Improving your estuary lure fishing (Part 1)
  |  First Published: September 2005

For the last 20 years, my passion has been lure fishing the estuaries. During this time I have picked up a lot of helpful tips and techniques from some of the best anglers in the country and have also had time to develop a few of my own. To give those of you who are new to the sport a little help along, here are a few tips on improving your estuary lure fishing.


When selecting a rod and reel, you first have to think about the species you want to target and the type of lures you are going to cast. For example, if you live up north and want to target barra and tropical fish, you will need gear that will be able to cast medium to heavy lures and fight a decent fish. At the same time, it will have to be light enough to cast all day if necessary. If your passion is flathead and bream on the other hand, you will need gear that is capable of casting light soft plastics and small to medium lures.

Regardless of the species you are targeting, the outfits must be balanced. A balanced outfit is one where the rod you have chosen (say a 3kg spin rod for flathead and trevally) is fitted with a reel that is rated to store enough of the 3kg line you need. With baitcasters, the reels available nowadays will store and cast much heavier braid than in the past, which means you are no longer forced to hold cumbersome reels all day. And the low profile types are more than capable of handling most species encountered in estuaries.

Give yourself options

Generally you will choose your outfits based on their line class and when expanding your arsenal, you should try to give yourself as many options as possible by choosing outfits of varying line class. If you start with a 6kg baitcasting rod for barra and decide when the small fish are biting that it’s too easy, your best bet would be to invest in a 4kg outfit. This will be easier to cast and will also make catching the smaller fish a little more challenging.

On the other hand, if you cast soft plastics around on a 2kg rod, investing in a 3kg outfit would help when the fish are deep and you need to use heavier jigheads. Having a couple of outfits at the ready means that you have options: you can rig each rod with different presentations and simply pick up the best one for any given situation.

As a simple guide the lighter the presentations you want to cast, the lighter the gear you are going to need to cast it. Generally, spin rods are a must for light jigheads and small lures, while baitcasters are better for controlling your casts with medium-sized minnows. This is just a guide however. I have medium spin rods that I use on barra and jacks, as the spin rod adds another dimension to casting and with some practice, a well-balanced spin rod is easier to use than a baitcaster, especially when there’s a breeze.

The amount of money you spend on your rods and reels should reflect on how often you are going to use them. There are some very reasonable combo deals available through tackle shops and these will generally save you a bit of money and will already be well balanced.

As you progress with your fishing you will find that specialist rods designed for the job you are doing will cost more but will perform the task with less effort and for longer. Australian rod designers know our fisheries so I recommend shopping around and buying Australian. Always try to buy the best reel you can afford because when it comes to casting lures all day, the cheaper models will only handle it for a while (although they are great as back-ups and to get you started).

Line and Leaders

Once you have the outfit suited for the fishing you are going to do, it’s time to spool it up. Of course, you should look at the line class rating of the outfit to guide you on the strength of the line. On light spin reels the use of 4, 6 and 8lb Berkley Fireline is a must, while on baitcasters I prefer heavier braided line like Daiwa because the thicker braid lays better on the spools and doesn’t bite into itself when put under instant pressure.

As for leaders, there are a lot on the market to choose from and most are more than up to the challenge. Once again, it depends on the type of fishing you’re doing. Fluorocarbon leaders are a must in clear water that receives a lot of fishing pressure. This works well because it doesn’t spook the fish, while at the same time, can withstand some abrasion. I use Berkley Vanish and transition when fishing for easily spooked fish. However, when I am up a tidal creek chasing barra and jacks, my favourite leader is Schneider fishing line because it has a soft outer shell that lets your knots lock into it, while the core is very strong and able to withstand being dragged through snags.

If you’re not so sure about tying knots, do yourself a favour and get a copy of Wilson’s Knots and Rigs, which is a great guide for lure fishers.

Setting up the boat

For lure fishing, casting decks are a must: having to stand on seats in a boat while you’re trying to concentrate on casting will just add frustration. Simply cutting some ply and fitting it between the seats to add a deck will make life much easier.

An electric motor will take your lure fishing forward in leaps and bounds. I recommend a bow-mounted model, as it is easier to control the boat by pulling it forward rather than pushing from the rear. If your budget only extends to a transom-mounted electric, try setting it up so that you can drive the boat backwards. In this case you would need a deck from the back seat to the transom. Having an electric motor will help you catch more fish as it allows you to sneak up on fish and hold the boat in the best possible position to make your casts.

A sounder is a great tool to have, even if you only use it to check the depth of the water. This helps when fishing around structure with drop-offs by telling you how long to let your lure sink. Most sounders come with a swivel bracket to turn it around, so try to position the sounder so that you can see it while driving the boat with both the electric and main motor.

Being able to grab the relevant fishing rod as quickly as possible is important, so setting the boat up with easy access rod storage is a must, and will also reduce the risk of rod damage. It can be as easy as running a piece of ply down one side of the boat to lay the rods on or setting up a few vertical holders. However, be careful because a wayward cast can easily damage standing rods when you’re not concentrating.

A plumb anchor or a chunk of lead with a bit of chain in it can also help a great deal when fishing a good snag or rock wall in a lot of run. Having a simple anchor that holds the boat still will give you time to put better and more effective casts in. To make a plumb anchor, collect 3kg of lead, melt it in an old 4L paint can and lay a few chain links in it to tie the rope on. It will hold in most bottoms and can be easily stored and deployed.

Next month I will look at where to find your favourite lure munches and how to make the most of every cast.

Fact Box

Tools of the trade

Here is a run down on must-have items that you will find in more experienced anglers’ boats and tackle boxes.

 Wide brimmed hat, sun shirt, sunscreen and a set of good sun gloves (which save you from sun spots and also make handling fish easier)

 Plenty of water

 Catch scent

 Two sets of pliers – screw a pouch in a handy position to hold them

 Lip grips, which make handling fish safer and cause less damage to their skin

 Service kit for your reels, including a spanner, screwdriver and lube

 Scissors and/or nail clippers – great for braided lines

 Fish-friendly landing net and measure

 Raincoat and a spare for your fishing partner

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