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ARTICLE - Your first light lure outfit


DerekD

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Hi All,

I apologise in advance for the length of this article but I do hope you take the time to read it all if this topic is of interest to you. I could just mention a list of items as a starting point but then you would not get the benefit of the “why”. I’ve been fishing for most of my life and doing lure fishing for over 15 years. As with most things there is a learning curve. Mentoring several people each year has refined my knowledge and explanations. You don’t compress so much information into a small article and still get across the key points. Hopefully you will get a lot out of this article and then help others down the track in their journey.

So you want to get into lure fishing as you have heard it is a great way to catch fish or the lures in the shop look cool or that is what your mates are getting into, etc. You buy some lures and start using it on your existing gear and realise it seems harder than it looks. There is a point at which you start to get despondent as you are not catching fish and your loved ones are starting to joke about it. Obviously lures don’t worked as advertised. I come across a variation of this scenario several times a year. When I break down the “why” the biggest factor and easiest to fix is usually having the right gear. This is a subjective article in that what works for me may not suit you but there is over 15 years of learning, aha moments and teaching others behind what I’ve put together. What I am trying to do is give you enough information to help you make an informed decision based on your requirements with the final choices being up to you. Like most things in life there is a learning curve and I hope this article will shorten yours by several years. This is intended to apply to spinning outfits.

Just to show you are not the only one, this gentleman went through the same frustrations and reached out on Fishraider for some help. 

If you told me I could only fish one class of outfit for the rest of my life it would be the light outfits in the 1-4kg range. My preference is the light (say 2-4kg) but the following will also apply to the ultralight (say 1-3kg) gear. My first fish on a soft plastic was on a soft fibreglass tip Shimano rod in the 2-4kg range with 8lb mono off a boat moored at Balmoral beach in the early 2000s. My friend introduced me to a white grub on small jig which I spent a little time working through the water column before hooking up. The fight took a little bit longer than it would these days but I really didn’t want to lose it. After a cautious fight up came a beautiful (and legal from memory) silver trevally. That experience changed my fishing world dramatically in several ways and exponentially revitalised my passion for fishing. The reel was a bit clunky (no infinite anti-reverse) and I realised that the line and rod felt too spongy to properly work the lures so I made some gear upgrades. After a couple of false starts I kind of hit the jackpot with the set up I ended up with and then fished for probably a decade. The rod was a 1st generation Shimano 2 piece (I started with a 1 piece and that was one of the false starts) Raider series Bream Finesse graphite 7 foot 6 inches long rod in a 2-4kg and 3-12 gram lure rating. I still own it but I haven’t used it for a couple of years. The reel (I had a false start with another brand) I bought was a Shimano Symetre 1500 (I preferred the handle over the 2500). The best value braid back then for me was the Berkley Fireline in Crystal (white) in 125 yard lengths. The backing was 8lb mono. The recommended joiner knot according to Berkley was the uni to uni. I still rate that outfit as a great starting point depending on your budget.

Before I go into my usual excessive detail I want to give you some things to think about as to “why” you should consider fishing lighter outfits (especially with lures) as a starting point. A lot of what I teach people will scale upwards into heavier outfits.

  • Consider the legal size of most bread and butter species, bream (25cm), snapper (30cm), flathead (36cm for the dusky), tailor (30cm), trevally (silver 30cm), whiting (27cm), luderick (27cm), etc. In the legal size most of these would weigh about 1kg max. Yes they can grow bigger but how many of these would you actually catch over say 2kg. Fishing with a 10kg outfit takes a bit of the fun out of it as you can winch a fish in rather than play it (not really giving the fish a sporting chance either). My theory is that people buy the heavier gear because it was on special or just in case they hook that 1 in a 1,000 fish but forget about the 999 fish they will more likely be hooking up.
  • The follow on from that point is that with the finesse gear I expect to get more hook ups. Yes, I might lose the odd fish but if I am getting three times the hook up rate of someone using far heavier gear then I am still ahead overall.
  • I find I am never bored. I’m focussed on the cast. Working the lure. Thinking about the next cast. Feeling for bites. Thinking about how I can change things up and what to try next. I even get a lot of joy out of seeing the water mist at the reel as I rip out a good cast and then watch the braid slowly float down to the surface of the water on a wind still day.
  • The quality of fish has gone up and at times the quantity too. Think about what happens if you throw a piece of bread in the water. Usually it is the little fish that race in first. The larger fish haven’t gotten that way by being stupid or at least trusting their instincts. I still get smaller fish but it is the bigger fish that are more likely to engulf that lure if you can convince them they want it.
  • It is a really versatile outfit. I can be working the bottom for flathead and then the mid to upper water column for pelagics. I can throw on a metal slice (e.g. Halco twisty) to cover some impressive distances when fish are feeding on the surface on the small silver baitfish. I can go freshwater and use a popper or celta spinner for bass. Use hardbodies such as Tassie Devils or Rapala CD7s for trout. Use a squid jig to catch bait or a feed of salt and pepper calamari. Put on a MMD Splash prawn or similar to chase bream along the oyster encrusted rock walls inside Sydney. I can even use bait on the same outfit to chase carp on corn or whiting on the flats with yabbies.
  • I can head out pretty well anytime for a fish without a lot of pre-planning. Have an hour to spare and driving past some likely looking water. Grab the rod out of the back of the car, put on the reel and the lure and then start fishing.
  • With lures I don’t have to clean the smell or mess of prawns after a fishing session. At worst I have to clean some of the scale type glitter off my fingers or face (otherwise I look like I’ve been attacked by someone with fairy dust). A packet of lures and jig heads will generally give you more bang for buck than bait which might only be used for a single session before being dumped.
  • It is a bit more satisfying to catch fish as you are fooling them into taking your lure. As a bonus there is some poetic justice in there as the fish or squid picks on something smaller than itself to find something bigger than itself on the other end of the line.

If this is resonating with you and you’d like more information then please read on.

Disclaimer: I am a huge Shimano fan for several reasons. I like the gear as I think it is well designed and made. I have had a lot of wonderful memories using their gear. I used to work near their offices and they have helped me with a number of issues (services, replacing broken rod tip, spare spools, upgrades) and because of their after sales support I’ve had no hesitation in recommending their equipment to others. I do use other brands. There is so much competition out there that if you don’t make a competitive product (build quality or price) you risk falling by the wayside. I am not sponsored by Shimano but I’ll often mention their gear because it is a way of setting a minimum bar for comparison and I also don’t have the time or the funding to test every product out there. As you are the one going to be using it take the time to look at other brands. I don’t see an issue if you buy something just because the colour rocks if it meets my other criteria.

The rod at a glance: Graphite all the way. Seven-ish foot. 8 guides minimum. Short butt. 2 piece recommended over 1 piece for travel. 2-4kg is a good overall line rating for bread and butter species. Rated for 3-12gram lures.

Now in more detail:
Graphite over fibreglass due to the reduced weight and fast response. You are creating the movement in the lures and I find the stiffness of the graphite rods means every twitch I send down to the lure is not dampened by the rod. Stay away from the rods with a fibreglass tip for this kind of fishing. Note: there will be varying degrees of stiffness within graphite rods depending on the blank used. I prefer a little stiffer where possible to ensure as direct a contact with the lure as possible. We are talking small degrees of difference but it is still noticeable.
There are several downsides to graphite rods but this isn’t an issue as long as you are aware of them and factor them into your fishing.
Like for like they are a bit more expensive than their fibreglass cousins but due to improved manufacturing the price difference is getting smaller and smaller.
Graphite conducts electricity. Keep away from power cables and thunderstorms.
Graphite bruises. If it is going to be a boat rod and banging up against the gunnels or other metal surfaces in time the points of impacts will develop minor cracking which will likely bite you when fighting a fish sometime in the future. People think the rod is faulty when it breaks due to previous poor handling.
It is not as robust as a fibreglass rod. If you have ever seen the classic Australian movie “The Castle” there is a scene where they bend over a Shakespeare Ugly Stick rod back on itself. You don’t do that with a graphite rod and you don’t need to either. It is referred to as high sticking when fighting a fish and it is a bad habit.
Rod tip speed usually translates into lure speed and added casting distance. All other things being equal I expect to cast further with a 7 foot rod over a 5 foot rod. My rods are generally in the 7 foot (213cm) to 7 foot 6 inches (229cm). You can go longer but these are often specialist rods and become a little awkward to handle.
To ensure the line loads up evenly along the rod blank look for 1 guide per foot of rod length plus 1. So a 6 foot rod should have 7 guides. A 7 foot rod should have 8 guides.
2 piece rod versus 1 piece. When I started I bought the 1 piece Finesse Raider 761 based on the advice from a friend rather than the advice from the guy in the local tackleshop who said I wouldn’t notice the difference. 1 piece is a pain to transport and store. I  bought the same rod (762) in 2 piece asap after I found it for a good price. The 1 piece has lived in the garage ever since. The problem with the two pieces is that after an extended casting session they can sometimes separate and you will see the top of the rod flying off. The way I fix it on the one or two rods where it is a problem is to rub some wax on the exposed section to increase friction.
You can also get 3 or 4 piece traveller rods if you need something even easier to transport. They will fit in your suitcase on say a business trip or with your gear when hiking.
You can get rods with an ergonomic grip. With lure fishing you will be doing a lot of casting so why not get something which is comfortable in the hand.
The reason I like a short butt on my rods is that the longer ones bump against the meaty part of my forearm when working the lure rod tip down with the grip I prefer. As per the photo below I prefer a reel leg to butt distance of 21cm or less.

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The reel: Suggest a 1500 to 2500 Shimano or Daiwa sized reels (not all manufacturers use the same sizing so I’m using these brands for a size comparison not specifically saying buy one of those two brands – they are an excellent starting point). Biggest thing is make sure it has a smooth drag and it should have infinite anti-reverse (no matter where you stop winding there will not be any play backwards such as happened with the older reels). Check that it balances well on the outfit. If I put a large Shimano reel (say 5000 or above) on a bream rod it will feel off – it has to feel right is the best way I can put it. Alternatively, once you put the reel on the rod the centre of mass will generally be where the grip of the rod meets the blank.

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The line at a glance: Braid and not mono. Stick with major brands. Colour up to you. Highly recommend 0.06mm diameter for a compromise between strength and casting distance. As a starting point consider Berkley X5 4lb (0.06mm diam.) or Shimano Kairiki 8 6lb (0.06mm diam.) or Daiwa J Braid 6lb (0.06mm diam.). I’ve been also pretty happy with Shimano Power Pro 4lb (0.08mm diam.)

Now in more detail
The transition from monofilament to braid in the last 20 years has been a game changer. I’ve been advised that mono has a 10% stretch versus the 1% stretch of braid. This lack of stretch means any bites or twitches of the rod are transmitted directly up or down the line.
Braid is skinnier and lighter than an equivalent breaking strain mono so it means you get better casting distance out of the light lures. It is often more susceptible to nicks and cuts than mono hence the use of a leader at the working end.
It is stronger than you think so go lighter for added casting distance. I think the reason that most braids overtest is that it puts a safety margin in to allow for the strength reduction factor of knots. These days I’m mostly using X5 in Crystal and the breaking strain shown on the box is 4lb USA or 6.4kg (say 14lb) Europe or 14lb Asia.
If you are concerned about the strength of the braid unroll out about 60cm and wrap it around your fingers then gradually load it up and try and break it before you cut yourself. Don’t snap your hands apart as this is not a real world scenario. When a fish hits your lure in the real world that shock is taken up partially by the leader and mostly by the rod tip flexing. Essentially in the real world that load up is fast but it is smooth and consistent. I haven’t had anyone break the 4lb braid I use when demonstrating the strength of braid. This guideline also applies to testing knots, gradually load the line up to what you consider a fair breaking stress rather than snapping your hands apart.

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When I started the best value braid was Berkley Fireline but it was a fused braid with all the fibres stuck together. The problem I found with that was that over time (say a year hard fishing) the line started to fluff up resulting in two problems. It created weak spots which cost me some fish I should not have lost and it had a tendency to grab multiple loops on the way out creating a birds nest. Not sure if they have changed their manufacturing process but the lines I used these days are woven and less prone to the fluffing.

While colour choice is up to you, I like white (crystal) braid as it is easier for me to see when fishing. So in addition to feeling the strikes through the line and rod I also have some visual feedback. Other people fish some bright colours for similar reasons but the ink in most lines will fade after prolonged use. On a side note I use jigging braid (colour changes every 10m or so) on several of my heavier outfits. It allows me to work specific depths when on a boat and gives confirmation on the effectiveness of my casts when shore based jigging. For the distances involved with a light lure outfit this probably won’t be needed so one colour all the way. Follow up note: since getting into light topwater hardbody lure fishing the multi-coloured braid (Siglon) I've been trialing has been useful for allowing me to see how far I can cast specific lures and helped me to refine my casting technique to get maximum distance. It might only be a few extra meters but the instant feedback helps.

I’m going to say this once more because of how important I consider it. BRAID OVERTESTS most of the time and usually much more than you think. You initial tendency will likely be to go heavier. Hmmm 2-4kg rod so go 8lb or 10lb braid.... Please don’t. I’ve seen people I’ve mentored do this and they have noticeably less casting distance on like for like small lures. The other thing is that if you go too heavy and do hook that awesome fish you can start to deform your guides – it is highly unlikely but I have seen it happen.

There is a learning curve with braid. You may start out with ultralight lures (say less than 1/8oz) because the advice that you read says fish as light as possible. If you don’t wind the braid on under tension sooner or later a few loops will come off at the same time sometimes resulting in a birds nest. With patience this can be untangled (I keep two pins in my tackle box to help with this) but it cuts into fishing time. For your first season you will likely be losing a bit of line until you work out the idiosyncrasies of braid but please persist as the payoff is worth it down the track. Starting out I recommend using jigheads in the 1/8 to 1/4oz range which will help reduce the frequency of bird nests.

Backing: Unless you get a deal to fill your spool off a bulk roll at the shop that 125m to 150m of braid will not fill up a spool fully. We use mono backing to top up the spool to within 1-2mm of the inner lip of the spool. For my 4lb braid I use 8lb mono. The leftover 8lb mono can be used as leader material. The nice thing is that if you set the backing up properly the first time the next time you have to replace the braid you just strip it back to the joiner knot and load up another spool of the braid you had before.

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Leader: This is used for chaff resistance and shock absorption. It is usually easier to tie knots in for changing lures and generally cheaper than braid. I use fluorocarbon on my light gear but have no hesitation recommending monofilament. There have been a number of people I respect (and I’ve done so too for my heavier outfits) switching back to mono for the improved nick resistance and suppleness. The big selling point for fluorocarbon was that it has a refractive index similar to water so it makes it more difficult for the fish to see but clear mono in the diameters we are talking about is difficult to see anyway.

As a general guideline the leader I like to use will be 50% to 100% more than my mainline. So for the 4lb braid I use 6lb or more often 8lb leader. If the pelagics are around I will even go up to 10lb leader as it gives me a bit more control when I get them in close to land them. I’ve heard some people like to use lighter leader than a mainline so it acts as a breakaway but I’m not a fan of this. There is an expression that points out that “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link”. The braid overtests so that 4lb braid will be closer to 8lb breaking strength which will be pretty close to the leader strength I like to use. If I use 4lb leader it becomes the weakest link by a substantial amount with no real benefit. What I’m finding these days now that I use the FG knot and the uni knot at the terminal tackle is that when I snag up and lose the lure I still get my leader back. The uni knot is weaker than the FG knot. Some people like to tie the braid to a swivel and then run their leader from there. The danger with this is that if you are ever winding in really quickly and the swivel hits the rod tip you can damage the guide. A main line to leader knot has a better chance of passing through the guides without damaging one on the way through. Take the time to learn a good joiner knot.

Another point is that if you ever learn the FG knot (and I highly recommend it) the way the knot works is that the wraps of braid bite into the mono leader. Going a larger mainline to a lighter leader makes it difficult to tie this knot so that it holds as the braid wants to slip over rather than bite into the leader. I have seen a few methods of tying the FG knot but haven’t really been happy with most as they require various ways of keeping the tension in the lines and usually have a fair bit of line wastage. The method I now use can be found in this video but I use a different finish than the half hitches shown and you will see that in the second link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQmUN0L4F6c

Now the finish of the knot can be found at a little after five minutes on this link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDip4_e4c0U
 
I can manage to do it with the really fine lines but that has taken a bit of practice. With 10lb braid or heavier it comes up a treat. Generally my leaders are 50% to 100% more than my main line.

Leader length RANT HERE: When I started out the general advice was use a rod length or more of leader. At the time (over 15 years ago) the recommended knot was the uni to uni. After a learning curve I came to the conclusion that this advice was stupid for several reasons. Firstly, I could feel the knot bumping through the guides and was pretty sure it was not good for the knot (BTW, even an FG knot can catch on the way back in on the V of the top guide). Secondly, we are fishing areas where there was structure so you could snag up. When loading up the line it would often break at the leader knot rather than the terminal tackle so you just lost several meters of relatively expensive fluoro. With maybe the exception of the people fishing competitions for bream, what is the advantage of using such a long leader (and these people have the option of fishing fluorocarbon straight through)? The braid is skinnier than the fluoro so is not that easy to see anyway. The chafe resistance of the leader is usually only needed at the working end. You don't need that much shock leader for casting as the rod tip flexes too. I'm of the opinion that most people repeat it as that is what they have heard from others and never questioned it. I discussed this topic with @wazatherfisherman several months ago as his fishing knowledge is encyclopaedic and we came to the conclusion that it came across from the International Game Fishing Association where they allow wind on leaders. I use leader to the length that the knot does not enter the guides (say 80cm) and if I'm feeling really lazy have let this get down to 10cm and am still catching fish. If anyone can give me a genuine reason for using one to several rod lengths of leader with a well thought out reason then I would genuinely love to hear it as I couldn't work it out. One other Fishraider mate pointed out the reason he likes a longer leader is that he can make a lot of lure changes before having to re-tie his leader.

What to buy for your first outfit – these are a starting point I recommend to the people I mentor. If you buy them and you take the time to learn to use them properly they will suit you for years to come. You don’t have to buy it but I want you to at least look at these outfits and use them as minimum standard for whatever you end up buying.

If you are really on a budget then look at the Shimano Sienna Quickfire 7 foot 2-4kg combo with 2500 reel. This retails for around $99 at the time of writing. It is a little heavier than I like but it is a solid little outfit. Throw in some 4lb braid for under $30 and a 300m roll of Platypus Super 100 clear mono line to use as backing and leader for about $20 and then some lures you are out fishing for a relatively inexpensive amount.

My go to rod these days is the Atomic ArrowZ AAS-270UL which is a 2 piece rod and has a 3-10lb line rating and 3-14 gram lure rating. Generally around the $130 but have seen them for $100 on special. I also own the Bream Surface in the same series which has a slightly lighter lure (2-12 gram) and line weight (3-8 lb) rating.

An alternative I’ve recommended for years and still do is the Shimano Raider 762 2-4kg 2-12gram rod in 2 piece.

If budget is an issue for the reel then consider the Shimano Sienna 2500 but if you can go a bit more I'd suggest the Shimano Sedona 2500 (RRP $99). You will feel the difference between the two. If you want to spoil yourself then consider the Shimano Nasci or the Shimano Stradic.

General advice:
The gear you are buying is mass produced and shipped in bulk. There may be some manufacturing or transport issues. Before you walk out of the store check everything you can. Are the guides all aligned and not bent. Has the top guide been broken off (it happens). Is there a problem with the finish. Do the pieces go together smoothly and tightly. Pick up the reel and look for dings. Wind it fast and slow to feel for rough spots (close your eyes if you have to). Do several fast start and stops during the winding (as if you were working a lure). How much play is there. It is far easier to sort that out in the store than argue later that it wasn’t your fault. If you do find an issue please do me a favour and raise it with the staff to help the next person coming along and not catching the problem.

A little care goes a long way:
More fishing gear is damaged by poor handling or transport than to fish. Most of my rods go in a soft case and then into a hard case which I can then leave in the back of my car. The soft case stops them rattling around which helps if you store more than one rod in a case. I use Seahorse rod tubes but found over time the handle broke so worked out a way of replacing those. I put a different sticker on each case at one end as it allows me to identify which rod is which and it lets me know which end is the butt end of the rod in case I decide to store them vertically. Shimano make some nice rod tubes with a sling. I’ve also made my own for one of my larger traveller outfits by heading down to the hardware for some pipe, end caps, foam and PVC glue.

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My reels go in a neoprene cover so they don’t bang against each other. Mostly I use Shimano ones as their current design allows you to keep the reel handle in working position and it is suitable for left or right hand applications. When in use I don’t put my reels on the ground as I don’t want to get dirt or sand in the mechanism or scratch the outside. If I’m dealing with a fish I’ll rest the butt on my shoe and then lean the rod into the crook of my arm thus freeing up both of my hands. If I want to put the rod down I’ll find a convenient vertical surface (e.g. tree or wall) to carefully rest it against. The metal eyes of the guides are less prone to damage than the rod blank so I use that to my advantage. If I have to I’ll balance it across my fishing bag. At the end of the day I’ll back my drag off so I can turn the spool with minimal resistance. The drags in the spools are made up of metal washers separated by oiled felt washers (or carbon based washers in higher end reels) which allow for smooth operation. If the drag is left tight the felt washers compress permanently and become less effective over time as they need to be able to compress during use to do their job properly.

Over the years I’ve heard differing advice about how much cleaning a reel requires. I’ve had people pointing out to me that they wash them under a shower (or even dip them in water) and never had a problem but they also go on to say they will do a full strip and re-lube of the reel afterwards. My less expensive reels (say under $100) are treated as a consumable as I generally fish them every couple of days in summer and would have to clean them more frequently than I can be bothered so I don’t. My more expensive reels or less frequently used (e.g. overheads on the game outfits) get carefully wiped over with an Inox moistened cloth. Rather than get into arguments on this topic I’m going to refer to Daiwa and Shimano advice. If you want to argue with the manufacturer about how to best look after a product on which they have spent years of development then feel free to do so.

From the Daiwa website: https://daiwafishing.com.au/blogs/news/how-to-clean-your-reel-daiwa-tech-tips
A more detailed guideline from Shimano: https://fish.shimano.com/content/dam/shimanosnaffish/pdf/Spinning Reels maint.pdf

Starting tackle - a suggestion only as you will learn more through trial and error

I'm someone who often has everything including the kitchen sink with me (at least in the car) when I head out fishing. It gives me the opportunity to change up how I fish depending on what is around on the day. The nice thing about a light outfit is that it gives me the chance to go minimalist (for me anyway) with my gear and cover a lot of ground.

The first thing that helps is a light tackle bag which you can swing out of the way when casting and working the lures. I found a Daiwa shoulder tackle bag for $70 which I liked so much for this that I bought another for my fly fishing gear. It has a main pocket in which I keep some small tackle trays for hardbody lures. It has another pocket in which I keep my plastics and other odds and ends. There are two smaller pockets in which I keep my leaders, scissors, scent and a couple of other things. There is also a slot for my stainless needle nose pliers which I use when removing trebles. This is the bag.

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If you are starting out you will probably want hooks and sinkers which pack small enough that storage won't be a problem. You can also get little tackle packs complete with their own storage tray. As I use my outfit for lures I keep a minimal selection of hooks and sinkers and keep them in the packs they are sold in as they take up less room.

The rest of my suggestions are based on the assumption that you picked up the light outfit primarily for lure fishing.

Soft plastics are a good place to start with lures. They catch a wide range of fish (once you learn how to work them). They are relatively inexpensive so you aren't left crying if you lose one to a fish or snag. I classify my soft plastics into the following:

Grubs: relatively short round body and big curling tail. Very effective as everything seems to pick on them. They come in various sizes but I'm a big fan of the 2 to 2.5 inch for daily fishing. I rig them with the tail up and I believe the reason they are so effective is that the movement of the tail gets the predators attention and they are small enough for most fish to pick on.

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Wriggle/curl tails. A bit like a grub on steroids. The longer tail stretches out behind the lure and it looks like the plastic is swimming.

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Paddle tails: the larger paddle tail on these seems to slow this lure down and creates a lot of motion. Not a bad thing as it gives the fish a bit more time to decide it wants to eat the lure.

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Minnows / jerk shad. I'm a big fan of these as they match the profile of many bait fish. The problem with them is that you have to work the lure more to create the movement you need to get the fishes attention. They have been extremely effective for me when the pelagics are in Sydney feeding on the schools of bait fish.

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A couple of notes. Some plastics do not play well with others. If they get in contact with others they start to melt. The Z-Man bite resistant plastics are well known for this. This is not to say don't buy them but keep them separated. I just keep them in their original packaging and pull them out as required. In the case of the Z-man grubs I use I will put the used lure complete with jighead back in the original packet till I need to use it again.

You will come across Berkely Gulps. While I think they are genius in that the are a biodegradable fish shaped lure, I don't like that they dry out after one session if not kept in the liquid they are packed with. The liquid is also a risk as it can leak out into your bag. If you get into these then consider double packing them to prevent leaks.

You will hear people say it does not matter how straight you rig a plastic. A badly rigged plastic will still catch fish. Having said that it only takes a little more effort to rig it properly and then get the benefits of it. I said I am a really big fan of the minnow profile. This is how it swims when poorly rigged.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgD9OS4FiOQ

Now look at the difference in movement when it is rigged properly.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjGS6SjfDUs

You can buy pre-rigged plastics which takes the guess work out of it but a lot of the ones I see in the store don't look right to me. The hook and body profile just feels off. You are also missing out on the real benefit of plastics which is to be able to mix and match plastics and jigheads as required. My go to is the Berkley Powerbait 3" minnow profile. A packet of 15 costs $8 to $11 depending on where I pick them up. I've worked out they match perfectly with a TT jighead (pictured below) in size #1H (heavy gauge hook). I buy these jig heads in three different weights. 1/4oz, 1/6oz & 1/8oz. I'll start off with the 1/4oz to cover ground, or in deeper water, or when the pelagics are around. No hits then I switch to the 1/6oz and then maybe finish up with the 1/8oz for more hangtime but reduced casting distance. The fact I'm using the same sized hook means the hook comes out in the shoulder of the plastic which looks right and still gives the tail enough room to move properly. For the grubs I'm a big fan of the Gamakatsu round 211 ball head jigs in either size #1 or #2 (gape slightly different) as pictured below. These are a special order at my tackle shop so I pick up several packets at a time.

You will probably hear the advice - fish as light a jighead as possible. When starting out I advise against going lower than 1/8th oz as it increases your chances of bird nesting the line. The light lure weight means that there is often too much slack on the line as it comes on to the spool meaning there are loose loops which have a chance to come off all at once = birds-nest.

1092873388_TTjigheads.thumb.jpg.6895f04cb8560243734d88ca9a4fa3b6.jpgGamaktsuRound211.thumb.jpg.aa76fe765a8dd7934fd51b0e80b6bc20.jpg

You will need something to store your jigheads in. Mini trays like the Surecatch Compartment Tackle Tray Small 12x8.5x2.4cm are a good staring point.

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in Sydney harbour (at least) over the summer months you can often see schools of fish feeding on small anchovy on the surface. Essentially they are a silverish fish with a translucent belly. This is when metal slices are your friend. They are a silver profile and for the light outfit 10 gram Halco Twisty is a good starting point. It casts like a rocket allowing you to cover a lot of ground and it matches the bait fish profile.

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The one change I often make to this lure is to change the trebles to a large eye single hook of about the same physical length as the original. The trebles have a tendency to tear the fishes face up. The singles are generally stronger and result in a cleaner hookup and easier release. I'll also use a small profile swivel and duo-lock clip (preferably) black to reduce line twist and for added protection against fish with teeth.

Gamakatsu-Single-Lure-Hook.jpg.3adf8f3c2eb117293aca3559189aff98.jpg

Duolock clips - I prefer these as they seem to be less likely to come undone than other designs I've seen. I generally have to buy the swivels separately.

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Vibes are also a pretty good lure to start with. Essentially when lifted through the water column they vibrate hence the name. Fish have lateral lines and can pick up on this. When you first buy one drop it in the water at your feet to the depth you can still see it. Lift it up and down slowly and then faster till the point you can feel it vibrate. Move the rod from side to side and then put in some up and down movements to see how the lure behaves. I don't use these in areas where I know there are lots of snags as it can get expensive but they are great on sandy bottoms. The way I fish them is to cast them out as far as I can then let them hit the bottom. Once there use a fast enough lift to get them vibrating but I only like to have them vibrate say 3 to 5 times. We are trying to get the fishes attention rather than shouting (so to speak) at the fish and scaring it off. I then lower the rod at the same time I wind in the line so I have no slack and am always in contact with the lure. My preferred lure are the Ecogear ZX range in the 35, 40, 43 sizes for the extra casting distance. The size 30 works well but I sacrifice casting distance. These come with assist hooks reducing the chances of snagging up. Over the years it has been a pleasant surprise at how many species I've hooked up on these including, bream, whiting, flathead, salmon, kings and so on. Last summer I picked up a 73cm flathead on one of these. https://ecogear.jp/en/ecogear/zx/

There are also soft vibes. For these I'm using the Samaki Vibelicious in the smallest size. It has been effective but the downside is that the rear treble sometimes twists over the body. Fishing these less aggressively (almost tea bagging them) seems to get around this issue most of the time. https://samaki.com.au/collections/vibelicious

The light outfit is also suitable for squid fishing with squid jigs up to size #2.5 or a little larger with a bit of care when casting. I pick all my lures on the basis of the lure weight rating of the rod. For more information about squid jigging see this article. I use the same duo-lock clips for squiding.

Hope this has helped inspire you to get into light lure fishing.

Regards,

Derek

Edited by DerekD
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@DerekD Great article!!  Love the informative details and explanations.  Wish I had it when I started fishing again.  Looking forward to the rest of your article.  

You are very kind and generous in sharing your knowledge and experience with others.  Thank you very much!  

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Where to next with your light lure outfit...??

I’m a huge fan of plastics as I find them so versatile and the bang for buck is excellent. For $20 I can buy a bag of 15 berkley power minnows and 5 TT jig heads to match. With those I can chase fish throughout the water column. That same $20 is about mid range for a hard body lure.

If you feel you have mastered plastics then consider hardbody lures. Each year I try and grow my fishing skill sets by trying a new niche area. I’ve done pretty well on the sugapens earlier and a few summers ago I got into bream on top water (thanks to a gentleman called @Niall on Fishraider). This expanded out into hard body lures in general.

Before I start this, the way you retrieve a lure has a huge impact on how well you are going to do. There are lures with built in action (e.g crank baits) but a one speed retrieve is not necessarily the best way to work them. When you are shopping in your local supermarket for food you sometimes walk quickly down the aisle if you know where you are going and then meander when you are just looking. Fish are also not one speed or one direction. Learn to throw pauses in, change the length of the pause, skip the lure forward or crawl the lure forward. Watch how a baitfish or prawn moves along and try and imitate that movement. Don't be afraid to mix it up even in the same retrieve. A little skip forward might be just enough to trigger that strike. I teach people one retrieve which seems to work for all the topwater lures I've used. I'm hoping to do a video on it but essentially I shake my arm (rather than working the lure from my wrist) from side to side so I get the rod tip oscillating about 5 to 8cm side to side. I now turn 90° to the line and thus lure and then add in a stuttering wind to bring in the slack on each pulse. That straight line contact with the lure now nudges the lure forwards a few cm each pulse and then starts it flipping from side to side. Once I can walk the dog tightly then I can throw the pauses in as required. Here is me working a Sugapen with pauses

This is the article from Niall which got me into it: https://community.deckee.com/topic/90391-bream-on-topwater-lures/ This is the video he linked to which got him started on the topwater bream:

This was the follow up from Niall when he’d gotten far better at it: https://community.deckee.com/topic/92780-article-surface-fishing-for-bream-2021-update/ There are plenty of locations in Sydney where they are an effective tool. Think the bays in the inner west. The sand flats at Gunamatta bay, Sans Souci,Fairlight, Clontarf and the Northern beaches. Usually places where there are oysters or prawns or yabbies or baitfish in the shallows. It is where the larger predators will also visit. Please note that they fish far more effectively and consistently in the summer. When fishing them the general rule is to cover ground.

Recommended starting point on topwater lures is the Bassday Sugapen in 70mm (there are about 4 sizes) and my preferred colours are CT287, CT394 & HF119. Bream, whiting, salmon, tailor, kingfish and other species. Price range $28 to $23 if you look around. https://products.bassday.com.au/products/category/JMSBCGBR-surface/SP70F-HF119--sugar-pen-70mm-floating

There is a channel called Sandflats Fishing Australia that has done a number of videos on these: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTzKm4ZfNio&t=131s Unfortunately he has pulled off the videos but hopefully he brings them back. I'll leave the reference in just in case.

If you can get your hands on some I do recommend 70mm MMD splash prawn. It can be fished subtly to imitate a cruising prawn or aggressively to imitate a fleeing prawn. About $23: https://mmdfishing.com.au/collections/70mm-splash-prawn

Video of the MMD splash prawn in use:

For some of these topwater walk the dog lures people like to swap out hooks (smaller treble on the belly and assist hooks on the tail). See this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2g95DezFfaU 

I don't recommend doing this because for some of the smaller lures the off the shelf assist hooks are long enough so that they have a tendency to catch on the belly trebles reducing the effectiveness of the lure and cutting into fishing time as you disengage the hooks. Furthermore, there are several off the shelf options which already have the assist hooks and are better price (when compared with original lure then assist hooks then smaller belly treble):

Jackson Ebi Panic Prawns (I own several of these and apart from problem with the assist hooks catching on the belly hook as mentioned above, I really like them). In action:

Daiwa Infeet Slippery Dog in 65F or 80F (these come with smaller length assist hooks and rarely catch on the belly hook). Problem is that if tailor around then it can get expensive having to replace the assist hooks. In action:

Ecogear PX55 (preferred) or PX45: PX55 in action:

If you’ve had your tax return or won lottery and really want to spoil yourself look at the OSP bent minnow (my preferred colour is G-28 Ghost shrimp). In action:

If you are on a budget then Berkely do a cheaper copy called the Pro-tech Bender which also swims pretty well and the hooks look stronger but feel less sticky meaning they are less likely to hook up on a slashing attack: https://berkley-fishing.com.au/product/bender-76-100/

Popper type lures also work well for freshwater bass as well as saltwater fish. I’ve been playing with the Bassday Backfire which casts really well:

Bang for buck I’ve been pretty impressed with the Gladiator Smash Popper (used to be $12.95). When paused the head drops nicely down to make a tempting target for a bream: https://gladiatortackle.com.au/products/smash-popper-colour-007

Another one I've done well on this last summer is the Zipbaits skinny pop junior. Slim profile and casts a long way.

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Last of all crankbaits. At its simplest it is cast and just wind back. You can get shallow or deep divers. Floating, suspending or sinking. There is a Sydney local called Shroom who has done some nice videos on this. Check out

The go to brand is usually Jackall Chubby in shallow https://www.jackall.com.au/?page_id=28 or deep https://www.jackall.com.au/?page_id=796

Atomic do some better value ones (Hardz crank)  https://products.atomiclures.com.au/products/category/SIMRRFAA-crank which can often be found at the bigger adventure stores and your local tackle shops.

For all the lures I’ve mentioned above look around. There are some specials (relatively speaking) to be had. Check the specials bins at times.

There are plenty more I can add to the list but wanted to inspire you a bit. There are a lot of links there but if you only watch one then the first link from Shroom is a great starting point. Both of his videos were at inner west bays here in Sydney and I fish them both pretty regularly when I can. Better on the upper half of the tide.

I strongly recommend checking the wind and tides before you head out. Also check out each of your locations when we have a super low tide for structure and channels. Over time you will learn which areas to fish in which conditions. High tide and strong westerly then fish X, Y and Z. North easterly then maybe fish A, B and C. When heading home I can pass over the Anzac bridge or the harbour bridge. I look at the direction the flags are blowing at that helps me decide where I'm going to fish that afternoon. Little things but little things can make a big difference.

Regards,

Derek

 

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