If you have ever thrown around surface lures in the lakes and estuaries of Australia, targeting bream or whiting, then I have no doubt that you have come across the odd flathead as well….
What if I told you this is no accident and it can be a spectacular way to target some really sizable fish in shallow water, with a little bit of planning.
WHERE AND WHEN AND WHY
Catching Flathead on surface lures has to the most exciting way to catch these camouflaged ambush predators.
Before you start there are few options that you will need to take into account, for example are you shore based and going to stay high and dry or get in and get amongst it? Or are you fishing from a boat with the aid of an electric motor or just drifting with the tide and wind in a kayak?
It doesn’t matter which way you choose to do it.
If you are fishing in a sand flat at a lake I would opt to get in, this way you can cover more ground and cast from the shallow water towards the deeper areas of the flat. A river may have a shallow flat which is in close proximity making it easy to fish from shore and stay high and dry.
Alternatively, if you are fishing from a boat or kayak it would be it would be done in reverse having the boat/kayak sitting in deeper water and casting up onto the flats.
Water depth is one of the key factors of successfully catching flathead on surface. I like to stick to water depths of 1 to 6 feet in range, you’ll be surprised how shallow these big fish will get.
So, what to look for?
My favourite area of any system to look at is anywhere where a few variables meet making for the perfect storm scenario… Sand flats that have a mix of clean and dirty sand with broken weed, holes and undulations are a perfect place to start. If you can get this with enough water over the key areas and a wind ripple you are in for a show.
Anywhere that there is a tidal influence and has a sandy bottom is defiantly worth having a look Check it out on a dead low tide, it will more than likely reveal where flathead have been laying on the sand. They leave an elongated kite shaped diamond impression in the sand. These fish will often return to these areas as a they are a happy hunting ground when the tide is high.
GEAR AND TACKLE
I like to use a rod around the 7-foot mark which will make long casts a breeze (not that you’ll need much help as Sugapens absolutely fly) with a weight range of around 6-12lb.
I’m currently using the Samurai 302 which has the perfect balance for dealing with these large fish and working lures, I have matched it with a 2500 size reel Shimano and 10lb Unitika Bream Jr braid.
I use a short leader around the 2 foot in length mark and a weight rating of anywhere from 12lb up to and over 20 lb, I often use a something between these two but to be honest, the heavier line is more of an insurance policy, in case the line goes over the Flatheads teeth.
Now as for the lure, the Bassday Sugapen in its smaller sizes has always been a fan favourite when chasing whiting, Bream and other species but for catching flathead the 95mm and 120mm is built for the task with its larger profiles and sturdy hardware.
I would suggest no matter where or what you are fishing from, carry a good set of gloves to lip grip the fish (always support their body weight with the other hand) and long nose pliers to make unhooking an easy process.
Also, a little word of warning, if you are wading the flats just watch these fish as they get close, I did have one swim the hooks of a Sugapen into my leg with it still attached.
Step one, learn to do the ‘walk the dog’ retrieve. If you haven’t done it before it can be a little bit like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time.
Here’s my quick explanation.
You need to twitch the rod tip on a slack line not a taught one, this will allow the lure swing one way then back the other opposite when its twitched again. All the while you are slowly winding up the slack, the lure will move towards you in a zig zag motion…. Once you have this down pat you can start to vary your retrieve.
It sounds harder than it is and if you get stuck there are some good tutorials online.
Walking the dog in continuous motion will catch you fish on most days. What I like to do is walk it for 1 to 2 metres or so then pause and repeat, this allows you to see how the presentation is received. Some days they will want it continuously moving, on others they may only hit it after a huge pause.
The strike can be subtle and other times they will literally take the lure as they are cartwheel across the surface. More often than not they hit the lure with gusto and create a massive commotion this can be quite spectacular.
All in all, this is great way to spend a few hours or a whole day fishing. It can be easily done walking the flat or banks so it is available to everybody. Plus, an added bonus is that you can take home a fish for a feed and as far as flathead go they a right up there in table quality as eating fish.