Mick released his personal best flathead on a charter with Brad Smith.

Flathead classic trolling techniques

Because I enjoy the cooler weather, I always feel that winter goes by too quickly.

At least it doesn’t get too hot here in spring, plus the fishing is usually excellent. Flathead will be fully on the bite this month, which is good timing for the Flathead Classic that starts on Tuesday September 26.

I know I wrote about flathead last month, but with the classic coming up, I thought I’d share a few more tips. This year, I’ll be fishing the classic in a Bush ‘n Beach Fishing team with my friend Warric.

Clint and Kristy captured a couple of decent flathead on a charter with the author.


Even during peak season and ideal conditions, there are times when flathead are hard to catch. It is during these periods that alternative tactics are needed to keep the scoreboard ticking.

During such times, trolling hard-body lures is a great option.

It’s surprising how well this can work if other lures aren’t working and when the fish appear shut down. It is also an effective method in windy weather.

This technique is definitely not new in the world of flathead fishing – dating way back to the early years of the classic.

Eli caught and released a heap of flathead with Brad Smith.


Indeed, many tournament winners have included it in their arsenal.

First, the best rod to use for flathead trolling is about 2-4kg and 6’6” – slightly under 2m long – and a 2500 size spinning reel spooled with PE 0.6 braid pairs with this rod very well.

Good quality Japanese-made 8-strand braid is one of the most important tools for trolling. It’s smooth and the thin diameter means less drag through the water, therefore deeper diving lures.

And 1m of 8lb fluorocarbon leader works well attached to the main line with an Albright knot.

Tim did very well, catching and releasing a few solid flathead when fishing with Brad Smith on the Tweed River.


The main depths you’ll be trolling for flathead are in the 1-4m range. For shallower areas, it’s hard to beat the Pontoon 21 CrackJack 48SP DR.

For hungry flathead, these little weapons are hard to resist, and it’s often surprising how big the average-sized fish are that fall for them. Pontoon 21s dive to over 2m and come in a great range of colours.

Our all-time favourite in most conditions is the Bloody Tiger Prawn colour. In calm and clear water, Green Tiger Prawn and Bleeding Tiger Prawn do well.

In dirtier water and cloudy weather, Spanish Red and Ghost Tiger Prawn are deadly. If these don’t work, it could pay to experiment with the other colours in the range.

Another lure that works well on flathead in shallow water is the Asari Sweeper Hard Body 7cm XD. This great-value lure has a rigorous swimming action and really puffs up sand well to attract the attention of hunting flathead.

Dane was stoked to catch his first fish on a lure.


Keep an eye out for new releases in the next few months too – Samaki is releasing a great-looking 50mm minnow hard-body, which will do well both for casting and trolling.

To fish water from 2-4m deep, there are a number of lures that are ideal, including the Hurricane Slam 47. These 47mm lures swim straight and deep, and all the colours work well on flathead.

Our favourites are Demon Suji, Natural Prawn UV, Spooky Smig – which imitate white baitfish nicely – and Gold Digger, a killer on cloudy days and choppy or dirty water.

Then there’s also the classic Micro Mullet from Lively Lures – flathead love them.

Ian scored a quality fish using Z-Man plastics on a Gold Coast charter with the author.


Here’s a list of rules if you want to achieve maximum success trolling for flathead:

  • Troll at a speed of between 1-2 knots, which means your outboard is just in gear – slow is the go
  • Troll in the same direction as the tide to get more hits – flathead lie waiting pointed into the tide
  • When trolling shallow water, set the lures back 10-15m and in deeper water, set them back 20-30m
  • Always watch the lure action closely by keeping an eye on the rod tips – if the lures catch even the tiniest bit of weed, they must be wound in and cleaned immediately or they won’t catch fish
  • Experiment with different coloured lures to find what’s working
  • Keep a close eye on the fish finder to stay at the ideal depths for the lures you’re using – lures that are tapping the sand every few seconds catch more flathead
  • Sometimes flathead are schooled in one area feeding, if that’s the case, keep repeating the troll run – when they’re scattered, you can troll many kilometres picking up only the occasional fish
Kristy with her best-ever flathead, which she released to fight another day.


  • Always keep checking the lures are swimming dead straight because even after catching a few flathead, they can be out of tune – to tune them, use fine-tipped long-nose plyers and very gently bend the tow point on the lure the opposite direction to which it’s swimming, then test next to the boat
  • Keep checking and retying the lures when the leader is frayed or eventually you’ll lose a big fish
  • Handle flathead very carefully when they’re caught on hard-body lures with trebles – there’s nothing worse than a treble hook imbedded in your hand and a flathead thrashing around on the other hook – always net them first, lie them on the deck, then carefully remove the hooks and lure from the fish with plyers before handling, measuring and releasing
  • Keep an eye on the sounder for bait and structure – trolling along the edge of weed beds, water colour changes and drop-offs is very effective
  • Always keep an eye out for diving birds and pelicans – birds feeding on baitfish often means flathead are in the same spot
  • Trolling is a great way to find where flathead are feeding – if there are lots, you can either keep trolling or stop and cast soft plastic and vibe lures
  • Stick with whatever’s working.

To book on a charter with myself or Brad, or if you have any fishing related questions, visit goldcoastrivercharters.com, SMS 0432 990 302 or email fishingwithclint@gmail.com – or find us on Facebook at Brad Smith Fishing Charters.

Catch you next month and tight lines!

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