Crankin' for Bream
by Dwayne Rigby
Lure fishing for Bream is quite popular on the Mainland. It is not widely practised in Tasmania. Dwayne Righy of Hobart explains his techniques and the lures that have brought him success in the South of Tasmania.
Fishing for bream using artificial lures and flies is a topic that doesn't seem to get much coverage in the Tasmanian fishing scene. Tim Farrell has gone a long way towards rectifying that situation with his excellent pieces on fly fishing which appeared in a recent edition of Tasmanian Fishing and Boating News. Tim's innovative approach to fly fishing the Derwent no doubt surprised a few bream anglers but it's great to see new methods being developed to target what is probably our best estuary sportfish. I'm sure there were many readers who were motivated to try tempting a bream on fly as a result of Tim's article. Equally though, some readers may be daunted by the prospect of fly fishing but would relish the chance to try spinning for bream with artificial lures. Some members of Hobart based Bottom End Sport fishing Club have had a reasonable success and a lot of fun lure fishing for bream and the following piece outlines some of the methods they've found productive.
The size of the lure you choose is probably the single most important factor in consistently successful bream spinning. Lures need to be small.
The definition of small is different to that used in mainland bream spinning though. Articles in fishing magazines that discuss mainland fishing usually refer to lures such as the Manns 5+, Attack minnow, Baby Merlins etc as ideal for bream due to their diminutive size.
Make no mistake, they are small lures, but they're not small enough to consistently tempt Tassie's black marauders. The Manns 5+ is a good example of this. This great lure is almost a bream spinning standard in NSW. In local waters though it'll take occasional bigger fish but it can be an awfully long wait in between strikes. Lures of this size do have their places but more of that later.
For general spinning in waters like Browns River at Kingston, the Jordan River, upper Little Swanport River etc there isn't a great deal of lures to choose from. Fortunately though, one of the best is readily available at most tackle stores.
This is the smallest Rebel Crawfish in the deep diving model. This lure is exactly the right size and has a great action. It doesn't dive particularly deep (around 2 metres) but it is quite good in a wide range of situations.
You need to keep two things in mind when using Crawfishs though. Firstly, tie your line directly on the split ring on the lure. Using a snap swivel will dampen the action dramatically. Finally, replace the rear hook with a good quality size 12 treble. The standard hook just isn't up to the task of bream. Another great lure is the Bill Norman Crankin' Craw in the smallest (1/8 oz) size. This lure isn't generally available in Australia but if you enquire at tackle dealers they may be able to get some in. These lures dive slightly deeper than Crawfishs and have a great action. They're killers on bream.
Long time anglers may have a couple of the old rubber or plastics Floppy lures laying in the bottom of their tackle box. If so then they can be put to god use as a front line bream spinning tool. The smallest Floppy is an absolutely deadly weapon on local fish. Sadly, I suspect there's not too many of these great lures left in captivity.
Soft plastics can be quite effective on bream, especially worms and crayfish (craw) patterns in the smaller sizes. They can take some getting used to and need to be worked very slowly but in some circumstances they're the best tool for the job.
The emphasis on small size, especially for hard bodied lures, is a good rule of thumb for most scenarios. In bigger rivers though like the Derwent and Huon you can sometimes get away with slightly larger lures such as those with slightly larger lures such as those used on the mainland.
The Manns 5+, medium Crawfishes, Baby Merlins etc come into their own in these bigger waters where bream take a "˜big fast or miss out"approach. As the size of the water you're fishing becomes smaller though, so should your lure size.
The emphasis should always be on natural presentation. This isn't chuck it and chance it fishing so you'll need to be on the ball to ensure consistent success.
What colour should your lures be? I must admit I have a preference for low key colours such as green and brown but it pays to experiment. Pink can be quite effective on some days and it's a standard colour on the mainland. For starters though I think subtle natural colours are the way to go.
Thankfully, tackle selection is a lot easier than lure election. A light spinning rod and reel suited to 2 or 3 kg line is ideal for this purpose. Most anglers would already have an outfit for trout spinning and this can be quite readily be used for bream spinning.
If you're buying an outfit specifically for this kind of fishing though you should look at a light rod of 1.8 to 2.1 metres in length that is suited to casting weights of 3 to 10 gms and lines of 2 to 3 kg.
A good graphite rod in this category may not be cheap but will give years of pleasurable fishing.
Reels don't need to be big and a capacity of 150 metres of 3 kg line is plenty. "˜Long spool"style reels offer definite advantages when casting these light lures and your reel will need to have a good, smooth drag system. With rods and reels it's worth buying the best you can afford.
Spinning for bream can be quite addictive and inferior tackle won't take the strain of repetitive casting and (hopefully) fish fighting.
Small bait casters can be quite effective for bream spinning but only if you've got previous experience. I'm using an ABU Pro Max 1600 and a pair of ABU 2500Cs on matching rods and they're very good for accurate casting and structure.
There's no doubt that a spinning (threadline) outfit gives more distance though, especially if you're fishing from the shore. Certainly, I think threadlines are more efficient in 80% of bream spinning scenarios.
Some people may question the use of 2 to 3 kg line given the hard fighting qualities of bream. The main reason for using such line though is it's ability to cast light lures. Once you get into 4 kg line and heavier it becomes extremely difficult to cast the small lures required for success. In any case, if you drag is set correctly you won't break 2 kg line on a fish. If you're fishing rocky country you might like to use a 30 cm leader of 4 to 6 kg to provide some extra security.
The hooks on your lures must be razor sharp. Anything less just means you'll miss strike after strike. Either sharpen your hooks on a fine grade sharpening stone or replace the original hooks with chemically sharpened ones. Incidentally, removing the barbs on your hooks can greatly increase your strike to hook up rate. Barbs often act as an impediment to proper hook penetration and you won't lose fish as long as you keep a tight line.
The only other items you might like to use are a pair of polaroids and some catch scent. Smearing a small amount of catch scent on your lures can turn lookers into strikers as far as bream are concerned.
The most important thing to remember when spinning is to put your lure in the strike zone and keep it there. In a lot of situations it's more effective to work along the edges of a river and around any drop offs rather than trying for maximum distance in the middle of the river.
At dusk and dawn, especially where these coincide with the high tide, bream will forage along the edges looking for crabs, small fish and other food. Since they're already searching for food they'll usually take a small lure with gusto. Consequently, areas to look for are rocky edges with a good crab population, the edges of weed beds, oyster encrusted rocks and pylons and other structure. This is particularly true in smaller rivers such as Browns River and the Jordan River.
You need to keep a low profile when "˜edge fishing"since you're targeting fish that may be right next to shore. There's no point standing right at water level to cast - you'll only spook them. Crouch down and get slightly back from the water and then fan your casts out along the bank and into deeper water. Ideally, you'll be looking for spots that have at least a couple of feet of water next to the shore.
A lot of areas in the Derwent for example aren't suited to edge fishing due to their shallow margins. Nonetheless, there are some good spots in the Derwent such as the Bedlam Walls area that Tim Farrell spoke so highly of. If you have a small boat or canoe then the options really open up. By getting slightly out from shore, just beyond the really shallow rocky margins - in the Derwent for example, you can often find kilometres of suitable water that was previously inaccessible or too difficult to fish from the shore.
A small boat also means you can fish to structure such as overhanging branches and bridge pylons more effectively. This can be a worth while method in the middle of the day when bream tend to hide.
It's crucial when fishing to structure to cast as close as possible. Landing your lures further than 15 cm away significantly reduced your chances of a strike. When fishing to structure it can also pay to lightly weight your lure so it slowly sinks next to it. That way the lure is already at a productive depth when you start retrieving.
All you need for some lures is to add a small swivel and they'll slowly sink. Others may need a small split shot 30 cm above the lure. Don't overdo the weight though, you need to be controlling the lure rather than it controlling you. This is one advantage with the Bill Norman Crankin Craws. A small snap swivel will turn them into a slow sinker without overly damping their action.
A better method with Crawfish is to try and cast past the structure and then retrieve across the face of it. That way your lure is at a productive depth when it moves into the strike zone adjacent to the structure.
As a general rule a slow retrieve is the most effective, just fast enough to get a good action in the lure. When you're fishing open water though try an occasional faster retrieve as it can pay off.
In this article we've only looked at a couple of techniques - but there are others worth trying. Using unweighted soft plastics around structure and weighted soft plastics in deeper water and for trolling are all areas for experimentation.
Also, whilst we've only discussed the fishery around Hobart there's no reason why lure casting for bream won't work in other Tasmanian locations. I'm certainly looking forward to having a go at Ansons Bay for example.
The standard of bream fishing in Tassie is probably the best in Australia, certainly in terms of average size. A lot of mainland lure tossers would sell their soul to tackle the kind of bream we take for granted. Since we don't have a great variety of estuary sportfish it makes sense to get the most out of our bream fishery. So, instead of bemoaning the fact that we don't have fish like mangrove jacks and bass why not tackle up for one of our great lure crunching estuary adversaries.