My lure flutters down beside the lily pads. With three quick rips of my rod tip the soft plastic is sent darting in all directions. It bounces off twigs, lilies and weeds before sinking down.
Clunk! A barra grabs the slowly falling plastic. Striking back hard on my rod tears the plastic from the hook, exposing the point and setting it firmly in the corner of the fish’s jaw. In vain the fish leaps, trying its hardest to free itself from the hook before battling it out in the deeper water.
One of my favourite spots for fishing weedless in topwater is a small pocket in the back of a bay. The water there is around 3ft deep and completely surrounded by lily pads. Small lily stems touch the surface the whole way through.
In this spot my favourite topwater lure would foul in weed within a metre of landing, so weedless plastics are my only option. I start with a reaction bite, retrieving lures at high speeds both on and just under the surface. This torments active fish into aggressive surface strikes. I run a slightly weighted frog close to the surface using a high speed retrieve. The high-speed retrieve doesn’t give the fish time to think about their reaction, so the strikes are abrupt and explosive.
I like to keep the strike visual. To this end, I use a lightly-weighted worm hook with the plastic rigged weedless, cast as far as I can and start the retrieve as soon as the lure touches down. The technique is nothing complicated, I simply wind as fast as I can while still maintaining the action of the lure.
When a fish boils or strikes at the plastic, I don’t pause the retrieve or allow the lure to sink. Instead, I continue to retrieve the lure as if nothing had happened. This causes the second strike to be even more ferocious, and rarely missing the lure.
As most people will know by now, frogs on the surface and even sub-surface are accounting for more and more barramundi these days. You will see huge bow waves chasing the lure for several metres before the fish decide to commit. Often their head and half of their back will be exposed, revealing the sheer size and power of these amazing fish. After you experience the aggression and power of a barra hunting down your frog at high speeds, you’ll never want to throw any other lure!
Remember though, this style of fishing isn’t renowned for consistently catching barra as it requires actively feeding fish to be successful. For this reason, it still pays to have a range of different plastics on hand.
If the barra aren’t aggressive enough to chase your lure, it is time to take the lures to the fish. Barramundi love warm water so it makes sense to chase them in the warmest water possible.
The highest temperatures will be found on the windblown side of the dam. However, as the wind pushes the warm water and bait across the dam it also brings with it the weed. Even the most expensive hard bodied lures will malfunction with the smallest particle of floating weed. The weed fouls on the trebles and bib, causing the lure to lose that enticing action.
Soft plastics, on the other hand, will come out on top every time if you fish them weedless. Even plastics rigged on single hooks can be fished in heavy weed quite effectively with minimal difficulty.
Using a weedless weighted shad or jerk minnow, allow the lure to descend beside the lilies and weed towers, sinking right to the bottom. A sharp flick of the rod tip will bring the lure to life, hopping it up from the bottom. A few quick winds of the reel will send the lure darting forward, and then as you pause it will seductively flutter down.
When fishing weedless plastics, the weight should depend on water depth and wind conditions. On a calm day in extremely shallow water I use a head as light as 1/16oz and on a windy day will use 1/4oz.
When casting super light lures on heavy gear it is advantageous to cast with the wind. This will allow for extra long casts, getting your plastic as far from the boat as possible. A good quality thin braid will also do wonders for long distance casting.
When explaining to fellow anglers the key to successful fishing trips, I repeatedly stress how important it is to make your lure placement accurate. However, by contrast, accuracy takes a back seat when you’re fishing plastics in the weed beds. The main focus in that scenario is to cover as much water with your lure as possible.
Why? Well, when you are surrounded by acres and acres of weedy bays the barra could be anywhere, as they tend to roam the area looking for food. Covering as much water as possible with long casts is therefore the best way to locate fish.
Weed beds are not always visible on the surface, so casting accurately at a small pocket or break in the weed isn’t always necessary. You’ll find that a lot of weed beds you encounter are submerged, only showing on the surface as dam levels start to recede.
The best and definitely the easiest way to find weed beds or weed towers is with the aid of a sounder. Long gentle sloping points will hold weed, sometimes as deep as 20ft. If the dam has had a recent rise in water level the weed may be found deeper still, as far down as 30ft.
Some of the best barra fishing I have ever experienced was straight after the dam level had risen by 4-5ft. This completely submerged all weed beds. Luckily for me I had GPS marks where I had recently caught barra on the edges of the weed. Positioning the boat on top of the newly-submerged weed, my sounder told me I had 3ft of clear water. I modified my favourite plastic shad by removing more than half of the lead from the jighead to keep the plastic from sinking into the weed. That afternoon I landed more barra on top of that weed bed in one session than I had caught in that location in the last three trips!
Fishing weedless requires the point of the hook to be hidden in the plastic. The hook point needs to be deep enough that weed can slide straight over the lure at any speed in the worst possible circumstances.
The downside of having the point buried in the plastic is that it makes hooking up more difficult. It is extremely important that the point on your hook is super sharp to be able to pin the fish as effectively possible.
Fishing plastics weedless used to mean weightless, but these days there are a variety of companies that have released weighted worm hooks. This is great because, depending on wind, plastic size or bite type on the day, any number of different weights will be required.
If you’re a DIYer, you’ll be pleased to know there are now moulds that you can use to weight your favourite weedless hook style. In less than half an hour you can easily make 20 hooks with different weights and have the gear packed back away until the next trip. Buying hooks in bulk saves money, and means you will have plenty on hand if you happen to run out of one particular weight.
There are several brands of moulds available. I use a ‘Do-It’ mould [see www.frogleysoffshore.com.au for stockists – Ed.] as they are cheap and easy to use; I like the model that has four different weights. The day before a barra trip, in a well ventilated area, I melt a couple of old snapper leads and make at least 12 hooks for the next day’s fishing. That way I know my hooks are super sharp and I have four different weights to fish in any wind or weed conditions.
You’ll find that catching that trophy size fish on something you have made yourself brings just that bit more job satisfaction, even if it is only adding lead to a hook.
Rod: Samurai Reaction Series 502 rod
Reel: Daiwa Revros 3000
Mainline: 25lb Unitika Power Jigging Deluxe
Leader: 50lb Unitika shock leader
Lures: Atomic Bio Bait jerk minnows and Atomic Ripperz Frogs
Hooks: Gamakatsu 323 Monster 7/0 weighted
DIY JIG HOOKS
Making jig hooks is easy. I found that most of the equipment required I already had in my shed and (unbeknownst to my fiancé) in the kitchen.
• Metal soup ladle
• Gas BBQ burner
• ‘Do-It’ mould model 3454
• Pliers with cutters
• Spare sinkers
1. Set up in a well ventilated area
2. Pre heat mould over gas burner
3. Insert your favourite hooks into the mould using pliers so you don’t burn yourself
4. Leaving the hot mould to the side of the burner, melt your sinkers in the soup ladle
5. Pour molten lead into the top of the mould, hold still until the lead cools on the top
6. Open mould and remove hooks with pliers, and allow time to cool
7. Trim the lead from the hooks and you’re done – four hooks in four different weights