Flathead would have to be one of the most popular species and one of my favourite species to catch in the estuary systems on lures, with different species of Flathead found right around Australia.
Firstly I will talk about locating Flathead then work our way into lures, techniques, and the gear used to chase these fish.
Flathead can be found in most creeks, estuaries, and river systems. When locating areas to chase them, I find structure is the key as it is with most fish. You will find that most structure will hold bait, and with a gathering of bait you will more than likely have ambush predators such as Flathead waiting to smash the bait as the tide drops.
Personally, I find the last two hours of the runout, and the first hour of the run-in tide to be more productive, as this is when the Flathead are sitting on the drop-offs waiting for the bait.
When I arrive at a location, I will focus my casts at the drop-off, entrances to the main river system, and also weed banks. If you're not getting any hits on the lures you're using, I would tend to throw on a heavier jig head and work the plastics with a slow roll along the bottom tend to attack a bite.
The lures... where do I start.. with so many lures on the market and different styles of lures it can get a bit confusing on where to start and what to use.
I will narrow this down into three categories: Soft Plastics, Blades and Hard Body lures.
Soft Plastics would have to be the most popular choice when targeting Flathead. The reason is that they are a realistic imitation to bait fish, and as it is a soft feel the fish won't get spooked if they have a strike at the lure, and they will tend to go back for another go. When fishing with plastics I tend to find that the lighter I go with braid and leader, the more fish I will get. The same goes for the size of the jighead I use. I would tend to start off with a lighter jighead around the 1/8 to 1/4oz which will make your plastic look very lifelike when it's falling through the water column. Don't be afraid to bump up your jighead size up to a 3/8oz to allow your plastic to work the bottom with a slow roll.
The technique I tend to use with the lighter jigheads would be to cast out the soft plastic and let the plastic sink, then three winds of the handle, and two to three gentle lifts of the rod tip, and repeating this process until the lure is back at your feet. The profile of soft plastics I tend to use with this technique would be your Steakz and Jerk Shads.
With the heavier jighead when I am focusing more on slow rolling, would be to cast out the soft plastic and let it sink to the bottom, then slowly wind back to your feet. The profile of lure I would use for this type of fishing would be Grubs, Curly Tails, Minnows, and Diezel minnows.
The colour of your plastics will vary on many factors from water conditions to time of the day. Natural colours are my go-to when I am focusing on the shallows, and use darker colours in dirty water or overcast days.
Blades would have to be my favourite way of chasing Flathead. I never get over how such a small lure with small hooks can consistently catch so many fish (also the amount of by-catch you get on these are incredible). My go-to blades would have to be either the Ecogear ZX40s or the TT Blades, with colours varying on water colour and conditions. I tend to use the chartreuse colours in dirty water and the gold and silvers in the cleaner water. I do find that it is the vibrate these lures give off that tends to attract the fish rather than the colour.
You can use a few different techniques when using this type of lure. The two main ways I use them would be to cast the lure out and let the lure sink to the bottom, and slow lift the lure up and let it sink back down. You will know when the lure is working as you will feel the vibration through the line and rod. If your lure isn't vibrating, it will be either tangled up on itself or have weed stuck to it.
Other ways to use this type of lure is to cast out over the weed banks and wind straight back over the top of the weed, which generally gets the attention of a flathead waiting in ambush.
Hard Bodies are a great way to catch Flathead which can be used in a few ways. Either by casting and retrieving your lure or trolling. I tend to troll around when I know the fish are scattered over a large area. When I find a patch of feeding fish I will tend to stop put the electric and cast my lures around.
Trolling for lizards can be very effective when fishing in less than 2m of water. They key for trolling a lure is that it MUST vibrate. It's the tight high frequency vibration that is going to get you the fish.
Lure colour is also important when trolling or casting hard bodies. Flathead like hard solid colours like bright pink, pink and purple, and fluro greens.
In water less than 3 meters, my go-to lures would be the Lively Lures Micro Mullet, Pig Lures and Zerek Tango Shads. Generally when trolling around your lures will foul up with weed and I find that the Lively lures and Zereks can easily be freed from the weeds by giving your rod some quick shakes. This will usually clear it off and they will start working again.
When you know your local system you can generally catch Flathead on the troll on any part of the tide, the key is working out where the food is likely to be and focus on those areas.
Lastly, I will go through the types of setups I would use to chase Flathead.
Light spin gear is the key: a 7-foot rod 1-3 or 2-4kg matched up with a 1000-2500 size reel spooled with 6-12lb braid with an 8-12lb leader would be the ideal set up. This set up will allow you to cast your light jigheads a fair distance, while keeping the presentation natural and still give you the stopping power you will need for those big lizards.
To learn how to identify a Flathead click here
To shop for products specifically for Flathead click here
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