How to catch flathead. In Australia, the flathead is an iconic bread and butter fish species found in many of our bays, rivers and estuaries. They are quite easy to target with a whole range of baits, lures and soft plastics. This makes them such a fun species to target. There are also a top table fish and one of the easiest fish species to clean. Put all that together there accessible, good to eat and fun to target what could be better. However, when targeting a fish species, you need to think about what characteristics they have. For the most part, the flathead is an ambush predator with eyes on the top of their heads. They are camouflage and will often sit on the bottom waiting for a baitfish or a mullet to swim by for an easy feed.
Thinking of those characteristics a few things come to mind, firstly keep your lures and baits close to the bottom, and secondly stay active if you’re on a boat and kayak then its best to not anchor up instead drift around and for land-base anglers its best to walk around and cover as much distance as you can. Both those points will greatly improve your catch rate.
The best soft plastics to catch flathead
There is a large range of soft plastics and lures for targeting flathead, so many, that it can become overwhelming to choose. The reality is flathead aren’t that fussy and they will have a go at just about anything cast in the right area. Curl tails, paddle tails, minnow imitations, worm imitations, yabbie imitations are a great starting point.
Some of my favourite soft plastics include the
- Worm imitations including the Berkley turtleback worm / Munroes zip worm
- Savage Gear Pro Grub in 8cm in motor oil
- Zman curly tails we like the Nuclear chicken glow colour
- Yabbie and shrimp imitations including the Savage Gear TPE Shrimp
- Zman Soft plastics including Grubz, Slim SwimZ and scented paddlers
- Squidgy Wriggler in 100mm we like the Gary Glitter colour
- Savage Gear paddle tails we like the new clear chicken colour
- Berkley Gulp Jerk shads
- Savage Gear Curl Sandeels
When it comes to jig heads ill generally have a few different weights depending on current strength and wind. This will include a 1/6 a 1/8 and a 1/12 jig head and I change things depending on the conditions. Take your time when rigging and make sure the plastic is on straight, this improves the plastic action. If your fishing in deep water on a boat then you’ll likely need to go even heavier such as a 1/4 ounce of 1/2 an ounce.
The best lures to catch flathead
There is are also a large range of lures for targeting flathead. You will want to take note of the lures intended diving depth. Lures such as the Daiwa double clutch are fished best when fishing in shallow areas under 3 meters deep. Where you can get the lure low and brush up against the sand. Some of my favourite lures include the
- Daiwa double clutch
- Squid imitations such as the Savage Gear 3D squid in smaller sizes
- Savage Gear hard body shrimp XD
- Samaki vibelicious
- Zerek Tango shad
- TT vibes in bright colours such as pink
Flathead will also happily take a vibe, blade, and hard body lure, again the options here are endless so don’t be afraid to experiment.
Techniques with lures and soft plastics
When soft plastics fishing for flatties I use 2 simple techniques.
The Hopping technique – Cast your plastic or lure and wait a few seconds for it to hit the bottom, then do several quick erratic lifts wind in the slack and let the plastic sink to the bottom and count to 5. Repeat this process until your plastic or lure is back where you are fishing. The idea behind this technique is that your imitating a wounded baitfish, and when it sinks back to the bottom is when you get most of your catches.
The slow roll – Cast your plastic or lure and wait a few seconds for it to hit the bottom, then simply do a slow continuous retrieve of your reel knows as the slow roll. This is great with curl tails, and paddle tail plastics as the natural action of the lure a foot or two above the bottom is dynamite for flathead.
The good thing about both these techniques is that there easy to learn and master. You will see after some practice that they are simple yet very effective.
The best bait to catch flathead
There are plenty of good bait choices to catch flathead. Start with pilchard, blue bait, whitebait, prawns, pippis, chicken, mackerel and the list goes on. I like to use squid for a couple of good reasons. It doesn’t fall off the hook and you get fewer bites from pest species such as banjos and toadfish. The other benefit is when I go squid fishing I cook the hoods into calamari rings, but I keep the tentacles for bait.
Rod and rig setup to catch flathead
Let’s talk about suitable gear for targeting flathead. Let’s focus on the soft plastic set up first. I think a 2-4 kilo rod, a 2500 series reel and line strength between 6 to 10-pound is ideal for targeting flatties. My current flathead rod setup is a Black Savage spin rod its 6/10 in length with a 2 -4 kilo weight capacity. Coupled with a stealth 2000 reel spooled with 8-pound silencer braid it’s a perfect setup for me and this style of fishing. When fishing with soft plastics it’s important to use braid because it doesn’t stretch therefore your always in contact with the lure and you’ll feel the bumps and bites. To improve your catch rate it’s recommended using a leader. Fluro carbon is fused fishing line which means its thinner in diameter and harder to see in the water. I always use about a rod length of Fluro carbon leader. When bream fishing I go very light 2-4 pound but when fishing for flathead ill jump up to 8-pound. Flathead has sharp bristle-like teeth and will often chew up your leader so it’s a good idea to go a little bit heavier.
Now let’s discuss the rod setup for bait fishing. Again a 2-4 or 3-5 kilo rod is perfect for this style of fishing. I generally use my Savage gear MPP2 3-5kilo 7 foot in length. I couple that will a 3000 size reel with 6 or 8 pound braid or mono. On my rod, I have a Savage Gear stealth 3000 with 6.8 pound braid.
You can make your own flathead rigs. The most common rigs are running sinker rig or a paternoster rig. You can buy premade fishing rigs which are an easy way to get started. Simply tie to your mainline and attach a sinker and you’re ready to go. Some good premade flathead rigs include these Premade Hairyback Flathead rigs.
Flathead HOTSPOTS around Melbourne and Victoria
Port Phillip Bay, Western Port, Lake Tyers, Mallacoota, Lakes around Gippsland area. Flathead can be targeted during most parts of the day, however, they are generally most active on the peak of each tide, especially low tide. All fish species are generally always active on sunrise and sundown.
The final word from the author
I love fishing and I’m happy catching any type of fish regardless of the size or species. I love targeting flathead, there easily accessible, there great to catch on soft plastics using light spinning gear and there still one of the best eating fish. Remember to always check fishing regulations and catch limits in your area. Where possible practice catch and release you don’t need to hit your bag limits just keep a couple for a feed.
You can obtain a copy of the latest Vic fishing guide here to help you get familiar with fishing rules https://vfa.vic.gov.au/recreational-fishing/recreational-fishing-guide
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