Taking on the trevally
  |  First Published: July 2004

THE RIPPLES created by your lure’s impact on the tranquil water start to disperse, giving the fish a moment to sense that something small enough to be prey is in vulnerable water. The vigilant predator is well aware of the lure lying motionless on the surface, as well as of the banana prawns that have taken cover in the roots of a mangrove tree and a small school of herring that linger in the protection of the timber, twitching their bodies to hold against a trickle of current that threatens to flush them from the safety of their lair and into the mouths of their stalkers.

Just as the trevally begins to lose interest, you give the lure a diminutive twitch as you recoil the weight of the lure off the rod tip before allowing it to sit motionless again. A tense moment is created as the trevally has reservations about the nature of the creature that sits on the surface, silhouetted by the glow of the morning sky. You start the retrieve and the lure dives beneath the surface, sending an obvious message of distress through the lateral line of the hunter. The trevally is forced to strike out of pure instinct. The lure has been mistaken for a prawn that has been left in open water, sick and wounded and unable to take refuge with the rest of the school.

The strike shatters the glassy surface of the water and the silence of the early morning has been violated as adrenalin has woken you from your quiet pursuit and the fight has begun.

As the fish feels the hooks, a new set of instincts take over – a set of instincts that are much more familiar to the bait sheltering in the nearby mangroves than to the trevally. Line peels from the drag and the fish runs in an attempt to free itself from the lure. Its deep silver sides flash in the cloudy water as it uses its broad body profile to pull against the pressure of your drag setting. The light line ensures a long battle that will need all of the patience that you’ve displayed prior to hooking the fish – only this time, your heartbeat is climbing and adrenalin is pumping. There’s no trophy up for grabs and no bragging rights on the line – the entire moment is all about angler verses fish.

As the fish begins to tire the battle starts to slide in your favour. The sight of the boat has the trevally making another dash for freedom. Raised to the water’s surface, the fish has lost the power to drag its body back under the water. Netted, the fish grunts its disapproval as it lies exhausted in the hands of the victor before being gently slipped back into the water to enjoy the freedom that he so deeply earned.


There aren’t many other sportfish around the country that can be fought in clear, open water and give a fisherman long, hard, drag-screaming runs – with stubborn, patience-testing determination – in the calm waters of the estuary.

Trevally species that are common to Southern Queensland include the giant trevally, diamond, golden, long-nose, big-eye and bludger trevally. All trevally offer excellent sport but, in my opinion, they have poor eating qualities. For this reason, it’s best for them to be played out on light tackle before being gently placed back into the water.

Trevally are true hunters and are a rare catch on dead bait. Feeding on small baitfish, prawns and other crustaceans, trevally hang around areas where the food can be caught by speed rather than ambushing. This hunting behaviour often brings trevally out in open water where baitfish are balled together by eddies or intersecting tidal currents.

Trevally can also be caught around structure, as they like to use the back eddies of bridge pylons and jetties to find their prey. In my home waters of the Gold Coast, we catch most of or fish by casting soft plastics at trevally that are rounding up bait schools against the concrete retaining walls of the canal systems. All that’s needed is some current, clean water and bait.


One very productive method is to drift rock walls or deep holes with herring or poddy mullet. Work out what the fish will be feeding on and try to match the bait to that.

Drifting is recommended wherever possible, and baits need to be fished down near the bottom unless the trevally are hitting baitfish on the surface. If this is the case, an unweighted livie thrown into a patch of harassed baitfish is guaranteed to be eaten.

If you’re fishing at anchor, make sure that the bait is being dropped back into a hole or eddy that will attract trevally to the area.


I have caught trevally on many different styles of lures, proving that when these fish are feeding there aren’t many lures they won’t eat. The important thing is to get a lure that’s going to operate correctly in the situation it’s being fished in, rather than a colour or style that Jo Fisho said he caught 10 fish on the day before.

Soft plastics

Soft plastics work well when you’re fishing back eddies created by bridge pylons and pontoons. After you’ve cast the plastic into the eddy, you can keep it in the eddy by allowing it to sink and swirl around until it hits the bottom and then ripping it back in sharp, quick twitches. If the fish refuse the luer as it is dropping, the fast movements will often get a reaction strike out of the fish as the plastic is bought back to the rod.

Surface lures and shallow divers

Shallow divers and poppers are ideal for fishing around the canal walls, rock walls and for fish that are busting up on the surface. I love to catch trevors on poppers just for the visual aspect of the fishing. Fishing on or near the surface is mainly for first or last light as the fish go a lot deeper during the bright and hot times of the day. You can also fish soft plastics high in the water by rapidly twitching them in a fast retrieve.

Deep divers

Deep diving lures are usually best trolled around deep structure such as rock bars, pipelines and reefs. Troll speed and the lure used needs to be able to get down to where the fish are sitting. Most trevally tend to sit just off the bottom and, with the exception of the big-eye trevally, they usually feed by watching what is happening above them. With this in mind, if you’re fishing in 5m of water, a lure that can be trawled at around 3-4m is ideal. When you’re fishing in lower light levels, I recommend dragging a shallow running lure to only about 1m or 2m.


Rocky headlands and the clear water of river mouths call for a metal slug to be used in a similar style to tailor fishing. Casting the slug at the rocks and ripping it back will usually do the trick, but if you’re fishing in a big eddy like the one on the North Wall of the Gold Coast Seaway, the lure can be dropped to the bottom and jigged back up. The lure will often be bumped on the drop but don’t expect too many hook-ups while it’s going down – although it can be frustrating when you feel all of your hits coming while on the drop and not up.


Trevally are a big, strong fish for the estuary system but they are also very clean fighters. When fishing for trevally in summer you’ll often encounter a mangrove jack, and I always know as soon as I’m hooked up whether I have a jack or a trevor on. The jack goes into the structure and a trevor comes out.

When lure fishing with light hard-bodied lures or plastics, I prefer 2kg braided line. If jigging with slugs, this is often too light so I beef it up a little. Livebaiting requires only light mono line.

Whatever line or reel type you choose to use, your drag washers need to be super-smooth as these fish can peel a fair amount of line from the reel.

Screaming drags and big silver flashes is what comes to mind when thinking about trevally. If you haven’t experienced this yet, take some of these tips onboard and enjoy the ride of a true sportfish.

1) A big diamond trevally landed during a bream tournament on 4lb line.

2) This trevally almost needed surgery to remove the little Rebel popper.

3) Even the little ones can get amongst the action. Jigging a 3” plastic in a big openwater eddy produced this long-nose trevally.

4) It’s easy to see why they’re called a big eye trevally. These fish are often found in schools and this one was one of many that were caught in a session in the Pimpima River.

5) A good-sized giant trevally that was caught by lobbing a popper at trevally that were busting up baitfish on the surface.

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