“YOU caught what on a surface lure?” That was Mark’s reaction when I told him that I’d just spent a day nailing bream on surface lures! Bream on lures, especially soft plastics, are the flavour of the month, with a growing number of anglers targeting them.
These fish are prolific in our local waterways, willing to take a variety of artificials. Surface fishing in Winter is generally a non-event, but in Summer the rise in water temperatures increases the activity of the bream, making them eager to take surface offerings.
Terrestrial and aquatic life increases during Summer, so it’s only logical that this period is the best time for surface fishing. The best times are those rolling days of hot weather - the kind that see the cicadas carrying on with their deafening drumming.
During these times the fishing can be sensational, and casting lures and making presentations under low-lying branches and overhanging foliage is the way to go. This is where the bream will be sitting, waiting for those noisy little critters to fall in. When you make casts into these and other likely spots you can expect multiple fish to sip away at your lure, trying to pluck it from the surface. It can as entertaining as it is frustrating, waiting for one of the fish to finally get hold of the wriggling intruder and scoot off with it.
Of course, temperature isn’t the only influencing factor when it comes to bream. Their breeding, feeding and reproductive cycle also affect their catchablity on the surface. During Winter they’re more inclined to be down towards the mouth of rivers and estuaries, feeding on more demersal and aquatic creatures. In Spring they make their way back upriver and broaden their diet to include creatures that fall from above.
On those cicada-filled days the fish can be packed up under the mangrove fringes and overhanging trees – the real hot spots! Other good locations include fallen timber, bridge pylons and pontoons – spots where you’d throw your more conventional bibbed and soft plastic lures. The secret to fishing these features is to go when there’s minimal water traffic and noise. If there’s too much activity the bream hold deeper rather than sit close to the surface, waiting for a fizzer to come zipping past. Morning periods are the pick. Later in the day you have to be a bit more selective when choosing a location.
This is the time when those sneaky little creeks – the ones that can only be traversed by canoe – come into their own. These creeks are perfect for an all-day surface fishing session. These peaceful little bodies of water have plenty of bankside vegetation and ample shade, and they can fish well all day long. Many of them rarely see anglers and even more rarely see boats and outboards. This results in the fish being higher in the water column and more willing to take something of the surface.
I look for two things when deciding where I’m going to throw my lure: shade and shallow water. Mix in structure here, and you’re putting yourself in a position to catch a bream. If I had a choice between a snag in a fair bit of current and a small shaded pocket with half to a foot of water, I’d take the shaded pocket. This isn’t a hard and fast rule though (the only rule in fishing is that there are no rules!).
While I’ve never tried chasing them at night on surface lures, I’m very keen to give it a go - especially around the oyster leases. On those hot, still nights when the sweat rolls off your forehead, fishing these places would be a certain recipe for fun. And also for a few lure losses! Imagine the damage that could be done fishing around leases like those you see in Breamin 1.
The types of gear suitable for bream spinning has been given a lot of coverage in magazines, bulletin boards and websites, particularly where soft plastics are concerned, so I won’t go into too much detail. A 2kg spin rod, preferably graphite and around 6’6” in length is perfect for this task. Heartland Xs, Zs, Procasters, and Steve Starling Stellas are some of the popular choices at the moment. Daiwas and Shimanos are good buys when it comes to reels.
The standout line of choice is gelspun. 4lb fluoro Fireline is good, as well as being very popular. This line is easy to see, easy to work with and lets you cast lures that much further. When Albrighting some quality leader material to this, I prefer 6-12lb Berkley Vanish. The choice up to you, but don’t use anything too heavy. If you do, the delivery, presentation and movement of your lure will suffer, which won’t help your chances of catching fish.
There are fewer surface lures suitable for catching bream than the number of suitable diving lures. Editor Steve Morgan once wrote that when you’re selecting a lure for bream, you want something roughly half the size of your little finger. This is spot on, and the surface lures that I favour are in this size category.
At the top of my list is the diminutive Heddon Teeny Torpedo, with the Rebel Teeny Pop R, Crickhopper Popper and Zara Pooch coming in close behind. All of these are small in profile but they differ in action and the level of disturbance they make (of course, how aggressively your work them also influences their movement).
Bream take surface lures with varying levels of aggression, and this is why it’s important to have lures that behave differently. At times the fish may dash straight out and belt a vigorously worked popper, while at other times it takes all the finesse you can find to delicately manipulate a small stick bait that’ll have a bream hover beneath it, pondering whether to rise up and take a nip at its tail. One lure that relies on the fishes’ mood is the Kokoda Bugger Chug, because it’s a replica of a cicada. This lure is dynamite when these loud insects are in abundance.
How you work the lures depends on the behaviour of the fish but, as a general rule, keep it slow. Bream are not like bass and trevally, and they won’t chase lures at high speed. Work your lure slowly, with short movements and ample pauses in between. This gives the bream time to move in and pluck the lure from the surface. You can’t do the retrieve too slow, and attempting to strike or set the hook too soon will see you pull it from the fish’s mouth. Wait until the lure has disappeared from the surface and there is pressure on the rod and drag is singing. A lot of fish won’t stay connected even when you do the right thing, so try to resist the urge to strike at the fish as soon as it hits the lure.
When surface luring for bream, it’s very important to have sharp hooks. I usually use a single chemically-sharpened no. 10 or 12 hook fitted to the tail, replacing it many times during a session. Hooks can get blunt easily, and getting one to penetrate and hold in the mouth of bream is difficult enough at the best of times. Be pedantic, and regularly change them.
Surface luring for bream is highly visual and very addictive, and it’s also a relatively cheap and easy way to catch these fish. So if you’re looking for a new challenge or just want to get away to a quiet little backwater somewhere, give it a go. You’ll love it!
1) Prime surface luring country. Plenty of shade, lots of cicadas and structure for the bream to call home.
2) Bream don’t have to be big to have a crack at a surface lure in the warmer months.
3) This selection of surface breaming lures will stand you in good stead this Summer.
4) Heddon’s Teeny Torpedo is just about the right size and shape for Summer bream. Many anglers remove the propeller to aid hookups.Reads: 455