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Go deep for Winter bream
  |  First Published: April 2009



As the days get cooler many keen estuary anglers start looking for bream. At this time of year, the fish are often quite close to the river mouths, having come off the beaches and nearby headlands ready to spawn.

A few months back many of the bream were more than happy in the middle and upper reaches of our tidal rivers and lakes. But now, with the cool weather upon us, chasing bream on lures is all about bombing the deep zones close to the river or lake entrance.

Being mad-keen on surface lures, I’ve always enjoyed the Summer bream fishery. I just can’t get enough of flicking small topwater lures around the bankside timber and working those highly productive shallow weed banks and tidal flats can be pure heaven.

Summer is certainly a great time to chase bream because it offers good numbers of fish and balmy conditions in which to chase them.

Winter bream spinning, however, is a whole new ballgame.

With the fish often holding deep down and a lot closer to the river mouth, sinking lures into the clear, cold water is often the best way to get results.

While not as visually exciting or as comfortable as the Summer fishery, Winter bream spinning presents its own set of challenges.

Good lure choice, presentation and the ability to read your sounder are just some off the challenges you’ll face daily.

The numb hands and running nose just add to the excitement.

EDUCATED MASSES

While the bream may well be schooled up in large numbers in fairly confined zones, the fact is during the Winter the fish are often really quite fussy.

Just how difficult they are to tempt will often depend on two things – water clarity and angling pressure.

Winter can be a fairly dry season and minimal rain means clear, cold water.

And as the fish are often already close to the river mouth – where the water is often quite clear – means these schooling bream can be very wary of leaders lines and boats.

And depending on where you live, the local bream may well be heavily targeted. Fish under these conditions can wise up very quickly.

One of the simplest ways to catch more fish is to simply fish early and late.

Dawn and dusk are prime times to target most things with fins and wily estuary bream are certainly no different.

Dawn, despite the chilly start, is my preferred time to target these notoriously difficult fish. Usually conditions are nice and calm and, because of the cold, there’s often far less boat traffic.

Early sessions can produce terrific numbers of quality fish.

There’s usually a flurry of action in the low light but the action tends to slow considerably as the sun gets up. By mid-morning it’s usually a tough slog to pull numbers of fish.

Winter breaming is largely a boat affair. You need to be able to silently drift the deep holes and rock walls, working your lures right into the depths with minimal fuss and noise.

Success often stems from the ability to cover plenty of water quickly and quietly and once the schooling fish are located, repeating the drift and bombing the bream again.

It’s often a bit of a race between the rapidly rising sun and other boat anglers.

The early bird will often get the worm and the quicker the bird can hunt, the better.

LURE CHOICE

Depending on conditions, often the first lure I’ll tie on is a vibrating blade lure. No lure can fish the depths more effectively and with such an aggressive action.

This new wave of vibes present the fish with a choice – eat or it will simply dart away.

Any fish looking for food usually has little hesitation belting these vibrating plastic, poly or metal lures.

And while this type of lure has been around for a long time (Heddon produced the Sonic way back in the early 1950s), they have found new popularity and have fast become the real ‘go-to’ lure for many keen anglers.

Two of my favourite vibes are the Big River Shake ’n’ Bake, made by Paul Kneller up the coast at Maclean, and Bushy’s Devil Fish.

It’s not only bream that love blades. Bass, whiting, tailor, flathead and mulloway will also readily clobber this style of lure, so expect a real mixed bag when using vibrating lures.

Once the vibe bite slows a little, it’s often time to break out the soft plastics.

While you’re effectively fishing for the same fish, the subtle nature of a carefully worked softy can often tempt fish reluctant to strike an aggressive lure.

Squidgies, Berkley Gulps and many others work a treat – it’s all a matter of trying a few different types and styes and seeing how things pan out.

In the clear water it’s easy to check out the bait the bream are likely to be feeding on and then try to match it. Quite often there’ll be plenty of whitebait or fry

Plastics of 50mm to 75mm are usually a good start, although some days bigger is better, with 100mm stickbaits and worms proving deadly on the bigger class of fish.

Basically, just mix it up a little and see what works best on the day.

Depending on the estuary system you’re fishing, deep-diving minnow lures can be very effective tools.

While probably not the ideal tool for bombing near-vertical rock walls, hard minnows certainly have their place for Winter bream.

Classic deep-diving minnow spots include oyster leases and bridge and jetty pylons.

Ideally, you want to cast past the zone you think the bream will be holding. Give the lure a short stab to get it down and slowly wind it in.

A few bumps of the rod will have the offering darting nicely through the strike zone.

Again Bushy, with his Stiffy range, and Halco have a great variety of well-priced small diving minnows that will suit most deep-water bream applications. Then there are the hordes of mostly Japanese premium minnows which can cost an arm and a leg but certainly do have their followers.

GOOD BRAID

A big part of the overall success of Winter breaming is your choice of braid; you really need to spool up with quality line.

The idea is to get your lure down quickly yet have maximum feel and sensitivity so this means braided lines in the 2lb to 4lb class. Aussie braid manufacturer Platypus has a great selection well-suited for this style of finesse breaming.

Depending on the mood of the fish, your choice of leaders can be very important.

I’ve had sessions using 3kg mono when I’ve been comprehensively outfished by anglers using 2kg fluorocarbon.

Gin-clear days and a high sun will have you searching for the longest, thinnest leader you can find, though most of the time a nice thin mono or quality fluorocarbon leader of 2kg to 3kg will get you out of trouble.

Flathead can be a real problem on the light leaders but to consistently catch numbers of Winter bream, you have to fish light.

Winter bream spinning is all about big fish down deep.

Forget the shallows and the upstream timber, during the cooler months it’s time to get down and dirty and refine your deep approach.

Despite the cool starts, it’s a great time of year for keen breamers and one of the few times large numbers of solid fish school together so close to the ocean.

Facts

GOOD BRAID

A big part of the overall success of Winter breaming is your choice of braid; you really need to spool up with quality line.

The idea is to get your lure down quickly yet have maximum feel and sensitivity so this means braided lines in the 2lb to 4lb class. Aussie braid manufacturer Platypus has a great selection well-suited for this style of finesse breaming and the money you’ll be spending on it will be keeping jobs in Australia.

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