Fishing the Flats with Light Tackle

Scott Bradley is from the Fraser Coast area of Queensland. He regularly walks the flats using his light gear and catches some great fish. Maybe we all should take a leaf out of his book…………

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Fishing has been in my blood for as long as I can remember. I was taught to fish by my dad from an early age and I’m now teaching my two year old and five year old the basics that were taught to me. In the early days I started out with a light spinning rod with a rear drag spin reel and I thought I was the business. We would ride our push bikes down to the jetty or the marina and chase mullet, Australian salmon and what ever else we could catch carving our skills on the bread and butter species that most anglers start there fishing career on.

Like most fisho’s it’s not just about catching fish it’s also about the tackle. I can still spend hours in a tackle shop or online checking out all the new gear available and over the years I have accumulated many outfits to suit the many different styles of fishing we have on the Fraser Coast. Of all the trolling gear, baitcasters, bottom bashing and spin sticks the one I could not do without is my 2-3kg flick stick with a 1000 sized reel. I take this thing everywhere but when it comes into its own is finessing small hardbodies and plastics in local brackish lakes and dams and the extensive flats on Fraser Island and the mainland. The beauty of these light outfits is you can throw them all day and being able to throw the smallest of lures appealing to a wider variety of fish.

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It astounds me sometimes the amount and variety of fish I have caught walking the flats on a low tide and fishing with the tide as it pushes in to the shore line. Having the Great Sandy Straits on my door step gives me access to kilometres of shoreline that varies from sand, mud, rocks and grass beds amongst the many creeks and rivers that flow in to the Straits. No matter which way the wind is blowing between Fraser Island and the mainland there is always a stretch of beach out of the wind somewhere. Even when the wind is up and the water resembles coffee rather than saltwater you can still rely on something feeding on the incoming tide, you just have to be a bit more careful where you step!

Because of the variation in territory I fish and the species I may encounter on any given day, I fish 10 pound braid and fluorocarbon leader. When luring the flats this gives me a chance if a big golden trevally or a meter flathead comes along. It also allows me to fish the same outfit on the many shallow reefs we have in Hervey Bay and many times it out fishes the rest of my gear by allowing better presentations of baits and lures with the lighter outfit. The other advantage of the light gear is its a hell of a lot of fun! Flathead over 60cms in half a meter of water are real performers on light gear often making blistering runs and head shakes, even leaping out of the water in an attempt to throw the hooks.

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Grunter are another worthy adversary on light gear and when they decide to take a lure you sometimes think you’ve foul hooked a stingray the way they take off. In the fresh and brackish lakes that are littered amongst our housing estates and the many tiny creeks, the light flick stick is the perfect choice for targeting tarpon, spangled perch, bass, smaller Barra & jacks and all the other estuarine species we catch in these land locked oasis’s. Once again all good fun on the light gear. I even use the light gear in the surf on the eastern side of Fraser Island fishing pippi’s and sand worms in the gutters close to the beach.

The combination of graphite rods and braided line gives the angler the ability to feel everything and the light braid cuts through the surf easier giving direct contact at all times. You get amongst a good school of dart on the light gear and your not enjoying yourself than its time to find another hobby! On the good days fishing the flats. it’s not hard to bring home a dozen good fish consisting of flathead, bream, grunter and cod which converts into quite a few good meals for the family. On many occasions I’ve come home from a big trip up the island in the boat with a lot less to show for it, and it cost a lot in fuel! These flats are the building blocks of life and you don’t have to spend much time walking around to see everything from jelly prawns, crabs, and all the different varieties of baitfish that inhabit the area to understand why the fish are there.

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As good as the light gear is there are things that move in with the tide that you simply will not stop. There are some huge queenies, GT’s and god knows what else that would require more substantial tackle for even a chance to stop them, but for the bulk of species I’m chasing on lures from 35 mm to 70mm the little flick stick handles it nicely. The rest of the gear I use stalking the flats is a good shoulder bag that can hold plenty of gear and fish, a pair of pliers and lip grips. A net is another valuable addition if you can’t land the fish on the beach.

Being totally mobile means you can cover a lot of ground easily and you have to be prepared to walk a bit to find the fish. A good pair of shoes with hard soles is a must if your trekking over rocks and oysters and carry enough water to keep the fluids up and your on your way.

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Lure selection has varied for me over the years mainly due to what was available locally. I always carry a selection of soft plastics up to 70 mm long. Squidgy bugs and fish and Berkley power baits in natural colours and pinks work well on my patch of ground. Surface poppers are a must for fishing over rock ridges and chasing whiting in the shallows and my all time favourite hardbodies, the Predateck Min Mins and Micro Min Mins from 35-50mm shallow divers. Everything eats these lures so I always carry a few spares just in case. I have used all the colours and they all work but lately I’ve been using the naturals and the rainbow and brown trout patterns have been smashed by everything. I always carry spare trebles as well, de hooking is usually where you break the odd hook so being able to change it on the spot is a big advantage. I use owner ST 36BC size 14 trebles and they work a treat.

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To give you an idea how good these little lures are I spent two mornings on the flats last week and got 5 flathead from 50-63 cms,  4 bream to 35cms and released many other fish the first morning. The second morning I caught 3 grunter 45-50cms, 2 bream, 3 flathead and released a dozen other fish all on the same lure. The week before I was catching tarpon, spangled perch and tilapia on that same lure. It has hardly any paint left and I’ve probably changed the hooks twice but it’s still catching fish.

So the next time the opportunity presents itself why not leave the heavy gear at home and try finessing some tiny lures on light gear you may just be amazed what you catch!

Scott Bradley

About Scott Bradley

Scott Bradley was born in Hastings Victoria and grew up fishing for King George whiting, snapper, sharks, Australian salmon and flathead. At 15 years of age his family moved to what he calls ‘God’s own country’ for the fishing and lifestyle that Queensland’s Hervey Bay is famous for. At 19 he bought his first boat and started to properly explore the fish-rich waters adjacent to world-renowned Fraser Island. “I carved my teeth chasing pelagics and to this day find it hard to go past a boiling bait school without firing a slug or popper into the action,” said Scott. “Longtails and spotted mackerel were all I chased until age 20 when I caught my first marlin trolling in 10 meters of water, 500 meters off Fraser Island and I was hooked.” From then on Scott has spent years chasing marlin inside Fraser Island. On the good days he says 5 to 10 shots at marlin are not uncommon. Now 37-years-old, Scott maintains that game fishing is his passion. “But I'd also fish in a bucket of water,” he said. “September to March is when I chase Marlin leaving the rest of the year to stalk the flats for flathead and bream. I also hit the reefs for snapper, reds, cod and coralies plus also throw the net for a feed of prawns or shoot up a creek if the wind is up.”

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