Casting metal lures, or ‘slugs’ as they are commonly known, can be hard work but when the fish are on and the slugs are being smashed by a good run of tailor, all the hard work pays off.
Cranking the handle of a big threadline as the shore break washes around your feet can be very relaxing. During the retrieve, the lure comes to a grinding halt and the rod loads up just as line starts to peel from the drag. It’s relaxing one minute, exhilarating the next.
The best tailor spinning gutters have deep water access through the back of the surf with some deep water in close to shore. This ideal gutter can be found running along the beach and ending at a rip. The rip provides deep water access for the tailor and the gutter’s presence will mean the water is deep enough along the beach to entice the tailor to enter. As the tide falls, a lot of whiting, dart and mullet leave the gutter through the rip, and the tailor are drawn toward these areas to feed on the smaller fish.
Tackle for casting lures at tailor is commonly made up of large threadlines or side-cast gear. New South Wales anglers are keen on overheads but I don’t know too many Queenslanders who like to use them.
I like to use a big, fast retrieve threadline loaded with 12lb gelspun line. It is vital that the reel has a nice line-lay if you’re using the thinner gelspun line. Get the reel right and you should be able to cast lures very well.
Some Alvey reels are available with an inner handle that provides a geared operation and a faster retrieve. I have found these newer Alvey reels to be great for bringing lures in and the new drags also make these reels genuine options for lure casting. Suitable only for monofilament lines, the Alvey will give a lot more line twist than other styles of reel so it pays to change the line a lot more frequently than you would if using a threadline or overhead. Just the fact that Alveys last forever, and after being dropped in the surf actually cast better, makes them an excellent all-round reel for the beach.
When you’re choosing a rod for casting slugs, it’s hard to go past a graphite surf rod. Fibreglass and composite rods are very good but they just don’t load up and fire a slug like a quality graphite rod.
There are so many different size slugs, from 5g right up to 200g versions, so the rod has to be matched to the weight of the lures you plan to use. I like them a little bigger than most and fish with 70g lures more often than any other size. The rod I like to use casts a 70g lure very well but that is about its limit. If I am using a 90g slug, I have go easy on the cast or risk breaking the rod. This means I cast a 70g and even a 50g lure further than I can cast a 90g lure.
Ultimately, the best advice I can give you is to get a good tackle store attendant to give you a hand. I have been seeing the same tackle guy for over 20 years and he still helps me with all my beach fishing gear and isn’t a bad tailor fisherman either.
Tailor can give you a lot of stick when hooked so it pays to have some quality line of at least 6kg breaking stain. Most of the good tailor spinners I know use 10kg line to avoid getting smoked by the odd bigger fish. Remember that it isn’t uncommon to bring in a 4kg or 5kg tailor from the beach and I can assure you that once they are up around the 2kg mark, they go like a freight train. I use 12lb Fireline but the lack of stretch makes it easier for the tailor to throw the hooks when they jump, shake and generally misbehave. If you’re worried about dropping fish the stretch in monofilament line will help keep it all connected.
Forget about a wire trace and opt for a black bearing swivel with a clip to attach the lure. This gives just a couple of centimetres of protection against the teeth of the tailor but you will land the vast majority of fish hooked. If you’re using monofilament, tie the swivel to the end of the line and clip on a lure. Gelspun line will require a leader of around a metre or so before the swivel. I use a double in the Fireline, attach a black swivel with a cat’s paw knot and run a length of 20lb Penn 10X leader to another swivel clipped to the lure. The leader needs to be a very abrasion resistant copolymer monofilament. It isn’t there to stop the tailor biting through the line but will take a beating from the heavy lure during casting and when being retrieved across the sand. I like to use Penn line but any quality copolymer will do the job.
When tailor are feeding they will hit all sorts of lures, including Raiders, Lasers and Bumpa-Bars. Chrome works very well by creating a lot of flash in the water to attract the tailor, but I have caught a heap of tailor on blue and green Laser lures as well. I actually prefer the Lasers, but after half a dozen tailor have been caught on the one lure, the colour and reflective strip gets worn away. But even when I keep casting the drab grey lure with its damaged paint job the tailor keep eating it, so colour may not be as important as confidence in your lure choice and fishing location.
Match the size of the lure to the bait that you believe the fish will be chasing. The 70g lure matches small whiting, yakkas and slimy mackerel well, and the best choice when the pilchards are running is a lure between 35g and 50g. You can also separate the big tailor from the smaller ones by moving up to 90g lures but as a general rule, I load my tacklebox up with heaps of 50g and 70g lures with a few 35g and 90g lures thrown in just in case.
Make sure that the trebles are matched to the line class you are using. Beefing them up with some razor sharp Owner trebles will allow you to give the fish a lot more stick as well as pin them with the super-sharp hook points. I don’t like that these hooks are black so I only change them if the hooks that come with the lures are not strong enough.
Retrieve rate of the slug needs to be moderately fast but it also depends on the style of lure.
Most slugs can be worked quite quickly but spoons like the Halco Barra Spoon, which is a great tailor lure, need to be worked slower so they will stay in the water.
You very rarely need to get fancy with the retrieve. If the tailor are in the gutters, they will be happy to nail anything that resembles a meal. A friend of mine uses a stop-start retrieve and swears by it so it pays to experiment a little. I have also had days when the fish are feeding on bait high in the water and the retrieve needs to be flat out to firstly attract some attention and secondly keep the lure high enough in the water column for the tailor to see it.
Tailor can commit suicide when they are biting so be responsible and take only what you need. Tailor don’t freeze very well and need bleeding as soon as they are caught. If the fish are on, I like to take the barbs off the trebles. This means losing a couple of fish, but I release most of the tailor anyway and just keep the odd one that comes in with some injury. This gives me a good feed as well as plenty of sport.Reads: 7133