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Bream on the Flats

By Ryan Dixon

Over the years bream fishing has become arguably the most popular type of fishing for lure enthusiasts. They are a highly sort after species, that will always test the patience and skill of even the best anglers. The yellow fin bream, black bream and pikey bream are the three most popular species and with each being found in different parts of the country, bream can be targeted Australia wide. 

Bream are a species that I have been targeting for over 15 years on both bait and lures and I have seen a massive change in the way we target them. As a child I remember riding my bike down to my local river and sitting on the rocks with a ten foot rod my grandfather gave me and a big Alvey reel spooled with 30 pound monofilament line. Even fishing such a heavy line I would still manage to catch a bucket full of bream that I would take home for my father to fillet. 

In the last few years the different lure brands, rods, reels and line types have been evolving, in turn revolutionizing the way we target our chosen species.  Nowadays my ten foot rod that my grandfather gave me collects dust and the Alvey still holds the 30 pound line that I haven't used for many years. My rod of choice is now a 7 foot graphite rod with a small spinning reel, spooled with 4 pound braid line that never existed back when I started fishing as a youngster. I wouldn't dream of catching bream on 30 pound line now, which goes to show that bream are a forever changing and smart species that make us choose what we use to catch them wisely, as they become more switched on to what we are using. 

There are a variety of ways to target bream, as they are found in many different situations, but the technique I am going to talk about is catching them by casting lures on the flats.

Flats can be found in many forms, including cockle beds, coral beds, weed beds, yabby or nipper banks or even just a big flat sandbank that is traditionally shallow. Flats are found in rivers, bays and even the saltwater lakes that are quite common in our southern states.

There are no rules when targeting bream on the flats and they can be fished either from a boat or land based. When fishing a large flat from a boat I find the best approach is to make a long wind or tide assisted drift, making as little noise as possible and casting as far from the boat as possible. Having the wind at your back allows you to get maximum distance from your cast, even when using the lightest of lures. Casting accuracy is not essential when fishing the flats, which makes it the perfect learning ground for new lure anglers.

When looking for flats that I think will hold fish, I tend to look for one that has a drop off on at least one side of it. This allows the bream to wait in deep water until there is enough water on the flat for them to move up and onto the flat to feed. Believe me, in the right conditions, they will only require enough water to barely cover their backs. Although all types of flats will hold bream at different times of the tide, my favourite type is a weed flat - especially a weed flat that has small patches of sand in between the weed. Weed flats provide perfect cover for bream as they can sit in the weed and attack their prey, or cruise over the top of the weed searching for shrimp, crabs, small baitfish or other tasty morsels that they feed on. 

Knowing what lure to use is sometimes the hardest part of fishing the flats and making the right choice will often determine a good days fishing from a bad one. Generally I try to find what the bream are feeding on and use a lure that is similar in shape, size and colour to the bait in the area. This is often referred to as matching the hatch. This will change at different times of the year as the various bait comes in and out of season.

Having a good variety of lures in your tackle box is imperative with most types of lure fishing and bream fishing is no exception. Some days bream will eat one type of lure and then a totally different type the next day. When fishing with a friend in the boat I always use a totally different lure to them until one of us starts catching fish. This will help you eliminate what the bream don't want to eat and work out what they do want quicker.

There are a few different lures that I always have rigged and ready when fishing the flats and these lures rarely get taken off my rod for the next trip because I have so much confidence in their ability to catch fish. The ZMan 3" Scented ShrimpZ is a must have in my tackle box when fishing the flats. They are by far the most versatile lure I have ever used and when the prawns are running this lure is perfect and bream love them. ShrimpZ can be cut down into a chunky crab style pattern that is perfect for coral and cockle flats, fished weedless on the surface or rigged traditionally on a TT Lures jighead. The Houdini ShrimpZ colour is very similar to a banana prawns colour, with Natural and Rootbeer Gold also being equal favourites of mine. The best retrieve I find for the ShrimpZ is a slow wind, with a couple of second pause allowing it to come into contact with the bottom again.

The ZMan 2.5" GrubZ is another soft plastic that I always have rigged when fishing the flats and with the range of colours that ZMan have on the market there is always a colour to suit the situation on any given day. In crystal clear water I prefer the Hardy Head colour, with Watermelon Red, Gudgeon, Bloodworm and Motor Oil being my picks when fishing weed flats. I find the best way to fish the GrubZ is to rig them as light as possible. Heavy enough to make a long cast and as slow as possible in terms of sink rate. My personal favourite is a 1/16oz or 1/12oz #1 light wire TT HeadlockZ Finesse jigheads.

ZMan plastics are a very buoyant bait and will sit upright when at rest on the bottom. Often on the flats, bream will pick the GrubZ up off the bottom and when smeared with some Pro-Cure Super Gel scent they are sure to eat it. Not much action is needed when fishing GrubZ as they have a long curl tail and the slightest movement will get them working.

The ZMan 3.75" StreakZ is a classic baitfish style soft plastic that imitates a small baitfish perfectly. When a flat is littered with gar, small whiting, hardy heads or whitebait, this is my go to lure. Unlike to the 2.5" GrubZ the StreakZ requires action to be imparted through the rod tip. By using a slow shake and wind technique, the plastic will hold its line through the water and its tail will zip from side to side creating a perfect offering for hungry bream.

Another technique that I like to use is a very popular technique associated with soft plastics fishing. Simply make a long cast, allow the lure to sink to the bottom and give it a couple of quick hops, making sure that the lure comes back into contact with the bottom on the pause. TT's #1/0 Tournament Series and HeadlockZ Finesse Series jigheads are perfectly matched to this plastic and when rigged at the correct weight they are a must in a bream angler's arsenal. 

Another very important part of fishing the flats is choosing the right line for a particular style of flat. Too light and they can bust you off, too heavy and you won't get them to bite.  Weed, yabby or nipper flats rarely have anything that bream will be able to bust you off on, so I tend to stick to the lighter leaders on these flats. However cockle and coral flats often have razor sharp structure on them and if your line comes into contact with them whilst under pressure, more often than not it will break. This will make it very hard to know what size leader to use, however water clarity will often influence your decision. When fishing dirty water conditions you have the luxury of upgrading to 6 or 8lb leader, giving you a bit of extra security once you have hooked a bream. In times of extremely clear conditions, the lighter the leader the better, with fluorocarbon a must.

Whilst I have a large range of rods and reels that I use for bream fishing, nothing too special is required for chasing bream on the flats. A light 7'-7'6" graphite rod in the 1-4kg range is ample, matched with a 1000-2500 size spinning reel. Three pound braid line is my line of choice, with a rod length of leader attached to it.

I find the most important things to remember when flats fishing are to be extremely quiet, make long casts, fish as light as possible and have a good range of lures in the tackle box.  By having at least the three different lures I have mentioned above, rigged on quality TT jigheads and with some Pro-Cure Super Gel on hand, you are sure to get stuck into some bream wherever you are fishing around our amazing country.

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