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ARTICLE - The mental game of fishing (or how to catch more fish on lures or bait)


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Hi all,

When drafting the script for this post in my head I realised that this collection of analogies, references, anecdotes, and plagiarisms would probably sound like the musings of a madman. Not to be helped but I do apologise in advance.

When I mentor someone these days, what I have to teach on land based fishing can cover 3 days. We start with casting, the gear, the lures, the various retrieves, then we delve into soft plastics, slices, vibes, squid jigs, topwater, stick baits, poppers, flutter jigs, float fishing for luderick, yabby pumping, spinners for bass, bait fishing for carp and some other stuff. Throughout all of this we discuss why stuff works or might not. We look at nuances in retrieves. The awakening is always a joy to watch and the ensuing reports are a pleasure to read. It has been close to 20 years since I was introduced to soft plastics and squid jigs and it has taken time for me to work out a lot of stuff pre Youtube. That quantity of information can’t be passed on in a short post or video and I’m surprised at times that the mentees are not left as a quivering wreck while trying to process it all. Suggest you slowly read through and really process each item at your own pace. Read it in small chunks to prevent information overload. Work out where things click into place with your own experiences (if it doesn’t it is not a problem as you may have come to a different and equally valid conclusion). It would be smarter for me to do it in small posts but I wanted the information in the one place.

In an earlier post ( https://community.deckee.com/topic/95582-article-your-first-light-lure-outfit/ ) I pointed out the easiest step to make when improving your catch rate on lures is getting suitable gear. The harder steps for me when mentoring someone are:

  1. Getting them to cast more efficiently and accurately. This is a combination of ergonomics, physics and practicing what I show them. It takes time to understand the practicalities behind good casting at a ground level and then to retrain the autopilot and related muscle memory. I’ve done an article on this topic earlier: https://community.deckee.com/topic/94302-article-effective-casting-with-spinning-outfits/
  2. Getting them to think. To wake up and smell the coffee. To be engaged. To start thinking like a fish – I point out it isn’t actually too difficult as it is essentially thinking like a human without the multimedia influences and woke sh!t.

What I am trying to do with this article is to get you to be more engaged mentally when fishing. Before I take up too much of your time you will probably want enough proof of concept to decide if it is worth working your way through what promises to be a lot of information getting thrown at you.

The following reports are from some of people I’ve helped over the years after we have headed out for a lesson. Please note that I’ve opened the door for them but they have put the effort in afterwards to get the successes they are now having. Some of them have not had the full course but they had learned enough to jump start their fishing skills.

@Mike Sydney did a lovely little fishing report in which it came out he’d only caught 5 fish in 5 months of fishing. He got into fishing to get out and about and away from the Xbox and as part of his exercise under the Covid isolation rules. Full respect to him in that he was putting in the hours. As he fished similar areas to myself I reached out to him and this was his first fishing report afterwards: https://community.deckee.com/topic/92241-topwater-whiting/

His growth from then on was phenomenal. He learned so much that he was able to put together this excellent article based on his experiences about a year later: https://community.deckee.com/topic/92550-article-land-based-lure-fishing-shallow-flats-and-mangroves-sydney/

Later on he mentioned me in a post with one of the most flattering responses I’ve had from a student. It still makes me laugh. He is a bit of a wizard with spreadsheets and was keeping data on all the fish he catches and posted this graph and not long after this he texted me to say he’d caught his 500th fish.


During lockdown I met @pscarey on the first day he had ever fished (complete beginner). Due to our overlapping boundaries we got a lot of sessions in. This was the report of his cumulated learnings: https://community.deckee.com/topic/93890-learning-to-fish-during-lockdown/

My introduction to @Denisfisho came through a post ( https://community.deckee.com/topic/94004-nearly-about-to-give-up-on-lure-fishing/ ) reaching out for help. There was a lot of good information raised by other Fishraiders to help zero in on the problem and one thing which came out first was his braid selection. Way too heavy for the lures we want to use. We met up and worked  on his casting and retrieval. I didn’t get to spend a lot of time in the field with him (scheduling clashes) but we did spend a lot of time on the phone discussing concepts. What did hit home was the philosophy behind working a lure to get the interest of a fish. He then translated what I taught him on topwater to soft plastics and the successes started rolling in. He has since shifted south of Sydney so I’ve not been able to meet for a fish since but he got the head start he needed. This was his report after our session when things started to click into place https://community.deckee.com/topic/94173-learning-to-fish-from-a-fellow-fishraider-derekd/

The fourth and most recent student I’m going to mention is @robthefisherman. Long time member on this site and I believe he was a moderator too. This was his story and experience: https://community.deckee.com/topic/95743-sydney-based-experienced-beach-fisho-needed-for-youtube-vid/


This is the “are you going to take the red or blue pill moment”.

The reference has even made it into Wikipedia: The red pill and blue pill represent a choice between the willingness to learn a potentially unsettling or life-changing truth by taking the red pill or remaining in the contented experience of ordinary reality with the blue pill. The term originates from the 1999 film The Matrix. For those that have not seen the Matrix this is the scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQ1_IbFFbzA

Just so I don’t get complaints about the hour of your life you’ve wasted reading one of my typically in depth and long articles I’ll give you a quick summary of some of the things we will be covering:

  • Learn everything you can about your target species.
  • Have a plan. As in science if we have a clear methodology to start with we can refine little aspects here and there in search of improvements and increasing successes.
  • Learn how to mix things up. Try things just to see where it takes you.
  • Listen to those kind enough to donate their time to help you but keep the bullshit filter running. Don’t be impolite but take the time afterwards to work through what they said and see if it makes sense.
  • Don’t take advice and sayings as set in stone because they are said with authority. E.g. “fish one hour either side the change of tide” or “No run no fun”.
  • Don’t ignore the little voice in your head. If you think something is a little funny, try and follow that thread to see where it takes you.
  • Have faith. If you’ve been given genuine reason to think a certain technique works trust in what you have learned. Sometimes our target species isn’t playing and most of the time we can’t easily see what is happening on the working end of the line.

Before I get into the details @noelm made some excellent observations in a recent post of someone I am mentoring. I want to see everyone that takes the red pill move into the 10% that Noel mentions.
Not too sure how to word this without offending someone, somehow! But here goes, I have said this a thousand times (a thousand and one now...) but, knowing HOW to fish is the most important thing, secret spots, bait, space age line and rigs all play a minor part (in my opinion) if you know where fish will be, how your target species feeds and how to use your gear to suit that scenario, then good catches will come! There's an old saying that is very true, "90% of the fish are caught by 10% of the fishermen" and it's as true today, as it was 50 years ago. Sure urban sprawl and so on have made fishing tough going, but, the "thinking" fisherman will catch fish, regardless if he is new to an area, or it's Yowie fishing the "bay" using the right techniques in the right "fishy" areas will get you a decent catch. Getting a head start by being taught can cut years off your "learning curve" but, only if you listen and take it all in. A classic example, my brother in law lives near Balina, and wanted to catch a Mangrove Jack, and called me for advice, I told him I am not an expert on the area or the species, but, suggested live Poddy Mullet or live/very fresh Prawns, fished right in on snags should get you into "something" he said "that sounds like too much trouble/work" I just said to him, if you want to catch one, then you will have to do some work, catching bait and finding the right structure! He called a few days later and told me he got a packet of Prawns from the servo and fished from the bank, casting right out into the river and only caught small Bream and Toads, then preceded to tell me how the place is "fished out" and it must be the pros!! Someone like him will fluke a decent fish now and then, but, consistent catches will elude him forever....if you get what I mean? Fishing doesn't need to be hard work, but, it requires effort to be successful (in my opinion)

Here is the first thing I want you to consider. Most fish can be targeted with a high probability of success if it is the right time of year. If you told me you want to catch whiting this weekend there is a way I would go about it (probably pump yabbies and use on the sandflats or use a topwater lure on the same sandflats). If it is flathead there is another way I’d use (bounce a soft plastic or vibe along the bottom of an area where they are likely to reside). Catch a squid (alright not a fish) – work areas with seaweed and sand with a squid jig with sharp movements to get their attention and pauses to allow them to grab the squid jig (for further reading see: https://community.deckee.com/topic/91551-article-squidding-and-suggestions-on-how-to-use-them/ ). Luderick – I’d use cabbage or green weed  ( https://community.deckee.com/topic/95580-article-blackfishing-a-non-traditional-approach-especially-for-newbies/The next thing to consider is that fish have been educated but we just haven’t been around to see it. I was going to make a joke about fish schools but couldn’t bring myself to do it plus I didn’t have a really good eye rolling pun. For those who have goldfish watch its behaviour when you come along to feed it. The body language changes and it follows you as it has worked out that is where the next meal is coming from. They can learn. From several sources I’ve heard of bream becoming educated – they’ll happily swim around feeding along a rock wall till someone brings a fishing rod into their line of sight at which point they scatter. Through nature, environment, watching the older fish, instinct they have learned enough to generally survive as a species to pass their genes to the next generation. What you are not necessarily seeing is all the meals they have missed out on because they were not quick enough or there was too much competition or a myriad of other factors. Fear of missing out is not just a trait of humans. Following on from that there are triggers that can be used to increase our catch rate.


There is an expression in trout fishing called “match the hatch” and the fly fishing community have gotten pretty good at it (or just put a lot of time into it). They have a vast choice of flies they can select from. They will look at what insects will likely be around at each particular time of the year and try and match it to increase their chances of hooking up. This also applies to many saltwater species. In the spring months we start to see the schools of salmon move into Sydney harbour and start feeding. Most of the lure fisherman throw everything at them including the kitchen sink with limited success. The baitfish the salmon are obsessively feeding on are baby anchovy and are about 10mm long and whiteish or translucent. Early on it is the fly fishing specialists with their eye flies or bay candies that have the most success. As the anchovy grow people start to have success with ultra small slices, then soft plastics, or topwater lures then minnow profiles once the bait fish hit the 10cm mark. This thinking also applies to bait – if you can work out what their preferred food is you have just increased your chances of being able to catch your target species. @wazatherfisherman kindly put together a little article with more things to consider which I’ll put as an addendum to this article.

In opposition to this advice is, try something different. If I fed you ham and pineapple pizza for three weeks and then in week four offered you the choice between pizza (again) or a fresh burger I can confidently bet which one you will take. Kingfish are notorious for this. One day they are only taking yellowtail scad, next day its squid, then jigging works, then nothing works. Sometimes just changing the colour or size of your lure is enough to switch them on for a while till the next change up. When I go rock fishing I look at what everyone else is using then make my decision accordingly. If they are all using stick baits and I see a big pile of fish I know it is working. If they are all using stick baits without success then out comes a sluggo type soft plastic lure or flutter jig.

Pretty well every predator and prey species on the planet is keyed to movement (and noise or vibration). If you are a wolf, that movement through the trees could be your next meal. If you are a deer, that movement of the wolf could be one of the last things you see. When I teach squid jigging I emphasize that the short sharp darting movements are to get the attention of the squid and the pauses allow the squid to grab the jig. The bonus is that the next short sharp darting movement will also jag the squid even if you haven’t seen it grab your jig. Think about the size of the movements when working the lure. I use an expression when teaching “small kid, small steps, big kid, bigger steps”. If your 40mm lure was an actual fish do you think it would rip through the water 1 to 2m at a time. I’d be fishing it with little darting movements and small hops to entice a bite. The bigger lures I sometimes rip through the water in big side to side darting movements to get the attention of the pelagic fish and force them to chase (especially kingfish). If I’m using ghost nippers (yabbies) on the sand flats I’ll let it sit for a little bit (say 5 to 10 seconds) then if it doesn’t get any action I’ll drag it a foot or so (creating movement and vibration) and then sit and then repeat process till it hooks up or ends up at my feet to be recast.

Speed can be a really effective trigger. Speed spinning off the rocks takes advantage of this. Let’s be clear, no matter how fast you think you can wind you are not going to outwind a pelagic (they can swim at 40 to 60km hour or faster) if they want your lure. What you can do is force them to chase (fear of missing out) and not give them time to think about if they actually really want the lure or risk going hungry. Many times over the years I’ve seen kingfish follow up a lure and lose interest right at your feet as you run out of winding room. If you leave it sitting there, most times they turn away but if you can change direction of the lure by doing figure 8s at your feet or dropping it into the depths you can convert that interest into a strike. With some fish like bonito sometimes the faster you can wind the more likely you are to hook up.

Body language. Yes, this is fish I’m talking about. This is a bit more conceptual but I really hope I can get you to understand where I’m coming from. Years ago with a friend at Manly wharf we looked into the water and saw a school of yellowtail kingfish and also a school of yellowtail scad. Predator and prey in the one area and nothing happening. Both schools were swimming calmly (casually cruising and no fast darting movements) near each other. This also happens at the watering holes in Africa – the antelope can see from the body language that the lions or similar are not in hunting mode so don’t instantly race off. My friend happened to have some bread which he dropped in the water to feed the scad. They started firing up to feed. The movements of the kingfish started to quicken as they could sense the agitation in the water. The kings started going into feed mode and hit one of the yellowtail which had some bread at the corner of the mouth (it was a little different to the others and thus a more likely target). That aha moment changed some of the ways I fish for kingfish. The defence mechanism for a lot of bait fish is to swim in a ball which separates and comes together and makes it difficult to pick an individual fish out of the ball. For those who haven’t seen this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15B8qN9dre4 At times a fish will be broken out from the bait ball and then dart from side to side to avoid getting eaten (look at this fish being chase by a dolphin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28gX_eeXd-Q ). This darting is a defence mechanism but it is also a flag indicating that it has been broken away from the school and thus becomes an easier target. Along the way I worked out how to fish soft plastics with that same darting motion to get the attention of the pelagics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjGS6SjfDUs . There is one little addition to this movement which is the game changer and I’ll get to shortly. At school you had a mate that was a bit of a joker and when they’d see you it was “High five” which you would promptly respond to. Then it was “down below” which you’d attempt but the hand would be moved with the teasing comment “too slow”. You’d try again, and again, and again. You’d try a little harder because you were getting annoyed. What happens if the joker paused for a second too long – the hand would finally get slammed. The more you can’t get something the more you want it. Why is it any different for fish? That soft plastic fish darts around and gets their attention. They come to have a bite and it darts off. The process repeats. They want it more. The trick is to throw a deliberate pause in to allow them to grab it. Over the years the feedback from the people I’ve taught this to is that the hits mostly come on the pause (say 80%). For some bonus information when teaching people the sub surface walk the dog with the longer left to right and back again glides I encourage people to use three left to rights before throwing in a pause. What it does is changes the position of the lure each time the set is finished. For example. Left-right-left.. pause... right-left-right.... pause... left-right-left. This is intended to increase the annoyance factor and the likelihood of the lure getting hit.

I overhead a story once in a fishing shop (of course). A gentleman was recounting that every time he went scuba diving with a specific mate the sharks would turn up. Turns out his mate had an arrhythmic heartbeat and the sharks could sense it. The problem went away when the mate got a pacemaker. I tell people that life has a rhythm and out in the animal kingdom they are pretty effective at picking the weak or the injured for their next meal and it is often when the rhythm is out. Consider how easy it is to spot it if someone is limping. If I asked you to move 50m under your own steam you could choose to: crawl, walk, hop, skip, jog, run, sprint, cavort (dance with abandoned glee), etc. Just winding a lure straight in will often be less effective than quick and slow darts and pauses. When working lures consider how you can change the rhythm to get a predators attention. For example, you can change pace, throw in pauses (long or short or a combination), vary how far the lure moves each time, make it dance or glide across the water, make it an aggressive retrieve or a relaxed retrieve. One dimensional retrieves will generally be less effective than an erratic one. Same concept applies to fishing with bait. Get it moving once in a while to get the attention of the predators.

Territorial (or just plain annoy them). If someone barges through you in a walkway that aggressive invasion of your space can fire you up. Think about a barramundi or Murray cod sitting happily under some structure and then someone drops a lure on their head a couple of times. Chances are very good that they will hit that lure out of annoyance even if they aren’t hungry. In the United States there is an interesting way of fishing called noodling. In states such as Alabama they have several species of catfish which sit in hollows such as in riverbanks or under structure. People have worked out you can reach into an occupied hole and the fish will often bite down on your hand to get you out of its territory. At this point the noodler will grab the fish and attempt to pull it out often by the lips or reaching back to the gills. The lovely Hannah Barron demonstrating: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MM3564qCFuQ There was a lovely TV series called Extreme fishing hosted by actor Robson Green. In one episode (series 3 Episode 😎 he goes to Japan and learns about the technique of fishing with a friend. There is a small species of fish which can get very territorial at times. By sending out a fish of the same species (live and complete with stinger hook) using a long pole you can guide it into the territory of another fish which will likely strike out and hopefully catch itself on the stinger hook. Go to 16 minutes 20 seconds of the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFqmC1Hxf5g

Now that we have covered several triggers (there are more but these are the big ones I want people to think about) let’s start considering other ways of improving the way we fish.

Observe. This is huge because it relates to many aspects of fishing. What is it about the environment which might attract fish. On days we get super low tides (say 30cm or less), I’ll hit several bays in the inner west I plan to fish in the summer to see what the ground is like. Where are the snags? What and where are the likely food sources (e.g. worms, crabs, oysters, yabbies, etc.). What will play to my advantage. What might cause me hassles. Look at weather sites before heading out and check out the tides and forecast wind directions and then see the impact on each of the areas you might want to fish. If it is a north easterly and I want to do some topwater then I already know where my best chances are or at least the places the wind will have the least impact on my fishing. When you hit a new area and there are people already fishing there look at what they are doing. Even better go and have a chat with them. If something is not quite going right think about why not then try and make corrections – when teaching people to cast I often get them to concentrate on the lure and rod tip rather than focussing on where they are casting too. It helps retrain the autopilot and you get instant feedback on when to accelerate and release the lure. If you buy a new lure then take the time to look at how it swims and how you can use it in different ways. You can do this in the shallows at your feet. What happens when you speed it up or slow it down? How does it behave with small and large flicks? Based on what you are seeing how do you think it will look to another fish. If you have a swimming pool the improved clarity will allow you to really see what is going on (just wash off afterwards). My techniques for chasing kings was built up from observations made over years of chasing them. Little things like them turning away from the lures when I stopped it at my feet. Where they are likely to be. I put a lot of this information into a post asking for help on catching kingfish in the moorings: https://community.deckee.com/topic/86184-how-to-fish-sydney-harbor-moorings-for-kingfish/

The science fiction writer Isaac Asimov once said “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny…”. “That’s funny…” is the sound of something catching in your brain. A contradiction, an anomaly, just plain weird: something doesn’t fit what you expected. That something can niggle away at the back of your mind. If you let it, “that’s funny…” can lead to an insight and a brilliant new idea. An example of this: Probably because I caught my first fish on one but I’ve got a soft spot for white soft plastics. While not my go to colour I still use them. What I’ve noticed over the years that squid will hit a soft plastic but most often it seems to be the white ones. As a result I’ve come to the conclusion that white gets a squid’s attention a little more often than other colours so I buy my squid jigs with a bit of white in them. I’ve got a few that are all white and tend to be very effective. I’ve observed and followed the “I wonder why...” thoughts to help my fishing.

Here is also a big one. Use your imagination (especially based on what you have observed). You are a puppeteer playing to an audience you can’t see and the only way you are likely to know you are playing the right chords is if you get the hit. In some ways you are like a blind person working your way through the water but it doesn’t mean you can’t figure out what is going on. You can see or even feel when the lure hits the bottom. You can feel the snags. You can feel the taps of a fish hitting the lure. Now start to extrapolate the information you have. You can imagine how the lure is moving through the water. How it darts. How it looks to a fish. You can count it down so it is in the parts of the column you want to fish or alternatively avoid. You can change the pace to imitate a scared bait fish with the intent of getting the attention of a predator. You can imagine where the fish are likely to be (flathead - on the bottom, jewfish – near the bottom, pelagic – in the mid to upper water column). It doesn’t matter if you don’t get it totally right as you have a starting point for your technique and can then make minor adjustments through the session. Don’t be one dimensional in how you work the lure but use your imagination to play with tempo and pacing changes to encourage the hits. Think which of the triggers I mentioned earlier might be effective in the area you are fishing. You don’t have to be smart enough to invent a new lure but you do have to smart enough to work out what was intended with the design of the lure and maybe work out ways of fishing it that the original designers had not considered.

Talk to people. I love watching people that are at the top of their game. It might be sporting (e.g. Tiger Woods when he was world number #1 at golf) or tradies, or artists in various creative fields. Even if what they are good at is not of direct interest to me I get pleasure in watching a craftsman at work. The confidence – no hesitation in taking the next step. The quiet assured competence. The finished product. I think most of us can recognise a master or even someone several steps ahead of us. Same goes in fishing. I can see by the way people cast or work the lure how successful they are likely to be. I met @Jfish one afternoon fishing down at my local. I was blown away at how well she was casting and the way she could work the lure. Once I got chatting to her and her companion Ed I found out she was someone who at times could outfish every other person on the platform. It turns out that during one of her Avoca sessions she picked up about 21 salmon in an hour while most of the other people were struggling. Once a few of the locals had talked to her to see what she was doing differently then they started catching too. If you see someone who looks like they know what they are doing see if you can engage them in conversation and learn something about the how and why of their technique. As a kid I did this a lot. Before I ever fished for blackfish I’d had enough information stored from those conversations that I targeted them successfully the first time I genuinely tried it for myself. I knew about weed, burley, hooks, setting up the float so it was just slightly buoyant. I’d learned about the aggressive and subtle takes and how to strike. I’ve learned about many aspects of fishing the same way. As a bonus, some of my best friendships have started because of a conversation about fishing. These are friendships I hope will last me for the rest of my days (and may they be long ones).

The bullshit filter. You don’t have enough time in your life to work out everything about different aspects of fishing so talking and listening to others and their experiences will shorten the learning curve dramatically. The problem is that information is not always right or best practice. It may have been optimal at one stage but evolved since then due to new techniques and equipment. It may be something that has been worked out by consensus and passed down and never questioned. When you talk to people keep the bullshit filter engaged. Do not be impolite as they are giving you a small part of the most import resource they have – time. Having said that I want you to think about what people tell you and filter through the information to get the gold (this includes everything I’ve put into this post). The question “why” is a very powerful tool for sorting out the wheat from the chaff. If you can ask someone “why” they do something and they come back with a meaningful response then they probably have a bit of thought and learning behind what they are doing.

Have a plan (but don’t keep it set in stone). When I go down to the water I have a look around. If I see fish busting up on the surface I already know where they are and know from experience (or reading reports or talking to my fishing network) what the fish are likely to be and thus what lures or bait they are likely to hit. I then adjust my plan to say use metal slices or three inch minnows or something else. Alternatively, if I get down to the water and nothing is happening then I’ll likely target what I call the easy flathead. They are an ambush predator. They grow to a good size and are not overly fussy about taking lures. I’ll skip subtle and concentrate on covering as much ground as I can in the most effective way possible (long casts, fanned out and then move slightly to ensure I cover the area thoroughly). Once I’ve done that I’ll drop jighead sizes and maybe plastic sizes to achieve a more subtle presentation to get the interest of the snapper and bream. You can also start the other way and be subtle to start with. In a recent post about jighead selection ( https://community.deckee.com/topic/96309-what-jig-head-size-do-you-use/@Tommy TJ made the observation “I choose jigheads depending on the fish I am targeting, the size of the soft plastic I'm using, and also the conditions (wind/ depth/ current), so it's good to have a range to choose from if possible. Assuming you are targeting bream and flathead, it is essential to have different jigheads for each fish as bream have much smaller mouths than flathead, and they also seem to be a lot more fussy when it comes to the sinking rate of the lure (too heavy = unnatural). Flathead in general are not very picky... I commonly catch flathead as bycatch when targetting bream, however the reciprocal is not true as I rarely catch bream as a bycatch when targetting flathead”.

Adaptability and learning to mix things up. There is a quote attributed to Albert Einstein which states, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. I’ve been fortunate enough to see or meet several of the fishing personalities in Australia. I’ve also met many people very good at what they do fishing-wise. The ones that blow me away are the ones that think outside the box and can mix things up. If something in your technique or location is not working then what can you change to mix it up. Maybe a location change, a bait/lure change, how you are working the lure. Even if the change doesn’t work you have learned something new. There are several quotes attributed to Thomas A. Edison regarding his invention of the light bulb which go along the lines of “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work”. I hope you have a better success rate than Edison but the sentiments still apply. There was a guy at my local tackle shop who got into whiting on plastics over 15 years ago with a very novel method. He knew the whiting would follow him when pumping ghost nippers (yabbies/pinkies) so started dragging along small soft plastics when catching his bait on the sandflats. He was also the one that got me changing the trebles on many of my lures to singles after noticing the damage the trebles did to the fish. I got the chance to fish for my first Murray Cod and Trout Cod with @big Neil. He used soap to catch shrimp and yabbies which he then used to catch the target species. Included in the baits he was using were salami, cheese, chicken. Just by trying different things he has worked out several things that just work.

Fear. In golf there is something referred to as the yips and it most often happens during putting. The fear of missing causes you to miss the putt. Similar aspects happen in fishing. You become afraid of snagging up or losing that expensive new lure you bought. If you are not going to use it or use it properly then you may as well not have bought it. Accept the fact that you will snag up and lose gear. They are a consumable. In the summer I often chase kingfish on bream gear. When they are fixated on eating the small bait fish, using a 3 inch minnow on bream gear is often my best chance to hook one. It is a blast the way line screams off. Most of the time it is only the end game where I am likely to lose them, especially if I’m fishing off a wharf. I accept the worst realistic case is I lose the fish, the soft plastic, probably some leader and maybe some mainline. Once I do that then the pressure comes off and I can relax and enjoy the fight win or lose. There is always another one to hook.

Growth. Every year I try and learn a new technique to the point I am competent at it even if don’t master it. Several years ago it was topwater bream and whiting due to a lovely article written by @Niall. This is the one: https://community.deckee.com/topic/90391-bream-on-topwater-lures/ His follow up article after a year of learning was also brilliant: https://community.deckee.com/topic/92780-article-surface-fishing-for-bream-2021-update/ In my case I talked to people (including Niall), read up on it. Tried things. Thought about how it would look to my target species. Even if not successful at first the growth in my technique was a win. Give whatever you a learning a genuine chance. I’ve met people confident that soft plastics don’t work because they’ve tried it for 30 minutes with no success. I come along and catch a fish or two in their presence forcing them to re-evaluate their original stance. Another quote attributed to Edison: “Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”. We have pages and pages of reports in this forum of successes (and less successful sessions) because the people writing them have taken the time to grow their skills.

Teach someone. I’m taking the time passing on information to you for several reasons. The biggest one is that people in my past took the time to teach me and it is my way of passing their generosity onto the next generation. I also feel that in fishing hoarded information is selfish and wasted whereas it could help improve the quality of someone else’s life in ways unanticipated. In teaching someone your student will ask you questions which you may not have a good answer to. It will help you refine your knowledge. It will help you see what you are doing from another perspective that you may not have considered. You will also feel good making a difference and get more pleasure from your fishing. When I hear of the successes of people I’ve mentored it still puts a smile on my face and helps me enjoy my fishing more.

Think ahead. Anticipate. Funnily enough fishing is often like a decision tree. You already know what the next step is that you have to take. Are you going to cast or not. If you are then where are you going to cast to. If you don’t hook up then where will you cast next. If you do hook up then what in the area is likely to cause you trouble (structure or moorings). Will you need to put pressure on the fish to pull it away from the hazards or can you let it run. What will you do when the fish gets in close. Are there oysters which might cut your line or during the fight can you guide it towards that smooth sandy section of beach. If I asked you any of these questions when you are not under pressure you’d probably come up with a reasonable and planned response. What is there to stop you from asking yourself the exact same questions and have a response ready for when you need it?

Finally, have faith. One of my favourite high school teachers would utter two words of advice when demonstrating complicated mathematical proofs. These were, “have faith”, and it is advice which has served me well in the years since. I don’t mean it from a biblical sense but in a practical “I can’t see the end result from where I am but I trust I will get there”, sense. Anyone who has put together Ikea flatpack furniture will have experienced this. The same comes with fishing. There are times I feel I’ve lost my Mojo but I know that with the right gear, technique and persistence I will feel the strike and hook up on the end of my line sooner or later. From past experience I’ve seen the techniques work and I have faith that they will continue to do so.

If you have reached this point in the article I want to thank you for your time and the faith you have had in what I’ve put together for you. I’ve helped a lot of people of the years and I hope this article changes the way you are thinking when fishing and that you start to see improved results in the quantity and quality of fish that you catch. I’ve personally found that being mentally switched on during fishing has improved my enjoyment of fishing. I’m never bored because I’m always engaged in what I’m doing.



Edited by DerekD
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While preparing this article I had the input from several Fishraiders I have a lot of respect for. There were some really helpful comments and @wazatherfisherman made some additional points relating to my match the hatch paragraph which deserved its own post.

Hi Derek it's a good read- as you asked for input- I would say that even though you've mentioned to learn all you can about your target species, it is (in my opinion) equally if not more important to learn about the availability of likely prey species at different times of the year.

For example: knowing what types of food are available at the 'arrival' (based on life cycles/previous availability and abundance/scarcity in real time) of your target species. This applies more-so to seasonal or pelagic species than demersal species because their migration often coincides with either moon phase or significant water temperature changes, which in turn sees the availability/breeding times(hatching times really) of creatures at the bottom of the food chain.

To apply this, different areas obviously have different times, so my focus is based on Sydney Harbour, lets say about 5-6km east and west of the Harbour Bridge with the bridge the central point. Mainly this area as it's the most frequented area by many and readily accessible from a multitude of locations (if land based)

1) Early Spring- Every year during early spring the first abundant prey species are Jelly prawns, their life cycle is relatively short and they are massed in number throughout the lower reaches of estuaries, particularly if the water is relatively clean/clear. They mature and re-breed relatively quickly en-masse to guarantee the survival of the species, in fact breeding several times in a relatively short period in such huge numbers as to ensure there will be 'survivors'. When they are massed, regardless of their minute size, the sheer numbers make them a realistic prey species. Although they are tiny, large predators become fixated on hunting them and when in that 'frame of mind' trying to catch these predators is almost impossible unless you genuinely (and accurately) match the hatch.

The obvious observer's watch would state something like 'a Kingfish would need to eat a hell of a lot of them to get a decent feed'- when deciphering the energy-to-food ratio it doesn't make sense that a one meter fish would be hunting 1cm prey as the energy used would result in a negative return, however, due to the abundance of the Jelly's and their tendency to 'ball-up' a mouthful of food undoubtedly consists of a great number. Whales feeding on Krill is in the same vein. The prawns are so rich as a food source that they ARE a very worthwhile focus of the early season Kingfish, which become totally fixated on them after arriving/massing at the beginning of their own cycle

As you mentioned, using 'eyes' as the example, it's pretty much the fly fishers that are able to be successful, due to their ability to replicate the current food/prey. Not saying that some don't fall to other foods, but the likelihood of success has diminished drastically without the 'prey-of-the-moment'

Knowing what food is available therefore becomes paramount for consistent success.

2) Late Spring- Next in line are both Anchovy fry -'Eyes' and Pilchard fry 'Sprats', which are closely followed by the beginning of the prawn run. The first prawns (known as 'school prawns') are really a species that mainly dwell in the upper reaches of saltwater rivers, only venturing down about as far as Ryde, however their distribution and arrival are more susceptible to rainfall levels as they are pushed down the mid-reaches of rivers/estuaries by fluctuating rainfall and this is the genuine determining factor of their place in the food chain each year. Again, the dominant predator species focus on them, in my opinion even more than the fry, due to their nutritional value and larger bio-mass. It should be noted that in most years, school prawns don't actually migrate as far east as our chosen sample area, so their availability for species such as Kingfish diminishes.

More fry of different species- including Whitebait then become more abundant as Spring becomes Summer, which is when there is a smorgasbord of prey and the fisher may need to try a variety of different offerings to determine what the 'food of the day' is on any given day.

3) Summer- as the water warms (and the air also) the migration of Eastern King Prawns and 'Harbour prawns' gets underway, which takes over the feeding focus of most fish- pelagic and demersal and everything then tunes into them. The exception to this are the Kingfish who have basically had their fill of prawns (Jelly) and as you said after 3 weeks of pizza are probably more interested in a hamburger (fish meal) than chasing prawns around.

Once the prawn run is in full swing, most other saltwater fish concentrate on taking advantage of the abundant prawns- as was evident this year with the Bass fishers reporting just-caught Bass regurgitating large amounts of just eaten prawns. Matching the hatch is not so important at this time as the fish have been 'switched on' into a feeding frame of mind and I think because their individual energy levels have risen (through very successful feeding) and they are more likely to take a greater variety of foods with the increasing water temperatures and the fact they are healthy. Kingfish on the other hand, having fed up big time on the Jelly's- become harder to catch as they have become 'fat and happy' on their long, concentrated assault on the Jelly's and their focus switches between Cuttlefish (juveniles) Squid (once they've 'come in') and 4-7cm fish (whatever's in numbers)

Without going any further with food availability for visiting species, our focus should become on the 'year round' species. Bream are a really good sample for several reasons. We all know that you can catch Bream on a really wide variety of baits from crustaceans to fish, worms, vegetarian matter (weed, cabbage, moss)- literally anything- even 'un-natural' foods like bread and chips (LOL). Having said this, the Bream are no different to other predators and concentrate on the dominant food source of the time.

It is really worthwhile however, to consider although there are changing food sources, that there are several foods available to the Bream year round, no matter what environment (rivers, rocks, beaches etc) they live in. For example- both marine worms and crabs are an 'all round' food that are found 12 months of the year in all their environments.

Off beaches there are ghost crabs and beach worms, from rocks 5 species of crabs and 'cunje worms' that resemble small Bloodworms and reside in the brown growth that covers the exterior of cunjevoi. In rivers/estuaries soldier crabs, juvenile 'variegated shore crabs' and mud crabs accompany several varieties of worms, like Bloodworms, Squirt worms etc. The common denominators of crabs and worms form an integral part of Bream's diets (due to constant daily availability) and knowing this lends to them always being interested in these as food sources.

I have to leave it there tonight as I just realised it's 4.17 AM!


Edited by DerekD
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57 minutes ago, Jfish said:

@wazatherfisherman Thank you for sharing your amazing wealth of knowledge! I’ve been reading some of your fishing stories and they are enjoyable. 

Thanks Jfish! All the stories are exactly as they happened, when in doubt I've been in touch with whoever else was there for clarification. It's really easy remembering the things you have great passion for!

Derek has written a very thorough and informative article, my contribution is nowhere near as 'all encompassing' and it definitely has the makings of a book in my opinion. Both Derek and I are happy to share any knowledge we have

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Great article, written by someone who has well and truly got me on the path!

I would suggest if there was a way to combine alot of the articles written by some of the great mentors on here and put it in a pinned post for starters like a fishing 101 topic.

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Hey Derek. Only read the first few parts so far so will come back with a response after this one but will say now your input and insights into fishing are priceless in terms of learning the art of fishing. It's incredible once upon a time I was throwing out random lures on random setups catching nothing to now going out to places like yesterday where nobody has ever fished for squid but still managing to catch one.

From nearly giving up lure fishing to now having gone around nsw and caught all types of fish on all types of lure including top water it really is a hobby with countless learning opportunities and experiences to be had when you put in the time.

I've also kept a log of my fish caught to date and I'm at 108... now the amount I've spent on lures I don't want to know haha.

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1 hour ago, Bennyg78 said:

Great article, written by someone who has well and truly got me on the path!

I would suggest if there was a way to combine alot of the articles written by some of the great mentors on here and put it in a pinned post for starters like a fishing 101 topic.

This area called ARTICLES holds all the great posts and writings from members. It would be difficult to reorder them. You will find that they appear in the order of "most viewed" .

You are absolutely correct in saying there are some great articles in here :)


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Two days ago, I saw a squid follow my white soft plastic. So I changed to a squid jig (a blue one - I wasn’t thinking about colours) and caught a squid on my first cast. 

I find Japanese fishing fascinating. How they are so gear and technique specific on a particular species. Like fishing for ayu or mudskippers. 

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Another fantastic resource by 2 of our expert contributors (wazathefisherman and DerekD). You guys should be very proud of all the work you have put into making this contribution. The beauty of this forum is that we ordinary members can access such expertise to help in the pursuit of our favourite pastime. That, in turn, reflects in the improvement of catch results and enjoyment of our angling experiences. Well done to you guys and to everybody else, make good use of all the facilities that this site has to offer.


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Fantastic article Derek!  Thanks for all the time that went into producing it on top of all the time you already spend teaching. I’ll have to go back and work my way through all of the linked content now!

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Great Article!
I have the honor to join Derek for two sessions and I was completely blown away: how to cast efficiently, all the different lures, different techniques of retrieval, targeting species. And I have to admit that I am now cannot remembering most of the stuff :( But I am still fishing, whenever I can, whether it is using bait or lure. I watch videos, listening to how other people fish, I enjoy talking to others on the spot, and really happy when someone lands a fish. 

"Have faith": Most of people I met, during the conversations I usually throw this question: "where are you based", and most of the time it is at least 30min of driving to the spot, or even an hour, fishing for 3 hours and get nothing, but still trying. 

Happy fishing!

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6 hours ago, Mr.Wang said:

Great Article!
I have the honor to join Derek for two sessions and I was completely blown away: how to cast efficiently, all the different lures, different techniques of retrieval, targeting species. And I have to admit that I am now cannot remembering most of the stuff :( But I am still fishing, whenever I can, whether it is using bait or lure. I watch videos, listening to how other people fish, I enjoy talking to others on the spot, and really happy when someone lands a fish. 

"Have faith": Most of people I met, during the conversations I usually throw this question: "where are you based", and most of the time it is at least 30min of driving to the spot, or even an hour, fishing for 3 hours and get nothing, but still trying. 

Happy fishing!

Hi Mr. Wang. You are a classic example of why this forum is still going and still doing what it was set up to do. You, me, and many others have been on the receiving end of Derek's instructional sessions and we are better anglers for it. To all the mentors on this forum, keep helping out whenever the opportunity presents itself...both through the threads posted, and in person, where possible.

Cheers, bn

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