Larger flathead beat their smaller relatives to lures
An age old problem with flathead has been, when the small fish intercept the bait before their larger relatives have a chance to get to it
Michael Bok explains how lures catch the big ones
Catching flathead with bait has always been a productive way to catch a good feed, but perhaps you should consider using a lure instead of bait. With the new suggested bag limits for saltwater fish, why not target bigger fish, rather than bigger numbers.
I was first introduced to lure fishing for flathead by a friend in the early 1980's. He rarely caught the most fish, but usually caught the largest. The technique he used was unusual to say the least. A large star sinker was used with a big lure attached 500mm below it. Dragged along the bottom it proved irresistible to the larger lizards.
Since acquiring my own boat I have experimented with different lures and techniques. Success came mixed with a lot of fun and effort.
The following are some observations made whilst lure fishing in Coles Bay/Swansea area. There are no reasons why these can not be adapted for other areas.
You can catch flathead by both drift spinning and trolling. If you are drift spinning it is also worth throwing out a squid jig. Wave and wind action give the squid jig an enticing, and often irresistible, action. It can be a real bonus for very little effort.
The main method I use is rolling. A much greater area can be covered than if drift spinning and when a hot spot is found you can concentrate on this area.
When trolling smaller lures 2-3 km per hour seem to work best. Speed can be increased slightly with larger lures and is particularly good in a sloppy sea.
Length of the line can also be critical. Experiment with a long line, and if it isn't working, reel in and try a short line. My preference is a long line.
Watch the tip of the rod to ensure that the lure is working. When trolling near the bottom it is easy to pick up weed so make sure the rod has a steady pulse. Remember flathead live on the bottom so that is where your lure needs to be.
Anglers can never have too many lures. I am no different and I have tried most of mine on flathead, with varying degrees of success. I have settled on a few that have been the most productive. In the shallow waters (1-2.4 metres) I use Lofty's Cobras, Mann's George-N-shads and Vibratails. These can be worked at varying depths by altering trolling speed, or retrieve rates.
The heavy cobras and shads means they can be bounced of the bottom. This sometimes stirs the flathead into life. Slower speeds seem best.
From 2.4 to 4 metres the Tilsan and Mann's stretch 10 produce good results. Going deeper, 4 to 5.5 metres, try the stretch 12, Mann's, and from 5.5 to 8 metres use the stretch 20.
One great thing about the Mann's is the way they are marked for depth. There is a 5+, 10+, 12+ and 20+. These indicate the depth at a glance these lures will swim at.
I have not used any deeper swimming lures at this stage, but don't see why the _? wouldn't work. When you see the size of some of these lures don't be put off. The bigger the lure the bigger the fish.
Most colours, I believe, are designed to catch anglers, however, some catch more than their fare share of fish. My current favourite colour combination is fluoro pink and black. Lofty's produce one in several sizes as do Mann's. The Mann's is known as Scarlet O'Hara. Another lure I am looking forward to trying is the new Mann's Pricilla. Lime green has also done well.
The fluoro pink become popular at the "˜Flathead Classic"a competition run in Queensland where it was rated as one of the top lures. Don't be afraid to try it.
When using small lures I use 3 to 4 kg, while on a bigger lure I go to 6 kg. Tie the line directly to the lure and avoid using swivels or snaps. This improves the action of the lure.
The bottom half tends to be the most productive. Fish are still caught on the top of the tide, but they're not as plentiful.
Flathead can be caught in water from less than 600 mm deep up to 8 metres deep. A depth sounder will help. Depth and profile can be shown. Look for the sandy edge near the weed beds, it can be quite productive.
I took a friend fishing recently who doesn't fish much, when I gave him a rod and lure and told him we were after flathead, he thought I was strange.
When the first flathead connected, he bellowed "I think I've got one". He quickly changed his tune. He was hooked.
Try a lure and see if you can improve your catch. I have found the size of flathead consistently larger when caught on a lure then when caught on bait.