HEY folks, as this is my first time writing for Bush ‘n Beach, I thought it would be appropriate to base this article around my first fishing trip for 2020 using my go-to soft plastic presentation.
A quick rundown on myself before I get stuck into the good stuff: I’ve been fishing for over 30 years and don’t mind fishing in either fresh or salt water, however my all-time favourite style of fishing is throwing artificial presentations from my boat around the estuary systems and wider waters of Moreton Bay.
During 2019, I got hooked on a little presentation (which has now become my go-to soft plastic) that performed so well I feel it would be a shame not to share it with you. This was the Z-Man Slim SwimZ (Slimmy), and when used with light leader and line it can be a super-effective presentation as it matches most of the small baitfish found on the flats, weed beds and around structure. For the avid Z-Man lover, this pattern is probably nothing new, however I only started using it last year.
This lure comes in either a 2.5” or 3” model, with various colours to choose from. The two most used among anglers are Motor Oil and Midnight Oil as both have UV-reactive qualities (to play up to the UV receptors in fish’s eyes). Rigging wise, I usually won’t run anything heavier than a 1/4oz TT Lures HeadlockZ jig head, and how light I go depends on the water depth, wind and current. Rigging on a heavier jig head doesn’t do this presentation justice, and the only time I would go bigger is when chasing tuna hitting small whitebait.
Back to the colours, and though the two mentioned are favourites for a lot of anglers (myself included), people tend to get locked onto a particular colour and not take into account the weather and bait holding in the area they intend to fish. Have you heard the old saying “match the hatch”? When thinking about the bait in the area, water clarity and weather (overcast or sunny), you may find your favourite is not the best presentation for the day.
First fishing trip for 2020
Like most of my trips, I only had a short window to head out and smack some fish, about three hours tops, and there was little tidal run, with maybe 0.7m difference between the top and bottom of the tide. This can be a frustrating time because the fish don’t really move up on the flats and sometimes just don’t fire at all. The bait and fish just seem to be in cruise mode.
With this in mind, I chose to work a deeper gutter where the flats drained into a depth of 3-4m, where the small baitfish were more likely to be stacking up. The target species were grunter (javelin fish, either barred or spotted) and flathead, both of which are heaps of fun on light gear such as my Okuma Helios combos. These setups are loaded with 8-10lb Platypus P8 braid and 10lb Stealth FC fluorocarbon leader. All my rods had my go-to soft plastic Slimmies rigged on 1/8oz HeadlockZ jig heads. I was running Motor Oil, Blue Glimmer and a new colour for me, Baby Bass.
The day was very sunny and I had my fingers crossed the Baby Bass colour would get some attention, especially because it was a Christmas present – who doesn’t like fishing gear at Christmas!? Using a lighter jig head meant that on the drop the plastic would get more hang time and I would have to slow everything down when retrieving. My first flick for 2020 landed just short of the edge and I proceeded to slowly work it down the bank with a hopping retrieve.
About halfway down it was hammered and once I set the hook the drag started screaming. The fish had obviously been up there feeding on the edge and took a liking to the Baby Bass Slimmy. On the 1-3kg outfit this fish had me running all over the boat and I was rolling the dice between calling it for a small jewfish or grunter. After a few minutes and some awesome heart-in-throat head shakes, my first fish of 2020 turned out to be a 47cm barred grunter.
Not a bad opener on the new colour. Following some happy snaps and re-applying Pro-Cure Super Gel scent (Sardine/Pilchard) to my Slimmy, I threw another cast a little further down the bank. While working it back to the boat, the Slimmy was hammered again! I couldn’t believe my luck, two casts and two fish.
This time a mid-50cm flathead had grabbed it and was super angry, jumping around and trying to throw the hooks. At first glance it was obvious I had to land this fish quickly because it had inhaled the Slimmy and I couldn’t see the jig head, meaning the only thing between me and dinner was the leader. With some swift netting action, I had dinner sorted.
Continuing to work the bank, I managed a handful of smaller grunter and flathead for the remainder of the trip before heading home. Reflecting on the day, I managed to nail the presentation right from the get-go, which doesn’t happen often. While casting I saw a lot of small baitfish with a subtle green back, most likely small hardyheads, and the Baby Bass colour matched them perfectly.
As for my go-to colours of Motor Oil and Midnight Oil, they didn’t even get a look in on this occasion. Handy hint: The general rule of thumb when choosing colours is if it’s a super-bright day, choose a brighter plastic and in low-light or overcast conditions, choose darker silhouette-type colours.
Screaming drags and I hope you’re getting amongst it.