Prawns and shrimps are a common food source for many inshore fish species, including one of our lure fishing favourites, the flathead. A big juicy prawn must be the seafood equivalent of a Snickers Bar to a waiting flathead, and it's little wonder soft plastic imitations of these delectable crustaceans are often met with an open mouth and a no-questions-asked attitude from this species.
Realistic, prawn-profiled soft plastics really do take some topping for these fish, and are always the first lure I'll turn to when after results on lizards, and they're a genuine 'confidence' option you can cast for long periods if required with the knowledge that if it's not getting eaten, then there's a fair chance there's no fish in the area.
The Squidgy Stealth Prawn has long been one of my go-to flathead plastics when struggling with a hard bite or looking to get the first fish of the session on the deck. In more recent times we've started using the Squidgie Pro Range Prawn in 80mm, with the paddle tail my favourite. This again has soon slotted into a workhorse role, being a lure you can cast for long periods and feel it's a 'safe bet' to get eaten on sight by a flathead of any size.
Sticking with the 'match the hatch' theme of using a prawn shaped soft plastic in the first place, I prefer colours like Blood Worm and Eupheusia, which are reasonable representations of a typical prawn colouration and add further to what is already a deadly lure selection in my opinion. In dirty water conditions however, consider using brighter colours as they can attract extra attention.
Flathead are highly visual hunters with a huge gob, so give them a sizable profile prawn to firstly see and then eat, with 80-110mm commonly used. Jighead wise I like a slightly larger hook, such as a 1/0 to 2/0 or bigger for targeting these fish, mostly for getting a solid hook-set on the bigger fish which are notorious for thrashing their head side to side and rejecting lures and even bending jigheads resulting in lost fish and moments of pure frustration. Typically it'll be the shovel-headed monsters that are more adept at this - precisely the ones you want to be landing!
Jighead weight is relative to the depth you're fishing, amount of current etc. For many of the shallower coastal fringes we fish 1-3 grams tends to cover it well, allowing the lure to sink at a nice rate and have plenty of time in the strike zone. When we fish deeper this can be increased a touch, but generally we prefer to stick on the lighter side to start with at least to let that tail of the plastic have plenty of 'wiggle' time after each flick of the lure.
Retrieve wise I like to keep it slow and steady, with a couple of sharp flicks of the rod tip followed by a slow winding up of the slack in your braid you've just created. The key is to always keep in touch with your lure and be prepared to strike when you notice your line move or detect even the slightest 'bump' travel up your braid which means your prawn has probably been swallowed past the gills by a flathead. Try imagine how a prawn swims and don't rush your retrieves and you can't go too far wrong.
When you're next scratching your head and questioning your lure choices for flathead, reach for a soft plastic prawn and fish it confidently and you'll be in with a red-hot chance of being nailed by one of these camouflaged eating machines.