Catches improving
  |  First Published: September 2004

I’M OFTEN asked about lure colours and how they affect catch rates. I’m no expert, but I have made plenty of observations over the years that may be that clue someone is looking for. After all, every smidgen of info eventually adds up to solving part of the puzzle.

Most thinking anglers have theories of all sorts – some ludicrous, others unscientific but credible. Colour is a topic that most lure anglers have ideas on. The difficulty with this subject is that when an angler catches a fish on a lure, he’ll often use it again and again because it ‘works’. Eventually, it becomes the only lure that ‘works’!

In the past I have encountered two obvious occasions when the target fish were interested only in one colour or colour combination. The first was trout fishing in the upper Murray River. Up there the river is just an alpine stream, gin clear and very cold. On this particular day the fish only hit lures that were red and black. Not a single fish was landed on any other colour or combination of colours by any of the camping anglers who swapped yarns at the end of the day.

At one point during the evening session I walked around a bend in the river and found one of my mates casting at a likely-looking pool. He had been there for some time without success. We exchanged pleasantries and I lobbed a red and black Tassie Devil to the water’s far edge, next to an overhanging blackberry thicket. Two cranks of the handle later I was on, and the result was a kilo-plus brown trout. After that, no more pleasantries were aimed in my direction!

On the second occasion I was in a boat with three companions drifting along with the outgoing tide in the Drysdale River at the top of the WA coast. We were casting at likely-looking snags and exposed boulders and catching jacks, estuary cod, trevally and the odd barra as well. As we approached an extensive rock bar that stretched 30m or so across the river, one of the party fired a bright yellow 4-inch Nilsmaster into a gap in the rocks. A very big barramundi pounced on it immediately, leapt high one or twice and then crash dived into the rocks and quickly ended the contest.

Three more lures splashed down in the vicinity of the first hookup and were ignored on the retrieve. The same lures of various lineage and colour were then cast around the rock bar for no attention whatsoever!

A minute or two later angler number one had tied on another big yellow lure (a 6-inch Nilsy I think) and lobbed it in the general direction of the stones. Once again the lure was crash tackled almost immediately, and after a short but violent battle another big barra made good its escape. This continued for half an hour or so and the tackle boxes were, by then, devoid of yellow lures!

Once again a selection of other makes, models and colours were cast in every direction and all were ignored. I’ve wondered why ever since, and I can only assume the fish were feeding on yellow baitfish (or big banana prawns) and were focused on the job at hand. I’ve yet to see a bright yellow fish in an estuary but they may well be there! I’d be glad to hear any of your theories.

While these are dramatic examples of fish preferring lures of a particular colour, there are similar occurrences all the time. Our local bass like green and purple lures. I have used many, many different colours and combinations on the Sunshine Coast bass, and there’s a definite preference for green (known locally as ‘Macdonald Green’) and purple (known locally as ‘purple’)! I’m sure anglers from around the globe would be prepared to argue that point and, as usual, I’m ready to listen.

It’s widely known that flathead and bream are fond of pink lures. I’ve seen many magazine articles that have plainly stated that ‘any colour is OK for flathead as long as it’s pink’. There are many casters and trollers who chase flathead year round along the Sunshine Coast and a fair percentage of their lure stock is pink, or at least partly pink. I have found orange and red lures to be worthwhile additions to the tackle box of flathead trollers too.

Bream are certainly partial to pink offerings, and not much can be done to change that!

Some years back I ventured to a remote part of the western coast of Cape York. For a week three mates and myself fished a system known as the MacDonald River and didn’t see another angler in that time. Every night we tallied the day’s catch, and my notes included lure size, depth, colour and whether the lure had internal rattles. Surprisingly, fluorescent colours out-fished all the others. Metallic finishes came in second and standard painted lures third. The presence or absence of internal rattles had no effect on our success during a full week of lurecasting.


Local fishing is improving all the time with the end of winter in sight. September is a very good month for anglers chasing flathead right along the Sunshine Coast. The quality and quantity of lizards increase suddenly as the pre-spawning congregations begins.

I’ve had some of my best flathead fishing in September. Last year I pulled some big henfish out of the lower reaches of the Noosa River trolling small minnow lures in orange and red. At the time, an outgoing tide late in the day was perfect. My troll run always included the stretch from the spit to the river mouth and occasionally along the front of Goat Island. The channel that runs across Lake Cooroibah is well worth a troll as well, and those drifting baits along this run often do well also.

Bream have been quite active along the coast, and those hardy souls who fish at night have been doing the best. Areas worth a try in September are the lower Noosa River, Munna Point, the Frying Pan, Pincushion, the rock walls at the Mooloolah River mouth and the Boardwalk at Caloundra. Good luck!


1) Josh Dolan pulled this excellent golden trevally out of the briny at Brays Rock off Caloundra. Josh was trolling a pink and chrome Arafura Barra lure at the time.

2) Queensland Bulls cricketer Ashley Noffke with a beautiful 5kg-plus snapper caught at Murphys Reef in late July.

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