Flathead – How You Can Catch Them

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The Australian Flathead (there are several popular species).  Affectionately known by Aussie fisho’s as “lizards.”

  • They’re not hard to catch. They’re abundant and they are a load of fun too!
  • A great species to target when introducing your kids to saltwater, land-based fishing.
  • That's because you don’t need elaborate bait and tackle to go out and catch flathead.
This guide focuses on some of the techniques I've used successfully to catch them.  But, keep in mind, that experimentation is key.  Don't be afraid of trying something different or unique.  These are tips - not rules.

Flathead At A Glance

Key Points
  • Peak Season: October – March in Victoria. But can be targeted all year round.
  • Method: Bait fishing using a paternoster and/or running sinker, increasingly soft plastics retrieved or trolled.
  • Best Baits: Pilchards, whitebait, prawns, squid.
  • Times & Tides: All day, but best times either side of high tide.
  • Tip: A run out tide in areas where there are sandbanks or just outside of an estuary can be productive as food washes over.
  • Hot Spots: St Kilda Pier or Kerford Road Pier.
  • Areas: Beaches, estuaries, piers, rocks, breakwaters and boats. Flathead are widespread and live in variety of bay environments.
  • Flathead can be found commonly within bays and estuaries.

    Often laying in wait for food along drop-offs, weed beds and gutters.

    Sandy flat areas can produce good flathead catches too.

    So an outgoing tide is often best for flathead fishing.

    You may improve your results on flathead by keeping your bait or lure slowly moving across the bottom.

    I have found a running sinker to work better with flathead than a paternoster rig.  But it depends largely on the environment and how the fish are reacting to bait presentation.

    There are several ways of approaching these structures. Like all fishing, it’s important to first get the lay off the land, as it were.

    I strongly recommend you use a tool like Google Maps satellite images for the location you intend to fish. Studying that will show you features in the water, off the pier, breakwater etc.

    Directly Off & Under The Pier For Flathead

    You are likely to find flathead directly off and under many piers. Unfortunately, they tend to be amongst the most cautious. Basically, they spend most of their life with sinkers plonking all around them from other people fishing. They are more likely to have been hooked before – and shy for this reason as well.

    That’s not to say you shouldn’t give it a try. You can and many people do catch fish in close to the structure.

    This method requires no real casting. Just let the line drop over the side. You will need to take care however that you don’t snag your line on any supports, posts, bolts and nuts – and even rocks and weed that’s often directly around the vicinity.

    Casting Out Off The Pier

    Often the deepest water can be found off the sides off a pier or structure. Deeper water, particularly during the day, can be more productive. This is because it offers more protection for many fish species. Particularly smaller bait-fish and crustaceans such as crabs and prawns.

    A regular spinning rod of around 7 to 9 feet is often the most common choice. A larger surf rod, however, can get you out further to any reefs, sea-grasses or deeper holes. This is why exploring satellite imagery is such a good idea. You can plan your casting zone and your rod in advance.

    I like to spin and cast bait out from a pier, rock wall etc. I also always use berleyBerley  

    and attractants. We will take a look at these vital tools below.

    For some great Victorian flathead, locations check out our articles on fishing spots from piers, beaches and estuaries.

    Flathead Fishing Hints

    Not everything you read about catching this popular species online is always completely correct. Hard and fast rules aren’t nearly as rigid as some folks will have you think.

    I’ve caught flathead at high tide, low tide and even slack tide. I’ve used bright shiny lures. Whitebait, Blue bait, Pilchards, Prawns, Pippies and squid. I’ve used soft plastics. I’ve used running sinkers, paternosters and even floats.

    Flathead Fishing Hints Flathead – How You Can Catch Them

    Before getting into flathead fishing hints dealing with how to catch them a word of warning about Australian flathead.

    Just behind their gill plates, they have spines that carry a mild venom. It isn’t likely to kill you but it can hurt like crazy. Especially if it slices open or stabs an unwary hand or foot.

    Their teeth are worth being cautious of too. So take care of handling them!

    Finally – a quick word on conservation. Please obey the local size and/or bag limits of the state you are fishing in. They are there to help make sure the species continues to be there for the future.

    There is some fisho’s who state that you should not take flathead specimens over 70cm because these are the females that will spawn. The intention is a good one, but the science, however, doesn’t back this up. Midsized females between 50 to 60cm reproduce. Females over 70cm are past reproduction – kind of like menopause.

    Patience Is A Virtue In Flathead Fishing

    In fishing, I pretty much adhere to the principle that patience is a virtue. This would have to be the most important of the flathead fishing hints here in my opinion.

    If after a few casts you’re not getting bites you’ve got to ask yourself. Am I using the right bait or lure? Is my tackle right? Should it be on the seabed and running? PaternosterPaternoster Rig Paternoster Rig style? Floating? Bait kind? Am I using BerleyBerley  

    (chum) or just hoping a fish will swim by at the right moment?

    Then there’s the location. Is it daytime and to shallow? Is there any structure for the fish to seek protection? Has there been a flush of freshwater from a nearby estuary after heavy rain?

    We will take a look at environments for pier, beach and estuary a little further down.

    Suffice to say, hard and fast rules are limits we place on ourselves, not the fish. Experimentation is key. I’ve caught flathead in a boat with a bare hook. Causing some of my friends to dub them “Kamikaze Fish.”

    Carnivores – Sight, Vibration & Smell Are Important

    The flathead is a carnivore. So they hunt by sight, vibration and smell. So experience shows the more you can appeal to each of these senses the better your chances of catching a flathead. This is why I use a variety of baits, lures, rigs, berley and attractants.

    Also, as you learn more about flathead fishing, please keep in mind that you are better off targeting a single species. Trying to catch anything that swims by is more likely to leave you empty-handed at the end of the day.

    This goes for any species. If it’s flathead you want – focus on tackle, lures and bait for flathead. Don’t try and catch flathead and hope to catch bream. Same goes for species like whiting. Focus on the flatties. If something else that’s good happens to take your offering – be happy with your good luck.

    Understanding Flathead Behaviour

    The Flathead is an ambush predator. They do tend to lay buried in the sand, just their eyes showing, waiting for food. Logically the outgoing tide is a great time for them to feed this way.

    However, this doesn’t mean they do not cruise for food. Because they certainly do. So while many flatheads are going to be caught on the bottom it’s not uncommon to catch them midwater.

    Understanding Flathead Behaviour Flathead – How You Can Catch Them

    Understanding flathead behaviour is less about making assumptions and more about considering how the fish lives out its life.

    Assumptions will force us into thinking in a very narrow way about the target fish. The flathead is an ambush predator principally. It will also consume dead fish, crustaceans etc as they wash past it on an outgoing tide.

    Additionally – if food is available on the surface then they’re going to pursue food there too. Even though their preferred environment is buried up to their eyes in sand.

    Indeed you can often see flathead rising to the surface, during calm conditions, kissing the surface and ripples moving outward.

    Polarised sunglasses are a great way to observe behaviour. Particularly in clear conditions. Polarised sunnies allow you to see into the water as they reduce light refraction. In some conditions, you’ll see the flathead.

    Flathead Behaviour – Ambush Predators

    In other conditions, you can see the impressions where they’ve been. Literally, flathead shapes in the sand.

    You’ll also get a better sense of the environment. Scanning the water surface and identifying gutters, sandbars and in some instances reefs.

    Value Of Polarized Sunglasses Can’t Be Overstated

    I can’t overstate the value of a decent pair of sunglasses, with a polarised treatment, as part of your tackle kit. They protect your eyes from UV glare and reduce eye fatigue. They also offer this excellent ability to peer into the water mentioned above.

    These tools are an excellent resource to really study and learn about all fish, how they act and the marine environment. Beyond just studying flathead behaviour alone.

    Naturally, if the conditions are turbid and choppy this visibility is not going to be apparent. But in good light conditions, they are indispensable. Allowing you to almost get right into the flathead’s environment.

    Flathead Off Piers, Breakwaters & Rock Walls

    Flathead from a pier and breakwater wall is probably one of the most common methods for targetting this table fish.

    There’s a good reason for this. There are plenty of places to hide. These areas are attractive to an abundance of crustaceans, shellfish, small fish and squid.

    They also make it easier for shore-based fishing in deeper water as some piers extend quite far out past the in-shore “drop-offs.”

    Flathead Off Piers, Breakwaters & Rock Walls Flathead – How You Can Catch Them

    There are several ways of approaching Flathead Off Piers, Breakwaters, Rock Walls etc. Like all fishing, it’s important to first get the lay off the land, as it were.

    I strongly recommend you use a tool like Google Maps satellite images for the location you intend to fish. Studying that will show you features in the water, off the pier, breakwater etc.

    Flathead Off Piers Directly Off & Under The Pier

    You are likely to find flathead directly off and under many piers. Unfortunately, they tend to be amongst the most cautious. Basically, they spend most of their life with sinkers plonking all around them from other people fishing. They are more likely to have been hooked before – and shy for this reason as well.

    That’s not to say you shouldn’t give it a try. You can and many people do catch fish in close to the structure.

    This method requires no real casting. Just let the line drop over the side. You will need to take care however that you don’t snag your line on any supports, posts, bolts and nuts – and even rocks and weed that’s often directly around the vicinity.

    Casting Out Off The Pier

    Often the deepest water can be found off the sides off a pier or structure. Deeper water, particularly during the day, can be more productive. This is because it offers more protection for many fish species. Particularly smaller bait-fish and crustaceans such as crabs and prawns.

    A regular spinning rod of around 7 to 9 feet is often the most common choice. A larger surf rod, however, can get you out further to any reefs, sea-grasses or deeper holes. This is why exploring satellite imagery is such a good idea. You can plan your casting zone and your rod in advance.

    I like to spin and cast bait out from a pier, rock wall etc. I also always use berleyBerley  

    and attractants. We will take a look at these vital tools below.

    Beach Fishing For Flathead

    People often only think about “beach fishing” as Ocean beach fishing. Yet the bays, like Port Phillip Bay, can be very productive, especially for species like the flathead.

    As always use a satellite map to explore where the rocks, weed beds, sandbars and holes are located in advance.

    In the shallower water, you may find dusk/after dark or even dawn fishing to be the best times. Fishing the turning tide is ideal. Flathead will often wait in the gutters when the tide is running out from the beach.

    There’s a whole lot of good stuff like crabs, beach worms and smaller baitfish in this zone that they love to eat.

    Beach Fishing For Flathead Flathead – How You Can Catch Them

    I keep mentioning burley (chum) and attractants – and I’m going to mention them here again. In the following sections, I’ll explain in more details. But suffice to say for the moment – I always use a burley pot when beach fishing for flathead. I also always use attractants.

    There are two main ways of flathead beach fishing. In both instances, the turning high tide is generally ideal as the water is slightly deeper at this time.

    Wading Into The Tidal Zone

    Yep. Wading. Up to the waist if it’s safe to do so. But certainly as far as you’re comfortable. This, of course, applies to calmer bays – not ocean beaches. It’s generally unsafe and unwise to wade into ocean beach surf.

    A short rod. 7 to 9 foot is good. Some people wear waders. You’ll need a knapsack or someway to safely carry your tackle – and your catches.

    Wading gets you out into the range of the deeper waters where the fish are more likely to be.

    Using A Surf Rod When Beach Fishing For Flathead

    A surf rod, cast from the beach, in some places, is a great way to target flathead. Check the local conditions for water depth. This is because you need to get your bait or lure out of the shallows and into the deeper channels or gutters.

    This is also the only safe way to target flathead on ocean beaches. A surf rod 10 to 12 feet for the bays and a heavier 12-foot rod for ocean beaches.

    Flathead Estuary Fishing

    Fishing Estuaries for flatties is extremely worthwhile. In larger river systems, like the Hawkesbury in NSW or the Yarra in Victoria, the fish range quite a distance inland within the estuary system.

    For example, in the Yarra, flatties can be found, at times, as far upstream as the eastern part of the city. Several kilometres from where the mouth of the river empties into Port Phillip Bay.

    In smaller estuaries, depending on the tidal flow, they may not range as far upstream.

    Flathead Estuary Fishing Flathead – How You Can Catch Them

    Unless you’re needing to cast incredible distances for some reason you can generally use estuary rods up to around 8 or 9-foot in length for flathead estuary fishing.

    The usual flathead baits and lures work just as well here. Prawns, baitfish even sand or beach worms.

    Good spots are often where the estuary has sandy beaches. Cast out into the channels and gutters. The turning tide is an excellent time to try.

    Dusk & Dawn, Top Times

    The larger flathead specimens are more likely to move in closer to shore after dusk and before dawn.


    and attractant is a must when flathead estuary fishing. See the next section where I explain some of the reasons I always use these tools. Suffice to say for now this is what gets the fish in closer to where you are and helps create some interest.

    Because estuaries are such changeable environments there are times when flathead estuary fishing is going to be better – or worse.

    For example, during and after a flood there’s often murkier and fresher water in the estuary. The tide is going to wash less salty water into the system. That can result in fewer flathead in the river. Naturally, this depends on the estuary. It seems to be a bigger problem in the southern states than northern states.

    Flathead Estuary Fishing Environmental Considerations

    You need to also consider the environment itself. Pollution levels from chemical spills. How clogged up the estuary gets. Weeds and more importantly silt can block the flow of the system. Because of this, some estuaries can remain landlocked for part of the year.

    The Powlett river at Kilcunda is a good example of this. I’ve never caught a single flathead there. Though I’ve caught small Australian salmon. The Powlett estuary is frequently obstructed by a sandbar. When it does run it often does so over an exposed rock shelf that limits the amount of tidal water that enters the area.

    Berley & Attractants For Flathead

    Fishing without Berley & Attractants For Flathead is like going to a party and hiding behind the bushes the whole evening.

    You might get the odd glance. But your chances of hooking up aren’t high.

    Berley is a broadcast. It’s a way to call flathead to where you are. It appeals to the smell and taste senses of fish. In clear conditions, I have been able to see flathead move in and take up position near my berley pot.

    Berley & Attractants For Flathead Flathead – How You Can Catch Them

    The BerleyBerley  

    & Attractants For Flathead that you use are just as attractive to small baitfish. So this makes perfect sense for the flathead. Free food.

    What it means to you is you’re bringing the fish to you.

    I nearly always use berley. Whether it be a pier, a beach, an estuary or even a boat. Whether I’m spinning hardbody lures, soft plasticsSoft Plastic Lure Soft Plastic Lures or bait fishing.

    I don’t understand why so many people fishing are so resistant to it. Certainly, you’ll hear anecdotal evidence of “…I’ve used berley and nothing happened.” But fishing isn’t black and white. There’s a lot of factors going on. Tides, sun, rain, wind, pollution and food availability.

    Use it consistently and over time you’ll see the difference it makes to your fishing.

    Berley Consistently Works

    The difference between catching fish and not catching any at all I often put down to not using berley. Fisho’s who use berley – just enough mind, not a smorgasbord – know it can be the deciding difference.

    As to what to use as berley. There are several commercial berley products available from local tackle shops.

    These include the kind that looks like chicken feed pellets. These are often impregnated with tuna oil, aniseed and other “flavours” known to attract fish.

    You can also make your own. Leftover bait from the last fishing trip is a great source A meal you had where you had leftover prawn, crab or lobster shells. Shells from a shellfish meal such as mussels etc.

    Basically, you grind the leftovers up. I use an old-fashioned metal grinder. You can use a hammer on the harder shells like crab, lobster and shellfish.

    I then mix it with regular “layers pellets” made for chickens then add tuna oil and aniseed myself.

    Using Attractants & Scents

    Again, this is something I always use. Appealing to the sense of taste and smell. A good attractant, however, will encourage the flathead to swallow the bait, rather than pick at it.

    The fact that attractants have now become staples used in fishing tournaments attests to their value.

    There’s a lot of them on the market. Some, I think it’s fair to say, are questionable. Others are absolutely outstanding.

    Whenever possible I like to choose tools that appeal to a wide variety of species. So while this article is about flatties, a good all-round attractant/scent is always preferable. This is why I use and recommend wholeheartedly Squidgy S Factor Scent.

    I use it on hard body lures, soft plastics, frozen and freeze-dried baits. While you can overuse these products I find smearing some between your index finger and thumb, then rubbing that liberally on the bait or lure is all that’s needed.

    It lasts several casts, too. If there’s fish in the area you’ll be amazed at how fast they start smashing your line.

    When I first started using soft plasticSoft Plastic Lure Soft Plastic Lures lures, like Gulp.

    I was surprised by the results I was getting didn’t match those reported overseas.

    Adding S-Factor scent made the difference. As it was designed in Australia I do wonder if it was the missing ingredient needed to get the mouths watering of Aussie fish.

    Note, this isn’t a substitute for berley, discussed earlier. Rather it’s a tool to use in conjunction with berley.

    Get the flathead into your zone with the berley. Then the S-Factor to get them to choose your bait or lure.

    Best Flathead Bait & Lures

    While most fishing is still done with traditional natural baits the use of artificial lures and lifelike soft plastics has increased in the last decade.

    Hardbodied lures have been around for centuries, in various forms.

    Soft plastic lures, however, are a relatively recent innovation.

    Best Flathead Bait & Lures Flathead – How You Can Catch Them

    With the advent of soft plasticsSoft Plastic Lure Soft Plastic Lures 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 plasticSoft Plastic Lure Soft Plastic Lures 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:

    •  Prawns
    • Squid
    • Live Mullet
    • Pilchards
    • Fish pieces
    • Squid tentacles to hold Pilchards or Fish on-hook – as a “Cocktail”.

    You could match this with any of the following rigs:

    • General running sinkerRunning Sinker Running Sinker rig
    • Paternoster rigPaternoster Rig Paternoster Rig
    • Gang hook rig

    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  

    , 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.


    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.

    Recently I’ve begun experimenting with bait sourced for human consumption – that is farmed or caught in Australia. Rather than freezing I’ve used a salting process, adding some “secret herbs and spices” with a good deal of success. I’ll be writing about that further in the coming months as it’s starting to change my opinion regarding freeze-dried – which tends to be a more expensive bait.

    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

    • 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.
    • Make sure you’re giving the flathead an opportunity to strike

    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:

    • 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.

    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.

    • Choose either a Running Sinker or PaternosterPaternoster Rig Paternoster Rig.
    • 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.

    Choosing An Ideal Rod & Reel For Flathead

    There’ several things you need to consider here:

    • The conditions you’ll be fishing. Beach, Pier, Boat, Estuary.
    • What other species you might target to get value for money.
    • How long the rod is going to last you and how well it performs.
    • If the reel is going to last and not let you down, over-spool etc.
    Choosing An Ideal Rod & Reel For Flathead Flathead – How You Can Catch Them

    The right Rod & Reel for flathead is pretty subjective. Just about any working modern fishing rod is going to work.

    While I own many brands of rods, my first ever fishing rod was made of Rangoon cane, my favourites are the Shimano. Shimano rods vary in price, from entry-level to professional.

    In my opinion, the Shimano range makes choosing a rod & reel For Flathead easy.

    They are dearer than the cheap Chinese imports and a little dearer than the ones you’ll find in KMart etc. I prefer them over the Jarvis Walker range, though I do own many of that brand too.

    However, even an entry-level Shimano is going to give you better service, a more sensitive “feel” and performance.

    The same can be said for Shimano reels. Often their entry-level reels include many of the features of their more expensive brothers and sisters in the range.

    So while there are a great many good rods, a great all-around fishing rod, for starting out, is the Shimano Eclipse Combo, in my opinion.

    Eclipse Combo Series – Greal All Round Starter Rod & Reel For Flathead Fishing

    The Eclipse combo is a well-balanced reel and rod combination. It will serve you well on an estuary bank, a pier and even a boat (choose a shorter rod for boats usually) if you choose a shorter rod length.

    For the estuary and pier around the 8 to 9-foot length is perfect. For light beach and pier, 10 foot is ideal.

    This Shimano series will get you started with quality gear, that is affordable. It’s suitable for flathead, King George whiting, pinky snapperPinky Snapper Pinky SnapperThe name "Pinky Snapper" refers to the immature Snapper.  Their skin colour is different from adults (its pinker.)

    Adulthood is usually considered on fish greater than 40cm - or in the 1.5 to 2kg - range, with darker red colouration.
    Pinky Snapper Pre-Tied Rigs
    and even larger snapper if cared for.

    It will also work well for bream and squid jigging while working work perfectly for inland freshwater species.

    As with all my articles we recommend you check Dave’s Tackle Box resource page. It’s a list I keep of the gear I use and feel I can confidently recommend to you. The things I believe will help improve your fishing experience.

    Finally, I have some other articles on how to catch other Aussie fish species: including my recommendations on how to choose the best King George Whiting rigs.

    Flathead Video

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