Choosing A Flathead Lure For Flathead Fishing Results

Choosing a Flathead Lure is all about considering what’s going on in the flatheads environment. What is it eating?Where are the flathead located?What have you or others had success…

Scientific Name: Platycephalus sp
(16 species in Australia)

Choosing a Flathead Lure is all about considering what’s going on in the flatheads environment.

  • What is it eating?
  • Where are the flathead located?
  • What have you or others had success with before?

Now. If that sound a lot like flathead bait fishing then that’s because it actually is.

A lure is an attempt to imitate life. Either directly in in a manner that is mistaken due to movement or patterns.

For example. A squid tentacle can be placed on a jig. Cast and retrieved exactly the same way as a soft plastic. Even though there is nothing exactly like this in nature. It looks enough like a swimming, edible “something” to attract the interest of a flathead.

Indeed – the humble squid tentacle can make one heck of a biodegradable lure. Especially if it’s “cured” in salt and is toughened up.

Flathead Lure Kinds To Choose From – Old & New

Flathead Lure Spoon Lure
I used to target flathead with spoon lures back in the 1970’s

When I first started fishing – as a teen in the 1970’s – there were basically two kinds of lures. Surface and diving. They were made out of either metal, wood or combination of the two.

The most common saltwater lures at that time were spoons. Many were bright silver and usually shaped like a fish. Though some were painted in bright colours like red, yellow or green. Some even include coloured skirts and feathers.

The other kind I used extensively were the propeller spinners. I must admit I never used this on flathead successfully. Though they worked on occasion on Bream. I mostly fished these in freshwater though for species like Redfin.

I’d have to say nothing has been more successful for me, as far as flathead go, as have soft plastic lures.

These flexible lures just seem to say “bite me!”

Whether you choose one of the common “swim” style minnow patterns or something like a lifelike prawn imitation there’s no question these lures all get results.

So if I was going to give a recommendation on the kind of lure to try I’d have to say soft plastics win hands down.

Lure Colours & Styles For Flathead Fishing

The colour scheme and style is going to depend on several factors. What’s happening with local prey species. Even your geographic location and the time of year can play a role.

I’ve always had great success with prawns on flathead. Both as flathead bait and when plastics are fished as a flathead lure.

However, sometimes this simply fails to have an effect. For example during Winter in Port Phillip Bay lure imitations don’t work for me. Where as a minnow variation in, say, motor oil colour works a treat.

Be prepared to try a variety of kinds and colours when flathead lure fishing.

Top Lure Brands For Australian Flathead Fishing

Most soft plastic lures are not actually made in Australia.

There are some. They can be good stuff, too.

Nuclear Chicken Colour Scheme
Berkley Gulp Mullet – Nuclear Chicken Colour Scheme

But sad to say. The majority are imported. Many from China. Some from the USA.

However, many big brands are in fact designed in Australia. These include my fave the Flick Prawn Lure (pictured above.)

Berkley Gulp lures. The wonderful pre-scented biodegradable lure range is developed in the United States. They are however extremely effective.

Plus the fact that they are biodegradable and not a PVC based plastic is very attractive to me.

I’ve had some success during summer months fishing the Berkley Gulp Mullet in the Nuclear Chicken colour scheme.

zMan StreakZ Motor Oil Curly Tail Soft Plastic

I’ve found it’s best fished in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is low but shining onto the water.

I’ve also found the zMan StreakZ Motor Oil Curly Tail Soft Plastic to be very effective. Year round but particularly in cooler months or overcast days.

A lot of fishos’ on YouTube are huge fans of ZMan.

They are effective – they catch fish. Plus they are extremely durable. Much more so than Gulp.

I’ve got to say it. 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 cost more money – but the cheaper ones are dearer.

How can that be? Because most of the cheapies fail as a lure, while the dearer ones consistently catch the flathead we’re aiming for.

They are made based on research. Sometimes years of 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.

Lure Technique For Flathead Fishing

To be clear. It is possible to catch flathead on surface lures over shallow sandy flats in particular. Some estuaries lend themselves well to this technique.

However. Most people when fishing with a lure selected as a flathead lure will be allowing the lure to drop to the bottom. In the zone were flathead spend a lot of time.

So there’s a few techniques you can try to maximise how your cast and retrieve your lure to get the maximum effect.

Flathead Lure Fishing Golden Rule

Make it look alive! That’s the golden rule.

When I see many 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.

After 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 or a pinky snapper to smash a lure this way, or a trout in freshwater. But you’re not going to be catching a flathead too often. At least not in my experience.

So, yeah, when I’ve asked, imagine my surprise when they told me they had heard “…A lot of flathead are caught off this pier…” and that they were hoping to catch some.

Here’s What I – And Others – Do Instead

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 Your Flathead Lure Retrieve – Fish 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

  • Use berley and bring the flathead to you.
  • Slap some attractant or scent onto the lure.
  • Cover a 180-degree area. Start at 9, move across to 3 each cast.
  • Let your lure sink to the bottom, all the way. Pause.
  • Lift your rod tip a bit. Let it drop. Repeat.
  • Retrieve your line a few feet. Jerks are good.
  • Combine short retrieves and raising your rod tip.

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.

This technique is known in some parts of the USA as “dead sticking.” However the term never seemed to convey the intention. So I call it the “bait and wait technique”, “bait and wait method” or simply “bait and wait.”

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

  • Choose a lure, like the Berkley Sandworm or Shrimp (prawn).
  • Use a paternoster rig, sometimes with different lures on each hook.
  • Berley up the water. Berley pellets, breadcrumbs, crushed prawn shells, tuna oil.
  • Apply liberal amounts of attractant onto the lures.
  • For flathead, I use a sinker to get the bait down.
  • Sit and wait patiently, but attentively. Occasionally twitching one of my rods.

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 who are fishing with traditional baits when using the “bait and wait” technique with lures.

  • Choose either a Running Sinker or Paternoster.
  • Hook size 2 – 4/) depending on bait size.
  • For soft plastic spinning a 4/0 to 6/0 are good.
  • 1 oz to 5 oz – but this will depend on currents.
  • I prefer a braid mainline with a 6lb nylon leader.
  • Chemically sharpened hooks are very effective.
  • Don’t forget to use Berley and an attractant.
  • A Paternoster rig is a great way to offer different bait on each hook.
  • “Cocktail” baits such as prawn held onto the hook with a squid tentacle can work well.

Back To: Flathead Fishing: The Ultimate Guide



I'm Dave, I live and fish in and around Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
When it comes to fishing I love going out to land-based fishing spots, heading out in the tinny (aka an Aluminum Boat) and kayak fishing.

I've been fishing since I was a teen. Beginning way back in the 1970s. It was a hobby I picked up myself as my family certainly had no interest. Making me the black sheep! My favourite fish is Flathead and Snapper. Though I'm partial to Flake (Gummy Shark) and Calamari too! While I enjoy fishing for freshwater species like Redfin and Murray Cod I prefer eating saltwater species. They're just so mouth-wateringly tasty!

I love writing about some of my favourite Melbourne Fishing Spots while fishing around Victoria. As well as the tackle I use and test.
If you see me while you're out fishing say "G' day" - I'll be the one in a bush hat.

When I'm not fishing I'm working on my websites, such as Getfished, or writing computer software (my profession.)

I try to be as accurate as possible on this website. Most of the information is based on personal experience. However, if you spot an error or think there's something that I should add - no worries! Please use the Contact Form.