Big river flatties
  |  First Published: October 2009

While flathead are flathead, no matter where you go, specific methods and techniques suit certain locations and when fishing the big tidal rivers, few methods are more effective than jigging.

There’s certainly nothing new about chasing flathead with jigs.

As a kid I can still remember the old Mister Twister ads in the national magazines. The pic with the inviting sand flat and the bright orange twin-tail would have got a few folks wading the shallows looking for flatties and it certainly inspired me, cementing the notion that flathead are true sport fish and great lure targets.

Lure choice has certainly expanded since the early spinning days, yet the twin tail Mister Twister is still a proven winner.

I guess more visually exciting lures have hit the market and many of today’s keen spin exponents perhaps consider the Twisters a little old-hat, but they certainly work a treat and shouldn’t be overlooked as serious fish takers.

I still like the more subtle soft stickbaits. There’s something very appealing about a cleverly weighted stickbait wafting its way over the bottom. The lazy whip of its body with each lift of the rod tip is irresistible to flatties.

And, within reason, the bigger the better. I often use 130mm to 180 mm Squidgy Flick Baits and while the larger size is a fair lump of rubber, the long, thin body profile gives them a wispy, non-threatening manner in the water.

Big lures tend to attract big fish, and the bigger Squidgies certainly do just that. These are also my favourite jewie lure but they’re so good on the lizards they’re usually my first choice when targeting big flathead.

When looking for the smaller class of fish to secure a feed, it’s hard to go past 75mm to 100mm shads. Little paddle-tailed shads just wiggle along so seductively, kicking along as you lift the rod tip.

Again, I tend to favour the Squidgy Shads and carefully pick my head weights to suit the water fished.

One of the key factors when jigging flathead is to work out the best weight of jig head.

The exact head to tie on will depend on the location fished, but usually if you have a range of jig heads in weights from 5g to 25g (or roughly 1/8oz to 3/4oz) sporting 2/0 to 4/0 hooks, you can cover pretty well any water depth from 20cm to 20m.

Naturally, the light models will best suit the shallow country. Lighter jigs also present the lure far more naturally and in a non-threatening manner.

Heavier jig heads race to the bottom and in shallow water this can spook fish. The heavier weights are necessary for the deeper, faster-flowing water and while they aggressively charge their way into the depths, once the lure is running in the strike zone most flathead will have little hesitation belting it.


Although flathead can be found nearly anywhere, there are always more productive zones within a likely area.

Let’s say you’ve picked out a nice-looking tidal flat, fully submerged and with patches of ribbon weed.

This is a likely spot indeed and with a little extra thought you should be able to see the hot spots within.

The gun areas are usually the places with a little more character; a few more distinctive features, if you like.

For example, that tidal flat will almost certainly have smaller, less discernable channels. These become mini-highways, travel routes for smaller baitfish and prawns.

Flathead are far from silly and they know the edges of these channels are prime ambush spots. Whether the tide is flowing in or out, if there’s enough water to comfortably house a few lizards, these channels will be in high demand.

As the tide ebbs, flathead will often be stationed on the deep side of the drop-off into the main river.

Again, this is all about pole position and usually a well-placed lure up the tidal drain will be meet with a sharp tap.

When the water has all emptied from the shallow country, it’s time to start looking for interesting locations in the main river basin.


Among the things to look for are small rocky points, be they kinks in a breakwall or the mouth of an artificial harbour.

on’t forget bridges or jetties. The pylons from these structures are real fish magnets and flathead often lie close to the piers themselves. Many people still associate flathead with shallow water.
lathead are certainly found in sun-drenched, shallow locations but you might be surprised how many love deep, dark holes in a river.
lathead will go anywhere there are good supplies of food, and if that means the bottom of a 20m hole, so be it.

Remember, when targeting flathead you are trying to tempt a species nearly as lazy as Homer Simpson. Sure, they will cruise around a bit – often at night when repositioning or travelling – but often they’re glued to the bottom in a prime ambush spot.

So it’s very important to keep your lure close to or on the bottom for the duration of the retrieve. Winding too fast and not letting the lure scrape the bottom is a sure way to go home fishless.


As with bass, the origins of flathead spinning began with baitcasting reels at a time when threadline reels were far less refined and baitcasters were simply better suited to lure casting.

But today’s high-tech threadlines are perfectly suited to lure fishing, especially to casting lightly weighted jigs.

With a punchy graphite rod you can cast any lure considerable distance, and into any wind – without the dreaded baitcaster backlash.

I usually spin with a Shimano 2500 Sustain and 3kg Shimano T-Curve rod. I use 6lb braid and a 12kg leader and this outfit is capable landing large flathead yet is still fun on the more abundant smaller fish.

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