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Flathead on Softies

Matt Reeves

Fishing for flathead on soft plastics is by far the easiest style or lure fishing around. These fish will smack anything that goes past their nose and what's even better is that they can grow in excess of one metre in length!

A few years ago I decided to switch my technique from bait fishing to fishing with soft plastics and what better fish to start targeting than flathead. My local estuary 'Narrabeen Lake' is stocked full of small flathead and is a great place to start with plastics. My first few flathead were on non ZMan shrimp style plastics, but I found it quite a hassle to have to change the plastic every time I caught a fish, especially when wading. After researching a few things on soft plastics and asking around, I found the best option was to go to the tackle store and ask what they reckoned. The first few things they recommended to me included the ZMan 3" MinnowZ and a few other paddle tail style plastics.

After giving a few things a go for flathead, I was finding that the paddle tails were producing a lot more fish so I stuck with them with great success. One thing that I remember being very impressed about was the strength and 'stretchiness' of the ZMan plastics, a plastic that I had heard nothing about back then. These plastics were racking up the flathead in the lake and have been in my box ever since.

Fishing for flathead was becoming a daily thing and I was starting to get serious about it. I decided to do some research on the internet and to see if there were any competitions, just to see how I would rank up against other anglers. While researching I came across a tournament series known as the 'ABT' and there I saw a flathead section. What a coincidence, the upcoming weekend was a comp to be held at my local the Hawkesbury River. I couldn't miss out on the chance to fish this and little did I know this was the last chance to fish this style of flathead comp before the ABT cancelled the flathead series.

The comp was set in the middle of winter, when the flathead tend to shut down a lot more, so we knew it'd be tough. Waking up on the competition day it was a big let down to know that we were to be fishing in freezing, 30 knot plus winds and thunder storming conditions. That didn't stop us from fishing through to the very end of the day though and within the last few casts of the day I hooked and landed a flathead that went just under 70cm. This flatty managed to take out the big flathead section of the comp and I was hooked from then.

After learning a lot more about fishing for flathead I decided to stick with a few brands and work from there. These brands included TT Lures HeadlockZ HD jigheads, ZMan soft plastics and a couple of others. By doing this I saved a lot of money by sticking with these and not going out and buying everything under the sun, like I did when I started fishing lures. I focussed on shad / paddle tail style plastics, along with a few other 'grub or 'curly tail' style plastics.

Flathead fishing has taken me to a lot of places up and down the east coast, right up to the Gold Coast in Queensland and right down to Batemans Bay on the south coast of NSW. The south coast of NSW is known for its trophy flathead and there are a lot of fish producing estuaries. This was a must visit location for my dad and I, and for you if you love your flathead fishing. We knew people that lived here and they confirmed that there was some monster flathead living in this estuary by showing us some very convincing photos. On day three of the seven day trip we were on here, I managed to land my PB flathead of 101cm while fishing a 3" plastic rigged on a TT 1/4oz jighead, fishing in about 8m of water. Before this fish I had landed about five flathead around the 40cm mark within a ten minute period. Keep in mind that any flathead over 60cm we released as these fish are usually the breeders.

Over the time I have been targeting these fish I have learnt that you don't need the heavy gear at all, with my most common setup when targeting flathead being an 8-12lb leader and around a 6lb braided main line, spooled onto a 2000-2500 size reel, with anything up to a maximum of a 3-6kg rod for chasing big flatties. The lures I will normally have rigged consist of ZMan 4" SwimmerZ, 3" MinnowZ and ZMan 4" StreakZ Curly TailZ, with bright and natural colours being my most productive. While fishing these types of plastics there is also a good chance of some great by-catch including big bream and jewfish!

If you're looking at targeting those bigger flathead look for structure such as deep drop offs, timber lined banks and gravel bottoms, or sneak up on the flats. I have often found flathead to be sitting under feeding schools of tailor in my local estuary, picking up the scraps that the tailor leave behind.

Get out there and give it ago. Bring it on!

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