I remember the first fish I caught on a lure was a Dusky Flathead! We all pretty much grew up chasing them on the flats, what keeps you coming back for more after all these years?
Doesn't matter which river, creek or bay you live close by, there is always quality sized dusky's sitting on shallow sandflats waiting for the tide to drop. Chasing these Crocs is a very cheap and quick way of getting out for a fish. It's great to get the kids started as well, and you don't even need a boat! Most of the time I'm leaving my boat on the bank and walking the flats anyway! There's something about chasing this calibre of fish in such shallow water that stains the memory!
Using larger size lures is an effective way to target bigger Flathead, what's your favorite part of this form of fishing?
Shallow water and big fish is always going to be exhilarating, from the dark shadow following your lure to when a monster slides itself into your net. Stalking big crocs on a shallow sandspit is something that gets the heart racing, you know she's there somewhere, but you don't know when or where she will show herself and engulf your lure!
What're some conditions you favour when chasing these bigger sized females on swimbaits?
WIND- A flat calm day is a tough day to fool big fish into eating an artificial lure! Wind Chop is your friend and helps hide your silhouette as well as gives the fish a lot of protection, which then allows them to stay in the shallows for longer.
TIDE- Tide is a very vital key; it will either hold fish on a 'run-in' or 'run-out' tide. It'll also work better with the depressions and layout of your bank or spit, to allow the Flathead to ambush prey.
WATER TRAFFIC- don't be put off by boat traffic. Some of my bigger fish have come from popular skiing areas and banks that are popular for families with kids and pets. If it's exposed to current, wind or tidal movement; it is worth a shot!
Do you feel tide and barometer has a significant contribution to your days fishing? Or is it just repetition that provides success?
Shallow water fish are very susceptible to temperature changes. They are in the shallows for one reason, and that's to EAT! They love warm water and fire upon a sunny day in the shallows. If the barometer is low, that's a significant factor for me, to either chase a different species or do some tackle maintenance - it'll mean the air is colder and it won't be as warm. They will still eat, but they aren't as lively.
Tide is a massive factor in how and when I fish. Tide changes are ideal, and if you can time a tide change around sunrise or sunset, you're maximising your chances of finding and hooking a big girl! I do, however, like an hour either side of a tide change, as it gives the water a chance to start moving and get those fish into an eating mood.
Let's say you're heading to a spot you think a big female would be sitting on a particular tide, how do you read the location, approach and start casting?
If I know she's sitting in a specific spot on a particular part of a tide; typically I would pull up 100m short and electric in and be fanning outcasts in front and towards the bank. Remember you're in a boat and your also 6 foot above the water; a fish will see you a long way ahead, so you need to be mindful of the sun as well.
Big Flathead doesn't get big for no reason, they taste great and are a great sport fish, so those big girls are smart, and they don't fool easily. "Think like a fish, and you'll have more luck"!
I know you're a fan of really covering a spot and being quiet, how important is stealth and always casting?
Shallow water sends sounds further and travels quicker, so stealth is mandatory for success on big girls. Fan your casts out, don't get caught up in the one spot, work a bank and slowly move up, fish will see a lure and still travel for it if they're hungry.
The beauty of flats fishing is they are up there for a reason, and if they spot an injured baitfish or in your case an injured lure, they will make an effort to hit it if they are hungry and in the mood.
How do you work the lure in certain zones? And what size lure has proven the best shape and length?
I'm a real big fan of suspending lures. Fish will still rise and smack a lure on the surface in 5 foot of water if they are hungry enough, so don't be afraid to fish a little wider and work your way towards the bank.
Long pauses with twitches is a real killer for glide baits as it gives them a chance to sit naturally and stay in the strike zone for longer. Once you find a lure shape you like, you can start to swap the split rings and hooks to make it a slow sinking or a slow floating lure. You can also use sticky weights or tungsten putty as an added weight as well.
As of late, there have been big fish caught on lures over 200mm long; however, they do come at a cost, they are far, and few between and you miss out on your smaller fish in the 60-80cm size quiet often.
I've found that a sweet spot for shallow water swimbaits and glide baits is between 150-180mm long and the larger body minnow style. You still get all of your larger fish on these, and you always get the smaller fish as mentioned before as well.
When did you first start chasing big Flathead on lures?
I started chasing big Flathead on lures about 5 or 6 years ago, but there wasn't much on the market in the way of big shallow running lures. There was no glide baits, no swimbaits and no big unweighted plastics designed for shallow water. Things have come a long way in regards to tackle for targeting these big fish.
I believe your dad was a significant part of your fishing and the knowledge you've gained. Has he helped you progress with his knowledge?
By far! He was always the one I would ask for advice and still is to this day. I grew up watching him catch large fish in shallow water and was intrigued by how they got so BIG! It's great when we fish together, new and old techniques are thrown around as well as old tricks and tips we both have learnt along the way.
What's your most memorable capture, and why?
It's a hard one but it's not my biggest fish. I would have to say a high 90's fish, that sent bow waves across a sand flat - hunting down a glide bait in a foot of water! Watching this big brown thing hurl towards a lure is pretty daunting, as you stand still watching it all unfold while you try not to spook it! The fish sat under it until I twitched it and then engulfed it and went into POWER mode and tore off.
It was unreal!
WRITTEN AND EXPERIENCED BY HAYDEN ELKS
We recommend our range of rods for this form of fishing. Our 12-20lb Spin if you're more comfortable using a spin model or the 12-20lb Baitcast if you prefer casting big lures with a BC set up.