Soft plastics have revolutionised the way we fish the estuaries especially when we talk about the good old flathead.
Sure catching a feed of duskies isn’t rocket science, but to consistently catch big fish, those trophy fish over 70cm that are prime catch-and-release specimens, isn’t as easy as some anglers would like to think.
Targeting monster flathead – I call them crocs – is an art form of its own.
It takes careful planning with moons and tides, good lure presentation and technique, the ability to know where they will feed and, more importantly, when.
Water temperature is also another huge factor and where I fish on the South Coast of NSW, that becomes even more relevant.
Big flathead are lazy creatures and generally won’t travel far for a feed.
I like to concentrate on shallower areas where food is brought to them, usually by the tide, but deeper water adjacent to weed edges with minimal tidal flow will also produce.
These two areas would account for 90% of my big fish, with the run-out or draining tide the peak time to fish.
Small food like whitebait, glassies and prawns has to leave the protection of these zones, giving bigger flathead an ideal ambush station to pounce.
There are definitely certain times of year that produce more crocs than others and a lot will depend on what location you are fishing. In my backyard, prime months seem to be October to December, when the big girls are breeding.
The new moon period in these months is ideal. The water is usually between 18° and 21°, with the lower sections of the estuaries holding the majority of big fish.
If you add a rising barometer to the equation you have almost the perfect scenario.
Lure sizes and presentation are a personal choice in some ways but in the warmer months my motto is big lures, big fish.
I’ll use lures up to 150mm long, depending on tide movement, bait activity (tailor, mullet, and pilchard schools present) and water temperature. That’s a reasonably big lure to us, but for a 90cm-plus flathead, it’s just a feed.
When the water gets cooler from May to September, I head in the opposite direction and fish further upstream.
The fish seem to congregate in the shallower areas but they can be a lot harder to catch. This is due to the clearer, colder water that Winter brings but some of my biggest flathead have come at this time.
I’ll pay even more attention in the tackle department in Winter.
Downsizing my outfit and using smaller soft plastics is a must but, more importantly, both the length and diameter of the leader is paramount.
I have no hesitations in using 4lb to 6lb fluorocarbon leader, with two rod lengths being ideal. This is extremely light for a fish full of raspy teeth, but you would be amazed at how many fish you land.
The thing to remember is to fish a light drag under all circumstances, have a little patience fighting the fish and always have a good net operator on the job.
In Winter I’ll mostly use plastics up to 70mm on light jig heads, predominately with a slower presentation. Gentle lifts and drops are all that’s required and I concentrate on the shallower margins.
These spots are quite often a degree or two warmer, particularly around mid-afternoon, especially if that coincides with a flooding tide.
Big flathead are a challenge and to consistently put them in the boat is harder than you think.
Always look after them and never keep them out of the water too long.
Support the abdominal area of these big fish when taking photos and please let the big girls go, they are way too important to kill. And, of course, a picture is worth 1000 words.
STU’S TACKLE BOX
• Shimano Twin Power 2500 or Sustain 2500, Shimano Starlo Stix Tournament Pro 7’ Mid spin rod for 10lb outfits
• Shimano Stradic or Twin Power 1000 reels with Starlo Stix tournament Pro 7’3” or T-Curve Flight 701spin rod for 6lb outfits.
Shimano PowerPro braid 5 or 10lb, or Stren Microfuse 6lb. Leader 14lb to 20lb Berkley Vanish or Nitlon DFC fluorocarbon.
• Squidgy Fish 100mm in black/gold, silver fox and evil minnow colours.
• Squidgy Wriggler Pro Range 140mm, slimy mackerel colour,
• Squidgie Fish Pro Range 70mm in grasshopper colour.
• Larger shad-style lures up to 150mm in natural colours.
• Jighead sizes depend on depth and size of lure but a selection from 5g size 1 to 21g size 6/0 (fish head type) needed.