Bream can be enigmatic creatures. In some situations they are as dumb as dog droppings, eating practically any lure or fly you throw at them. However, when conditions are tough and their average size is right up, they can be about as demanding as any fish you’re likely to find. If you can see them, chances are they can see you (or at least your movement), so you’ve really got to adopt a stealthy approach and keep your terminals as light as possible.
I frequently visit the upper reaches of the Port River, where there are still some thumping big bream if you know where to look. If it’s still and sunny, you’ll often see some bream around the pilings that will frighten you. Some are comfortably past the magic 50cm mark – bronze in colour, incredibly deep through the flank, and about as tough to hook as any fish I’ve ever encountered. These big guys have seen it all before, and, as the old cliché goes, they didn’t get to that size by being stupid.
Despite many ‘assaults’ on these upper Port giants, I’ve been able to hook less than a handful – and landed none of them.
It’s become a well known fact that ridiculously light leader will get you more bites, but for most anglers there has to be at least some degree of practicality. In most lure fishing situations I start with six pound leader and drop back to four if I have to. Six is relatively robust, particularly a good quality fluorocarbon, and there aren’t too many bream out there that will bite through it. Bream have menacingly powerful jaws and teeth, but like snapper, those teeth are designed to crush rather than cut. Six pound fluoro tends to drop down and fit between the front teeth rather than rasp over them, so you have to be unlucky for a decent fish to chop through it.
Fluorocarbon really is a better choice than nylon mono in most situations, as it’s inherently tougher, its light refractive index is far lower (rendering it less visible), and its reduced buoyancy makes soft plastics sink more naturally. You’ll pay more for good fluorocarbon, but it’s definitely worth it. Depending on where I’m fishing, I’ll usually tie on at least a rod length of leader for two reasons – firstly to provide some abrasion resistance where it’s needed most, and secondly to separate the lure from highly visible braid mainline.
There are several knots that can be used to connect fluorocarbon trace to braid, but by far the easiest to tie is the double (back-to-back) uni. This consists of a uni knot formed one way that wraps the leader around the braid, butted up against a second uni tied in the opposite direction that wraps the braid around the leader. Confused? Well, a quick look at Geoff Wilson’s “Knots and Rigs” book will show how to make this quite simple connection far better than I could ever hope to explain it in words. With a little practice you should be able to tie it neatly and reliably in 30 seconds.
As is the case with leader diameter, the lighter your soft plastic presentation, the better your hook up rate will be. Only in still conditions is it practical to use no head weight at all, but this is undoubtedly the way to go if possible. The Squidgy Pro Lobby is among the most effective soft plastics I’ve ever used on big bream, and nine times out of ten I rig it on a weedless hook with no lead. The Lobby is supposed to replicate a yabbie, and it definitely does this best with no jig head weight.
If you do have some wind or tide to contend with, particularly in deeper water, rig your plastic on the lightest jig head you can get away with. The more time the lure takes to get to the bottom, the greater your chance of getting ‘bit on the drop’.
Suspending hard bodies can be very effective big bream catchers too, especially if the fish are hanging on structure and well away from the bottom. Most of the big name lure manufacturers offer a selection of suspenders, which need to be rigged thoughtfully to suit specific fishing locations.
Suspenders like the Rapala X Rap and Cultiva Rippin’ Minnow can be dynamite around old wharf pilings, in rivers where there’s submerged timber and also in waterways where there are bankside ledges and pronounced drop-offs. When the fishing is visual, there are few things more exciting than casting a suspending lure into where you know the bream are holding, getting it to the right depth, twitching it to imitate a wounded baitfish and ultimately seeing a big bream race over and annihilate it.
One of the great things about bream fishing is that you can make it as basic or as scientific as you like. Bait fishers catch plenty of nice ones, of course, but there’s nothing quite like fooling them on lures. I’m certainly no bream fanatic, but I know plenty who are, and they are invariably clever, persistent and fastidious anglers. The ability to catch big bream on a regular basis is what really sorts out the experts from the rest of the field.
If you’re keen on becoming a big bream specialist, stick to the golden rules of tying on the thinnest leader you can get away with, using the lightest possible jigheads, and getting out there amongst them as often as you can. I can guarantee you’ll hook more big bream and have a lot more fun in the process!