Surface feeding fish make up approximately 30% of the fish caught in the seaway and broadwater. These can consist of Tailor, Australian Salmon, Giant and Bigeye Trevally, Tarpon, Yellowtail Kingfish, Lesser Queenfish, Various species of Mackerel, Bonito and Tuna. This article will go into detail about where and when to look, how to target each species effectively and what to look for.
First of all why do the fish feed on the surface around the seaway and broadwater? The reason for this is that when large schools of bait(white, blue and frogmouth pilchards) enter the seaway and larger fish start attacking them they form into bait balls. When baitfish form into a bait ball the continuously changing ball confuses the predatory fish and makes it harder to chase a single or small group of fish. It is much easier for schools of predatory fish to push the baitfish to the surface flattening the school and attack from underneath. The way they do this is interesting, the bulk of the large fish swim below keeping the bait school near the surface while individuals within the school take turns in attacking vertically from underneath. Once each fish has grabbed a mouthful it will dive back down, swallow and join in with the driving school while other fish take their turn at having a feed. This cooperative method of feeding ensures every fish gets a chance at the food while still using only a little amount of energy, I have sent the camera into feeding schools of Tailor, Bigeyes, Tuna and Giant Trevally and they all use this method. What we see on the surface is only a very small fraction of the fish involved in the hunt. There can be many different fish involved in a bustup as well, I have seen Bigeyes and GT's feeding underneath a school of tuna and Kingfish feeding underneath a school of Tailor. These other fish are usually a bit deeper down and are picking up the stunned baitfish that the main school of fish miss.
While you can see surface feeding at any time during the year, there are two distinct seasons when the likelihood of surface feeding around the seaway increases. The first is from Mid February through to the end of May and the second is from the start of November through to the start of January. Both of these seasons coincide with large runs of baitfish, white pilchards from March -May, Frogmouth pilchards from November to January.
Surface Feeding Guidelines
Some guidelines when looking for surface feeding are as follows:
Run-in Tides are best, be at the mouth of the seaway when the tide starts to push in(add 1-1.5hrs to official bottom of the tide).
Find the Clean/dirty water line and follow it in.
Look for large schools of bait, the cleaner the water the further up the broadwater the bait will be.
Keep an eye on all Bird activity at all times.
Concentrate on ambush area's such as the North Wall, Canyon and Pipeline but always keep an eye on other area's particularly the mouth of the seaway, the Triangle and Northern Channel.
Tides that turn to run-in in the 2hrs after sunup or 2 hours before sundown are the best.
Fish will feed on surface regardless of the wind speed or weather, flat calm, howling wind, sunny, torrential rain and everything in between will all see fish feeding on the surface.
There will be times when all the guidelines are thrown out the window. The fish will feed on surface at the bottom of the run-out tide in the middle of the day if it suits them, keeping an eye on bird activity will tell you if this happens.
Approaching and Where to Cast in a Bustup
There are two schools of thought when it comes to approaching a bustup. The full speed approach and the idle approach. The full speed approach is basically a full speed run to within casting distance(20-30m) then put the motor in idle while you cast. The Idle approach is a slow approach with the motor in gear and idling, this approach takes time and relies on no other boats using the full speed approach. While both approaches have thier uses the full speed approach is more useful. 90% of the time the fish will only feed for a short time(between 15 and 30 seconds) regardless if you are there are not. The full speed approach will typically get you into casting range in around 10 seconds leaving you time to get 1 or two casts into the school before they sound. The idle approach can take up to a minute(or more) to get you in position and the fish may well have sounded before that happens. When the fish are in feeding mode they don't care about boat noise, in the seaway and broadwater they are used to it, they do care about getting run over by boats so make sure you keep back a good casting distance. On the rare occasion that fish are super flighty and sounding due to boats getting close(I've only seen it a few times) you can use the idle approach.
Bustups can be made up of two stages of fish. The primary stage and the secondary stage. The primary stage is the first lot of fish to come up to the surface, this stage is usually the largest lot and getting a cast into this lot is usually your best shot at catching fish. As the primary stage begins to subside the secondary stage may begin. Secondary stage fish are more scattered and can be found in a wider area, the reason for this is that much of the baitfish are now split up and covering a wider area due to the primary stage fish attacking the bait. Secondary stage fish are more likely to spread out on thier own away from the group and chase a single baitfish along the surface of the water feeding more horizontally than vertically. It is these fish that may follow a lure to the boat. If the baitfish attacked by the primary stage fish do not scatter in a way that enables effective feeding then the secondary stage will not start.
When approaching the bust-up try and determine the right angle to put your cast through the thickest part of the fish, for example in the image below, if you were over to the right of the C you could cast right across the school and have your lure land on A, have it pass through B and C on the way back to the boat. That way you get a chance at the primary fish as well as the secondary fish. That all depends on whether you are in the right position when the fish surface.
The above picture gives you an idea of a typical bustup(in this case GT's). A and B shows you the primary fish and the thickest part of the bustup. Ideally this is where you should be aiming your first cast. If that cast comes back unmolested then aim for the secondary fish at C and D. Remember that the fish creating the splashes in the bustup have already fed and are diving back down and it is the fish coming up for a feed that you cannot see that you will likely hook. Much of the time the fish feed in a certain direction(either with or against the current), try and anticipate this and cast in-front of the leading fish. All that said, sometimes a wild cast in any direction can pick up a fish out of a bustup, so even if you miscast and the lure lands 5 metres off to one side, it's worth working it back to the boat.
This kingfish took a 15gm Gillies baitfish cast into a bustup near the canyon.
Yellowtail Kingfish usually feed in distinct sizes. There can be both large schools of 55-70cm fish and small schools of metre plus fish. Each of these feeds in different ways on the surface. The smaller fish usually feed as part of a large school, they will push the bait to the surface then most of the school will attack at once. These smaller fish are usually not fussy(though it usually depends on the size of bait) and will take small poppers and stickbaits, Twisties and Raiders up to 30grams in size. These smaller kingfish are quite predictable in their movements and behaviour once they have settled into a pattern, you can often sit and wait in one location for them to reappear on surface every 10-15 minutes and as long as you are in the right spot you can get a cast in there in the first 5 seconds.
The larger Kingfish are a much tougher fish to find, tempt and land. They can appear anywhere at anytime but have a liking for the Pipeline and the Canyon up to the first set of beacons north. There doesn't seem to be any stand out lure for the big Kingfish as they have been hooked on a number of different lures including the Skitterbait, Owner ZipnZiggy, 30gram Twisty, 60gram Raider, Halco Roosta Popper and the FishArrow Flash J soft plastic. Big Kingfish feeding behaviours can vary from a full on feeding frenzy(rare) to the more common mooching which is a slow methodical form of feeding usually on very small bait which also makes them very hard to tempt with anything. Your best shot at hooking a big surface feeding Kingfish is when the bait is large pilchards around 10cm long. When that happens they will take most lures thrown at them, but accuracy and timing are still important. If you find them feeding over a weedbed and they refuse lures, try catching a pike and throwing one at the school unweighted.
For finding both sizes of fish birds are the key, they will spot Kingfish pushing bait to the surface a long time before you do. Watch for false diving birds as these will indicate fish that are close to busting up.
This 77cm GT took a popper thrown into a bustup late in the afternoon
Giant Trevally are one of the main attractions for chasing surface feeding fish in and around the seaway. Size range can be anything from low to mid 40's up to 80cm+ monsters. Like most fish they tend to feed in distinct sizes but those sizes can change from week to week. As an example in 2013, the season started in March with most fish in the mid 40's and low 50's, by late April we were seeing some hit the Mid 60's, towards late May we were seeing some in the mid 70's -80cm range. From then on the size varied a bit between mid 60's and mid 70's. They stopped surface feeding in late July but showed up again briefly in November.
When GT's feed on the surface they do it as a group, the number breaking the surface can be as low as 1 or 2 but the amount of fish below can be in the hundreds. When all the fish come up to the surface at once it can be a sight to behold. GT's can and will feed in the middle of the day if the bait is thick enough and the tide is right but they can be a bit picky on those day's especially if it is sunny. Foul weather days see them feeding alot more aggressively and for longer, strong winds and rain don't
bother them at all.
The mouth of the Seaway, Pipeline, Canyon, Northern Channel and the Cross Channels are all long term proven area's for GT surface feeding but they can show up anywhere. Find where the baitfish are congregating and make sure you are there for the run-in tide.
Most lures will work for GT's when they are feeding, 20 and 30gram Halco Twisties, 25 and 40 Gram Raiders, Halco Roosta Poppers 110 Rapala Skitter Pop 70 & 90, River2sea Bubble Pop 70 & 90, Skitterbaits, Gillies pilchard 20 & 40g & baitfish 15 & 25g slugs are all proven performers on active GT's. When they are a bit fussier you can go to a baitfish profile plastic like the Fisharrow Flash J, Squidgie Flickbait or Keitech Shad Impact on 1/8 oz jigheads or using a splitshot rig.
The most important thing to remember with chasing GT's on surface is that they like a slow to medium speed retrieve, they don't want it moving flat out so if you are having difficulty getting a hookup slow down your retrieve and see if that works.
Bigeye Trevally are the second most common species to see feeding on the surface around the seaway. This section will cover daylight feeding behaviour. The average size for a seaway bigeye is around 45cm but they can get up to nearly 80cm. These larger fish are rarely caught and do not usually get involved in surface feeding.
When Bigeyes are feeding they aren't fussy, 10, 20 and 30gram Halco Twisties, 15, 25 and 40 Gram Raiders, Rapala Skitter Pop 70 & 90, River2sea Bubble Pop 70 & 90, Skitterbaits, Gillies pilchard 10 & 20g, Gillies Baitfish 15 & 25g slugs are all proven performers but anything remotely looking like bait should work.
The most common area's for Bigeye Trevally surface feeding during daylight hours is the North Wall Tip, North Wavebreak Rock Wall, Along the South Wall, Pipeline and the Triangle though they can show up anywhere.
This large Tailor took a skitterbait cast into a bustup in the broadwater
Tailor the the most likely fish to find surface feeding in the seaway and broadwater. The best area is around the North Wall but you will also find them further in the seaway and anywhere within the broadwater. They prefer water that is slightly dirty so the first of the incoming tide with its clean/dirty water lines is one of the best times to find them. If the water at the mouth of the seaway is clean then they will most likely be caught further up the broadwater.
Tailor are not fussy, they will take anything when they are feeding, including slugs, slices, poppers, stickbaits, minnows, plastics and vibs. The lure that has caught more tailor than any other would be the 20gram Halco Twisty.
The average size for surface feeding tailor is around 35cm, but occasionally you will get larger fish up to 65cm particularly around dawn and dusk. You can also get runs of much larger fish that will feed on the surface around early december. Tailor love windy/rainy/overcast weather so get out there when the wind is gusting 20-30kts and look for the birds.
A typical surface feeding lesser queenfish taken on a 7gm sea rock.
Lesser Queenfish can uusally found somewhere in the seaway and broadwater. They are small with a maximum size around 60cm but the average is around 30cm. They seem to like feeding in dirty water rather than clean(though they will feed in both) and the runout tide will often see them feeding in the Northern and Southern Y's early in the morning but it is quite common to see them chasing bait around the end of the north wall as well. Due to the often tiny bait they are chasing they can be frustrating to catch, small slugs and metals like the smallest 7gm raider, 7gm sea rock, 5gm Rios are all ideal for chasing Queenfish.
Tarpon are an occasional daylight surface feeder in the seaway, you mostly see them doing it in March-April and only on the runout tide when the water is dirty. They do show up on the surface on a run-in tide occasionally but they tend to be very hard to hook. As a predator used to low light conditions it can hunt baitfish extremely well in dirty water. The key to catching tarpon is to throw soft plastics at them and give it a slow retrieve back to the boat, the fish will soon pick them up and start tapping at them. Any small soft plastic will work, but proven varieties are Ecogear Grass Minnow M, Squidgy Slick Rig 70 & 90, Zman Curl Tails all on 3/8th oz heads.
This salmon was caught off the Grand hotel boat ramp
Australian Salmon are only an occasional visitor to the Gold Coast Seaway and broadwater. We had large runs of them in 2007 and 2011 but they were rare outside of those years. They usually turn up in winter around July and stay until spring(October). Australian Salmon love a run-in tide and will often feed according to a tight schedule. In 2011 for example they would feed about 2 hours after the start of a run-in tide. Australian Salmon love pushing bait into shallow areas and for this reason you will often find them feeding in shallower area's than some species. Good area's for them include Horseshoe Flats and the area directly south, the North Wavebreak Flats up to The Elbow, North Wall Flats, The Dredges on the spit and Curlew Island opposite that. They will turn up in an area and stay for a few weeks, in 2011 they loved feeding in and around the Grand Hotel Boat ramp and up as far as the mouth of Loders Creek.
Soft plastics work the best on Australian Salmon due to their prodigious jumping ability, but they will also take slugs, metal, poppers and minnows. When they are chasing specific size bait then a small minnow type plastic will work the best like the 3" Berkley Hollowbellies, Fish Arrow Flash J 2 & 3", Berkley Gulp 3" Minnow in any colours that look like the bait they are chasing. In terms of action not much is needed, cast in there and give it slow twitching retrieve.
Mack Tuna caught in the triangle casting a pearl slider into a bustup
The various varieties of Tuna mainly hang around the entrance of the seaway but occasionally they will enter the seaway and broadwater. I have seen Mack and Striped Tuna up as far as Crab Island. They usually don't do it for long though and as a result they tend to be there one day and gone the next. Best lures for the Tuna are small slugs and metals like the Gillies Baitfish 15gram and 20 gram Raider. They can also be caught on plastics though and any of the baitfish profile plastics will work as well as the Pearl Slider.
Tuna feeding over the pipeline
Like the Tuna's the Mackerels are a bit hit and miss, but school Mackerel will often hang around for a couple of weeks around the ends of the walls. They tend not to feed on surface as much as the Tuna's around the seaway but when they do a slug or metal in the 15-20gram size will work, as will minnows and poppers.
This bonito took the skitterbait cast into a bustup
Bonito are quite a common visitor to the seaway and to a lesser extent the Broadwater. You will often find both Australian Bonito and Watson's Leaping Bonito around the North Wall for weeks at a time. They aren't fussy and will take most slugs and metals worked quickly as well as poppers, stickbaits, plastics and minnows. Occasionally schools will work their way into the broadwater on the run-in tides up as far as Crab Island.
Chasing Surface Feeding Schools Etiquette
Chasing surface feeding schools of fish is top fun and it can get very popular especially on the weekends with 20+ boats all trying to beat each other to the fish. However tempers can get frayed if you are doing the wrong thing and abuse(and lures) can start to fly so here are a few helpful hints to make sure everyone has a good time.
Don't drive into the feeding fish - Now this may seem like commonsense but I've seen quite a few boats do this. Drive up to them within casting distance(20m is close enough) then put the motor in neutral and cast into them from there. Sometimes the fish will be moving and your boat will drift into the feeding school. That is fine, as the fish will quite happily feed around a drifting boat. Just don't drive into them at full speed, that will put the fish down every time.
Don't troll through a surface feeding school if others are casting into it. Similar to the first one and again commonsense, but I've seen a few boats do it. If you are the only boat around then go nuts do whatever you want but trolling rarely works on surface feeding fish. If you continue to do it with lots of boats around, expect to get some abuse.
Don't drive over someones line who is already hooked up. If you arrive late to a bustup and someone is already hooked up don't drive over their line in your hurry to get to the action, they won't thank you for it.
Accept that crossed lines will happen. With multiple boats casting at a school of fish there are going to be crossed lines and tangles, most people just accept it and move on, a small minority get pissed off and abuse you. If you can't handle it don't chase surface feeding fish.
You don't own a piece of water. - Some people will see some action then anchor up right in the middle of it and abuse anyone that comes within 100m. Sorry to say this but you don't own it, if you anchor right in the middle of where the fish are feeding expect to get lures thrown at your boat.
Don't wait over the top of a suspended school. If you are between bustups waiting for the fish to surface again and see them on the sounder, move off to one side. The fish are waiting for another bait school to come through that they can push to the surface and that won't happen if your boat is right over the top of them.
Targeting surface feeding fish is one of the main attractions of fishing the seaway and broadwater, if you can find them. There will be days when everything is right and the fish still don't feed on the surface. I have spent many days focusing on surface feeders only to find nothing, on the other hand some days I've found them straight away and have had some truly epic fishing sessions. Using observation there have been times when I have been right within casting distance when a school of fish has come to the surface for the first time. Pay attention to what is going on around you, look for birds, bait schools, schools of fish on the sounder and above all have patience, the fish will only feed when they are ready.
A school of Tailor herding white pilchards, a few fish would attack every five minutes or so while the majority of the Tailor would help to drive the school of bait
Micro jigging is still in it's early stages for the seaway, It's a technique that works but not in every situation or all the time. I have been using the technique on and off for the last few months and its pulled quite a few fish, nothing outstanding but enough so that it's an option when other techniques have failed.
Micro jigging work's very well on Tailor when they are sitting on the bottom during the day. One problem with catching Tailor on Micro Jigs is they chew through the kevlar rope from the hook up to the solid ring. You can make your own by using heavy braid and decent hooks, most small single hooks lack the strength needed. I use Gamakatsu Big Bait 1/0 hooks. Big tailor will also have a go and will bite the whole jig off, nothing you can do about that. Other species it has hooked have been Bonito, Mulloway, Bigeye Trevally, Longnose Trevally and Yellowtailed Kingfish. It should yield some assorted reef and pelagic species in the future.
The best technique so far seems to be to drop the jig to the bottom, jig it up 5 times in quick succession, then sink it back down to the bottom and repeat. The majority of strikes seem to come on the sink down after the 5 jigs so watch your line going back down after the jigs and be prepared to strike if you see it pause. You can jig it all the way back to the surface as well every now and again. You can change the speed and timing of the jigs as well, sometimes the fish might want it slower or faster.
The best location so far is the North Wall Eddy/Runway/Deep Hole on both the run-in and run-out tides, the bottom of this area is covered in rocks so I recommend only using one hook rather than two. While you will drop a few fish it's better than constantly losing jigs. The Pipeline is also an area worth trying it, as is the Canyon and Northern Y.
There are a couple of brands of micro-jigs on the market. The Storm Gomoku range and the Maria Shore Tricker Jigs. The Storm Gomoku only come with one single hook and are around $9.00, the Maria's come with two single hooks and are around $15.00 The Storm Gomoku in 30gram Chrome is my current favourite, it has the right weight so that it can get down deep fairly quickly, a thin profile and a nice fluttering sink that throws off alot of flash. Other colours do work but not as well. You attach the jigs from the split ring at the end the hook is attached to.
Any light to medium tackle will work so you don't need to invest in specialised jigging tackle but a high speed reel will make it easier to work the jig at speed. I recommend a 3000 size reel with a 6:1 retrieve and anywhere from 12- 30lb braid. I recommend no less than 30lb leader as your jig will be hitting multiple rocks when it hits the bottom. Constantly check your leader to make sure it has no serious damage. As far as rods go, any light to medium graphite rod 6-7ft will do, a longer butt makes it easier to jig for long periods. Dedicated micro jig rods are available and are alot softer with a more parabolic action.
It's still early days for this technique but it's worthwhile investing in a few jigs and giving it a shot, especially once the sun is up and you are in between tide changes. Just remember to keep your jig near the bottom in the bottom couple of metres of water as that is where most of the strikes will come.
Skitterbaits have gone through extensive testing to find out the most appropriate hook setup, you can see the types of hooks I have used below. Currently they are only sold with VMC 3X 9626 Hooks.
Skitterbait with stock hooks
These are the hooks supplied with skitterbaits when I get them, they are weak suitable for small tailor and trevally only. It's obvious they aren't up to the task for most seaway fish so I looked for an alternative that would maintain buoyancy without sacrificing strength.
GT-Bio #6 Hooks
Skitterbait with GT-Bio Hooks fitted
The first set of hooks I supplied with skitterbaits.
I came across these hooks and they looked ideal for the task, lightweight yet strong enough to handle most fish. I tested them extensively before releasing them with skitterbaits. As of this time I have caught over 200 fish on them including many small Kingfish, GT's up to 65cm, loads of Tailor up to 58cm, Bigeyes up to 59cm, Dart, Tarpon and even fought a battle with a 12 Kilo+ King for over 40 minutes. The worst that happened over 6 months of testing was some bending of the hooks when trying to remove them. That said, it is simply not possible to test for every variable in fishing so other things did happen once they were out in the wild. Once I heard of a few problems(only 4 in over 200), I started to test new hook patterns in the hope of improving them.
Decoy Pluggin Singles
Skitterbait with Decoy Pluggin Singles fitted
These were tested as an alternative to the GT-Bio Trebles, found to work okay (but had a poor hookup rate)and offered as an alternative on November 25th 2013(not currently offered).
VMC 3X #4 Hooks
Skitterbait fitted with VMC 3X #4
The hookup rate with the pluggin Singles was poor so I set about testing heavier duty trebles. The VMC 3X #4 looked to be about the right size so I tested them but ran into the problems I had earlier on in the year. That is the skitterbaits would barely float and would sink sometimes. With a bit of testing it didn't seem to affect their fish catching ability (as long as you kept them moving)so I changed the trebles offered from the GT-Bio #6 to these.
Owner Bound Doubles
Skitterbaits with bound doubles
These are my favourite setup but not currently offered for sale, Owner #2 Double hooks bound together with 200lb Braid. These have a better hookup rate than the single hooks, the hookup rate of the VMC trebles without the extra weight and more strength than the GT-Bio hooks.
Welcome to the SeawayFishing Lure Reference Guide Part 4 - Surface Lures. Here you can find details of all the lures that I and others use when fishing in the seaway. If you see a lure mentioned in a report look it up here, all these lures have caught fish in the seaway. This page will be updated as new lures are found. Lures are listed in found order. If you have a lure you think should be included let me know.
This article will cover the gear I use and recommend for fishing the seaway. You can use pretty much any gear you like but the better suited the outfit is to fishing the seaway the more fish you will catch. Multiple outfits are recommended to cover every angle.
I mainly use 7ft Graphite/Carbon Fibre Rods, the extra length gives you better casting distance, though you can go up to 8ft without too many problems. 6ft rods are just too short for good lurecasting but work fine for livebaiting. You can go as cheap as you like, obviously the better the rod, the better your casts and more fish you will catch. I find rods in the $130-$200 range are a great balance between cost and performance. One of my alltime favourites is the old Samaki Allure 701 which had a pricetag of only $130.00. One thing you should look for is the butt length, a longer butt enables you to cast two handed and put more punch into the casts, getting greater distance. All of my favourite rods have a butt length of 25-27cm. Butt length is measured from the bottom of the reel seat.
What I'm using right now in Rods:
2 x SeawayFishing Strong LLBC702M & ML ($150)
Samaki Allure 701SM ($130)
Daiwa Black Label BL762MHFS ($250)
Daiwa SOL 701MLFS ($250RRP bought for $120)
The most important aspect for any reel you use in the seaway is a decent drag, it must be smooth. A jerky drag will cost you fish. Another thing to consider is reel line capacity. While most fish will never use anything below the top 80m of line, every now and again you'll hook something that will need 200m+ so keep that in mind. Plenty of big fish have been landed on small 2500 size reels but when you want to throw around big lures like 14cm poppers or 60gram Raiders, you'll need a 4000 size reel with a decent strength braid(20 -30lb) on it. Another thing you should look at is high speed retrieve reels. 6.0:1 should be considered a minimum for throwing poppers and slugs. You can work plastics on the slower 5.0:1 reels, but when you are chasing surface feeders, being able to wind in a cast quickly and punch it out again fast will put more fish in the boat. I don't use overhead or baitcasting reels for lure fishing in the seaway.
What I'm using right now in Reels:
Jundao T7-30 ($80) spooled with 12lb Spider Braid
SW 3000 ($80) Spooled with 20lb Daiwa Saltiga Braid
Daiwa Ballistic 3000 ($220) Spooled with 30lb Daiwa Saltiga Braid
Daiwa Advantage 2500A ($220) Spooled with 12lb Spider Braid
Daiwa SOL II 3000H ($330) Spooled with 30lb Daiwa Saltiga Braid
Daiwa LD50H ($250) Spooled with 50lb Bionic Braid
Braided lines are the only way to go for serious lure fishing in the seaway, the sensitivity can tell you when a fish takes a halfhearted swipe at a lure or when your jighead is bouncing around in the rocks. The smaller diameter will also give you better casting distance. There are many brands available but they are all fairly expensive for what they are. I have used quite a few brands, from the cheap but good lines I sell here on SeawayFishing(Spider Braid, Daiwa Saltiga Grey) to brands like Sunline 4x4 Momentum which retail for around $60 for 125m. What brand you choose is up to you, it doesn't make alot of difference in the end. You might get an extra 5 metres in casting distance using a high end thin braid but the first wind knot you get will have you halfway through your brand new spool of expensive line. These days I prefer the cheap end of the spectrum due to how much line I go through.
Good brands I have used and recommend
Fins Original PRT
Stren Sonic Braid
Sunline 4x4 Momentum
Sunline Super PE
SF Daiwa Saltiga Grey
Leader: 20lb minimum, I use 30lb almost exclusively. Now most people will balk at such a heavy leader but there is a good reason for it. I originally started off with 12lb leader, then went to 20lb, then went to 30lb. 30lb seems to be the sweet spot between usability and ability to take punishment. The seaway has lots of rocks and lots of toothy critters both of which will remove lures from your line. Tailor for example will cut through 20lb with just a swipe at a lure that connects with the trace. The only time I will go less than 20lb is very clear water in the middle of the day using ultra finesse plastics. 99% of seaway fish don't care what leader you are using, as long as you present the lure to them at the right time and place they will eat it.
All my oufits(rod,reel,line) are graded into small, medium or large sizes. Each size has multiple tasks for seaway work. Having multiple outfits ready to go is important, if you get busted off on one then another can be used quickly. Bite times in the seaway can be short so maximising your fish catching time is important.
Small outfit: 2500 or 3000 size reel filled with 300m 6-12lb braid , 7ft Light or Medium Light rated rod - Light plastic work, skitterbaits, light metals
Medium outfit: 3000 or 4000 size reel with 200-300m 20lb Braid, 7ft Medium rated rod - Trolling deep diving minnows, large plastics, jigging medium sized metals, minnows & poppers
Large outfit: 4000 size reel filled with 300m 30lb braid, 7ft 6" Medium Heavy rated rod - Big poppers & stickbaits, big metals, big minnows.
Livebait Fishing Outfits
4000 size reel, 30lb Braid, 50lb leader 6-7ft rod rated medium heavy
6000 size reel(or large overhead) , 50lb Braid 100lb leader 6-7ft rod rated heavy
Trolling can be a very effective technique in the seaway but as with every seaway technique the trick is to know where, when and with what. This article will go into detail about the lures to use, how to decide on which lure, where to troll, how to troll effectively and when to decide to troll rather than using another technique.
Trolling is the art of using the boat to propel the lure and give it action, basically cast out your lure, get up to a steady slow speed, say 3 knots let about 30 metres of line out then click the reel into gear. You can either hold the rod or stick it in a rod holder. Trolling keeps your lure in the strike zone for longer and is an ideal method when the fish are hanging deep on the bottom over a large area.
Tuning lures for trolling
One of the most annoying aspects of trolling is that many lures will not troll straight. By straight I mean swimming in a straight line with the lure sitting horizontal to the bottom. Many lures will swim off to one side or the other and blow out of the water when the speed or current gets too great. In the seaway trolled lures are constantly exposed to extremes in current so a lure that trolls straight is very important. You will rarely catch fish on a lure that is not swimming properly so if your chosen lure is not, then you need to know how to adjust it so that it will.
For basic tuning if the lure is swimming to the left then your need to bend the front end of the eye to the right to get the lure to swim straight again. Its best to do this in small amounts, and test after each adjustment as the tiniest of movement in the eye can make a difference.
If the lure tracks LEFT, bend the front end of the tow point to the right. If the lure tracks RIGHT, bend the front end of the tow point to the left.
Its also worth mentioning that upgrading trebles to be able to withstand the challenges of seaway fishing can make changes to the way a lure swims. Some lures do not like the heavy duty Owner ST-66 and will not swim properly once you have changed them while other lures are not bothered at all. All of the recommended lures below will swim properly with Owner ST-66 trebles.
Lures for trolling
You will need a number of lures to effectively troll the seaway. The reason for this is that fish often sit at different depths and getting your lure in the strike zone is very important. There are hundreds of lures out there that will do the job but I am only going to cover the known effective lures. Many lures have rediculous claimed depths on the box. For example the Sebile 118LL Koolie Minnow has a claimed depth of 13 metres which is rediculous. At best it manages 5.5 metres. Keep this in mind when purchasing lures.
Rapala XR10/Flash Minnow 25 - Basically the same lure but with different finishes. These lures will dive to around 1.5-2 metres and are ideal for fish that are sitting approximately 3-4 metres down. Tailor and Bigeye Trevally are the main targets for this lure but they will also catch Bonito, Mackerel and GT's.
Top: Flash 25 Minnows Bottom: Rapala XR10
Rapala XRD10/Halco Laser Pro 120 - These lures will dive to 2.5-3m and are ideal for fish sitting in depths around 4-6m down. Giant Trevally, Bigeye Trevally, Hairtail, Tailor and numerous other species are possible. The XRD10's can be frustratingly difficult to get to swim straight at times and suffer from water penetration into the body after a few fish. The Laser Pro's are very hardwearing and will handle lots of fish before needing to be replaced but the large body seems to limit its ability to attract different species. The XRD10 is more of an allrounder. The fat Minnow 9 is unproven and is still under testing..it looks good though.
Top Left : Rapala XRD10 Top Right: Halco Laser Pro 120 Bottom: Rapala Fat Minnow 9
Bolt Omega - This lure dives 3.5 - 4.5m and is ideal for trolling the Canyon and Northern Y. So far in the seaway they have caught lots of Giant Trevally, Tailor, Barracuda and Maori Cod though I would expect them to land many more species over the next few months as we get into summer. This lure seems to get in the sweet spot for many species, most predatory fish like to hunt upwards and if they are sitting on the bottom in 7 metres, then a lure running 4 metres will attract alot of interest.
Various colours of the Bolt Omega
Sebile Koolie Minnow 118LL/ Rapala Magnum 15 - These lures dive to 5-6m and are useful around the canyon and trolling around the north wall. The Sebile has landed lots of GT's and Tailor, the Magnum 15 so far only GT's but it hasn't had alot of swim time. Both of these lures will track very close to the bottom in the Northern Y so are useful if the fish aren't feeling very active.
Left: Rapala Mag 15 Right: Sebile Koolie 118
Maria Deep Snare/ Rapala Magnum 20 - Both of these lures will dive down to 7 metres and are capable of bottoming out in the Northern Y so you should keep them on a short leash if using them in there. The Maria Deep Snare has a unique ability to sink down to a chosen depth and stay down there, for example you could sink it down to the bottom of the canyon in 14m and it will track close to the bottom for the rest of the troll. I haven't given this lure alot of swim time but I'm sure it will pick up some nice fish in the future. The Rapala Magnum 20 is the biggest lure in this article but fish will still hit it, it has been proven effective on low light GT's and I'm sure some other species would eat it as well. It is this lure that I am currently testing for use around the north wall for pelagics such as Spanish Mackerel.
Left: Rapala Magnum 20 Right: Maria Deep Snare
Many different types of lures can be trolled, not only minnows. Metals like the 40-65gram Raider, 30 Gram Twistie work well trolled at times especially around the North Wall during summer. You can also troll poppers, small skirts/christmas trees, any of the plastics on 1/2oz Jigheads, Vib's like the Vivi30s will get down and stay down, the list is endless and sometimes going with something different can yield some good results.
Choosing what lure to use on the day
Deciding on what lure to use is much easier if there are two in the boat or if you are using two rods(though handling two fish hooked up at once when you are alone is...difficult). One rod can have a lure that runs to 3 metres, the other can have a lure that runs to 5 metres, you'll soon know which one the fish prefer. Alot depends on the area you are in and the species likely to be feeding. For example in the Northern Y, GT's are the most common so I would go with a a lure that runs to 2.5m like an XRD10 and a lure that runs to 4 metres like the Bolt Omega or a Rapala Magnum 15. If you were trolling around the North Wall and pelagics are likely, I would change that to a Flash 25/XR10 shallow runner and a Bolt Omega/Magnum 15 to get down deep. Experimentation is important, if you are not getting hits keep changing lures until you do.
The following video is a good example of using lures that gets down to the right depth on the day and how much of a difference that can make to your catches. I was using Bolt Omega's and Sebile Koolie 118LL which run from 4-5 metres where as Mick was using XRD10's which dive to a maximum of 3 metres. The result from that was 6 fish hooked to his 1. Diving depth matters when trolling, keep changing lures until you find out what they want.
Areas for Trolling
Random trolling around the seaway is not likely to yield many fish. The fish hold and feed in certain areas and a trolling run that takes in to account these area's will yield alot more fish. The following area's are the most consistent for fish taking trolled lures but remember that if people are casting around these area's already they won't take kindly to someone trolling through the area, always give a wide berth to other fisherman. The broadwater has lots of area's suitable for trolling, all maps are marked with good trolling runs for you to try.
North Wall Tip & Current Lines
The most important area for trolling here is the current line that is evident on a run in tide(A). Ideally you should troll right along the outer edge of this current line, you can do it both ways..with and against the tide it doesn't seem to matter I have caught fish on both. It's also worthwhile doing a troll a bit further out (B & C) for pelagic fish. You can also do a troll run that runs right along 'The Line' that heads directly east of the end of the wall(D). On a trolling run through this section with the run-in tide you are best starting back along the north wall flats dropoff then going past the wall turning as you enter the seaway then trolling along the current line that heads west into the seaway. Pretty much any fish are possible trolling through this section especially pelagics like Bonito and Mackerel but Bigeye Trevally, Giant Trevally and Tailor are the main species likely to be caught.
The South Wall
The South Wall does not yield as many fish trolling as the North but you should always keep it in mind. Schools of Bigeye Trevally, Kingfish and Giant Trevally will sit along this wall at times though Kingfish are rare on trolled lures in the seaway. Ideally you should troll no further out than 5 metres from the outer edge of the rock wall as the fish tend to sit just where the rocks meet the sand. They can sit anywhere along the wall so a decent troll run would run from the tower right to 50m beyond the eastern most tip of the wall(F). Due to the high numbers of landbased anglers it can be difficult to get a decent troll run going, you won't win any favours trolling close to the wall and picking up thier lines. It is also worth a troll along the front of the wall approximately 10 metres out as schools of fish will often sit just out from the end of the wall(G). Troll run E runs along the area where the rocks meet the sand on the inside of the north wall, around 6 metres down. All species are possible, some other fish that might be caught include Hairtail, Flathead, Mangrove Jacks & Cod.
SeawayFishing Map 3 Outer Walls
Northern Y &Canyon
The Northern Y and Canyon are the best trolling area's in the seaway. The reason for this is the very rocky bottom in the Northern Y is a fish feeding area and the deep hole in the Canyon is a fish holding area. Inactive fish hold in the deep water in the Canyon until bait comes through at any stage of tide or the time of day signals feeding time(any time after 3pm or Sunrise through til 9am. When that happens the fish either move into the Northern Y or move into the Northern Channel to feed. I have included a diagram below outlining the best trolling runs for this area. You can integrate all of these trolling runs into a non stop troll but it is best to bring in your lure and check every so often to make sure there is no weed on it.
Northern Y Closeup
The South Wavebreak Wall, Southern Y & Southern Corner
This area doesn't hold alot of fish but sometimes you can get Tailor, Bigeyes, Salmon and Kingfish here, worth a quick troll but don't spend alot of time on it.
Seawayfishing Map 1 Wavebreak to Pipeline
There are 3 main species that take trolled lures in the seaway. They are Giant Trevally, Bigeye Trevally and Tailor. Each requires a specific approach to target them effectively but there will always be occasions where fish will change things up a bit.
Giant Trevally are more commonly caught in the Northern Y and Around the Canyon on trolled lures than anywhere else. They want lures that dives to 2.5-3 metres(XRD10 & Laser Pro) at least but sometimes they won't hit lures unless they are running at 4 metres +(Bolt Omega, Rapala Magnum 15, Sebile Koolie Minnow 118LL). You can troll quite fast for GT's they will hit lures running at speeds over 6 knots(turbo trolling) and sometimes they will only hit the lures if they are running that fast. Giant Trevally are also possible on trolled lures around the end of the north and south wall's, particularly the tip where the rocks meet the sand approximately 10 metres out.
This 65cm GT took a trolled Bolt Omega
Trolling for Bigeye Trevally is mainly centred around the North and South Walls and the Pipeline. In particular the North wall tip and North Wall Flats dropoff holds quite alot of bigeyes over summer and it is always worth a troll at dawn with minnows or 30g Twisties during November and December past the front of the wall along the dropoff. Its also worth trolling along the inner section of the South wall from The Tower to The Gates as schools of bigeyes will also hold along here. The pipeline also has active fish feeding around it during the night over summer and you can troll around it and pickup Bigeyes one after the other if they are feeding. With Bigeyes keep the lure profile's small though, XR10/Flash 25/XRD10 are the perfect size but if you need to get a bit deeper you can go for something like a Sebile Koolie Koolie 90 which will hit 3.5m and has a nice thin profile.
This bigeye took a trolled XR10
Tailor are mainly found around the North Wall, you can pick them up trolling all around the wall from the inner eddies and current lines around the tip to the North Wall Dropoff. They will pretty much hit anything when they are in the mood, I've caught them on Rapala Magnum 20's at times. You can also find them further up the broadwater in the channels and around the deep holes by trolling Bolt Omega's or XRD10's. It's always worth a troll past the Cross Channels(Map 4) Most of the Tailor caught trolling are chopper size up to about 50cm, the big greenbacks are more specialised hunters.
This Tailor took a trolled Sebile 118LL
Other species that may be caught on trolled lures in the seaway include Barracuda, Hairtail, Flathead, Bream, Various Cod species, Golden Trevally, Yellowtail Kingfish, Bonito, Spotted, School and Spanish Mackerel, Cobia, Snapper, Mack Tuna, Amberjack and Mangrove Jacks. None of these can be planned for but it does make things interesting.
When to Troll
Deciding when to troll rather than cast is a tricky decision. I usually use it as a last attempt at catching fish but there are times when a decision to have a quick troll can pay dividends. If you see fish on the sounder and metals or plastics dropped into them gets nothing then it's worthwhile trolling a minnow through them. In the late afternoon's trolling works particularly well as the fish may not be that active but still hungry and if they see a minnow swim past them they have a hard time passing it up. I usually don't bother trolling until after 3pm when the big fish are starting to think about dinner. Early morning works well too in the time between first light and sunup, if casting has produced nothing then a 5 minute troll can make you decide whether it's worthwhile or not.
Advanced Trolling Techniques
Trolling In Place
Trolling in place is a technique of using the high tidal flows of the run in tides to keep your lure swimming in roughly the same place. Simply drive in the the current area of your choice and keep the motor idling forward so that the boat doesn't move but the lure will be swimming in the current. You can give the lure extra action by sharply jerking the rod tip. It is a good technique to use in the current line at the end of the north wall when conditions are too rough to cast but you can still drive the boat safely, once hooked up the tidal flow will push your boat inside the seaway into calmer waters. You can also use it over the Pipeline and Canyon but care must be taken when other boats are around otherwise your line could get run over. You need a decent tidal flow to get this technique working, any of the larger tides near the Full or New moon would suffice.
This Greenback Tailor took a large shallow running minnow trolled in place along The Face at the North Wall.
Using a Trolling sinker
A trolling sinker is a barrel sinker with a swivel imbedded on each end. Trolling sinkers are used to give small shallow running minnows extra depth, by opening the bail arm on your reel you can drop the lure right to the bottom just before you go past a school of fish. It gets the lure down fast and put's it in the strike zone. On a standard troll run they don't give alot of extra depth, probably only a metre or so but being able to drop a small lure to the bottom is an important option. I prefer using small suspending minnows like the Rapala XR8 but any small floating or suspending minnow would work, avoid sinking minnows as they might get stuck on the bottom. There should be a trace at least a metre long between the trolling sinker and your lure to ensure the lure's action is unaffected. You can either tie the trolling sinker on or use snap clips.
A 1oz trolling sinker and a Rapala XR8
Sometimes adding more action to a trolled lure will entice a strike from fish which are ignoring your trolled lures. If this happens try sharply jigging the rop tip forward three times in quick succession then pausing the lure, letting it swim a bit before repeating the action. This causes the lure to dart about aggressively which might get you a strike from shut down fish.
Trolling can be a very effective technique, BUT don't expect to troll around aimlessly and catch fish. Like every seaway technique it requires some thought, timing and observation to be successful. This article covers everything you need to know about trolling the seaway, all you need to do is put it into practice.
This 72cm GT took a trolled Bolt Omega just on dawn
Don't expect every trolled fish to be big, plenty of little ones get in on the action
The Bolt Omega is a deep diving lure that runs 3.5 - 4.5 metres. I originally came across this lure up north in Hervey Bay, the depth it dives to and the realistic finish appealed to me so I bought a few to give them a shot. Turns out they were an exceptional trolling lure even better than the Rapala XRD10. It is one of the best deep diving lures around with a very tight shimmy and affordable to boot. This lure has been proven on Giant and Golden Trevally, Tailor, many Mackerel species, Barracuda, various species of Cod, Mack Tuna and many more. While the stock VMC hooks are adequate(if a little small), I have removed them and added Owner ST-66 #2 Hooks. The stock rings are very tough and do not need replacing.
These lures are pretty much a trolling lure only and unlike many lures actually dives to the rated depth on the box, around 4 metres. I recommend around a 30 metre dropback though if you want a bit more depth you can let it go as far as you like. Best trolling speed depends on the current and which way you are trolling, for or against the current. Against the current about 2-3 knots is best and if you are going with the current around 5 knots will see it swimming along nicely.
More details on trolling this lure will be released in the Trolling the Seaway Article coming out soon.
The Skitterbait, a mix between a popper and a stickbait these 9cm lures have proven to be a top performer in the seaway and broadwater in the last couple of months despite some tough fishing winter conditions and in what is probably the worst time of the year for fishing surface lures. With the summer surface season approaching these lures will pull some top fish before the end of the year.
The Skitterbait is made of high impact plastic and is equipped with GT Bio #6 Hooks and #1 Owner split rings. It contains a magnetic retention system for the ball bearings to keep them in perfect place on a retrieve. When you cast it the momentum pushes the ball bearings past the magnet and right to the back of the tail. Due to this casts with the Skitterbait tend to go alot further than you might expect, very few plastic lures cast this well. Cast carefully or these might end up on the rocks.
The magnetic weight retention system keeps the lure perfectly weighted at all times, you can see it holding the treble in place.
Working the Skitterbait
These lures can be worked in four ways, a flat out retrieve will have this lure skipping across the surface, a blooping retrieve with the rod tip down will have the lure spitting out water with the occasional dive under the water, a slow twitching retrieve with the rod tip up will have the lure spitting out water and popping side to side(my favourite retrieve) and the standard walk the dog retrieve with the rod tip down.
Where the Rapala Skitter Pop 9 is big, loud and brash and is at its best in the roughest of water conditions and more vigorous retrieves, the Skitterbait is a finesse lure and should be worked as such. Pay attention to what its doing, if it dives under wait til it pops up to the top again and continue. Work it slowly with pauses for effect. Use this lure on light to medium gear, any heavier than about 15lb and you will lose some action. Any 7ft rod rated medium light t0 light is ideal for working it. I reccomend fairly heavy leader, no light than 20lb but preferably 30lb. You can tie it on with a loop knot or use snap clip to attach it.
This video shows the slow twitching retrieve in close to the north wall.
Where to use it
The skitterbait can be used anywhere from the calmest sand flat to the roughest conditions out on the ends of the walls. As a small thin lure it struggles a bit in very rough water at the end of the wall, but with a few extra pauses it will pop back up on the surface so you can continue the retrieve. The edge of the white water zone around the north wall tip and on the north wall flats are both excellent places to use it. The skitterbait is at its best when the sun is up and most fish have shut down, it will pull fish when all others are failing to get a strike.
What eats it
So far I have caught Giant Trevally, Tarpon, Bigeye Trevally, Dart, Bream and endless amounts of Tailor. It is only a matter of time before a Kingfish eats one, I'm pretty sure all the pelagic species would have a go as well. I'm still using the orginal prototype and it has landed well over 50 fish since the start of July, its lost a bit of paint but the fish are still hitting it.
If you have one of these and are having trouble with them, call me over if you see me out on the water and I'll give you a demo on how I work them. There will also be a video showing all the techniques coming out soon.
Livebaiting is a consistent method of catching large fish in the seaway, this Ultimate Edition will cover absolutely everything to know about livebaiting in the seaway and keep it in one place as an easy reference guide. Some parts have already been listed as separate articles but I have updated and integrated each one to reflect the latest information.
Hooked up to a mulloway just off the north wall
Livebaiting gear doesn't need to be fancy or expensive, all you are doing is dropping baits to the bottom and fighting the fish up to the boat. Most reasonable 4000 size spinning reels will do the job, just make sure it has a decent drag and can fit about 300m of line on it, the penn spinfisher line is affordable and reliable. You can also use overhead reels as well, I use a Daiwa LD50H overhead for my heavy livebaiting duties. You can go as heavy or as light as you want on the line but sooner or later you are going to hook a fish that will bust you off in the rocks and you are going to want heavier gear. I use 30lb for small livies like herring and go up to 50lb for big livebaits like tailor and pike, even on this gear some fish still make it back to the rocks or back to the pipe. As for rods, keep it short 6ft is ideal but you can go up to 7ft without too many problems. There is no need for high modulus (IM8+rods) in livebaiting, IM6 or even fibreglass rods will do the job. You might want to make sure you have a rod with a bit of backbone though as hooking large Whitespot Shovelnose and bull sharks is common and these require a rod with some power down low. Medium Heavy rated rods are ideal.
Penn Spinfisher V 4500
Daiwa Saltist 4500
Shimano Biomaster 4000FB
Penn Spinfisher V 6500
Daiwa Saltist 6500
Shimano Biomaster 6000FB
Penn Squall SQL40LD
Shimano TLD 15
Good quality live baits are often harder to catch than the bigger fish and it can take hours to catch enough for a couple of hours fishing. This part will detail most of the livebaits that can be used, how to catch them and where you might find them. Livebaits are like any fish, they come and they go so numbers are constantly fluctuating. Always have a backup plan if you can't find any of your chosen livebait.
Pike in a Livewell
My favourite livebait and one of the biggest livebaits with an average size around 30cm. Size can be an issue, 40cm plus models are usually only taken by big fish such as metre long kingies and mulloway. Smaller fish such as Tailor and Trevally prefer the smaller models around 30cm. Pike can be caught around any of the weedbeds of the broadwater, particularly the weedbeds around Wavebreak and Crab island and the weedbeds at the mouth of Loder’s Creek & western side of South Stradbroke Island. Unfortunately between May and September these weedbeds are netted on a weekly basis by the mullet netters and pike are rare during this time. You can catch them on small minnows (rapala XR6 & XR4) & small plastics (2 inch curl tails or paddle tails)on light jigheads. Try trolling a minnow around until you find the school, then throw plastics at them. The top half of the tide is the best time to get them. Pike can be caught around bridges and lighted jetties at night using small minnows or plastics but its not something you can rely on unless you find a decent sized school that stays in the same area. Good places to look are The Broadwater Parklands Jetty, The Grand Hotel Ramp, Marina Mirage Refueling Station and Sunrise Bridge. If all else fails, trolling through the canal estates around runaway bay or around Marina Mirage with a shallow running minnow such as an Rapala XR6 can pick up a couple of large ones.
Pike can also be caught offshore on the shallow bait reefs, sometimes during the day but more often at night. You can get them on 3" Gulp minnows on 1/2 oz jigheads, small minnows attached to trolling sinkers, or large profile bait jigs. You can also catch them on any flesh baits or white pilchards. They are a different species but the fish still like them just as much, getting small ones can be a challenge though, the average size can be around 45cm. The offshore pike also require alot of water changes as the water fouls quickly so keep an eye on them to make sure you don’t lose your hard earned baits.
Yellowtail & Slimy Mackerel
Slimy Mackerel and Yellowtail in a livewell
Yellowtail & Slimies are usually only found offshore on the shallow bait reefs but sometimes you can get them around the ends of the walls. Usually caught on the 6 hook bait jigs, they can also be caught on baits of peeled prawn and any fish flesh. They are much easier to catch at dawn than during the day or at night. Most fish will eat a yellowtail or slimy mackerel and GT’s in particular have a big liking for them. Weather permitting Yellowtail are probably the easiest of the livebaits to catch, slimies are alot harder to catch and not something you can rely on. Look for the other boats east of the sand pumping jetty in 20-24m of water to find the shallow bait reefs. GPS Coordinates for the best bait reef section I know is as follows: S 27. 57 .013 E 153. 27. 000. Do a drift around that area and you will find the bait.
The first thing to remember with sea mullet is that they do have a size limit of 30cm so don’t keep any small sea mullet in your livewell. You can use small yellow eye or sand mullet though, if you can’t tell the difference better not to use them at all. Mullet are very hardy and will last forever in your livewell, they aren’t quite as good a livie as the first two but better than nothing. Mulloway and cod will still happily take a live mullet of any size, but will hold them in the mouth for a while to descale them before swallowing, the fish spitting the bait is common. For this reason, Mullet are usually a last option for me. The best chance of getting live mullet is in a cast net, try in any of the canal estates close to the seaway. You can catch sand mullet on a hook baited with bread, just berley them up in places like Loder's Creek and Biggera Creek and use a size 12 hook with a small bit of bread under a float.
Herring in a livewell
Herring can be caught around jetties and bridges, cast nets are preferred but they can also be berleyed up with bread and caught on bait jigs. Herring are probably the most used livebait in the seaway but they do attract bream all the time which is annoying. They do catch good fish though; Tailor, Trevally and Jewies will happily eat them. Useful if you can’t catch anything else and still better than mullet. The best places to find herring are Biggera Creek Bridge, Sunrise Bridge, Sovereign and Ephraim Bridges, Occasionally in the eddies around the Wavebreak rock walls, Grand Hotel Ramp and the pontoon at The Seaworld Ramp.
Hardyheads, White pilchards & Frogmouth Pilchards
These small baitfish have limited uses in the seaway but can be useful for catching tarpon, trevally or tailor. Numbers of these fish are seasonal and tend to hang around different places every year so its pretty much as case of catch them when you find them. Most of these fish can only be caught with a cast net, but hardyheads can be berleyed up with bread and caught on bait jigs.
Squid are an ideal livie and you can catch them around lighted areas at night particularly if there is a bit of weed and rubbly bottom, such as the Broadwater Parklands Jetty, the Grand Hotel Jetty and the lighted area's near Ephraim Island. The only problem is they wont last in a livewell and die quickly so use them quick if you get them. Even as a dead bait they are pretty good though. Kingfish will rarely refuse a live squid.
Tailor are useful as a livie for big Mulloway, Kingfish and Sharks but make sure you use its over the legal size of 35cm, check the Tailor fishing article for more hints on those.
Decent sized Prawns are a good livie as well, but there’s nowhere near the seaway you can catch them regularly. Occasionally they will show up just at the end of the north wall at night on a runout tide and you can use a net to scoop them up. Using a red light will help you see the eyes of the prawn without spooking them. Most fish will hit a prawn but Jewies seem to particularly like them.
Silverbiddies also have a good reputation, cast netting around sandbanks are the main way of catching them, but the bigger models can be caught on peeled prawns and small hooks.
Garfish are also a very good bait, and Kingfish love them almost as much as they do pike. You can catch them around the weedbeds on the western side of the broadwater, around Runaway Bay and put down some bread or bran berley with some tuna oil and fish with small no. 12 hooks baited with prawn or squid under a float. They will also sit in large schools on the North Wall Flats on run out tides at night if the swell isn't too big. You can cast net them if they are thick.
With a long livebait like pike two hooks are essential, the top hook goes through the top and bottom of the mouth and the bottom hook goes above the backbone along the back ensuring the line between the two hooks is loose enough for the pike to swim naturally. Hook sizes range from 6/0 for small pike up to 30cm to 8/0 for the 45cm plus versions.
Mullet have a very hard top of the mouth and a very soft bottom of the mouth so you can hook them through the top of the mouth if you can work your hook through the bone. You can also hook them just behind the head and down near the tail above the backbone. Hook sizes range from 6/0 for small mullet up to 20cm to 9/0 for 40cm+ mullet.
Herring & Silverbiddies
Herring are best hooked with a single hook through the nose. With very large herring you can go to a double hook rig, once through the nose and the other just in front of the tail. Hook sizes range from 2/0 for small herring around 6cm long up to 4/0 for very large herring 10cm+
Yellowtail & Slimy Mackerel
Yellowtail and slimies can be used with a single or double hook rig, with a single hook it should be placed in the nose if you are fishing in high tidal flow or just below the dorsal fin if fishing in an eddy. With a double hook rig, the top hook goes in the nose, the bottom hook goes just before the tail above the backbone. Ideal hook sizes are 3/0- 5/0 for Yellowtail and 6/0 for Slimy Mackerel
As a long bait and prone to attacks by tailor, the two hook north wall trace is recommended. Break the beak off and place the top hook through the start of the beak and the second hook through the back above the backbone. I deal hook sizes for garfish are 6/0-7/0.
Tailor are best fished with a two hook rig, the bottom hook goes just before the tail, make sure it is above the lateral line, the top hook goes just behind the head. I recommend trimming the tail to slow the fish down a bit. I reccomend 8/0 minimum hook sizes for Tailor.
Squid are best hooked using a 2 hook rig similar to pike. The bottom hook goes through the skin between the eyes and the top hook goes into the top of the cape near the point. Hook sizes in the 7/0 to 8/0 range depending on the size of the Squid.
Prawns are best hooked using a single 2/0 or 3/0 suicide hook in the second to last segment near the tail. This allows the prawn to flick around unhindered. Hook sizes 2/0- 3/0
Big deadbaits are rarely used in the seaway, apart from the odd person using a fillet of something or pilchards. Pilchards however are too small and are more likely to hook Shovelnose Rays and the like. Using a fillet can be maddening with the amount of bream around, they will soon strip the bait of all flesh. The best deadbaits to use are Tailor and Pike and the best method of presenting them is to half butterfly the whole fish. Basically this means to cut off the tail and cut a fillet down one side but leave it attached to waft around. Mulloway and big Tailor in particular love this type of bait presentation but most decent fish will have a go. You can fish them on both the standard running sinker rig and the north wall rig. A slow lift and drop that keeps the sinker just off the bottom works best, just drop your bait to the bottom, then lift and drop it. You may have to release line if the current flow is fast to make sure your bait stays near the bottom.
A Butterflied Pike
This 85cm Jewie was caught on a Butterflied pike at 9am in the morning
I use a modular rigging system when livebaiting. This ensures that I can change sinker weights and fishing styles without having to retie knots every time you fish a different area. You can go from the north wall rig to the standard rig to an unweighted rig in seconds. There are a number of things you need to be able to do this. One is pre-tied traces, those with wire between the hooks and those without in a number of hook sizes. Secondly you need a number of Klik Sinkers in different sizes, these enable you to add and subtract weight depending on the area you are fishing when using the standard rig. The modular rig also ensures I can change a trace in seconds if it gets damaged by fish or rocks. The important end of a modular rig is 5 metres of 30-50lb mono then a 5mm bead(any craft supply shop will have these), then a heavy duty clip. The bead is necessary to stop the clip from the north wall sinker rig tangling with the snap clip, so don't forget it if you intend on using that rig.
Different sizes and colours of Klik Sinkers
You will need a number of different traces for livebaiting the seaway with a mix of line strengths, hook sizes and number of hooks. Trace strength should not be below 30lb and for large baits should be between 50 & 100lb. Traces will need to be changed frequently due to banging around in the rocks and damage from fish so make sure you carry enough for a session. Ideally you should match hook size to bait size, you don't want to be using too large or too small a hook on a bait. Here are the hook sizes I use for certain baits:
Herring & Silverbiddies 3/0
Yellowtail and Garfish 5/0
Slimy Mackerel and small pike (<30cm) 6/0
Medium to large Pike, mullet & Squid 7/0
In my opinion hook styles don't really matter, use whatever you want. I use Gamakatsu Octopus Black in sizes 2/0 - 9/0 for all my livebaiting they are super sharp and the hookup rate is excellent. Circle hooks work but depend on how you like to fish, I would only recommend them for those who like to anchor as the sit and forget style works alot better with these hooks. What matters most is that the hook be appropriate in size for the bait you are using which I have covered above. All of the hooks shown in the picture below are Gamakatsu Octopus style.
A Variety of Traces showing different hook sizes amd configurations
The Unweighted Rig
The unweighted rig is rarely used but definitely has a place in a good setup. Its use is situation specific, in other words if you see fish swimming around an unweighted livebait thrown to intercept is often eaten. Kingfish are a classic target for this technique, but it will also work on Giant Trevally and Tailor. Another good use for it is to cast a livebait around the end of the north wall and let it swim around in the eddy on a run in tide. Big tailor who have been ignoring lures will often grab a unweighted live pike thrown in close to the rocks. In the modular system all you do is clip on a premade trace, hook the bait on and you are ready to go.
This Metre long Kingfish took an unweighted pike cast to intercept a travelling school.
The Standard Running Sinker Rig
The standard running sinker rig is the most used rig in the seaway for livebaiting. It is effective for all types of fish but care must be taken not to let it roll around on the bottom otherwise you will get snagged alot. Drop it to the bottom, then lift it up a metre. This will let the bait swim around half a metre off the bottom. Care must be taken in strong tidal flows not to let the bait get too far off the bottom so you should drop it to the bottom and wind up once every couple of minutes or so.
The North Wall Livebaiting Setup
I use a different livebaiting setup for the north wall and deep hole area during a run in tide, the reason for that is the high tidal flow and rocky bottom make using the standard running sinker rig very prone to snagging. I sometimes need to go up to a 6oz sinker to hit the bottom on days with very large tides when using large livebaits.
The rig consists of a 5 m long shock leader of 40-50lb mono tied on to the main braided line of 30-50lb. On to the shock leader goes a bead around 5mm in diameter then it is tied to a high quality clip rated 80lb or more. A standard 2 hook rig(Gamakatsu Octopus Black 3/0 – 7/0 depending on bait size and type) with wire between the two hooks on a 50cm 30-50lb trace is clipped onto the clip. Next part is a sinker(1-6 oz depending on tidal flow) on a 1.m long trace of 12lb mono tied to a clip. This clip is then attached above the bead.
Concentration is essential with this rig, as the main idea is to keep the sinker on the bottom and the bait swimming that half metre above the bottom. You manage the rig by holding the sinker once the livie is attached, then swing it over the side and drop it to the bottom. With braided lines you can feel the sinker hit the bottom each time, so very 30 seconds or so lift the sinker off the bottom and set it back down. The sinker is sacrificial and will sometimes get stuck in the rocks but the 12lb leader on the sinker trace will break long before any of the other parts. Simply hop it along in the current until you start feeling some thuds on the line, then set the hook when you think the fish has it.
The Figure 8 Wire Knot and Making a North Wall Livebait Trace
Due to the large amount of Tailor and other toothy fish that hang around the north wall and in the deep hole it is highly advisable to use wire between the first and second hooks when fishing in this area. Its quite simple and very strong to implement this into your rig but there are a few caveats. You must use nylon coated multistrand wire and the strength needs to be 30lb and above, any lighter and it will likely fail. You must also test it by hooking it up to a bar and giving it a hard pull, if the wire was kinked during the knot cinching it will break, otherwise it will be solid as a rock. Its worth noting that all my traces are tested with heavy load prior to bagging, that way you know the trace wont fail when you’ve got a fish on.
Step 1. Tying the figure 8 knot.
Cut about 20cm of wire. Thread the wire through the eye of the hook then bring it back along the incoming wire, loop it around the wire then thread it back through the loop you created close to the eye of the hook. Once you’ve done that it should look like the picture below.
Tighten up the loop by pulling on both the incoming wire and the tag end and it should look like the picture below. Cut the tag end leaving about 3mm of tag. Ensure that you slide the knot down the right hand side as shown in the picture below. This will be the eye the mono gets attached to.
Tie another figure 8 knot to the hook on the other end of the wire. Test both knots by hooking it onto something and giving it hard pull. Once finished it should look like the picture below. That is the wire section completed. Ideally it should be between 10 & 15cm long for pike, 7-10cm for slimies & yellowtail.
Cut about 45cm of 40-50lb mono, using a uni knot attach it to the top hook making sure that it is tied to the left of the wire and tie a swivel on the other end also with a uni knot. Your trace should now be completed, test the trace under load before bagging. Your completed trace should look like the picture below.
Once completed and tested all my traces are placed into ziplock bags showing hook size, intended bait use, wire and mono strength.
Areas for livebaiting
The North Wall contains 5 distinct areas for livebaiting. They are the Deep Hole, The Runway, The Eddy, The Line and the Front of the wall. Most people only livebait the deep hole but all areas are worth fishing. As part of a livebait run during a run in tide I will fish The Eddy first, then as the tide begins to slow fish the end of the north wall, The Line, the Deep Hole and The Runway in turn. Every species can be caught off the north wall.
The pipeline is easy to fish with livebaits, you can either anchor up and sink your livebaits to the bottom or you can drift over it dropping your livies down right next to the pipe, a good sounder is essential for this. I think that drifting is a better method as you cover alot more ground and are more likely to find fish that aren't sitting on the pipe. Both methods work however, it just depends on how you like to fish. Most species can be caught around the pipe but Tailor seem rare. Giant Trevally and Mulloway are the most common catches.
The Triangle is mostly sand with a few patches of coffee rock here and there. Drifting this area is essential to cover the most ground. Mulloway are the most likely, but Giant Trevally and Kingfish are also possible.
The Northern Y is mostly sand but does have alot of exposed coffee rock formations, schools of fish will often gather over these formations during the night. Mulloway, Trevally of all species, Hairtail, Cod and sharks are all possible especially if there is alot of bait around. Drifting tends to work best but you can anchor off the the eastern side of the channel for decent results.
The Canyon holds Mulloway, Giant Trevally and Kingfish. It is rarely livebaited properly but does contain some very big fish at times. You can anchor off the the sides but drifting works best covering the edges and deeper sections of the canyon on a single drift.
Mulloway or Jewies are the main target species for livebaiters, they will take most baits as long as they are near the bottom. Concentrate your efforts near the top or bottom of the tides just as the flow is speeding up or slowing down. During the middle of the tides concentrate around eddies or in deep holes.
This metre plus mulloway was caught on a live tailor
Tailor are mainly caught around the north wall, in the deep hole, in the Eddy or along the runway. They will eat most baits and unless you like losing hooks you should use the north wall rig with wire between the hooks. They will eat at any stage of the tide but the big ones prefer it when the tide slows a bit.
69cm Tailor caught on a butterflied Pike
Bigeye Trevally are most commonly caught on live baits of herring but they will take yellowtail and even pike on occasion. They can pretty much be caught anywhere but the Pipeline holds the largest amount of these fish.
Bigeye Trevally taken on a live pike
Giant Trevally can be caught anywhere but the north wall dropoff, runway and the pipeline hold the most fish. They will eat most baits except live Tailor. Giant Trevally will happily take baits alot further off the bottom than most other fish so if I get snagged with the north wall rig and lose the sinker, I let it drift around unweighted for a while. A GT usually picks up the bait.
68cm Gt caught on a live yellowtail
Kingfish are a random event, you never know when they will show up or when you will hook them. They love live pike, Squid and Garfish but will have a go at anything fishy. Most kingfish hooked around the pipeline are lost due to bustoffs, hooking them elsewhere gives you a better chance. If you see them feeding on surface throw a unweighted live bait in thier swim direction and you might get lucky.
This 93cm Kingfish took a live pike off the end of the north wall
Sharks will often make themselves known while you are fighting a fish hooked on a livebait, often you will only bring up a head. To target sharks with livebaits you need a wire trace preferably 100lb or heavier a 10/0 hook and a decent livebait like a 40cm Tailor. If they are around they should find the bait fairly quickly. The best area for sharks is the deep hole at the end of the north wall but all locations have sharks at times. Look for areas out of the main tidal flow such as eddies and deep holes.
This 2 metre + Bull shark was caught on a live pike
There are other species that can be caught in the seaway on livebaits, these include various cod species, Trevally species, large Mangrove Jacks, offshore species like Spanish Mackerel, Cobia and Snapper, Whitespot Shovelnose and Stingrays. All these fish are a random event and not something you can plan for but they make livebaiting the seaway an interesting way to spend some time on the water.
Welcome to the SeawayFishing Lure Reference Guide Part 3 Soft Plastics. Here you can find details of all the lures that I and others use when fishing in the seaway. If you see a lure mentioned in a report look it up here, all these lures have caught fish in the seaway. This page will be updated as new lures are found. Lures are listed in found order. Other lure types will follow shortly. If you have a lure you think should be included let me know.
Ecogear Grass Minnows
Length: 3" Type: Paddle Tail
Best colours: Chica Chica Muroran, Pearl, Midnight Glow, Albino Kisu
Toughness: Poor, will last a couple of fish if you are lucky
A shallow running minnow at 10cm in length that dives to about 1.5metres, these come in a range of colours including redhead, pilchard and gold colours. These minnows are ideal for edge work and casting at surface feeding fish, they can also be trolled up to 4 knots. These minnows have a very tight wiggle that fish seem to love. Best used with a slow retrieve with a few pauses in there, can also be used with the twitch retrieve. So far these minnows have accounted for lots of Bigeye Trevally, Tailor and Tarpon and hooked a few rampaging monsters that couldn't be stopped. Stock hooks needs to be replaced, I suggest Owner ST56 #4. Stock rings are fine. Colour is inside the lure so they will survive any amount of teeth damage. Cost is around the $10-15 mark.
These are exclusive to BCF. So far the 'Exclusive to BCF' range has not impressed me, the rods cast poorly and the reels have very dodgy drags for the price. These however got me interested because the colour range includes both a very close imitation of a real prawn(Cracked Pepper) and a Pearl/Pink colour(Cloud 9). Basically a prawn replica without the legs, though they include the feelers(which tend to fall out if you use a front rigged jighead). The body includes a number of recessed slots for a variety of hook placements, you can rig them from the front with a standard jighead or weedless on a texas rig or from the back on a texas or carolina rig. The only species I have tested these on so far have been tarpon and they loved them but I'm sure they'd catch a number of different fish if they were fished on the bottom of the seaway. They are available in 2 sizes, 65mm and 90mm. Price is $9.95/pack of 6. Some of the plastics come out with a bent tail so check the pack before buying them.
The next Tackle Talk will feature a selection of the SeawayFishing lures I will be bringing out including the Flash series with high reflective finishes, Ranger series with natural finishes and the Ghost series with Clear and White finishes. All these lures will be sporting top of the line Owner or Decoy Split Rings and Owner ST66 or ST56 Hooks. Ready to clip on and catch a fish. Here's some minnows I am currently testing, only lures that swim properly and catch fish will end up for sale on SeawayFishing. Those that fail my quality assurance test and will end up in the bin.
I thought it might be interesting to chart my lure losses over the rest of the year just to keep track of how many lures I go through so here it is, includes detail on reason for loss, date, area. Starts from May 1st 2013.
Lure Losses Starting May 1st 2013
All the lures lost over the year through whatever reason, bustoffs, cutoffs, wear through's, snagged etc.
There has been alot of chatter about these on the net lately and some friends of mine swear by these. To be honest I wasn't interested in these until the HeadlockZ Jigheads were released as supergluing jigheads onto plastics was always a pain in the bum. However the hardyness of the plastic appealed to me, especially for tarpon work as they tend to tear plastics to shreds with their constant jumping, but also for use on toothy critters like Tailor and Mackerel. While slugs work most of the time on these fish there are times when a more subtle approach with a plastic works better.
Zman Plastics come in a variety of shapes and colours, from 2.5" curl tails to 8" Jerk Shads and one major point in thier favour all styles come in a plain white/pearl colour. It has been a major sore point for me that many plastic brands do not come in a plain white/pearl colour particularly in the smallest 3" jerk shad styles, one of the most effective colour and styles for use in the seaway. Sure have all the fruity colours you like but plain white or pearl should be available in every soft plastic brand in every size.
A 60cm atrpon caught on a 2.5" Pearl Curl tail and 3/8oz Tt Headlock Jighead
I have been using the 3" MinnowZ and the 2.5" curl Tail in Pearl/ Shimmer Pearl/PearlBlueGlimmer for a couple of months now and have put them through some rigorous testing so the first question is.. are they as tough as claimed? Well... sort of, they are much tougher than any standard plastic but Tarpon will still tear them a new one after 5 or so fish. Usually the first tear isn't terminal so you can go on using them but eventually they will tear free and you'll lose the plastic.
Secondly, do they catch fish? Well yes they do BUT If fish are scarce there are better lures out there in my opinion. For prospecting work I prefer Ecogear grass minnows, Squidgy Flick Baits, Gulp Jerk Shads and Charlie Brewers Sliders. All of those have consistently pulled fish(and big fish too) when prospecting for fish, the same cannot be said for the Zmans I have been using. That said, if the fish are feeding hard, and are not fussy the Zmans will catch fish and last longer than any other plastic so they definitely have a place in my tackle box.
This Zman Minnow and TT Headlock Jighead combo has caught half a dozen Tarpon and has numerous tears but still fishable, just.
Now on to the TT HeadlockZ JigheadZ. Do they work as claimed? Well.. sort of. I have found that the HeadlockZ jigheads are much better than a standard jighead BUT the plastic will still get pulled down the hook if a fish grabs it hard and doesn't hookup. The solution to this is to place a tiny amount of superglue on the mid keeper section before sliding the plastic right up to the head. Its a much better way of keeping the plastic in place and keeps the superglue away from the head which has always bugged me. I do all this at home and once the plastic gets torn or disappears out on the water just clip a new prerigged plastic on. Simple, Fast and Effective.
Now one of my major complaints about jigheads lately is that even the heaviest one I could find was being straightened by tarpon. The extra heavy duty hook used on the HeadlockZ jigheads solves this problem, its been through alot(including me lifting 3kg Tarpon into the boat by the trace) and has yet to even look like straightening so I have now adopted the HeadlockZ jigheads throughout my whole plastic collection and I'm phasing out the old TT jigheads I used to use. One word of caution though, the black plating on the hooks used on these jigheads is prone to rusting quite quickly once it hits salt water so make sure you either wash the used plastics or don't put them with other jigheads. The hook point is quite durable and will remain sharp for quite a few fish, just make sure you check it every half dozen fish to make sure.
So overall a solid couple of products but they could still do with a bit of work, I'm happy enough to reccomend them as I will keeping them in the tackle box for those occasions when the fish are on the bite yet still want a plastic. These plastics will be included prerigged in the SeawayFishing Starter, Pro and Ultimate Lure Packs I will be releasing in about 4 weeks time.
One last thing, make sure you keep these in the original packet, mixing these plastics with other brands causes them to melt. Its not pretty, so keep them separate.
First step is to make sure the plastic is on straight, then pull it back out so the mid keeper is exposed. the apply a SMALL amount of super glue(I recommend a Gel type as its easier to handle) to the mid keeper. Then push it straight back on.
When you are finished the jighead should lie straight along the plastic with the hook point exposed.
Welcome to the SeawayFishing Lure Reference Guide Part 2 Slugs and Slices. Here you can find details of all the lures that I and others use when fishing in the seaway. If you see a lure mentioned in a report look it up here, all these lures have caught fish in the seaway. This page will be updated as new lures are found. Lures are listed in found order. Other lure types will follow shortly. If you have a lure you think should be included let me know. Hooks on the lures are upgraded versions, though as you can see some have been on the lures for a while.
Weights - 20 & 30 gram
Length: 6.5cm & 7.5cm
Type: metal slice
Diving depth: on retrieve 0.5-1m
Hooks: Stock hooks are adequate but will straighten on heavy gear. Replace with Owner st66 #4/2
Swimming action: fast wobble
Areas of Use: Dropping down into deep schools, Edge fishing the walls with care, north wall flats, surface feeders, dropping down around current lines or alongpipeline.
Welcome to the SeawayFishing Lure Reference Guide Part 1 Minnows and Stickbaits. Here you can find details of all the lures that I and others use when fishing in the seaway. If you see a lure mentioned in a report look it up here, all these lures have caught fish in the seaway. This page will be updated as new lures are found. Lures are listed in found order. Other lure types will follow shortly. If you have a lure you think should be included let me know. Hooks on the lures are upgraded versions, though as you can see some have been on the lures for a while..
Megabass Vision ONETEN(110)
Type: suspending shallow twitching minnow
Diving depth: 1 metre
Castability: Excellent - weight transfer system
Hooks: 2 of the 3 need changing, the middle hook(katsuage) is good. Replace with Owner st56 #6 or Decoy Y-S81 #6
Swimming action: Fast shimmy
Areas of Use: Edge fishing the walls, north wall flats, large surface feeders.
Tackle talk is a new section covering fishing tackle of all sorts but with an emphasis on new lures with seaway and broadwater potential. Today we will be covering OSP mylar minnows, FishArrow split tail Flash J's and a selection of Lucky Strike Minnows and sinking Stick Baits.
OSP Mylar Minnows
These have been around for a while and are pretty pricey at around US$15.00 a pack. They have a realistic body shape and flash belly, they are a bit more supple that the Flash J's and as a result have an excellent action in the water. Ideal for dropshotting or for use on the split shot rig with fussy fish but also can be used with a standard jighead with care. They come in 2 sizes, 2.5" and 3.5" with the 2.5" the perfect size for the bait that enters the seaway most commonly. Excellent colour range but nothing that would be a perfect imitation of a white pilchard, some colours come close though. Overall they look like an excellent addition to the tackle box but due to the cost they will probably only be brought out when the fish are fussy.
Only available through Samurai tackle at the moment.
FishArrow Split Tail Flash J
These are new this year, basically they have taken the original Flash J, reduced the height and width(awesome) added a split tail(awesome) and as a result a much better action in the water. Colour range is quite limited at the moment, the closes thing to a white pilchard is probably the Wakasagi or Kosan Ayu silver. Only available in 3" at the moment. They should be ideal for very fussy fish such as kingfish rigged on a split shot rig. Would also work well on a dropshot rig, though it looks too thin to be put on a standard jighead with the possible exception of squidgy jigheads with the wire keeper. They cost around US$13.00 a pack.
Only available through Samurai Tackle and numbers are extremely limited.
LuckyStrike Lanky 120mm shallow running minnow
The Lanky is a 120mm shallow running minnow, supplied by LuckyStrike Fishing tackle. The finish is good with some nice detail on the eyes and fairly hard wearing paintjob. The lure swims well and casts well and has a seductive wiggle that lures in the fish. In this category its up against the heavyweights of the megabass vision 110 and the Rapala XR10, both proven shallow running lures but I think it has the goods to be a longterm player in the field. Colour range is limited to Green, Blue, Clear/Black. Cost would be around the AU$15.00 mark so considerably cheaper than its competitors, so something you wouldn't mind chucking onto a shallow rock ledge or that risky cast. Pretty much restricted in use to edge fishing the seaway, working a shallow flat or casting into a bustup. Hooks and rings look good quality but restricted to light gear, nothing over about 15lb. I'll be giving this one more of a go over the next few months so we will see how it fares.
The LuckyStrike Thunder Sinking Bait is a 110mm sinking Stickbait supplied by LuckyStrike Fishing tackle. Finish is good with some nice detail, seems hardwearing so far. Stock trebles are weak and need to be replaced, I recommend Owner ST56 #6 or Decoy Y-s81 #6. The rings look good though and should be strong enough. This stickbait casts well but as with most stickbaits it depends on the angler to give it most of the action, though it does sink horizontally and have a wobble on the way down. I prefer the 3 jerk pause for most minnows and stick baits and this works fine with this stickbait. Colour range is limited to Yellow(pictured), Pink and Blue. Cost would be around the AU$15.00 mark. You could use this lure over the flats, edge fishing with care, sinking down through current lines or casting at surface feeding fish.
The LuckyStrike Thunder Sinking Bait is a 80mm sinking Stickbait supplied by LuckyStrike Fishing tackle. Colour finish is good, and seems to be fairly hard wearing so far. Once again stock trebles are weak and needs to be replaced with Decoy Y-s81 #8, though the rings are fine. The lure casts well, and wobbles horizontally on the way down. This one rises to just below the surface quite quickly once you begin the retrive and travels about half a metre under the water though if you added longer pauses it would stay deeper. Standard stickbait retrive works fine with it. Cost is around the AU$15.00 mark, colour range is limited to Pink(pictured) or Yellow. You could use this lure over the flats, edge fishing with care, sinking down through current lines or casting at surface feeding fish.
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.
Ever since the snap clips I was using last year went dodgy I've been looking for a suitable replacement. I've been through roughly 10 different brands and types and none of them were up to the task, they either straightened/bent or would not attach properly to jigheads or messed with the lures action too much. However I've been trialling these black coastlock snaps from Surecatch and so far I'm very impressed. They have been trialled on Striped, Yellowfin and Mack tuna up to about 3.5 kilos as well as GT's, Goldens, Bigeyes and Jewies across a range of techniques, including plastics, bibbed minnows, livebaiting and casting slugs. So far so good and only one test remains and its the hardest one of the lot. Tarpon. While they may not be big, a 60cm+ Tarpon will stress your terminal tackle like few other inshore fish out there, the constant jumps places a huge amount of stress on your end tackle. Tarpon season in the seaway has just started so we will soon see if these clips have what it takes. If you want to give them a go yourself the only place I've seen these is in BCF($2.95 a pack) , make sure you get the ones with the yellow 'Stainless Steel' sticker on the pack. I've been hard on Surecatch terminal tackle in the past and for good reason, most of it is unsuitable for targeting hard pulling, fast running fish. However this time they may have actually made something decent. Time will tell.
Update 6th June 2012.
These clips have now been tested on lots of big tarpon and have passed with flying colours so they are my reccomended clip at this point in time.
When fishing the seaway one important thing to remember is that the fish have alot of room to play with. The average depth in the seaway would be around 10 metres and there's alot of places they can choose to sit, many of which are not neccesarily where you might think. Current lines are classic fish holding locations and there's a few in the seaway but alot of the time the fish just seem to pick a random spot somewhere along the walls and will sit there at a certain depth in a tight school. Tarpon, Trevally, Yellowtail Kingfish and Tailor are the main species that do this. Lures cast into this holding area will pick up fish one after the other but anywhere outside of this area will yield nothing. See the sounder picture to the right, which was a school of Tarpon sitting between 4 & 7 metres down over a rocky bottom. Using 1/2 oz jigheads with a sink time of 7-10 seconds, every cast was a fish. Plastics on light jigheads that only ran to 2-3 metres were ignored, a perfect example of finding the right depth.
So how do you go about finding these fish. Well the countdown technique and a bit of time is all you need. Mainly used with plastics and jigheads of various weights, you can also use it with metals fishing along current lines. We'll concentrate on plastics usage as its a bit more technical.
See the diagram down below, this shows 3 schools of fish. One sitting in the top couple of metres, one sitting midwater, the other holding close to the bottom. Each school requires a different sink time to fish effectively.
First thing you have to do is pick your starting weight. I usually start with 3/8 oz and go from there. Its a good weight because you can fish it shallow and with extra sink time can be fished in 10m or more. If the fish are hanging lower than 5m though you are better off going with 1/2 oz weights to reduce sink times. If the fish are hanging in a current zone you'll often have very little time(10 seconds or less) to get the lure to the right depth before the current moves it out of the strike zone which is why going heavier is more important than presenting a more natural lure. Plastic size is kept small to imitate the average size of baitfish which is around 7cm. Fish Arrow Flash J 3", Ecogear Grass Minnow M, Gulp 3" Minn0ws, Squidgy 65mm Slick Rigs(roughly 3/8oz) and Slider bass grubs are ideal plastics for this type of work but anything around that size should work ok.
Ideally you want to cast in as close to the rocks as you dare, a little knowledge of each spot is good because there may be rocky ledges just under the water which you want to avoid. 3/8oz jigheads will sink at a rate of roughly 50cm per second so keep that in mind if you want to stay off the bottom. Your first cast into any likely location should be retrieved almost instantly, it will track roughly 1 metre under the surface of the water. You don't need to do any fancy jigging on the retrieve either, just a slow wind back to the boat is fine. Next cast give it 3 seconds of sink time then wind it in slow. Next cast 5 seconds, then 7 seconds, then 10 seconds then go 15 seconds if you are fishing in a deeper area. Pay attention to whats happening, if you get a hit that doesn't hookup then do the retrieve again with the same sink time. Sometimes the fish need to be stirred up a bit and once the first fish is hooked, it creates alot of competition in the school and subsequent casts should get hit instantly. Once you figure out the depth they are holding at you can change the jighead to suit, for fish close to the surface go up to a 1/4oz head, for fish that are sitting more than 5 metres down go to a 1/2 oz jighead. Between 2 and 5 metres 3/8oz is the perfect size.
This technique can be dynamite if you find the school, but its certainly not a guaranteed technique if the fish are shut down, and if they are shut down then you wont be catching them on anything else anyway. Be prepared to get stuck on the rocks occasionally, the closer to the rocks you get the more likely you will find the school. Ideally all your casts should be landing no more than 2 metres away from the rock wall and you should be aiming for the spot where the sand meets the edge of the rocks, see the second picture below; the red line is where you need to be aiming for. That section is just an example, you can use the technique along the entire south and north walls. You want to space out your locations as well with about 5 metres between each casting spot.
One item of terminal tackle that was missing from my Tried and Trusted Terminal Tackle article was wire. I've been using surecatch multistrand wire but I have not been happy with it, theres been a couple of unexplained failures that have cost fish which is unacceptable(and typical of surecatch quality). Unfortunately there hasn't been much around to replace it with. About 6 or 7 years ago I bought some Bleeding Leader Wire which is a 7 strand stainless steel wire coated with blood red nylon. I still had some full wire traces left made with this wire when I began livebaiting this year. In fact I used one of these traces on the 2 metre whaler shark I brought to the boat in February. I have managed to find a supply of this wire in Australia from Bluewater. $7.99 for 9.2m of 20kg. I'll be testing this wire over the next couple of months to see how it goes. I'm pretty sure it will be up to the task though, it ties a great knot and theres no distorting of the wire when you tighten the knot unlike the surecatch wire. Also I need to know whether the red colour puts the fish off or not, while it shouldn't you don't know until you try it. If it works as expected you should see some fish with bright red wire traces coming out of their mouths soon.