Soft lures of various guises have stamped their mark on the barra scene, regardless if you're talking impoundment waters, natural billabongs or a river/estuary setting.
Each trip for me up north has seen them become further entrenched into barra culture, and the techniques and lures themselves have become much more refined and equally more potent as a result. The ability of a soft lure to get eaten in an otherwise lockdown bite scenario, and their worth in nearly any barra situation you care to mention, is probably what has seen them become standard ammo in our northern estuaries.
Below is a whirlwind look at a few likely 'soft styles' you should consider packing if you're chasing wild barra, and all of these I basically wouldn't leave home without!
It's safe to say that soft vibe-style lures, like the Spanyid Sniper Vibe for example, are probably making the biggest splash on the barra front at the moment, and their ability to dominate has seen them become firm favourites.
Soft vibes have a lot going for them, with their wire-through construction and durable outer layer you basically have tough as nails internals, comparable to a hard-body, with the appeal of a plastic.
These vibes are great for hopping over rock bars, or near any fish/baitfish activity you've sounded up down deep. This fishing allows you to thoroughly work an area and barra really struggle to pass up a vibe worked past their nose. Vibes can also be used in a general casting role through drains and near snag piles - although be ready with some kind of lure retriever if near nasty structure as two sets of trebles fished down deep is asking for trouble.
Selecting the right soft plastic and head combo can be daunting at the best of times, thankfully pre-rigged lures take all the guesswork out of it given their internal weight and it's always worth having a few packets of Slick Rigs (80-110mm are personal faves) or the popular Pro Range Squidgy Mongrels on hand for barra.
With a hook that sits quite proud on most pre-rigged options, they do their best work when flicked through reasonably snag-free drains, muddy edges and other zones where they're less likely to hang up. Still, this is barra fishing and you can hack the timber if you dare and have the lure stocks on hand to do so.
Given most of the pre-rigged options mentioned are in a paddle tail configuration, they're always working for you on the retrieve. I prefer a slow lift and drop retrieve for them, with a higher rod action used when fishing over snaggy bottom or in the shallows. A straight roll of the lure is also deadly though, and as usual it's worth mixing things up to crack a bite pattern. If you're struggling to get a bite on a hard-body, rather than toil away get a pre-rigged tied on as they can replace them in many of the same roles.
Barra love structure, there's no denying it. And much like chasing bream, sometimes the only way you'll get hit by these fish is to get your lure into dead-set suicide territory right in amongst the thick it. If you want to explore the full potential of a snag then drifting a weedless softie into it is the most common way to see what's home - and the best bit is your lure will live to fight another day.
There are various jigheads on the market which accommodate this fishing, or you can easily rig your plastic weedless (Texas style) using a ball sinker and a worm-style hook. 4-6 inch soft plastics in either a paddle or wriggler tail pattern are ideal, but prawn imitations equally get eaten on sight. Squidgy Mongrels can also be utilised in this role given their removable weight system.
The basic method is to attack the structure with a fearless casting approach and try and get you're lure right into it. It's always amazing how you can pepper a snag with other lure types for nil interest, only to have a well placed weedless plastic hit instantly! This is very cool fishing trying to wrench silver-sided slobs out of heavy cover.
SP Barra Tackle
With a shift in lure trends has come a change in the tackle to fish them. Of note is that you'll see more and more fishos using threadline outfits for barra, which give you an entirely different level of feel and control when using all of the soft options mentioned above.
Something like a 4000 sized reel loaded with 15 to 20lb mainline can provide a lot of fun, or you can bump the tackle system up a notch if heavy extraction duties are needed. Fresh from a trip to northern QLD, I basically used a Stella SW4000 on a 722 Saltwater Spin T-Curve and caught most things these waters could throw at us from barra, permit, giant herring to line-shredding golden trevs. Crazy fun, but still more than doable on this gear.
A smooth casting knot like the FG, which is ideal when connecting heavy trace to a lighter mainline also, is the best connection when using a threadline outfit. All this being said, using a baitcaster is by no means going to limit your ability to fish soft lures and still get results on them. All in all if you're not on the 'plastics on barra' bandwagon yet, jump on and see what all the fuss is about!