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By Tackle Tactics Pro Angler Michael Wright
First published: Jul 7 2021

Michael spends plenty of time chasing his favourite species, bream, bass and mangrove jack.

Luderick... The Forgotten Fighter

Luderick (commonly known as blackfish) are primarily herbivores but will also eat crustaceans such as yabbies and small shrimp, and take artificials such as small soft plastics, vibes and weed-like flies.

They inhabit estuaries and nearshore coastal waters along the eastern and southern seaboard of Australia, and they are also found around the North Island of New Zealand where they are known as Parore (or s**t fish!).

Luderick mature in about 4-6 years, so a 10 year old fish will generally measure around 35-40 cm in length. They can age to over 24 years and grow up to 70cm in length, but these days a 50cm example would be an exceptional trophy fish.

Spawning in southern Queensland and along the New South Wales north and mid coast occurs in the cooler months from June to September, but as you head into southern New South Wales and North Eastern Victoria it is generally happening later in the year. During this period, large schools of fish move from the ocean waters and headlands into the estuaries.

Luderick are a strongly built fish with a broad powerful tail, making them a great light tackle sports fish. A bonus is they are not bad table fare if cared for correctly.

Interestingly, it was because of the Wall Street market crash in the 1930's the luderick became significant to Aussie anglers. During the depression many people became unemployed, so to provide food for the family and bring in some cash, anglers would catch the plentiful luderick, and in some respect this humble fish became the currency of the day.

Today, we are still blessed with some great luderick fishing, however some knowledge about the fish's habits and pre-planning are required to successfully and consistently catch them. Let's go over a few of the basics for the gear required and some successful techniques.

Luderick Bait

Luderick mainly feed on the lush green weed on ocean rocks, referred to as cabbage weed. However, as the spawning takes place the fish move from the ocean into the estuaries, where they will prefer the green stringy weed that populates these areas. This type of weed is often harder to find and many anglers will keep tightly lipped about their bait sources. With a bit of local knowledge, the weed can be found in locations like brackish water lagoons, and drains that feed into the main waterway. Collecting fresh bait in the area you are fishing is ideal (and best of all it's free), and only small amounts need to be used on a small short shank hook in the size 8-12 range.

Gearing Up for Luderick

My choice of outfit is far removed from the old Rangoon cane rods and centre-pin reels used in days gone by. In fact, my whole setup is quite different and it's not what one would call conventional luderick fishing gear.

Rod, Reel and Line

If fishing in the estuaries, I prefer the Okuma LRF Gen2 LRF2-S-742L model which is 7'4" and rated at 2-5kg. I use this rod for the purpose of throwing small hardbody lures for bream over the flats (for which it excels), but this rod can do so much more than that, and is one of those fishing rods that truly has multiple capabilities. The magic of this rod is in the blank design, as it's a true hybrid combining carbon and glass construction. Okuma call this Unidirectional Fibre Reinforcement (UFR), and the combination of sensitivity and strength is outstanding. Bite detection is electric, and you can flip most fish into the boat or onto the shore just like those USA bass pros, without the worry of snapping your rod due to high sticking.

At just 7'4" in length, most traditionalists would scoff that it's too short for luderick fishing. But I find it awesome for fishing off bridge pylons, jetties and rock walls that fall into deep water. It is also ideal for fishing from your boat, where you don't need the extra length of a more classic luderick rod.

The tip of this rod is where the magic happens, as the construction allows excellent sensitivity and softness in the action, before easily loading up for that classic luderick hook set as the float goes down... and the fight begins! All components on these rods are top-notch, with quality SeaGuide marine-grade SS316 guides, combined with a comfortable ergonomic Okuma gold reel seat and full length shaped lower grip.

My reel of choice is a big step away from the traditional centre-pin models of yesteryear, instead being a modern light spin reel. A 2000 or 2500 size will suffice, as it needn't carry loads of line - long casts are rarely required and luderick are not known for spooling anyone. In fact, any spin reel used for chasing bream will do the job perfectly. I use either an Okuma Jaw spin reel (JAW-20 model) or a Ceymar (C-25 model), both being high quality reels from the Okuma line up that offer a smooth drag, rugged reliability and excellent value.

Fishing line has dramatically changed since the popularity of luderick fishing kicked off in the 1930's. What hasn't changed is the commitment of the Platypus brand to evolve and improve on fishing lines for today's angler. Australian owned and made, Platypus is the only fishing line company that's been around here since 1898 and their history is deeply entangled with luderick fishing.   

Lord only knows how many reels have been spooled up with Platypus line over the decades, from traditional monofilaments like Classic or Pre-Test, and now to the new generation of modern braided lines. For chasing luderick, I prefer using braid over monofilament, purely because it floats well on the surface and drifts more naturally due to the thinner diameter and limp feel. Another strong point is when setting the hook - braid gives near zero stretch, so an instant hook up is guaranteed without the usual delay experienced with traditional mono lines.

Any of the Platypus braids such as Pulse X4 and X8, P8 and Platinum Braid in breaking strains from 4lb up to 10lb are a great choice. As mentioned previously, getting spooled by a luderick is not on the cards so even a 100 metre top shot of braid is sufficient, as long as you have backed the spool with monofilament first. The goal is to have the spool filled nicely to within a few millimetres of the lip, which will deliver smooth and accurate casts, while ensuring the drag is working at the optimum level.

Using a premium quality leader is critical when luderick fishing. A fluorocarbon leader such as Platypus Stealth FC is an excellent choice, as its almost invisible to fish in the water, and has high abrasion resistance. I use at least a metre of leader, usually going for 8lb breaking strain.

Luderick Floats

The most common float for luderick fishing is a smaller pencil type. But if you're fishing the wash or end of big break walls, the float will need to have a bit more buoyancy and you might use a larger-bodied pencil float, or look at the excellent Adjust-A-Bubble floats which can be custom weighted with water for the ideal float height. Most tackle shops with luderick in the area will stock a variety of dedicated floats, often locally made by old experienced hands and beautifully crafted.

Luderick are timid and wary fish, so you need to weight the float down with lead split shots so that only about 30mm of the float sits out of the water, and it gives little resistance to being pulled under. Getting this right takes practice and will vary depending on conditions, but you'll know it is weighted correctly when it sits with the float is just protruding above the surface, and bites are detected easily.

The length of the line hanging under the float will depend on the local conditions. Adjusting your depths is something that luderick anglers are well versed at, so be ready to change it until you find active fish.

What About Luderick on Lures?

The decision to use lures or soft plastics for luderick comes down to a personal preference, but it's an effective and fun way to target them. I have bagged a few on soft plastic grubs and they fight hard on lures as well.  Other anglers have also caught them on vibe lures such as the TT Lures Switchblades and Ghostblades.

For those wanting to target these fish with soft plastics, I would recommend ZMan's 2" or 2.5" GrubZ in Motor Oil, Midnight Oil and Watermelon Red. Use a light jighead to present the plastic in a natural way, such as a 1/20oz or 1/16oz Hidden Weight System (HWS) or HeadlockZ Finesse jighead from TT Lures. Hook sizes of #1 or #2 are ideal. Technique wise, let the lure flutter down through the water column while watching for taps, and then use a slow roll retrieve with soft lifts of the rod tip back through the strike zone.

A few dabs of scent such as Pro-Cure Super Gel in Saltwater Yabby/Nipper, Shrimp or Bloodworm on your lure will imitate the aroma of some of the luderick's natural food sources, and can often turn timid follows into strikes.

Burley Up

Before you make a cast, remember to burley up with a fresh weed/sand mixture. This is easy to make, a chunk of the locally available green or cabbage weed is churned through a few handfuls of damp sand until it breaks up. You can even put a few drops of the previously mentioned Pro-Cure scent into this mix. Take a small amount of this concoction and fan it out so it spreads and drifts down through the water column in the area you are targeting. Repeat this every now and then, or if you move around in the area you are fishing.

Choose Your Luderick Challenge

Chasing luderick is an old past time that has been reinvented with modern tackle and techniques. It's an enjoyable target as this fish is a hard fighter, yet is somewhat forgotten in this modern era of sports fishing. Catching them on bait is great fun, and targeting them with lures is a viable option most anglers will find challenging yet rewarding.

Overall, the conundrum is a choice between the reliable option of using fresh weed for bait, or tacking up the challenge and throwing lures for these wary yet hard-charging fish.

Tight lines, fish on!
Michael Wright

Gearing up:
Okuma LRF Gen2 Spin Rods
Okuma Jaw Spin Reels
Okuma Ceymar Spin Reels
ZMan 2" GrubZ
ZMan 2.5" GrubZ
TT Lures HeadlockZ Finesse jigheads
TT Lures Hidden weight System (HWS) jigheads
Pro-Cure Super Gel Scents
Platypus Pulse X4 and Platypus Pulse X8
Platypus Stealth FC Fluorocarbon leader