Flathead are an endearing species and a highly popular lure target right around the country. Their no-nonsense attitude towards eating fake presentations, in particular soft plastics, has made them a cult favourite amongst the legions of flick stick fanatics out there.
Soft plastics are the perfect presentation to use if you're looking to pin a bunch of flatties for the table, or target a trophy monster croc. They're a great workhorse lure option for bulk casting, and if they're put within eye sight of a lizard it's a rare day they'll be refused. So where to be casting your Squidgie soft plastics?
Flathead are quiet diverse in the places they'll reside and can be targeted with soft plastics. From tidal and landlocked creeks and river systems, through to protected and semi-protected open coastal flats and beaches, you have options to explore.
Within these broad locations you're looking for specific holding points/feeding areas for flathead. Channels, drains, gutters and edges carved into sand or mud, along with weed beds and low reef/rock probably constitute a majority of the bottom to be searching out and casting near. However, it can literally be anything that breaks up the monotony of an otherwise plain bottom type that will hold these fish and provide an ambush point for their feeding attacks.
Without some obvious structures to aim at, a wide flat for example can be rather daunting to fish when on the flathead trail, and it's best to narrow your efforts right down to certain high probability zones. Try to flick over the main structures first then look for the less obvious ones to work. From a boat you can position yourself in deeper water and focus on run-off drains and work the outer patches better, but land-based waders are more than in the game with this fishing also. Flathead are garbage gutses and will hound baitfish like any predator. For this reason finding the bait, such as mullet schools, can give you a jump start as well.
Learning where to fish at various stages of the tide is critical for flathead, and they will have different holding points depending on the state of the tide. Trial and error and accumulating a deep think-tank of knowledge of a particular area is the only way to really work these finer details out.
Getting your soft plastic flathead ammo together needn't be a brain strain. A safe starting point is to use lures in the 70 to 110mm size range. The Squidgy Pro Range Prawn, new Squidgy Bio Tough Fish and Wriggler are just a few options that will see you on the right path. All are proven flathead takers, and have amazing tail actions, allowing you to almost go into autopilot when you're fishing them for long periods, as they have so much inbuilt movement on the drop. A simple double flick up of the lure, then a pause to let it sink to the bottom again, is all you need to do to get eaten.
Jighead selection is all about using a robust head/hook option that offers good jaw penetration on the hook-up. A heavy gauge hook over finer options is a wise move, as flathead will bend them open, especially the bigger fish that you really want to land. Good hook exposure will also equate to better hook-sets, so consider stepping up your hook size a touch so it finds jaw easily. Flathead have bucket mouths and it's easy to pull lures out on the strike.
Keep jighead weights down, as you can be fishing is super shallow water, and you want to maximise time in the strike zone where possible. Slower sink rates can also mean less snags. 1/8 and 1/6 weight heads are suited to shallow to medium depths from the shore. For deeper water and higher current flow you'll want to increase weight, with a hook size of 1/0 to 3/0 suited to these fish. Squidgy Weapon jigheads have you covered in this department. It may also pay to pack some weedless jigheads for working heavier rocky structures and areas with thicker weed.
When it comes to soft plastic colours both natural and bright coloured plastics will earn their keep in your attack. On the clear water sunny days natural and dark coloured plastics work well, and lizards will easily spot the profile and the contrast. Conversely for dirty water it's bright colours all the way, with the belief that getting a flathead to spot your lure is most of the battle won as they're in the shallows to feed and not spectate! Matching the hatch also comes into it, and a nice prawn or mullet profile will often replicate a prominent local food source.
Flick stick outfits should be kept light for flathead soft plastic efforts if you want maximum fun from each encounter. You can tame most sized lizards on a bream-sized 1000 to 2000 threadline on a 2-4kg rod. Spooled with 2-4kg braid and with an 8-10kg Ocea Fluorocarbon leader, you have a croc capable combo.
A crisp tipped rod for this fishing can be of benefit, to offer good hook setting when your lure is first inhaled by a fish and to turn and land the better lizards. They're not a fish you want to prolong fights with if you can help it, as their violent head-shakes, jaw flexes and short bursts of speed are ideal for popping out jigheads and even bending them open. A landing net, such as the Environet, can help seal the deal quicker.
The bycatch on soft plastics is much greater than with any other lure types, so even if flatties aren't playing the game there's usually something else jumping on to keep the interest levels up. But overall they're a confidence lure for flathead that is hard to go past if you're after results on these fantastic ever-hungry fish.