Breaking down the basics of Gold Coast tailor
  |  First Published: August 2016

Winter is prime time on the broadwater and the canals, as many species really fire up. However, when I think of winter I think of trolling hardbodies for tailor, Pomatomus saltatrix, throughout the broadwater.

So let’s break it down into a few easy points to help you get onto a few chopper tailor!

Mainly caught from June to February, winter proves most successful for catching tailor. They are hard fighting, predatory fish renowned for their razor sharp teeth. They have almost the best set of dentures in the game and are known to engulf lures and slice leaders, so be prepared to lose some tackle.

It gets expensive using premium lures, and you’ll want to have them hooked in the rear treble. If you aren’t keen on losing money on these fish, buy cheaper models and add some premium split rings and trebles. Despite the loss, tailor fishing can be seriously fun.

The gear

You don’t have to purchase surf combos and surf fishing gear to get onto tailor. You probably already have the gear in your garage storage area. Don’t make fishing too complicated. A graphite rod between 2-4kg and 3-5kg will do the job. Match that with a reel size around 2500-3000, but not much lighter as you want to have some drag on the fish. Don’t go heavier either. Add braided lines like Powerpro, Daiwa J-Braid, Sunline and Spiderwire around 10-20lb.

For your fluorocarbon leader, 15lb is perfect for this style of fishing. If you find it’s too light, try using 20lb. My usual setup consists of a Shimano Raider 3-6kg or a 2-5kg ACM Custom, size 3000 with Sustain FG, 20lb Sunline braid and 20lb fluorocarbon leader. This setup is great for flathead fishing too. Tailor love movement, so the more you can create in your lure from your rod, the better the result and hook-up will be.


There are a heap of lures on the market that will do a great job, catch fish and also break the bank. Hardbody lures can be $10-30, or even $40. Mostly there is great quality in high priced lures, but there are cheaper options that are just as effective. Lures can be broken into three sub-groups: soft plastics, hardbodies and slugs (surface and divers). Some successful lures and colours – that won’t cost you a fortune – are Lucky Craft G-Splash (for surface), ZMan 3” MinnowZ in opening night, Rapala X-Rap (Saltwater 120mm in silver blue mackerel), 9cm Rapala Skitter Pop and some of the ZipBaits minnows.

The metal lures and slugs are mainly for bust-ups when tailor are feeding on the surface. These are retrieved at a fast pace, so you don’t need anything special. When fish see flashy metal they’ll automatically think baitfish. I know of people who have used a spoon or wrench, with some maintenance, and actually caught fish on it! However, choosing a lure that swims properly is vital. The weight of slugs depends on your tackle, but 15-25gm will work perfect.


Some areas on the Gold Coast fish better than others. Broadwater, the Seaway and early parts of the canals will produce larger tailor. Deeper in the estuaries, you’ll find the smaller fish searching for protection from larger species. Greenback tailor are usually larger than 60cm and 2.5kg, and are generally found in the Seaway and around headlands.

The north and south wall of the Seaway fish great in the early morning and late afternoons. Look for signs of birds working in the area and patches of bait on your sounder. Sometimes you will get small fish before you get onto the larger models.

Sovereign Islands is a hot spot with the deeper water around the island. Working plastics and trolling lures in the area should show some action. The inlet of Brown Island also does well, especially on the high or incoming tide. Tailor seem to ambush the baitfish before erupting and getting a good feed. You will also find solid tailor a fair way up the Nerang and Coomera River, as the dirty water can fire them up.

The headlands along the coast are popular and some spots produce awesome tailor! If you’re going to eat tailor, remember to bleed them instantly by breaking their neck or cutting their throat. Tailor taste great bled, especially thrown into an esky filled with icy cold water. Remember to take only what you need. Keeping one or two doesn’t hurt, but catch and release is a good habit for our waterways. We want the next generation to receive the same enjoyments we do!


Trolling hardbodies and flicking plastics in the Broadwater won’t always get tailor. Don’t be surprised to find yourself boating a mulloway, trevally or flathead in the shallow areas, and if you’re lucky – salmon. The Seaway can hold exceptionally large fish, so be prepared!

Queenfish can easily be mistaken in a bust-up. The main difference is that tailor congregate and compact more to feed, whereas queenfish are scattered and will hit the surface at random. Anything you throw around that attracts the eye of a pelagic, they’ll smash!

How to catch tailor

Now using all the information you’ve gathered so far, we can get down to fishing. Most sports require different techniques and lures for the occasion. In the headlands, you should be throwing metal lures into the surf, whereas, troll hardbodies in the Broadwater. The best time for targeting tailor is most certainly dawn and dusk. The exception is night, which can produce larger models at times.

Trolling hardbodies in the Broadwater and Seaway, you want a maximum of two lures around 15-20m from your boat. Change it up if you need to, depending on your speed, wake and lure depth. The speed you want to be sitting on is 4-6 knots. Remember to keep your rod around 90º while your lure is out. This will require a rod holder. Your lure should be consistent in its movement through the water. The further back your lures are, the deeper they will dive.

Tailor move fast through the water, chasing baitfish. Get your lure working at a fast pace through the water column. It doesn’t hurt to mix the technique with some unsystematic pauses here and there. Both hardbodies and soft plastics work great with the odd pause, especially suspending lures.

Tailor are predators – without doubt a baitfish’s worst nightmare. Whether you are land-based fishing from the headlands or beaches, boat fishing or even kayak fishing, tailor are an awesome species to target. These fish will become vastly active at certain times, and to ensure this, things need to come together. Practise fishing for tailor regularly and you will increase your knowledge on how these predatory fish work. When you have tailor chopping all around you, that’s when you know you’ve experienced a new level of sport fishing in the estuaries!

Remember, fishing for tailor is exceedingly unpredictable. With these fish hitting high speeds, it can be hard to even find them! Sometimes you won’t see one fish or one bird in the area. It’s a good idea to keep a record of your fish captures and patterns you discover. Write down where, when and how you caught a fish. So the next time, you have a rough idea where to start searching.


PB tailor in the 50s on an early morning surface session!


Fun little school tailor on a ZMan 2.5" GrubZ: Tailor love chopping plastics!


Night time surface tailor are awesome fun!


Tailor can't resist fast wound silver metal slugs!


Will Smedley with a solid headland tailor!


Cody Munro has a great tailor, caught fishing a deep cutter in a stickbait off the beach.


GT are a common tailor by-catch.

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