BARRA, mangrove jack, trevally, and fingermark are some of the more popular targets for anglers in Tropical North Queensland. While these fish are catchable in a variety of locations, it’s the estuarine rivers and creeks of the north that are most regularly visited by anglers chasing these finned combatants.
These areas are fishable under just about all climatic conditions, bar flooding of course, and are perfect places for an angler to experiment with and develop different angling techniques and presentations.
One of the more popular techniques of the last few years is soft plastics fishing. Hugely effective for tempting fish of all makes, moods and sizes, the style of lure and approach is at its best when used in fish-filled locations such as north Queensland.
The estuarine systems of the north are the perfect place to begin. Waterways such as these are seemingly endless when it comes to the amount of fish-holding habitat that’s on offer – and because soft plastics are very thorough searching tools, this increases the volume of places to cast a lure at even further.
All the standard structure that’s typically targeted with lures and baits, such as drains, rock bars, undercut banks and timber shorelines are all great locations to be worked over with soft plastics. With an appropriately rigged soft plastic loop knotted to the end of your leader, features that used to be too difficult or risky to fish are now open to you.
You can now skip your lures under mangrove curtains and deep into snag piles without an overwhelming and well-founded worry of the lure becoming snagged. Presentations such as these soon become a regular option when you’re plastics fishing.
The advantage of getting your lure into locations such as these is obvious. The only problem is if a fish takes the lure when it’s deep in the snag, then you’re in a world of trouble when it comes to landing it.
Of course, when it comes to choosing the where and when of fishing with plastics the standard influencing factors apply. Tide, current, season and time of day all play a part. Such variance is addressed with the versatility in soft plastics styles and rigging, providing a lure that’s adaptable enough to cover just about every demand and requirement of the locations you’ll encounter.
Soft plastics suitable for the style of fishing in North Queensland come in a great range of styles and sizes – from the traditional shad tail in the 2” size to the newer 5” jerkbait-styled minnows. The optimum size is around the 2”- 5” bracket.
Experience has shown paddle-tailed grubs and minnows are the standout plastics to chose, particularly when fishing timber and undercut banks. These styles of plastics match the appearance and movement of the bait found around these structures. Water also flows more slowly in those locations, and these plastics can swim at slow speeds.
Single-tailed grubs are another firm favourite, and they work well in areas with ample current, deeper water and when there’s a need for a faster drop rate of the plastic through the water.
When it comes to rigging there’s a host of options available.
The simplest method is a lead-head jighead (a hook and sinker combined in one piece). This rigging option enables the plastic to be rigged with a hook and weight matched to the demands of the angler, with the hook presented in the rig, exposed and riding upwards. The upward position of the hook and tow point allows the lure to be retrieved relatively snag-free when contact is maintained with the lure, while still providing the highest hook-up rate of all rigging forms.
At the other end of the spectrum is the use of a single ‘worm hook’ and no weight. Such an approach enables the lure to be presented virtually weightless, with only the weight of the plastic and hook providing weight for the lure to sink. Using this hook set-up allows the plastic to be rigged as close to snagproof as possible. The slight exposure or complete burying of the hook point dictates how snagproof the lure is. This also influences the hook-up rate; high snagproofing usually results in a low hook-up rate, and vice versa.
Falling between these two options of a traditional jighead and a worm hook are numerous rigging methods. More and more jigheads now feature worm hooks within, which provide a jighead with the weight required and the snagproof capabilities of the worm hook.
Numerous hook, jighead collar and keeper options are available, providing anglers with rigging options that can be fished in locations and with methods that where previously unavailable.
The equipment best suited to fish these softer lure options is slightly different from that used when using hard-bodied lures or even bait.
As far as rods go, best length for this style of fishing is around 7’. This will provide you with enough length to work your rod, particularly the tip, without requiring excess movement through the arm and wrist.
High-modulus graphite rods are the way to go. The lightness of the product makes a day on the water less tiring, as well as providing the required sensitivity to feel those precious bites.
Rods in the 2-4kg size range are the bare minimum you could get away with. From here the next step would be 4-6kg, and at that size you’re making a compromise between lightness and grunt. You’ll find that 4-6kg rods are the best way to go, except for when you’re targeting big fish in tough country or when you’re casting large plastics and weights.
Soft plastics are the domain of spin outfits rather than baitcasters. Spin outfits allow you to cast your lure further, prevent excessive backlash problems in windy conditions and enable you to cast weightless soft plastics and small jigheads easily.
One of the other important pieces in the puzzle is using low-stretch polyethylene line. Braid, gelspun – call it what you will, without it fishing with soft plastics becomes incredibly difficult and downright frustrating. 3-10kg is the ideal size, with the exact size best matched to the demands of the target species, fishing location and the rod that it’s being fished over.
Fishing with soft plastics is one of the largest growing pursuits amongst the lurefishing fraternity, with converts making the move every day. While it’s not the only way to catch fish, it’s one of the more exciting and challenging ways to go about it. And there’s no better place to do it than in tropical North Queensland.
Ecogear 3”and 5” Power Shad
Berkley 3” and 4”, Bass Minnow
Atomic 3” Fat Grub
Ecogear 3” Paramax
Gary Yamamoto 3” Senko
Ecogear Skip in the Shade jighead
Mustad Megabite Worm Hook
Gamakatsu Worm EWG Worm Hook
Team Daiwa T.D Real JigHead
1. The mangrove jack is a tropical favourite of lure anglers, and soft plastics can really get into some areas the jack calls home.
2. The hard-fighting giant trevally is a Monty for soft plastics. Stickbaits, paddle-tails and single-tails all work on this aggressive schooling fish in tropical creeks.
3. Barramundi are the prime target for anglers heading north, and soft plastics are just the ticket when hard-bodied lures aren’t producing the goods.
4. Even small jacks are overly aggressive; this 4” plastics was eaten whole as it bumped along a mangrove fringe.
5. Most tropical anglers look for something else to do when the tide rises into the mangroves, but unweighted plastics rigged on a worm hook can be cast right into the thickets and worked out without fouling up. It’s exciting fishing that often ends in a few frantic seconds before the fish finds its freedom.