Catching BIG Winter Bream

Dale Ward with a well conditioned winter bream.

Dale Ward with a well conditioned winter bream caught in wide open country, or the ‘Open Bream Fields’ as he calls them.

In the last ten to fifteen years the humble bream have gone from a bread and butter species that have been targeted by anglers for decades using packet prawns and live nippers, to one of the most prolific and highly prized sports fish in the country either by lure or fly, as Dale Ward explains in this perfectly timed article.

Lure fishing It’s self has taken flight in the last few decades and is now driven on a path that gives a greater set of challenges for anglers in a generation that have now made the pursuit of bream a sport in Australia. Lures such as soft plastics and hard bodies in the hands of a competent angler can be the most successful way of chasing species such as bream, but tricking them into believing artificial bait is a well presented meal offering can test even the most experienced anglers at times during winter.

Winter Bites Hard

Photo 12

A nice bream caught in deeper featuerless structure in the most unlikely area on wiggle tail plastics.

Winter is well and truly here and it’s the time of year most anglers dread, everything starts to slow down. Bass make the annual migration for spawning and your working days now end at “Dark o’clock”, but around this time is when species like bream, flathead, whiting and even larger models of Silver trevally have moved out of the beaches and headlands and moved into the mouth of the rivers and estuaries in time for spawning.

Now this is when you really need to pay more attention to the positioning of your lures and slowing down your whole presentation in order to be on top of your game when fishing the flats or open areas for estuary species. In the warmer months of spring and summer, fish tend to inhabit the top half of the water column but as the water temperatures slow down and drop, they tend to go a little deeper. Take more time in focusing on behaviour changes with bream in the cooler months, this will assist any angler and give a greater detail of knowledge that can be used while out targeting these species.

Look to the Flats

Photo 11

Adam Bond with twin tournament model bream.

I tend to target winter estuary species on the sand flats where little structure exists in and around drop off zones. So don’t be afraid to down size your leader material and back off your drag, especially in these open waters of the sand flats. I prefer to use a quality Japanese braid for my mainline like Toray Super Pe in 6-8 pound; it just gives you more of an advantage than standard monofilament. Downsizing fluorocarbon leader material is somewhat crucial especially in winter as bream live well over 30 years and to survive that long in a habitat where everything wants to eat you it takes an amplitude of alertness and savvy perception of survival.

Super Smart Fish!

Wily critters ... Bream are acknowledged as one of the smarter species of fish.

Wily critters … Bream are acknowledged as one of the smarter species of fish.

Bream are extremely intelligent for a fish; they can see heavier leaders at times, especially in clearer water. On the tougher days targeting bream I will use as low as 4 pound leader in order to create that bite reaction from bream. Every lure has a different action, usually with plastics for bream it involves a few twitches of the rod and a pause, letting the tail flicker back down the water column. In winter it doesn’t seem to be that easy to get a bream to bite with just the standard retrieve, it just doesn’t cut it. Now I won’t begin to describe the best retrieve there is to get a bite, in my opinion there is no perfect retrieve for plastics, but I can tell you that whatever retrieve you use its needs to be twitched at a slower rate during the winter months and paying more attention to longer pauses is crucial to success on bream.

Winter Breaming At Its Best

Photo 16

You just cant beat a bream that wants to peel your line off in open water.

Winter breaming is a real finesse game of cat and mouse that can require pin point lure placement, a sensitive rod, a subtle lure presentation and a willingness to adjust to the slower reaction from the fish. This requires a great amount of detail and observation to observing how the fish have become more decelerated in these cooler months of the year. Let’s look at how some lures for bream work starting with a soft plastics tail. As you twitch your rod tip up the lure gets brought up through the water column and then you pause in order to allow the plastic to flutter back down giving the plastics tail a wobble on the fall through the water, this is what makes the fish react. But the right jig head selection comes into play also especially on the shallower depths of water. Think about this, if your jig head is too heavy it will cause the plastic to fall to fast and wont flutter the tail and give the lure action. So when I down size my leader and slow down my retrieves and allow longer pauses, I will also down size my jig head again also.

Dale Ward with a solid, lure caught cool weather bream - read the article and catch fish like this!

Dale Ward with a solid, lure caught cool weather trevally  – an incidental capture when going for bream.

This gives the fish more time to look at the lure as it’s falling at much more of a slower rate than any larger jig head giving it a more natural presentation; this also applies to other styles of lures like vibes, blades and diving lures. Bream are a lot slower in the cooler months and fishing for them on a stretching weed bed, a sand flat or even open water, gives you a far better advantage and a larger amount of confidence when focusing on a finesse approach to the concept of bream angling beyond the fear of being busted off in other locations in the realm of structure. But these species don’t just inhabit drop off zones and likely structural holdings, bream in particular are opportunistic predators with a very keen sense of survival and can hold in the most unlikely spots. Let’s break down open water breaming in smaller chunks of information in order to understand why fish may be found in these areas with many other species likely caught as either by catch or targeted in the cooler months of winter. The most obvious thought that comes to mind as to why fish congregate in these areas is because they are travelling in and between feeding areas and spawning zones.

Flathead are a great by catch when targeting big winter bream.

Flathead are a great by catch when targeting big winter bream.

Open Bream Fields

I believe it’s a more complex reason that these relative featureless areas tend to hold fish like bream at bay which concludes my second thought and leads me to believing they suspend in open waters in order to avoid predators from the more liking feeding zones, but smaller bait also seem to think like this also, either way you look at it there’s no right or wrong, only personal experiences and opinions determine the many reasons they school in these open waters, many times I have been in open water away from structure when a shoal of baitfish have been displayed on the Lowrance HDS sounder as either scattered bait or tight balls, I believe this behaviour demonstrated is to stay away from being made a next meal.

These estuary areas I’m referring to as “Open Bream Feilds” usually have a flat bottom topography made up with a seabed of sand and little to no structure or even a glimpse of a weed bed, so it makes sense that many larger predators would not frequently inhabit these areas as the food source is not usually ample. Successful open area hunting for bream really comes down to narrowing down your target areas to pinpoint schools of bream. You can bottom bounce plastics or hard bodied lures on a blind drift, but you’re really only going to produce the odd flathead amongst random bream mostly undersized. It may save you from the dreaded no score card, which is now known to this generation as a “Donut”, but it really doesn’t allow you to leave your session as an achievable day targeting your desired species.

Saying that, the thrills and challenges set from casting lures into likely structure such as oyster racks and mangroves can never be replaced, but it can surely add to your knowledge of tricks knowing that these bream are waiting in these bodies of water and may save you as a contender in your next tournament.

Dale Ward

About Dale Ward

Dale Ward grew up in both Sydney and Country Victoria and has fished as far back as he can remember. Dale has found himself casting lures at both freshwater and saltwater species along the East-Coast and prides himself as a new member of the Kaydo Fishing World team.

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