Targeting whiting on lures

G’DAY, from November through to the end of February is my favourite time of year to target whiting on lures.
While whiting can be caught all year round, the summer months when the water temperature is at its peak are the times that this species’ metabolism is in overdrive when it comes to smashing different types of lure presentations. The week leading up to the full and new moons through the next few months is also when whiting are in spawning mode, with just about all good-sized mature whiting carrying either milt or eggs.

For a very long time, whiting have taken a back seat to the likes of flathead and bream as a serious lure-taking species. But trust me, with good management they are the most prolific fish you can target on lures at this time of year. The other significant thing about chasing whiting on lures is that big whiting hit a lure and fight as hard on light gear as any fish you could wish for.

In fact the power to weight ratio this species packs has always amazed me. So let’s discuss some of the best times and locations for targeting this fish on lures. As mentioned, the leadup to the full and new moons is a peak period in whiting’s natural behaviour, so the next point of discussion is where they can be found in mass concentrations.

To find these areas you need to survey your chosen river until you find the dirtiest, most discoloured water there. In fact, the dirtier the better as big whiting are cunning critters and use mass discolouration and agitation of a location to hide and feed. The howling northeasterly wind that is predominant all through our summer months is perfect for stirring the pot and discolouring all our local rivers and creeks.

While most fishos des-pise this wind, I thrive on it. It may be a bit uncomfortable for us as anglers, but whiting lose all tact when it comes to feeding in the wind. Unlike some spots that are well known to anglers who anchor and bait fish for whiting, finding areas of mass discolouration in our rivers is a random event and will take exploration to discover, as they can appear in different areas on different days depending on how strong the wind is.

There is no doubt that I have found very consistent spots but this is to be expected given that I am on the rivers every day as a guide. In front of really shallow muddy bays and opposite muddy feeder drains are locations worth investigating. Some good news is that I have found whiting do not seem to have any tidal preference when it comes to feeding in dirty water and will stay on the bite all through the day, meaning early morning or late afternoon and night sessions are not required.

Now for the lures and techniques that I have refined to help me catch almost cricket scores of this species. To begin with, I am not a fan of soft plastics when it comes to targeting whiting. This is not to say that whiting do not like plastics, it is more about the poor hook-up rate. Whiting have small, soft mouths and tend to miss the standard single hook, which is usually exposed near the middle of the plastic.

This can be quite a cause for frustration. If you are a true soft plastic fan you could try the smaller 2” plastics and use the evolution rigging system that comes with a double set of hooks.

This whiting hit a blade fished deep in 5m of water.
This whiting hit a blade fished deep in 5m of water.
Drifting parallel to the bank with a blade resulted in the capture of this whiting.
Drifting parallel to the bank with a blade resulted in the capture of this whiting.
Terry Finch with one of the many whiting he caught on the day.
Terry Finch with one of the many whiting he caught on the day.
A quality whiting that came from only 30cm of dirty water.
A quality whiting that came from only 30cm of dirty water.
Sue Kevin, aka Dolly, absolutely gave the boys a lesson on how to catch a heap of whiting on blades on this day.
Sue Kevin, aka Dolly, absolutely gave the boys a lesson on how to catch a heap of whiting on blades on this day.

Alternatively, try an assist rigging system with a fine piece of fluorocarbon attached to the eye of the jig head and either a trailing small single hook or treble positioned near the tail of the plastic.

Small surface lures such as poppers and stickbaits no longer than 60mm are great fun to use on whiting in shallow water of a metre or less.
I used to work my surface lures quite slowly for whiting but after years of experimentation have found that a reasonably speedy and continuous retrieve combined with a consistent and repetitive twitch of the rod tip that skitters the surface lure across the top to be more effective.
Small hard-bodied lures either trolled or cast are also very effective if you have the right technique.

Because whiting are predominantly bottom feeders it is crucial that your lures are continuously tapping the bottom, bringing up puffs of sand or mud. Once again, try a selection of small minnows under 60mm with different diving ranges from 1-2.5m. When casting hard-bodied lures, keep your rod tip close to the water and employ a slow to medium-speed retrieve without any rod tip movement and as mentioned have the lure tapping the bottom.

Also keep your rod tips low and steady while trolling with a slow boat speed, and once again make sure you are hitting the dance floor.
Ensure that your lures are always running clean and free of contaminants such as seagrass or slime, which you will eventually pick up from continuously hitting the bottom.

Whatever you do, there is no need to strike when luring for whiting. Just let the rod tip take the impact because striking will usually tear the hook free from the whiting’s small, soft mouth. When trolling I always have my rods set almost at right angles to the side of the boat, as this is the perfect way to let the rod tip’s soft action soften and absorb the initial strike.

There is no doubt that whiting can’t resist small metal blades. With a load of experimentation using blades on my charters over the past few years I would probably rate them as the most valuable tools of my trade. I have caught whiting on all different brands of blades but have refined my favourite to be the Strike Pro Cyber Vibes in 35mm and 40mm size and holographic gold and silver colours.

I use two basic techniques with blades.
The first is to cast and retrieve them while making a 30cm flick of the rod tip, then gather the slack and repeat. Repetition is the name of the game and I train my clients to practise this technique every day. The rod needs to be held at about a 45-degree angle and the 30cm rod tip flick must be totally repetitious while retrieving line back to the boat. Holding the rod at this angle will help to lift the lure off the bottom at 30cm intervals as the upwards movement is visual to the fish and the strikes often come as the lure sinks back down.

By far the most consistent method I apply for catching whiting on blades is to use the same 30cm hopping action as described but instead of casting and retrieving I like to drift through the cloudy and dirty water and leave the lures out there. Time in motion is the key and the longer you have the lures in the water the more strikes you will get. You will also cover extra ground while drifting, which will help you to find more whiting.

If you set the boat on the right drift, every time you flick the lure the slack line created will naturally regain tension as the boat’s movement takes up the slack for you in the same fashion as winding line onto your reel. The other great aspect of using blades on whiting is that their small size matched with two sets of small, sharp trebles increases the hook-up rate.

I look forward to talking to you again next month.

About Brad 'Smithy' Smith

Smithy has been working as a full-time professional fishing guide for over 20 years, which makes him southeast Queensland’s and northern NSW’s longest-serving guide. Above all the commitments Smithy has in the charter industry, his overriding passion has always been to pass on his specialist experience to anglers and teach people of all ages and angling abilities the correct techniques required to catch all the Gold Coast’s estuary species on a variety of different lures. Smithy’s unique charter operations guarantees you will catch fish on lures or you don’t pay.

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