Time to go soft!

By Shane Murton

Cool season saltwater fishing down south for me isn't about heavy tackle and big fish, it's about downsizing my gear and getting stuck into the unique mix of fish which peak over this unlikely period of the year.

Out of all the modern yet sporty lure types out there, it's still hard to look past soft plastics if you're after a reliable flicking session over what many people consider to be the hardest period of the year to fish. I'll regularly turn to these soft sensations when looking for results over this cooler period, and in shutdown bite conditions they're game changers.

This isn't just the footy season, there's actually an abundance of ways to get a soft plastic inhaled this time of year. So what are a few perennial favourites you can be putting the crosshairs on down south with your light flick stick and a bunch of jigheads and tails?

Beach & Flats Targets

Fishing from the sand is quite productive over this period. This time of the year is well known for its big daytime tides which encourage fish close to shore. Also more high energy sea conditions scour out deep gutters and holes on our beaches which further encourages predators and baitfish alike to come in.

Salmon are a lure fishing mainstay down south and thrive in our chilly winter waters. These fish can form quite large aggregations at this time, which makes for some top shelf sportfishing! Many of these big schools of fish will drift out of the surf zone and into protected lagoons, beach corners and even quite sheltered bays, and this is the time to be armed with your bream-sized rod and be ready to flick a soft plastic into the frenzy. Hooking 2-5kgs of salmon on your flick stick is crazy fun, and getting spooled is not out of the question here when land-based. We've had 8lb fish run us down to the very last few metres of line in calm water, and if they were hooked in more surfy areas, with strong rips and currents, we would have lost the lot for sure!

Salmon will eat pretty well anything that moves and 100mm or larger plastics burnt through the schools or left to sink down through the water column will be slurped down all day long. If you're after a bit of extra casting distance stick with heavier jigheads, or even try soft vibes like Spanyid Sniper Vibes or pre-rigged plastics like Slick Rigs.

Flathead are another prime cool season target and this is the known breeding time in my neck of the woods as the big mummas come in close and load up on mullet and other fish which are also breeding. This is the prime time to be wading or flicking from the bank to try and score a PB sized lizard, with any low reefy structures, weedbeds, edges, gutters and channels ideal to be prospecting.

Squidgy Stealth or Pro Range Prawns are two options that are producing for us, with any 80 to 110mm paddle tail or wriggler style pattern also fine. Keep your jighead weight light so you have plenty of time in the strike zone, with 1-3 grams generally what we use, with Squidgy Weapon jigheads ideal and featuring a strong hook to hold these fish.

Estuary - The Big Two

Bream are still a favourite even over these months. Cooling water can send the fish deep and slow down the edge bite. This being said, quality black bream are more than possible.

We like to fish deep and slow presentations this time of year, working all the proven favourites. It's hard to beat twitching Wrigglers that are loaded with scent for cool water bream, they get results even on the most lock jawed fish. We've also had our eyes opened when using small 6g Spanyid Sniper Vibes, and methodically working these down deep is scoring us large black bream. Literally on my first effort with them I hooked a horse of a fish that crunched the vibe, and they're well worth trying out, particularly in dirty winter water.

Bream in man-made lakes and canals will continue to be caught. Many of these fish are basically trapped and can't go anywhere, and fishing creature baits around the pontoons, or working over the deeper sections and rock walls will continue to produce.

School jew are more than possible, with the odd bigger fish on the cards as well. We have some monster sized jewies where I live in winter and more get caught during this time than at any other point of the year. 4-7 inch Flick Baits and large Wrigglers would be my pick of plastics. Try fishing any holes you can find, or near proven bait holding structures.

Bays & Inshore

Some of the biggest snapper in Southern Australia actually get caught over these colder months. Big reds love an easy meal and they will be chasing spawning squid and cuttlefish in certain areas, and aren't afraid to come in shallow after a strong winter blow to feast on any dead or dying marine life they can sniff out.

While the snapper can become fixated with certain food sources over these months, there's no denying that their aggressive streak will still make them viable on soft plastics. Using a 4000 sized threadline and a 7ft rod and working large Flick Baits, Whip Baits, Wrigglers or Shads will put you in the game. Genuine monster class fish are on the cards and I'll be out there trying for them with this gear!

Salmon and flathead will also be popular options for bay fishos looking to throw softies around, however for something different whiting will also be schooled up tightly. KG whiting over winter tend to bunch up over a harder bottom type and when you find them they can be in large numbers and will feed recklessly. Creature baits and worm pattern plastics will catch them and offer a more sporty alternative to a squid strip or pipi!

Yellowfin or sand whiting can also be found. In my area these whiting tend to vacate their summer grounds and seek warmer water and they are still catchable on worm plastics. Keep your jighead weight light when trying for these shallow water whiting and keep your lure on the move to have them striking at it. It's all visual fishing and each capture on a soft lure is so much sweeter than using bait. So as our waters cool down, back off your tackle and gather up your soft plastics as these gems are sure to keep your rod bent this winter!