Fishing with Soft Plastics

By Scott Mitchell

Flathead would be one of our most popular table species and provide great sport as well. Flathead are endemic to Australia with a number of different flathead species being found around the country. The iconic Dusky (Platycephalus fuscus) would be one of our most popular and largest of the species with the current Australian record being held by Alan Strathearn from the Richmond River in NSW weighing in at 9.440KG caught on the 14th of July in 1983. There have been unconfirmed reports of flathead as large as 13kgs & 1.2 metres in length with most large fish are measured and released now days.

Dusky flathead have a great distribution range from Cairns in Northern Qld to the Gippsland lakes in Victoria. Dusky flathead usually spawn during the warmer months of September to March in northern tropical waters, November to February in Moreton Bay and January to March in NSW & Victoria. So we’re coming into our prime Flathead months right now!

Dusky’s (Or fogs & lizards as they are sometimes referred to across the states) respond to a range of techniques from bait to a myriad of different lures which makes them such a great sports fish. Live mullet & prawns would be the pick of the baits but I’ll stick with lures in this article as I believe you will actually catch more on Squidgies

Soft plastics certainly are not “new” in flathead fishing – with my first experiences being with Mr Twisters on lake Illawarra & the Minnamurra river just South of Wollongong where I grew up back in the 70’s & early 80’s. We thought we had found the pot of gold when we discovered pink Vibrotails! Soft plastics have undergone amazing refinements in the last few years and it’s hard to believe that it’s coming up to 10 years since Starlo & Bushy created the first soft plastics specifically design to target Australian species.

My favourite flathead Squidgies are the 100mm squidgies pro-range Wrigglers in Bloodworm, 100mm squidgy fish in black / Gold & Silver Fox & New pro-range 90 mm Mongrels. The key to both of these lures is to match the jig head weight to suite the depth of water you are fishing & current in the area. Flathead live on the bottom using their body shape & colouration as camouflage and ambush their prey. This means you need your lures to contact the bottom throughout your retrieve for best results. I like the squidgy round heads in 1/0 2 gram when fishing the 100mm Wrigglers in water depths up to a few metres deep over the flats and will step up the 6 gram when fishing deeper with a bit of run.

You can’t go past the Squidgies fishheads for the 100mm fish with the 2/0 - 9 gram being ideal again in water depths up to around 3 metres and them I step up to the 3/0 - 11 gram in depths up to 6 metres. I find that you lose the tail action on these if you fish any heavier as the drop is then too quick. Another little tip that will dramatically improve your results is to glue all your tails onto the jig heads with a drop of super glue. I use Selleys “Quick Fix” with the brush applicator that you can get in Woolworths. Just put a drop around the retainers before you push the tail up onto the head. This helps from being “pantsed” or having your tail torn from the retainer on a missed strike – the fish is then more likely to come back & strike again if your tail is still in place and swimming correctly after a missed strike. I have actually had flathead strike my Squidgies half a dozen or more times before finally getting pinned!

Another key that you need to remember is your Squidgies are always swimming – both on the drop & on the lift. You will note however that nearly all your strikes will come on the drop. This is why it is important to use a main line that is visible and easy to see. I use Power-pro braid in yellow 10lb as my main line with around one rod length (approx. 7ft) of fluorocarbon leader in 20lb. An ideal rod & reel combo for targeting flathead consists of a fast action rod around 7-8 ft in length with a matching spinning reel in a 3000- 4000 size range. My favourite combo is a G.Loomis NRX 852 matched with Stradic Ci4 3000 – which is an amazingly light outfit that you can cast all day!

Retrieves can be varied but a standard starting point is the “double whip” using either the squidgy wrigglers or fish. This technique involves casting your Squidgy out and allowing it to sink to the bottom. You will know when your lure reaches the bottom when your line goes limp/slack. You then simply wind up until your line is tight & use two quick upward lifts of your rod. You then maintain a small belly in your line as the lure swims back to the bottom – watching for any pauses it twitches. Most flathead strikes will come as a solid twitch or thump on the drop and you will need to strike in order to set the hook. If you miss the first bite – allow the lure to again swim back to the bottom & follow it up with a few small hops. If the flatty is still keen it will grab it again. It is really active fishing and you need to be watching your line all the time or you will miss some takes.I believe using the S-factor which comes with the Pro-Range Squidgies also improved your results dramatically. I also like to use another scent & colour marker called “Spike-It” in the Hot Pink Garlic or Chartreuse. This stuff dyes the tails of your plastics as well as adding the strongest garlic scent I have ever smelt! I don’t know where flathead developed the taste for garlic – but they sure do seem to like it. Tip: Do not spill Spike-It on anything or it will be dyed and smelling of garlic for ever more!

Now where to fish? I always pick the largest drop out - low tide days when targeting flathead and fish the last few hours of the run out and first of the run in tide period. This means that all the shallow flat areas will be running off and you simply then look for the best drains. These will sometimes be like small rivers running off the main flats with the flathead waiting in ambush at the mouths of these picking off the baitfish as they are forced off the flat with reseeding water. Stake out the front of these areas and thoroughly fish each one before moving on. You will often find a number of fish will be found in the best areas with it not being uncommon to catch good numbers from these key areas. Other areas to focus on will include areas where rocks meet sand or mud & weed beds.

Soft Plastic lures have truly have changed the way we fish today & are deadly on flathead so please observe your local fishing regulations and limit your kill – Don’t kill your limit !

NOTE: You can watch a number of great Squidgy rigging & fishing tip videos @ http://www.youtube.com/user/squidgies