Forster on the shallow side
  |  First Published: June 2003

The little 1/16oz Redback jig head and its Storm Rattlegrub sailed out over the weed bed as far as I could pelt it with a strong tailwind.

I was in Forster, pre-fishing for the second N.S.W. BREAM tournament with good mate Damien Mah, and we were trying out all sorts of techniques in an effort to get the edge on the other competitors. After lengthy discussions over the internet with some of the West Australian BREAM series anglers, in particular BREAM WA tournament director Ira Fehlberg, on their winning techniques, I had to have a go myself.

The ‘gurus’ on the www.breammaster.com fishing forum had outlined a curious flats method in pursuit of WA black bream – not really that different to our yellow-finned variety They use larger hard-bodied lures cast out as far as possible over shallow sandflats and weed beds, slowly retrieved with the bib digging gently into the bottom, creating an enticing puff of sand.

I had been trying this new method earlier in the day with mixed results, just a couple of undersize fish. I could see the fish feeding in the crystal-clear water, but they weren’t really interested in what I had to offer.

Having seen the fish grazing through the weedbeds, possibly on the abundant prawns, we decided to give soft plastics a go, hopping them up and down over the weed, and I’m certainly glad we did –my little Rattlegrub got nailed by a medium-sized bream. The great thing about fishing shallow water is that the fish have nowhere to go and the long runs across the flats are truly memorable.

At the end of our pre-fishing weekend, we’d managed a couple of five-fish bags between us and I was looking forward to the tournament.

On the first day of the Forster tournament I was starting to have second thoughts about my new-found technique. My non-boater, Josh Batterson, was a bit surprised to hear how I wanted to fish when the majority of the 126 anglers would be hitting the proven oyster racks.

The day got off to a slow start but then Josh had four fish in the livewell to my one and things looked decidedly better. Once Josh had his fifth fish (a tournament bag), he sat down and took on a bit of a guide role, changing my soft plastic lure for me after it was damaged by the ever present leatherjackets and puffer fish, and I soon had four legal fish in the well.

We came across some mullet on the surface in the shallows and fished under them in the hope that bream might be using them as cover. I honestly thought I’d hooked a mullet and was surprised when a very healthy bream came over the side.

The next couple of hours produced some of the best bream fishing I’ve experienced: Double hookups, blinding runs, hat-tricks, double hat-tricks and at one stage I landed around 20 legal bream in 10 minutes. Josh and I landed about 75 bream, with 40 or so over the tournament 25cm fork length. The fish weren’t the monsters you’d normally find in the racks but there certainly were plenty of them.

Josh was non-boater champion, receiving a lovely bream rod and prize pack for his effort, and I came third out of the boaters – the $600 prize cheque just added to the pleasure of a great day on the water.

Fishing the shallow stuff certainly paid off for us, but for it to be effective you had to fish very light. My setup was a six-foot Okuma Graphite Mesh Rod, Okuma Epix EFS 20 reel loaded with 4lb Berkley Fireline, with at least two metres of 4lb Siglon Flourocarbon leader going down to the 1/16oz Redback jig head. My most successful plastic was the 2.1/2” Storm Rattlegrub in smoke /red flake, closely followed by a 1 3/4” Atomic Paddletail in brown crawdad. Josh was fishing 1kg Berkley Vanish straight to the jig head.

Long casts were a must, with most of the hookups occurring as the plastic dropped through the surface or just after a series of short hops, bouncing the little lure just above the weed bed.

It goes to show the value of being open-minded about how you approach fish. I wouldn’t have tried it without the recommendation of our western counterparts, and it is definitely an option that needs much more research – something I’ll gladly volunteer for!

– Dave Welfare

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