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Lighten Up

By Sean Bekkers

Of late, as you may have seen through my videos and articles, flathead have been my target species, with most of the fish ranging anywhere from 30cm up to a solid 70cm. With the release of the new Okuma ITX range of spinning reels, I found myself getting really excited about building a new lightweight finesse combo. On my previous 1-3kg combos I've always run 10lb braid, however on this new combo I was keen to lighten up the braid and use it to chase backwater bass and all my favourite estuary species.

After some thought, I eventually settled on a new TT Rods Red Belly 7' 1-3kg rod, matched it to the ITX-1000 reel and loaded with 6lb Platypus Bionic X9 Braid. Following a few cracking sessions, I can say confidently that this little combo holds its own and it has fast become my favourite estuary combo.

Many soft plastic anglers will tell you, when asked 'how do I catch more fish on soft plastics', something along the lines of 'have the lightest presentation possible for the conditions'. This translates roughly into presenting the most finesse presentation possible. As you can imagine, to cast a finesse presentation effectively you will need to have the accompanying light leader, line and of course a suitable rod and reel combo. There are heaps of other factors that come into play when deciding how light to go, including location, structure, current and wind, just to name a few. So, let's break it down.


Firstly, the braid. Without making it too technical, the main benefit of fishing with braid is that it doesn't stretch, especially when compared with traditional nylon monofilament lines. For soft plastic anglers particularly, this is a good thing as no stretch means that you have excellent contact / feel with your presentation. Even when the presentation sinking to the bottom with the bail open, you can still feel a fish grab it.

So, what is the advantage of going for a lighter braid? For me it came down to two things, better feel due to a smaller diameter of the braid and longer casts than when using a heavier braid. The smaller diameter braid casts better as there is less friction on the rod guides as you cast and there is also less drag and therefore the wind has less influence on the braid. Not to mention your braid / leader knot connection is a lot smaller.

At first this may not seem that important, especially when you're throwing bigger and heavier presentations. When casting a light / finesse presentation though, something like a 1/8oz jighead and ZMan 2.5" Slim SwimZ, the heavier the braid is will make a huge difference. Leader wise, it obviously should be light as well, however you will need to consider the species that you're targeting and the structure you're fishing. For example, when chasing bream on the flats you might run 6lb, while when chasing them hard up on a rock bar you may choose to go a little heavier and fish something like 10lb.

Rod & Reel Combo

Next up is the rod and reel. I like a fast tapered rod, into a stiffer backbone. When the rod is too soft or whippy, it lacks the punch to really flick those lighter presentation with pinpoint accuracy. So, for me it was a no brainer that the TT Rods Red Belly would suit me down to the ground. The appealing thing about the Okuma ITX-1000 is that they have a considerable amount of drag for such a small reel, with another drawcard being the weight of the reel. Coming in at 200g the ITX completes a perfect combo to cast all day... granted that this is just my opinion.

Now, this outfit is not going to cover me for everything, for example when sending a lightly weighted presentation into heavy structure, this may not be my first choice. After a few fun sessions though, this combo has punched well above its weight, putting the brakes on some respectable estuary species, including flathead, trevally and snapper, just to name a few.

Jigheads & Plastics

As I intend to use this combo for finesse style plastics fishing, casting ZMan Slim SwimZ, GrubZ and TRD BugZ naturally springs to mind as these are my go-to finesse presentations. Matching them up with a jighead weight can be a little tricky and depends on the conditions. On a glamour day, with minimal current and wind, I may opt for a 1/10oz or 1/12oz jighead depending on the style, either a TT Lures NedlockZ or HeadlockZ. On the other hand, I may opt to step up to a 1/4oz if the wind and current are going to be a big factor. Even with a slightly heavier jighead, in the tough conditions, having a light and responsive combo, spooled up with light braid, will be an advantage. One advantage is that you can better determine the difference between the bottom and a fish gently picking up your presentation.

So far, the standout fish on this combo would be an inshore snapper, measuring 49cm. The conditions for the day were awesome, with the only real factor being the current as the tide was draining out. Leader wise, I was running 10lb Platypus Stealth FC Fluorocarbon, noting that 10lb leader is my favourite and that I was chasing flathead, with their raspy mouths and tendency to chew leaders. On this occasion I was rigged with a 1/4oz TT Lures DemonZ jighead (Green), matched up with a ZMan 2.5" Slim SwimZ.

Following a few hops, I was able to feel the lightest take and following on from my setting of the hook, I initially thought I had dropped the fish. Lo and behold, the snapper was swimming toward me and fast! Throughout the fight I was able to maintain a good feel in terms of what the fish was doing and more so the leader rubbing on its teeth! Obviously taking on the finesse approach means that there is no locking up on the bigger fish and you really need to play the fish all the way to the net. It's nailing biting fishing at its best, lol.

If you've been keen to add a finesse combo to your stable and you're not sure where to start, hopefully this article helps to answer a few questions. My finesse combo is going to be a must have for future estuary sessions and I'm keen to see what other cool fish I can catch on it.

Screaming Dragz

Gearing Up:
TT Rods Red Belly Spin Rods - RBS701L 7' 1-3kg
Okuma ITX Carbon Spin Reel - ITX-1000
Platypus Bionic Braid X9 - 6lb
Platypus Stealth FC Fluorocarbon Leader - 6-10lb