A Beginners Guide to Successful Lure Fishing in the Seaway
So you want to use lures to catch fish in the seaway and you keep trying but get nothing. Then this article is for you, I'll go through the best lures, the best techniques, best places and the best times for lure fishing the seaway and hopefully by the end of it you'll understand what it takes to consistently catch fish on lures, but first a little story....
When I first started fishing the seaway with lures back around 2000, I visited it for an hour or so on each trip after I was done fishing the broadwater however I couldn't catch a damn fish to save my life. I was convinced that there were no fish in there, that all the stories I had heard were mostly exaggerated. I was using lures that worked just fine in the broadwater and rivers but did not work in the seaway. But it looked very fishy so I decided to change my approach. Within a couple of trips I began to catch fish, tailor first, then bigeyes, then big jewies, then GT's. So what changed? I looked at the seaway like its own area with selected spots to try within that area, I fished it from first light until well after sunup, increased the size and changed the type of the lures, used my eyes and ears to find fish that were feeding. This is in essence why some people have trouble with catching fish on lures in the seaway, they are still treating it like just another spot, or an extension of the broadwater. The seaway is unique and requires its own approaches, you have to think of fish holding anywhere within the water column, not just the near the top or on the bottom.
Firstly lets talk time of day. For consistent success you need to be out of bed and on the water by first light. The vast majority of lure caught fish in the seaway are caught in the hour before sunup and the couple of hours after. There's a very good reason for that. Most bait fish have something in common: a darker back and a light coloured underside. The sea birds that hunt them from the air look down from above, and find it hard to distinguish the dark backs from the dark coloured water. The big fish that hunt them from below look up and find it hard to distinguish their silver or white bellies from the bright light above. It’s only at dawn and dusk, when the sun is at an acute angle to the water, that light reflects off the side of the bait fish, making hunting them easier. And dawn is usually better than dusk because the seas are calmer early in the morning. Sure there are times when the fish feed between 9am and 3pm, particularly after tidal changes but this is very random. For consistency with lures fish from first light til a couple of hours after sunup.
Okay, lets talk lures, successful lure fishing in the seaway means being a jack of all trades. While there are plenty of fisherman who only use metals casting at the wall or only fish plastics on the bottom, being able to swap between all methods and cover the entire water column not only increases your chances of finding the fish but when you do find the fish you can choose a method that will engage the school and excite the fish, that is key.
If I were to choose only 5 lures to fish the seaway it would be these. Now keep in mind I use more than these but if I was stuck these would be the lures I would choose, above all others. I have included a brief overview of their use as well.
(metal)30 Gram Twistie - Surface feeding schools, sinking down to suspended schools, jigging over bottom holding schools
(minnow)Flash Minnow 25 in Redhead - edge fishing, trolled shallow suspended fish
(Deep minnow) Bolt Omega in Green Chrome - edge fishing deeper, trolling deep suspended fish
(plastic)1/2oz jighead with pearl slider - Bottom bouncing, sinking down through current lines, edge fishing over deeper sections
(popper)Skitterbait Black Redhead - surface feeding fish, fishing over rocky shallows, edge fishing
Now some people may be surprised by that list.. what no 20 gram twistie??? no megabass vision 110??? no 7 inch jerkshad??? With those lures I listed, I can effectively fish at every level in the seaway, from the deepest 20 metre hole to the 30cm of water covering a rock shelf. Most of those lures have dual purposes(unlike something like a vision 110 which is pretty much restricted to edge fishing) and those lures will catch every size of fish, from a 20cm tailor to a metre long+ jewfish. When you are first starting out its best to keep things as simple as possible while still covering all options and all those lures are available in QLD tackle stores.
Decisions, decisions. Now you have your time of day and your lures where do you fish. There are 4 main lure fishing areas in the seaway, the ends of the walls, the Deep Hole, The Canyon and The Pipeline.
The Pipeline gets most of the press and is the most popular area and for good reason. It holds alot of fish most of the time and is the most consistent site for surface feeding but I would guess less than 1% of the fish that hold around the pipeline ever get caught. Mostly they are just resting and getting a clean. Fish packed this tight usually stop feeding after a few are caught as well. Lure wise you are pretty much restricted to bouncing a plastic around the pipe, casting a metal or popper at surface feeding fish or sinking a metal down deep, jigging it or cranking back at speed. Due to its simple structure and limited options the pipeline is a great place for beginners.
The ends of the walls(particularly the north wall) are less predictable, schools of fish come and go all the time even within 1 tidal cycle. In a way because of its randomness it is the ultimate challenge for any lure fisherman, that's probably the reason I like it so much. The variations on how to fish it are endless and depend on where the fish are holding. Are they feeding on surface, in close under the wash, suspended mid-water or sulking on the bottom? Are they right next to the rocks just under the surface, at the base of the rocks, sitting on the dropoff or 100m away over the sandy bottom? All of these places hold fish at certain times.
The Canyon is the deep hole at the end of the North Wavebreak rock wall. It has steep rocky dropoffs, areas of coffee rock bottom and as you get further north mainly sandy bottom. Schools of GT's and Kingfish will often sit in the deep hole and wait for baitfish to come through, then they will move out and push the bait to the surface. Bustups usually don't last long so it is critical to get there and get a cast in quick with a metal like a 20gram Twisty/15gram Gillies Baitfish or a popper/stickbait. You can also troll over the Canyon with a 4m+ diving minnow like the Bolt Omega which will sometimes pick up GT's. Plastics like the Pearl Slider or Squidgy Flickbait can be worked over the bottom on 1/8-3/8 oz jigheads(depending on the tidal flow) and will pickup quite a variety of species including Golden Trevally, Giant Trevally, Cod, Snapper and quite a few other species. The Canyon tends to be hit and miss but its always worth a look.
The key to the ends of the walls is experimentation and observation. I usually start off with a popper/stickbait and drift along the edges, all the while keeping one eye on the sounder and one eye and both ears open for any surface bust-ups or birds. If I don't get anything with a popper, I'll do the same with a minnow then I'll switch to a metal and work the same area and out a bit deeper, giving it some sink time around the current lines. If still no go I'll hit the bottom with a plastic. Using these 4 methods you can explore every layer in the water column. If you see some fish on the sounder try sinking the metal right down into them and jigging it or swap it for the plastic and bounce it through the school. If that doesn't work try a smaller or a larger profile lure. Trolling also works better around this area than anywhere else in the seaway, if you see fish on the sounder well away from the walls look at what depth they are sitting at and pick the lure that will run approximately 1-2 metre's above them. If they are sitting 4-6 metres down use a lure that dives down to 3 metres, 2-3 metres down use a lure that dives to 1 metre. Don't pick a lure that will plow straight through the school as this will spook them. Most predatory fish hunt by looking up and silhouetting their prey against the surface.
The last spot is the deep hole. due to its depth(15-20m)pretty much restricted in lure choice to the heavier end, the heavier metals and heavy jighead rigged plastic. Vibs are effective but too prone to getting stuck on the rocks. The 7 inch jerkshad on a 1oz head is very popular and does work just fine but I'm tending towards smaller plastics these days like the pearl slider as its more of an allrounder.
There are two plastic techniques I like using in the deep hole. One technique that is very effective is dropping a plastic to the bottom and deadsticking it. Deadsticking is dropping your plastic to the bottom and letting it sit there, no jigs or ups and downs, just hold on and wait for the bite. Most anglers seem to forget that there is nearly always swell in this area which moves the boat up and down and therefore the lure and is enough to keep your plastic moving seductively without any unnecessary rod work. Every 30 seconds or so open the bail arm and drop the plastic to the bottom and lift it back up half a metre to make sure its in the zone, this is important!!!!!!Don't just stick it in a rod holder!!!!!.
The other technique is a simple triple hop, drop your plastic to the bottom and then lift the rod tip 3 times in succession, then let it sink back down. During the triple hop your rod tip should go no higher than a metre by the third hop. While using this technique most strikes will come on the sink down so be ready for it. Don't work the lure so that it looks like a retarded monkey on 100 cups of coffee. Your plastic is supposed to look like an injured fish and injured fish don't do 2-3 metre leaps towards the surface, subtlety is important. While using a dropshot method some time ago I caught plenty of fish just letting the plastic sit there and jiggling the tip. There is a time and place for fast erratic movement but those are when you are dealing with lots of active competitive schooling fish.
With metals, you can drop them to the bottom, jig it in place or do some fast jigging, works better with schooling fish holding midwater than fish on the bottom.
So to finish off and keep it simple... Get on the water and be fishing in time for first light, Find where the fish are holding whether through experimentation, looking at your sounder or using your eyes and ears and use the right lure at the right depth.
Remember that this article is for beginners, there is tons of more advanced techniques which I will cover in other articles. Any questions.. ask them below.