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Best Flathead Bait & Lures

Last Updated on by Dave

Getfished Tip, Best Flathead Bait & Lures

This post is a small part taken from our Flathead – How You Can Catch Them Getfished Article.

With the advent of soft plastics choosing the best Flathead Bait has become a little more complex.

Some soft plastics are made of biodegradable materials. Others, particularly some cheaper imports from China, are literally lumps of plastic.

While I find it a great deal of fun to use soft plastics their use concerns me in regards to the possible longer-term impact of plastics in our oceans.

Berkley Gulp lures are made of a combination of oils that break down in the water over time. This affects their longevity as a lure, however, it reduces their impact in the oceans. I’m inclined towards using Gulp soft plastic lures when using “soft plastics” simply because they are water-based resin and not PVC, to begin with.

I’m a huge fan of soft plastics and consider them one of the best flathead lures – often better than bait – you can use.

We’ll take a closer look at soft plastic lures a little later on in this article because I am an avid user of the Berkley Gulp range. We will take a look at why they’re a safer, better alternative to cheap import “knock-offs for the fish and the environment.

But to start with let’s take a look at fresh and frozen “natural baits.”

Choosing Your Flathead Bait

While flathead will eat a wide variety of fleshy foods, from shellfish to crustaceans to small fish one seems to stand alone. Prawns (aka shrimp.) Prawns seem to consistently attract flathead. More so than squid and pilchards in many instances. At least in my experience.

Failing prawns I’ve found smaller baitfish like whitebait to be effective.

Best Flathead Bait – Frozen & Fresh = Prawns

I’d go with prawns as being the best bait for flathead. But the following natural bait options, frozen, live-bait or freeze-dried are all effective:

You could match this with any of the following rigs:

Choose your hook to suit the size of your bait. But a hook size between 2 to 4/0 is a good choice.

When it comes to berleyBerley Berley, particularly if you’re fishing with frozen or freeze-dried baits, try and use something the same as your bait. So if you’re using prawns – prawn shells or even some prawns in you berley is the way to go. Same goes for the likes of whitebait.

Having said this. Flatties are opportunists. They will eat a wide variety of foods. Even chicken breast! Often the tastes of a fish species will vary according to where they’re found and what the locally available foods are. So, as always, there are no 100% hard and fast rules.

Experiment!

As you might have guessed, if you’ve been reading the whole of this article so far, I recommend the use of attractants, even with natural baits. It certainly seems to enhance them.

Catching Flathead With Fresh & Frozen Bait

The best bait is hands down, fresh bait. Fresh usually means “live” or recently “live.” The biggest issue with this is its use can be construed as cruel. There’s no doubt, to my mind, live fish and crustaceans suffer live baited on a hook.

Live Bait For Flatties

I’ve used live bait and admit I’m not a fan, despite their effectiveness in catching fish. Indeed it’s the single most important reason, for me, that quality, lifelike, quality soft plastic lures are so appealing.

The good ones look like real water creatures.

Harvesting of live baits also concerns me. That’s because it’s often done with little regard to the environmental impact the harvesting wreaks. Please, respect the habitat when harvesting live. Take no more than you need and replace overturned rocks etc.

Farmed, Frozen & Freeze-Dried

Farmed frozen – and more recently freeze-dried – baits, however, are more environmentally friendly. I say this with two caveats…

  1. Frozen bait can include diseases that survive the freezing process. So this can be a vector for spreading a disease to local fish stocks.
  2. Frozen and freeze-dried baits are only sustainable if they are farmed – and not ripped out of the environment willy-nilly.

Freeze-dried baits are safer, compared to frozen, because the process of freeze drying kills disease that may be present on the creatures being packaged up and sold.

Freeze-dried baits also contain more of the natural enzymes of the original organism than frozen bait alone. This is because of how the freeze-drying process works.

Freeze-dried foods are considered nutritious and can form part of a balanced diet for dogs, cats and even humans.

If you’re using natural baits I recommend freeze-dried over frozen (which is often stale in my experience) and if collecting bait do so responsibly reducing your environmental footprint as much as possible.

If you have no choice but to use frozen bait then keep in mind you’re going to have to keep it cool because it goes off really fast in the hot Australian sun. Rotting, putrid bait isn’t going to catch you any flathead.

Best Soft Plastic Lures For Flathead

I’m going to say it upfront. I love fishing with so-called “soft plastic lures” but they’re not all made the same.

The vast majority are made from polyvinyl chloride – aka PVC. Products like Berkley’s Gulp, on the other hand, are made from water-based resins. So, for the most part, they’re biodegradable where PVC remains in the environment – as PVC.

So while I do use them I avoid the cheap bulk packs you see on eBay, AliExpress and Alibaba. First off the vast majority of these hardly work – if at all. They are literally just lumps of plastic. Sticking lumo-beads and fluff isn’t improving much at all.

There’s a difference between quality soft plastic fishing lures – and the cheapies beyond the price tag.

The quality ones are indeed dearer, but they also consistently catch the flathead we’re aiming for. They are based on research. They are designed to perform in the water. Some are biodegradable because they are made from water-based resins. Others are combinations of PVC but are more durable and more effective.

Biodegradable Makes Environmental Sense

If you’re going to use a lure, that’s not biodegradable, it makes sense to ensure it’s at least effective. There’s something disgusting, in my opinion, to be casting lumps of cheap useless lures into the ocean and catching virtually nothing at all, snagging them, losing them – and starting all over again.

If we’re using PVC it’s got to actually catch fish and stay intact as much as it’s possible to do so. Otherwise, we’re not only wasting our time but putting unnecessary, useless plastic into our oceans.

Just holding a quality soft plastic in your hand allows you to quickly see and feel the difference.

Spinning, Retrieving, Make It Look Alive!

When I see most people using soft plastics I see them cast, retrieve, cast retrieve. Often over a fan-like area. Incrementing the direction each time, starting at nine o’clock and finishing at the 3 o’clock mark.

Each cast they let it sink, pull up, let it sink, retrieve a little etc.

Occasionally I see them cast, retrieve fast, cast, retrieve fast.

While the first method is a good technique, the second is questionable because by the time a fish notices your lure – you and your lure are gone.

In both instances, however, I often see them move on after quickly using this method. Indeed in recent times, I’ve seen people cover an entire 400m pier, both sides, in under 10 mins. At which point they leave – empty-handed.

No berley. No scent No studying the water. Barely any technique. I doubt they even consider the species they are targeting.

You might get a bream to smash a lure this way, or a trout in freshwater. But you’re not going to be catching a flathead too often. So, yeah, when I’ve asked, imagine my surprise when they told me they had heard “…A lot of flatheads are caught off this pier…” and that they were hoping to catch some.

Special Hints Using Soft Plastics

The following tips apply to all soft plastic fishing, pretty much. Whether it be minnows and shads, shrimps or even sandworms. Not getting this right means they won’t “swim” properly and will be just unappealing lumps of plastic:

  1. Don’t bunch up your lure as it will interfere with retrieves and how natural it looks.
  2. Measure your hook alongside the jig head or hook.
  3. Take note of where the hook needs to come out of the lure body with your thumb or finger.
  4. Start the hook point in the centre of the lure nose & push the lure down into the body.
  5. Bring the point of the hook out through the seam where you noted the exit (3, above) – so it’s straight.
  6. Jigs are sharp. Watch your fingers. Don’t get hooked yourself!

Focus While Spinning For Flathead

It seems a lot of people watch videos online – a good thing – of fishing pro’s catching fish. Due to editing the “pro’s video” appears to show the pro casting, quickly retrieving and catching a flathead.

This isn’t really how it goes down, of course. Editing means the part that requires patience is removed from the video. Understandably it’d be hard to watch a video where the real effort and time is put in. It’d be “dead air.”

So, what some folks seem to do is copy what they see happening on the video, not fully grasping the editing – or even the contrived ‘action” where a flathead is placed on a hook in order to be “caught” for the camera.

For flathead, you’re generally going to need to slow down. Jerks are more likely to pay off than madly spinning your reel. Jerk, let it sink, jerk. Retrieve a few feet.

Slow Down – Flathead React To Wounded Creatures

You’re trying to make your lure look like a real creature. Predatory fish, like flathead, react to what appears to be a wounded creature, more consistently.

Wounded creatures are less effort to catch and consume. In the water, as in the jungle or the outback, an effort takes precious energy. Conserving energy is a major survival factor. The less expended the better.

So, like most predators, the flathead is hardwired to react quickly to something that fits into their mouth, that isn’t too much effort to overpower.

Technique While Retrieving Lure = Very Important

This is why the technique used to retrieve is so important. Healthy sea creatures are generally pretty fast. Something that’s wounded tends to expend energy in short bursts. Movement tends to be up and down over shorter distances.

That’s the combination that’s deadly when trying to get the interest of a predator, such as our flathead.

Use berley – and let that smell do its work. That means let the berley bring the fish into the range of you and your lure.

Use a good Scent or attractant to make your lure taste better than a lump of plastic. Because flathead will often gently chew the bait. If they don’t like it they will spit it out. They don’t always slam things.

In fact, it’s not always entirely apparent you have a flathead on the line initially. They’re don’t put up the biggest fight when reeling them in. Often feeling more like lumps that jerk, when compared to other sportfish.

So we need to use this knowledge to our advantage – and make sure our lure is the best thing that’s come past them all day!

How To Catch Flathead On Soft Plastic Lures

Soft Plastics & “The Bait & Wait” Technique

When I was younger, which according to my kids, was somewhere long before Noah and his ark – and a little after the Jurassic epoch – I only spun lures.

In those days they were all hard body and chrome flashes or red propeller spinners were “hi-tech.”

Failing that I’d use the “frozen bait, sit and wait” technique. Sometimes called “dead sticking.” It’s no consolation, but none the less true, that the quality of “frozen bait” hasn’t really improved over the years.

Indeed, it seems to have become less fresh. Possibly it gets left in the freezer, for some reason, even longer than it once did. I also don’t think it’s handled properly.

I suspect it’s often partially defrosted and refrozen at a lot of outlets. Which results in a stale bait.

“Bait & Wait Fishing” With Soft Plastic Lures

However – if you like this style of fishing. The “bait and wait” approach, using modern soft plastics, berley and attractants, means it can be very productive and relaxing.

So this exactly what I do for a lazy flathead fishing session:

Popular, Easy Flathead Fishing Rigs

Flathead fishing is relatively simple, compared to species like Bream or even Snapper. So there are only a few things to pay attention to. My suggestion is to go with some of the more popular combinations that have been proven by other anglers.

With the advent of soft plastics choosing the best Flathead Bait has become a little more complex.

Some soft plastics are made of biodegradable materials. Others, particularly some cheaper imports from China, are literally lumps of plastic.

While I find it a great deal of fun to use soft plastics their use concerns me in regards to the possible longer-term impact of plastics in our oceans.

Berkley Gulp lures are made of a combination of oils that break down in the water over time. This affects their longevity as a lure, however, it reduces their impact in the oceans. I’m inclined towards using Gulp soft plastic lures when using “soft plastics” simply because they are water-based resin and not PVC, to begin with.

I’m a huge fan of soft plastics and consider them one of the best flathead lures – often better than bait – you can use.

We’ll take a closer look at soft plastic lures a little later on in this article because I am an avid user of the Berkley Gulp range. We will take a look at why they’re a safer, better alternative to cheap import “knock-offs for the fish and the environment.

But to start with let’s take a look at fresh and frozen “natural baits.”

Choosing Your Flathead Bait

While flathead will eat a wide variety of fleshy foods, from shellfish to crustaceans to small fish one seems to stand alone. Prawns (aka shrimp.) Prawns seem to consistently attract flathead. More so than squid and pilchards in many instances. At least in my experience.

Failing prawns I’ve found smaller baitfish like whitebait to be effective.

Best Flathead Bait – Frozen & Fresh = Prawns

I’d go with prawns as being the best bait for flathead. But the following natural bait options, frozen, live-bait or freeze-dried are all effective:

You could match this with any of the following rigs:

Choose your hook to suit the size of your bait. But a hook size between 2 to 4/0 is a good choice.

When it comes to berleyBerley Berley, particularly if you’re fishing with frozen or freeze-dried baits, try and use something the same as your bait. So if you’re using prawns – prawn shells or even some prawns in you berley is the way to go. Same goes for the likes of whitebait.

Having said this. Flatties are opportunists. They will eat a wide variety of foods. Even chicken breast! Often the tastes of a fish species will vary according to where they’re found and what the locally available foods are. So, as always, there are no 100% hard and fast rules.

Experiment!

As you might have guessed, if you’ve been reading the whole of this article so far, I recommend the use of attractants, even with natural baits. It certainly seems to enhance them.

Catching Flathead With Fresh & Frozen Bait

The best bait is hands down, fresh bait. Fresh usually means “live” or recently “live.” The biggest issue with this is its use can be construed as cruel. There’s no doubt, to my mind, live fish and crustaceans suffer live baited on a hook.

Live Bait For Flatties

I’ve used live bait and admit I’m not a fan, despite their effectiveness in catching fish. Indeed it’s the single most important reason, for me, that quality, lifelike, quality soft plastic lures are so appealing.

The good ones look like real water creatures.

Harvesting of live baits also concerns me. That’s because it’s often done with little regard to the environmental impact the harvesting wreaks. Please, respect the habitat when harvesting live. Take no more than you need and replace overturned rocks etc.

Farmed, Frozen & Freeze-Dried

Farmed frozen – and more recently freeze-dried – baits, however, are more environmentally friendly. I say this with two caveats…

  1. Frozen bait can include diseases that survive the freezing process. So this can be a vector for spreading a disease to local fish stocks.
  2. Frozen and freeze-dried baits are only sustainable if they are farmed – and not ripped out of the environment willy-nilly.

Freeze-dried baits are safer, compared to frozen, because the process of freeze drying kills disease that may be present on the creatures being packaged up and sold.

Freeze-dried baits also contain more of the natural enzymes of the original organism than frozen bait alone. This is because of how the freeze-drying process works.

Freeze-dried foods are considered nutritious and can form part of a balanced diet for dogs, cats and even humans.

If you’re using natural baits I recommend freeze-dried over frozen (which is often stale in my experience) and if collecting bait do so responsibly reducing your environmental footprint as much as possible.

If you have no choice but to use frozen bait then keep in mind you’re going to have to keep it cool because it goes off really fast in the hot Australian sun. Rotting, putrid bait isn’t going to catch you any flathead.

Best Soft Plastic Lures For Flathead

I’m going to say it upfront. I love fishing with so-called “soft plastic lures” but they’re not all made the same.

The vast majority are made from polyvinyl chloride – aka PVC. Products like Berkley’s Gulp, on the other hand, are made from water-based resins. So, for the most part, they’re biodegradable where PVC remains in the environment – as PVC.

So while I do use them I avoid the cheap bulk packs you see on eBay, AliExpress and Alibaba. First off the vast majority of these hardly work – if at all. They are literally just lumps of plastic. Sticking lumo-beads and fluff isn’t improving much at all.

There’s a difference between quality soft plastic fishing lures – and the cheapies beyond the price tag.

The quality ones are indeed dearer, but they also consistently catch the flathead we’re aiming for. They are based on research. They are designed to perform in the water. Some are biodegradable because they are made from water-based resins. Others are combinations of PVC but are more durable and more effective.

Biodegradable Makes Environmental Sense

If you’re going to use a lure, that’s not biodegradable, it makes sense to ensure it’s at least effective. There’s something disgusting, in my opinion, to be casting lumps of cheap useless lures into the ocean and catching virtually nothing at all, snagging them, losing them – and starting all over again.

If we’re using PVC it’s got to actually catch fish and stay intact as much as it’s possible to do so. Otherwise, we’re not only wasting our time but putting unnecessary, useless plastic into our oceans.

Just holding a quality soft plastic in your hand allows you to quickly see and feel the difference.

Spinning, Retrieving, Make It Look Alive!

When I see most people using soft plastics I see them cast, retrieve, cast retrieve. Often over a fan-like area. Incrementing the direction each time, starting at nine o’clock and finishing at the 3 o’clock mark.

Each cast they let it sink, pull up, let it sink, retrieve a little etc.

Occasionally I see them cast, retrieve fast, cast, retrieve fast.

While the first method is a good technique, the second is questionable because by the time a fish notices your lure – you and your lure are gone.

In both instances, however, I often see them move on after quickly using this method. Indeed in recent times, I’ve seen people cover an entire 400m pier, both sides, in under 10 mins. At which point they leave – empty-handed.

No berley. No scent No studying the water. Barely any technique. I doubt they even consider the species they are targeting.

You might get a bream to smash a lure this way, or a trout in freshwater. But you’re not going to be catching a flathead too often. So, yeah, when I’ve asked, imagine my surprise when they told me they had heard “…A lot of flatheads are caught off this pier…” and that they were hoping to catch some.

Special Hints Using Soft Plastics

The following tips apply to all soft plastic fishing, pretty much. Whether it be minnows and shads, shrimps or even sandworms. Not getting this right means they won’t “swim” properly and will be just unappealing lumps of plastic:

  1. Don’t bunch up your lure as it will interfere with retrieves and how natural it looks.
  2. Measure your hook alongside the jig head or hook.
  3. Take note of where the hook needs to come out of the lure body with your thumb or finger.
  4. Start the hook point in the centre of the lure nose & push the lure down into the body.
  5. Bring the point of the hook out through the seam where you noted the exit (3, above) – so it’s straight.
  6. Jigs are sharp. Watch your fingers. Don’t get hooked yourself!

Focus While Spinning For Flathead

It seems a lot of people watch videos online – a good thing – of fishing pro’s catching fish. Due to editing the “pro’s video” appears to show the pro casting, quickly retrieving and catching a flathead.

This isn’t really how it goes down, of course. Editing means the part that requires patience is removed from the video. Understandably it’d be hard to watch a video where the real effort and time is put in. It’d be “dead air.”

So, what some folks seem to do is copy what they see happening on the video, not fully grasping the editing – or even the contrived ‘action” where a flathead is placed on a hook in order to be “caught” for the camera.

For flathead, you’re generally going to need to slow down. Jerks are more likely to pay off than madly spinning your reel. Jerk, let it sink, jerk. Retrieve a few feet.

Slow Down – Flathead React To Wounded Creatures

You’re trying to make your lure look like a real creature. Predatory fish, like flathead, react to what appears to be a wounded creature, more consistently.

Wounded creatures are less effort to catch and consume. In the water, as in the jungle or the outback, an effort takes precious energy. Conserving energy is a major survival factor. The less expended the better.

So, like most predators, the flathead is hardwired to react quickly to something that fits into their mouth, that isn’t too much effort to overpower.

Technique While Retrieving Lure = Very Important

This is why the technique used to retrieve is so important. Healthy sea creatures are generally pretty fast. Something that’s wounded tends to expend energy in short bursts. Movement tends to be up and down over shorter distances.

That’s the combination that’s deadly when trying to get the interest of a predator, such as our flathead.

Use berley – and let that smell do its work. That means let the berley bring the fish into the range of you and your lure.

Use a good Scent or attractant to make your lure taste better than a lump of plastic. Because flathead will often gently chew the bait. If they don’t like it they will spit it out. They don’t always slam things.

In fact, it’s not always entirely apparent you have a flathead on the line initially. They’re don’t put up the biggest fight when reeling them in. Often feeling more like lumps that jerk, when compared to other sportfish.

So we need to use this knowledge to our advantage – and make sure our lure is the best thing that’s come past them all day!

How To Catch Flathead On Soft Plastic Lures

Soft Plastics & “The Bait & Wait” Technique

When I was younger, which according to my kids, was somewhere long before Noah and his ark – and a little after the Jurassic epoch – I only spun lures.

In those days they were all hard body and chrome flashes or red propeller spinners were “hi-tech.”

Failing that I’d use the “frozen bait, sit and wait” technique. Sometimes called “dead sticking.” It’s no consolation, but none the less true, that the quality of “frozen bait” hasn’t really improved over the years.

Indeed, it seems to have become less fresh. Possibly it gets left in the freezer, for some reason, even longer than it once did. I also don’t think it’s handled properly.

I suspect it’s often partially defrosted and refrozen at a lot of outlets. Which results in a stale bait.

“Bait & Wait Fishing” With Soft Plastic Lures

However – if you like this style of fishing. The “bait and wait” approach, using modern soft plastics, berley and attractants, means it can be very productive and relaxing.

So this exactly what I do for a lazy flathead fishing session:

Popular, Easy Flathead Fishing Rigs

Flathead fishing is relatively simple, compared to species like Bream or even Snapper. So there are only a few things to pay attention to. My suggestion is to go with some of the more popular combinations that have been proven by other anglers.


By Dave - from Getfished!

About

Dave spends most of his time split between fishing, working on Getfished and on boating and kayak fishing. After 30+ years as a programmer spending more time as a fisho has allowed him to grow his passion for the hobby. Running Getfished has meant Dave's been able to share some of the places he loves to fish at. As well as some of his favourite tackle and gear.