Go light for a better fight
  |  First Published: December 2016

Chasing large fish on light gear was once a crazy idea – something that shouldn’t be done. These days it’s a popular form of sportfishing. To chase a fish on lighter gear is a challenge. Nothing’s impossible, but it takes a lot more skill to land the fish of a lifetime.

This form of fishing can be practiced just about anywhere there are fish and shades fishing in a whole new light – one that’s much more exciting and challenging. Remember, anyone can go out and skull drag a monster in on heavy gear, but how many anglers can say they landed a 30lb fish on 6lb braid?

Take barra fishing for example, it’s got to be one of my favourite forms of fishing, especially when you can sight fish these chrome jewels of the estuary. In the clear and quite shallow rivers of Cape York, this is certainly possible. The shallow mud or sand flats in the river and the surrounding beaches near the estuary are good places to look for a fish.

Find the small bluish-green snake drains that zigzag the flats – this is the key to a successful session on barra up here. Just cast a small unweighted plastic, shallow diving minnow or even a stickbait over the drain and slowly twitch or hop the lure back to the boat. You’ll spot the barra lunge out of the slightly deeper drain and pounce on your lure. It’s exciting to watch these miniature brutes smash your lure. Even if the fish manages to shake out the hooks, it’s still awesome to watch them eat it.

Go light with these fish and allow them to fight, as there’s rarely any structure in shallow water and the chance of sharks is low. I’ve been using 10lb braid with a 20lb leader for that extra bit of protection from the fishes’ raspy lips and gill rakes. If you really want to, you can go even lighter. There’s plenty of unique by-catches to be sight casted on the flats. This includes a wide variety of species from queenfish, threadfin and blue salmon, golden trevally, GT, giant herring and even the easily sighted pikey bream, which are great fun at a large size.

There is also the option of throwing a fly around on a 6 weight rod, if you want to test your skills. As far as lures go, I’ve been having great success on Rapala and Storm shallow running minnows, or the Shadow Rap shad and X-Rap 3X minnow. Soft bodied lures like the Live Kickin’ Minnow and a variety of plastics will work great.

It’s not just in rivers where using light gear can be fun and effective. Out in the big blue ocean, it can have similar effects. Getting dusted on structure or ending up taxed by the bully of the sea are common events when fighting a large fish for too long out here, but you’re assured more hook-ups. Light leaders are less visible in the water and some intelligent species like golden snapper and trevally can be very fussy about what they eat. I recently took two mates out in the boat, Brendan Heather and Jarred Clark.

Brendan was happy to land a few nice tuna and Spanish mackerel on his light lure casting outfit. He threw metal jigs and plastics around. Jarred on the other hand, caught his first GT on a flutter jig around the 8-9kg mark on the reef and a ripsnorter of a goldie around the 10-11kg mark on the flats, just a few hundred metres from the boat ramp! It was caught on a plastic.

Both trevally species and Brendan’s pelagic speedsters were caught on light 15-20lb spin outfits. If they were using bulky leaders with stiff heavy rods and reels, they wouldn’t have been able to present the lures in such a lifelike way and wouldn’t have caught as many fish.

Using light gear to target big fish is a particularly difficult thing to do, but it can have great results, and gives the angler a better fight. Of course, it also makes the strike from spooky or lazy fish more likely. There’s only one problem – sharks! These hungry beasts of the deep can make it hard –the key is to keep moving from snag to snag or from bommie to bommie to avoid them gathering under the boat. Good luck anglers, think like a fish.

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