Seaway tailor tactics
  |  First Published: September 2003

FOR MANY years the Gold Coast Seaway has been a happy hunting ground for anglers. A broad array of species can be caught here and you just never know what will turn up next. Despite the heavy fishing pressure it receives though, there are still plenty of quality fish to be caught.

Although tailor are more prolific during the cooler months, they can be caught all year round. My preferred time to target Seaway tailor is during September and October when the bait schools that move along the coast entice good numbers of pelagics into the area. During this period you can also catch kingfish, mack tuna, bonito and a host of other pelagics, but it is the tailor that are the most reliable and predictable.


Although tailor can show up in the Seaway at any time of the tidal phase, it is usually the higher stages when they are most active. If this high tide coincides with the extremities of the day (dawn and dusk), your chances are increased even further – especially if you’re casting flies or lures along the Seaway walls. If the tide peaks during the middle of the day your best bet is to drift baits in the deeper water.

Rough weather generally produces the better fishing as tailor like to feed along the edges of the walls. The waves breaking onto the walls increase oxygen levels in the water, and this white water (produced when air is mixed with the water), gives the tailor cover to help them ambush their prey. The waves crashing along the rocks also disorientate the baitfish, most of which have been virtually sucked into the Seaway with the huge tidal influence.

It’s amazing how much water comes in through this corridor once you consider that the entire Nerang River, Broadwater, Coomera River and much of the Jumpinpin area is filled by water that has come through either the Seaway or ‘Pin Bar. Most baitfish are easy prey for the lightning-fast tailor, which often feed close to the rocks in the white water.

In calmer conditions or when the water is very clear, the tailor move into deeper or dirtier water.


Pre-dawn and evening will often see tailor feeding close to the wall, no matter what the conditions are, because the dull light gives them cover. When there’s wave activity or lowlight conditions it’s usually worth casting lures and flies along the wall. The tailor wait in the eddies and calmer areas out of the main flow, only darting out to ambush a baitfish as it swims by.

Drifting along the walls while casting small chrome slugs or flies is often very productive and I have landed tailor over 3kg as well as kingfish, trevally, and tarpon while doing this. The trick is to position the boat a good cast distance away from the walls and to deliver the chrome lure so that it lands as the wave crashes on the wall. Don’t allow the lure to sink at all or you’ll often become snagged. I usually start winding before the slug lands to minimize tackle loss. Try casting the slug or fly in the gaps between the larger rocks – these areas often hold fish. Casting horizontally to the wall would also be effective but it’s not recommended as a wave could easily wash your boat onto the rocks.

Eddies often hold tailor as well. The two major ones in the Gold Coast Seaway are just inside the north wall and out the front of the Seaway Tower.

Tackle for casting slugs to the rocks is best kept light. I use a 7ft St.Croix G70M spin rod and a Daiwa Regal Z 3500 spinning reel loaded with 3kg Platypus Pretest. There is a huge array of spinning and bait-casting outfits that will do the job, providing you are comfortable with them and can cast accurately from at least 20m away.

Chrome slugs need to be around 15g to 30g and there’s a huge array that will do the trick. I mainly use plain 25g CT or Prickly Pete slugs (or similar), as they are cheap and effective.

Mono leaders will produce many more strikes than wire leaders but you will occasionally get bitten off. I recommend that you use mono in the 20lb to 30lb class.

If you like flyfishing you’ll need a 7–9wt rod coupled with an intermediate or slow sinking line. Your reel doesn’t need to be anything top shelf, providing it can hold around 50m or more of backing – just in case you hook a big tailor or kingie. Clousers, Polarfibre minnows, Surf Candies and a host of others will do the trick if they match the size of the bait that’s present (usually 3–5cm). A ‘cast fast, strip quick’ approach is needed to stop the waves washing your fly and fly line onto the rocks at times. With a slow sinking line you can also allow the fly to sink a little once it is a few metres out from the rocks. To the tailor this looks like a disorientated baitfish and hook-ups are common. I have also caught many tarpon to over 3kg with this technique at the start of summer.


When the conditions are calm and/or the water is clear your best bet for catching tailor in the Seaway is to drift baits down deep. The hole at the end of the northern wall and the pipe-line are two of the better known areas, but tailor can be caught anywhere when drifting. I work the edges of the main current line when possible.

Dead baits include pilchards, gar, fillets, herring and mullet, but a live offering is much more likely to produce results, especially on the larger tailor. A bait jig worked through the hole in front of Seaworld, especially around any moorings, boats and other structure, or between the southern wall of Wavebreak Island and the channel marker, will usually produce large herring and even pike at times. If the water is very clear try to find some dirtier water, as this is where the bait is likely to be hiding. Keep baits alive in an aerated container or live well and remove any that die. These can be used later if you run out of live offerings.

My favourite rig consists of a no. 5 to 8 ball sinker (depending on current) running on the main line down to a swivel. Snell two hooks onto an 80cm long 40lb to 50lb monofilament leader and attach it to the swivel. The hooks should be far enough apart so that the top hook can go through the nose of the bait and the bottom hook through the tail of the bait. Due to the deep water and possibility of hooking a mulloway, shovelnose, kingfish or trevally, at least 6kg line is recommended. Braid is best.

I use an 8 to 12kg Live Fibre rod, Shimano Charter Special 2000 reel and 20lb (9kg) Fireline. You could use a spin, Alvey or overhead outfit of your choice.

The last of the run-in tide and first of the run-out tide is favoured, but if you have a bait in the water you’re always in with a good chance. Drifting allows you to cover a big area, but if you find a decent concentration of tailor in one spot it can pay to drop anchor. The hole at the end of the north wall is the most popular spot as it produces good numbers of tailor as well as several other species. The whole bar area is worth a drift and you will often pick up a few better tailor here on the run-out tide, especially the first gutter after the sand bank. Drifting over the top of the Pipeline doesn’t produce a lot of fish but those caught are usually quality specimens. If, while drifting, you go out past a line from the north wall to the south wall, be aware that you require full safety gear, including flares.


Any surface activity such as splashes and diving birds is worth investigating, and you can usually cast small chrome slugs or baitfish profile flies for instant hookups. Tailor, trevally, queenfish and even tuna can feed like this in the Seaway so keep your eyes peeled, especially around current lines. I have caught over 60 quality tailor, trevally and queenfish in an afternoon session while casting to a boiling mass of fish the size of a football field. Coincidentally it was a dull, overcast afternoon with strong winds and rain squalls. One of those days when I should have stayed at home, but it was worth being out! On this note, be careful in the Seaway as waves and swells often seem to appear out of nowhere, especially when trawlers and other larger vessels motor through at full speed.

The Seaway naturally fishes better during the week or when there is less boat traffic. It is one of those places that can really fire at times and seems almost barren at others. Give it a go though as you never know what will show up next. It could be a 5kg tailor or a 40kg mulloway. Good luck!

1) Small chrome slugs cast along the walls will entice a tailor.

2) On light line tailor are a great sportfish which often jump at close quarters. This is when they are likely to throw the hooks.

3) Baitfish pattern flies are well received by both choppers and greenbacks.

4) Tony McCartney caught this tailor while jigging the walls for trevally.

5) Bad weather often produces the best tailor fishing.

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