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WINTER FLATHEAD

Aidan Robertson

With winter just around the corner it's time to gear up for flathead.  Dusky Flathead (Platycephalus fuscus) are found in abundance in the winter months. With this said, it is a great time of year to bring out the flathead gear and chase a few on plastics. If you are new to lure fishing then this is the species for you. Flathead generally aren't fussy about what they feed on and as long as you present the lure in the correct manor you're in with a chance.

When winter approaches flathead seem to come into the general areas that I fish and are a common catch.  They sit in tight to the bottom and ambush their prey as it approaches overhead. Knowing this, I generally fish a TT Lures HeadlockZ HD jighead between 1/8 and 1/4oz in weight, depending on the depth of the water. By using a jighead within this weight range your plastic spends most of its time making constant contact with the bottom and staying right in the strike zone.

No matter if you have a boat, kayak or are limited to land based fishing, I'm sure that there are a couple of areas near you that hold a few flathead. In my general area we have a good variety of saltwater lakes, rock walls, sand banks and flats that are all good holding areas for flathead. The best advice when fishing any sort of lure is to try and 'match the hatch' as best you can. Different colours and styles of plastics will work well in different locations but the most versatile for all locations would have to be the ZMan 3" Scented ShrimpZ, 4" StreakZ Curly TailZ and the smaller ZMan 2.5" GrubZ. With these three styles you will be covered.

For the bigger flathead it may also be handy to have a couple of ZMan 5" StreakZ in Pearl colour rigged up. The bigger plastics I have found to be effective when fishing deeper water with a bit more tidal flow.  These areas, such as rock walls and drop offs, tend to hold some large fish. On a recent trip targeting threadfin salmon on my local rock wall I encountered an 81cm flathead on my third cast. This fish was caught on a 5" StreakZ in Pearl, rigged on a 1/4oz #5/0 TT HeadlockZ jighead. This just goes to show that it's sometimes worth throwing a larger lure to see if there are bigger females about. Don't be afraid that you won't catch smaller flathead with a 5" plastic because although small they are very greedy and on numerous trips I've caught flathead only just bigger than the lure they tried to fit down their mouth.

When fishing clear water for flathead, such as shallow rock bars, sand banks and flats, Motor Oil and Watermelon Red are very effective colours. We all have our personal favourites or 'go to' lure colours out of the ZMan range and mine would without doubt be Motor Oil. When the water is a little dirtier I have found the New Penny colour in the ZMan 4" StreakZ Curly TailZ and 3" ShrimpZ to work very well.

My preferred technique for about 90 percent of lure fishing would be to let the plastic hit the bottom and then give the lure two short sharp flicks of the rod, followed by a pause until you see the line go slack. Once your line has gone slack you know that your plastic has made contact with the bottom and I then repeat the process.

When fishing rock bars you have to be a little bit more careful and give the lure a flick as soon as it makes contact with the bottom to minimize your risk of getting snagged. If you do happen to get snagged and are in a boat or kayak it's not usually a problem. By not putting too much tension on the line, you can usually motor/paddle to your lure and once you get behind it, it will usually just pull off with a little flick.

What tides should you fish for flathead?

A run out tide is usually a good time to fish for flathead. During the run out tide the water drains off the flats, giving flathead an opportunity to sit in areas where there is tidal movement, for example drop offs or amongst rocky outcrops. Here they can sit in ambush and wait for the perfect size meal to make its way off the flats and into their mouth. In an area like this you can position your boat or kayak adjacent to the drop off and let your lure flow down with the current and through the strike zone.

Another stage of the tide that I like to fish is the first hour or so of the run in. At this time water is covering the flats and small baitfish are the first ones to make their way up into the shallow water to feed on yabbies and crabs that have been walking the flats at low tide. At certain areas in the estuary system predatory fish are not far behind, sneaking their way up onto the flats for an easy meal. At this stage in the tide flathead are not all that you might encounter. Through the winter months grunter, bream and tailor are all present around rock bars, shallow flats and weed beds, making for some fun by-catch.

The gear that I use for chasing flathead is a size 10/15 size Quantum Exo/Smoke spin reel and a 1-4/2-5kg 7" graphite spin rod. A 7" rod allows for you to throw a nice long cast with even the lightest of lures.  I usually use between 4 and 10lb braid on my flathead set ups, with 10-15lb Fluorocarbon Leader. Fluorocarbon leader is a must because flathead have abrasive mouths and can fray up your leader quite easily when they are trying to shake the hook throughout the fight. 

So if you're looking at getting into lure fishing or just looking for something to fish for over winter, I recommend you get yourself a couple of packets of ZMan plastics and give chasing flathead a go.  Whether you are young or old, have years of experience or are just starting out, they are loads of fun!

Until next adventure, keep your rod bent!
Aidan Robertson

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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2017