was done a while back when I watched him extract and land a 17.5kg mulloway from a bridge on 4lb bream gear – I’ll spill the beans on that one later.

Bridges Abound

From the boat launching facilities at the mouth of the Yarra River to the top of the estuarine sections of the Yarra and Maribyrnong, there are over 30 bridges within easy motoring – all hold bream at certain times of the year. Indeed some of these structures, such as the Princess Bridge, have been holding bream for over 150 years.

How you approach these bridges and get the maximum from them depends on a number of crucial factors.

The type of bridge (pylons or solid wall) in question, the amount and direction of flow, the water depth and the time of day all play a big part in where to cast, how you retrieve and the position of your boat. It’s how you consider and combine these factors that will influence your success rate.

boat Position

The first really important consideration will be boat and lure position. I like to get the boat as close as possible to the structure and fish along it, either with, or against the current, depending on where the fish are holding and their mood.

Generally, the closer a lure and its ‘line of retrieve’ is to the structure being fished, the more likely a bream is to eat it.

Fairly accurate casting is mandatory but ‘hugging’ the bridge wall or pylons with the entire boat is important too – if you don’t mind a few scratches on the gunnels that is.

If I’m chasing really big blacks or mulloway, then I’ll have the boat at 90 to the structure, with just the bow of the boat almost rubbing along it.

Flashers

If I can see bream holding up near the surface, and you’ll often see them ‘flashing’ just below the water’s surface if they are, then I’ll nearly always fish the bow of the boat with the current.

Regardless of wind direction I’ll allow my hard body or lightly weighted plastic to hop back to the boat against the flow.

This approach allows for the lure to shake, and more importantly pause, right in the face of any big black bream.

If necessary, I can open the bail arm and drop the lure back a little if a slight tap is felt or you see a fish peel off the bridge to check your lure out.

Fishing against the flow this way also allows for limited slack line – a desirable thing when you’re fishing for large bream with light line close to sharp structure.

Deep & No Flow

When bream are holding deep or there is no flow, I have been using density polymers and tungsten putty weighted hard bodies, modified with slightly larger centre trebles.

With the bow of the boat pointed into the current I fish these as I would a plastic, hopping and drifting them along the bottom back and back to the boat.

By not leaving too much slack in the line during any drift or pause of the lure, especially on bridges with an underwater ledge or coral growth, $20 worth of hard body that gets crunched by a big blue nosed bream won’t disappear as soon as you strike.

If you’re fishing a soft plastic with the boat’s bow into the current the lure will drift back to the boat allowing for remarkably light jigheads, 1/48oz in some instances, to be used in depths of up to 8 or 9m.

Up Close & Personal

Now comes the part a lot of us still have trouble with. With the boat so close to structure, your ability to extract a really big fish becomes more difficult because any turn of its head will almost certainly see it home free, and more often than not with your lure!

Heavy drag settings are a must, even when fishing ridiculously light leaders on gun-shy bream, as is an almost instant reaction on the foot pedal when you hook up.

Use your electric motor to help pull and steer the bream out of tight cover and away from trouble. Once the fish is in clear water then you can relax a little.

I’ve even had to start the main motor in order to get the right angle on misbehaving bream and mulloway.

Weighting a Hard Body

First and foremost, select a hard body with a very quick action and preferably, an internal rattle.

When you add any weight to the lure, you will affect its action. The more weight you add, and I’ve stuck some mighty lumps of putty onto tiny lures, the more the ‘wobble’ will diminish.

When slow hopping weighted hard bodies, it’s also important that the lure ‘buzzes’ and rattles when the rod tip is lifted or shaken for effect. The more action a weighted lure has as it free-falls or is hopped ever so slightly, the better.

It’s a balancing act really. Enough putty to get down to where the bream are active but not so much as too dull the action of the lure.

Imagine that big old bream down there telling the cheeky little gold buzzing baitfish, that one making all the noise (your lure), to move away. The confident little fish ignores the elder and just shakes its butt in the face of grumpy old blue, and … crunch, game over!

So there it is

When fishing structure for big bream that just refuse to commit to any of your usual offerings, try a weighted hard body. It just might entice that big bruising blue nose to strike, nearly pulling you off the casting deck.

Sure, you’re going to lose some gear with this approach, especially when a rogue mulloway inhales your lure, but if big bream are your target and you’re looking to add another approach to your breamin’ strategies, then get some putty on your hard bodies, some touch up paint for your hull (that will get scratched, trust me) and go bridge breamin’.

Facts

Attaching Weighted Putty

Step 1. Select a hard body with a strong, tight action and preferably some internal vibration. I prefer the Ecogear SX40, Strike Pro Pygmy, RMG Scorpion 35 or River to Sea Baby Vibe.

Weighted putty is available from most retailers that stock flyfishing tackle. The Compleat Angler in Melbourne (ph. 03 9620 3320) sells a great product called ‘The Original Sticky Weight’ that comes packaged with some amazing instructional diagrams.

Step 2. Pinch or cut a piece of putty (gauge the approximate weight against the size of a normal round jig head) and roll it between your fingers until the putty is soft and pliable.

Roll the putty into a thin sausage and wrap it around the centre or end treble in a figure of eight motion. Then press it firmly against the treble hook shank, making sure the putty is not impeding the hooks.

Step 3. Check the lure’s sink rate and action, particularly on a rod lift motion. When ready, cast it along the structure and count the lure down to the desired depth. If fishing super deep then change the centre treble to the next size up to accommodate more putty.

Step 4. Slow hop the hard body like you would ‘grub’ a soft plastic and hang on!

Facts

11. No caption necessary.

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