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BLADING FLATHEAD

Justin Willmer

Blades are a versatile lure option and quality TT Lures blades can be jigged, cast or trolled. They cast like bullets, making them ideal for prospecting the flats and drop offs where you find flathead and when I head out in the yak I normally arm myself with the TT Lures Ghostblade and Switchblade in a selection of weights and colours.

Ghostblades are polycarbonate, semi-transparent and are available in 1/12oz and 1/6oz, which are perfect for working the shallows. My go-to colours include Purple Glimmer Ghost, Gold Noggin Ghost and Pink Ghost.

Switchblades are a metal blade that casts well even in strong winds and I normally carry 1/8oz for fishing the mangrove edges and shallows, 1/6oz for working the shallow drop offs, 1/4oz for slightly deeper water and a few 3/8oz, just in case I want to work the channel edges, bridge pylons or sections of faster running water. Go-to colours include Purple Glimmer, Gold Noggin', Pink Bimbo, Orange O Ranga and Pink Hussar, but like with the Ghostblades all the colours will catch fish.

Finding Flathead

The last couple of hours of the run out tide and first hour of the run in is my favourite time to target flathead as they concentrate along drop offs, in the mouths of drains and along the edges of sand and mud banks. Look for eddies formed by points and patches of weed, drains that funnel bait off the flats and even small depressions and changes in depth as they will all hold flathead.

When the tide is higher and the flats are flooded, look for sand and rubble patches amongst weed flats, flooded drains, timber snags, rock bars and even the mangrove edges as all of this structure will attract bait and in turn flathead.

Keep an eye and ear out for bait flicking or spooking in the shallows as this will often signal a predator in the area and I have caught many flathead by casting a blade past the spooked bait and working it back through the area.

If you are restricted to fishing from the bank for flathead the Switchblade is especially deadly, as it casts a long way and sinks quickly so that you can fish the entire way back to you, hopping and slow rolling it from the channel, up the drop off and back to your feet.

Retrieves

One of the biggest mistakes people make when fishing blades is to work them too aggressively. Ripping them makes the rod tip vibrate and you can feel the blade vibrating aggressively, but experience shows that a more subtle retrieve will get more bites. Quality blades have plenty of action, so there is no need to use big rips to get them working. The exception to this rule is if you are fishing blades in weedier areas, where a rip off the rod can free the blade from the weed and a strike will often follow.

Slow Lift & Drop

A simple slow lift and drop will get the bite. Cast, allow the blade to settle on the bottom and then lift the rod tip in a long slow lift. You will feel the blade vibrating on the lift and then allow it to fall to the bottom as you lower the rod tip and wind up the slack line. By repeating this process the blade will swim up off the bottom and then 'die' and flutter back to the bottom. Hits will often come on the pause or just as you commence the next lift.

Hopping

A hopping retrieve is a little more aggressive, using a few twitches of the rod tip while you slow wind, followed by a pause to allow the blade to touch down again. Some anglers prefer a couple of larger hops, while others prefer a handful of smaller hops before pausing.

Slow Rolling

Many anglers neglect the slow roll (slow wind) when using blades, but it is an extremely effective retrieve. The blade has plenty of action, so by slow winding it through the water it vibrates, alerting fish in the area to its presence, attracting fish and triggering strikes.

When slow rolling a blade you can make it run shallower by speeding up the retrieve or lifting the rod tip higher and conversely you can allow it to run deeper by slowing down or dropping your rod tip. This allows you to drive the blade over the top of structure, such as weed beds, rock bars and oysters, or drop the rod tip or slow down to allow it to fall into drains, sandy patches between the weed beds, or down the face of a drop off.

I commonly use this retrieve when pickpocketing weed flats, with bream, tailor, trevally and other species eating the blade as it runs across the top of the weed and then the flathead smashing the blade as I allow it to fall deeper into the sandy patches.

A slow roll can also be deadly when fishing mangrove edges for flathead on a higher tide. Cast into the edge of the mangroves and keep the rod tip up and wind a little quicker to get the blade out past the mangrove roots and spikes, then allow it to fall deeper or touch down once clear of this snaggy section and be prepared to get smashed by some of the larger flathead you will encounter. Again you will catch a myriad of species close into the mangroves and then as the blade sinks deeper once clear of the structure the flathead will find it.

The blade doesn't have to be bumping the bottom either, as long as it is within a foot or two of the bottom, the flathead will rise and hit it.

Rigging

Switchblades and Ghostblades have multiple attachment points - the front hole is ideal for vertical jigging or fast retrieves, the rear hole is ideal for maximum vibration at extremely slow speeds, but I generally stick to the middle hole (on blades with 3 holes) and second hole from the front (on blades with 4 holes) and this has been most effective.

The trebles on Ghostblades and Switchblades are extremely sharp, often referred to as 'sticky', so they easily find their mark. I would recommend a rubber mesh landing net to avoid trebles tangling in the net and also a pair of pliers so that you can remove the blade without putting your hands too close to the trebles.

For those worried about snagging in rough terrain, you can change the trebles to singles, such as Decoy Lure Singles to make the blade more snag resistant. The hook up rate is still good on flathead, but you will reduce the number of bream hooked.

Next time you head out chasing flatties make sure you have a couple of Switchblades in your kit - you can cast them a mile, fish them effectively in a range of depths and over the top of structure, they appeal to a stack of different species and they are especially deadly when the tide is high and the flathead are spread out over the flats.

See you on the water...
Justin Willmer

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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2017