Soft Plastics, Blades or Hard Bodied Artificials. What to use?

Decision, decisions, decisions! Gary Brown delivers some of the answers to these decisions

This is a dilemma that many an angler will have when they next go for a fish when using artificials. If you are anything like me, you would have hundreds of artificial lures. Whether it be soft plastics, blades or hard bodied lures.

Just recently I was chasing bream, whiting and flathead in the Bega River and I had four outfits at the ready. One with a 7cm Sugar Pen, one with a Lure Pro Black shallow diver, one with a 2.5inch ZMan GrubZ on a 1/12th TT Tournament jig head and the last one had a 1/60thoz TT HWS at the ready.

Last year I ventured up to Weipa for the first time and the decision to take what was one of the hardest things that I had to decide. After long discussions over the phone with our guide, Scotty Lyons (Southern Sydney Fishing Tours).

Because we were going to chase just about anything that had fins, I decided to take a variety of soft plastics, jig heads, poppers, shallow and deep divers and metal slices.

Just recently I spent a few days with Stuart Hindson from Aussie Fish Estuary Adventures fishing the Bega River and Wonboyn Lakes for bream, whiting, dusky flathead and trevally. For this trip, I packed in a variety of soft plastics, jig heads, poppers, walk the dog style, shallow, deep, suspending and sinking hard bodies, plus a number of different blades.

This threadfin salmon jumped all over this Gulp 4-inch shrimp that was cast up onto the mud bank as it was hopped back into the deep drop-off at the edge.

On both of these trips was this a bit of over kill. Sure was, but having not fished these areas before I was at two minds as to what to take. Even though I had spoken to both guides at length over the phone.

Over the years there have been so many books written on artificial lures and how to use them you would need to have a rather large book case to house them. I for one have so many books on lures that I still (at times) refer back to them to check out a particular lure that I have come across.

Frank Prokop has written 3 books on lures; Freshwater Fishing Lures and How to use them (1991), Lures in Depth (1995) and the Lure Encyclopaedia (2004). All in all, there were 1965 lures tested to give anglers an insight into how these lures worked. Keep an eye out for them as they are collector items.

To the novice and seasoned lure user the thing that can become very confusing is the number of lures that are on the market today. You only have to walk into the small shop at Miranda called to realize how many lures there are available to the angler. Or if you were to go to Mo Tackle at Coffs Harbour where they have over one million lures in stock.

So, to keep it relatively simple I will give you a bit of a rundown of what and where I use the following artificials.

Soft plastics.

I can still remember the first soft plastic that I ever used was the Mister Twister and my first ever fish I caught on it was a dusky flathead. Since those early days, I would have to say that I have brought and used hundreds of different styles, shapes, sizes and colours.

The author caught this cobia while using a Berkley 6.5inch Gulp Nemesis on a 1 once TT Jig Head while bottom bouncing.

If you are new to using soft plastics I would suggest that you target flathead with SP’s as they are relatively easy to catch. When fishing in the estuary I would select and area where there is a mixture of sand, weed, current and a bit of a drop-off.

Cast the weighted soft plastic up onto the shallow section and then in small hops work the lure back towards you. Allow the soft plastic to rest on the bottom for about three to four seconds each time between hops.

You will know when you have hooked a flathead as you raise the rod to hop it off the bottom, as the rod will load up and you will then have a few head shakes from the hooked flathead. Once hooked make sure that you keep the rod tip up and don’t allow the line to go slack, as the weight of the jig head may cause it to fall out.


Once again poppers can come in a variety of style, shapes, sizes, weights and can be used when chasing tailor, salmon, trout, bream, flathead, tuna, whiting and coral dwelling fish. Last year I took up a few Halco poppers to use when working those shallow inshore coral bommies.

My thought behind this was that if I could work the lure on top of the water and over the shallow I reefs I would be with a great chance of landing more fish.

You never know what you may get when working Halco poppers over shallow reefs.

Most of the time it did work. I found that once the fish hit the popper and stayed connected it was just a matter of winding as fast as I could to keep the fishes head turn and coming towards me.

The Spinning/Jigging that I using was a Pflueger Medalist PFLM-SP70H, 6 to 10kg rod mounted with a Pflueger Salt 060SW threadline spooled with 27kg Spiderwire Stealth CODE RED braid. The leader was 20kg Snyder.

The only time that the fish didn’t make it back was when the fish was too quick and powerful that it turned its head and head home.

Walk the dog style.

For years now I have been using lures that have the ‘Walk the dog style’ motion when brought back across the surface. This style can be achieved a number of ways. My favourite it to keep the rod tip just above the water surface and twitch the rod tip from side to side. While at the same time slowly winding in the line.

Just recently I was using Sammy 65’s and 7cm Sugar Pens to lure up a few tailor and salmon that were feeding in about a metre of water. A few times I had fish follow the lure right to the boat, only to have it smash the lure just as I was going to lift it out of the water. It pays to watch it all the way to the rod tip.

This tailor must have been looking up, as the Sammy 65 got stuck on its head.

Shallow, deep, suspending and sinking hard bodies.

Whether you troll of cast a hard-bodied lure you can work them slow with a twitch, fast with a stop and twitch, slow roll them where they dig into the bottom, slow roll them over rocks with a stop and let them rising for a second or two or crank them down to the required depth then slow retrieve them and let them stop while suspended at the required depth.

Each day you use a shallow, deep, suspending and sinking hard bodied lure you will need to work out what the fish prefers on the day.

This 72cm mulloway took a liking to a beat up old Ecogear SX 40 hard bodied lure that was meant for a bream while slow rolling it over a cockle bed.


If you have never used a blade before you would at first sight think what would a fish, see in a piece of metal with a couple of hooks in them. I have found that one of the tricks to using a blade is to work it as slow as possible. Don’t think that you have to do a fast retrieve like you would if you were using a metal slicer when targeting tailor and salmon.

One of the methods that I use is the rip and retrieve method. This is where I will cast out the blade in one to five metres of water. Let it flutter down to the bottom. Take up the slack and then quickly wind the hand about three turns. Allow it to stop and settle on the bottom and then repeat the process. Making sure that as you get closer to where you are standing on the shore or to the side of the boat. Many a time a fish has picked up the blade when it has stopped and tried to swim off with it.

Having you rod at 90 degrees to your body will allow the fish to take the blade and give you a bit of cushion time to strike and set the hooks.

Bream just can’ t seem to resist a Cranka Crab in the olive-green colour.

There are plenty of tackle shops throughout Australia that have huge collections of artificials. A few that I always will call into when passing by areas follows:

Fish Outta Water at Brookvale at Miranda

Mo Tackle in Coffs Harbour

The decision of which style of artificial to use is now up to you. As for me I prefer to use all types of lures as there is nothing else like presenting a lure and having a fish snavel it as it tries to make it back home.

Gary Brown

About Gary Brown

I have been fishing from a very early age (around # to 4) in the estuaries from Qld to Victoria for bream, whiting, mullet, flathead, leatherjackets, john dory and luderick. Having owned my first boat at 12, I was able to fish further afield in many different estuaries up and down the NSW coast with my dad. In my early teens I started to fish from the beach for bream, whiting, tailor and salmon and then progressed onto the rocks for bream, trevally, tailor, salmon, drummer, luderick and snapper. I also targeted snapper, morwong, other reef species off shore, plus a variety of tuna. In his teens Gary brought his first boat and started fish out to sea on the south coast of NSW where he could chase snapper, tuna, morwong, pinkies, leatherjackets, mulloway, bonito and many other fish species. Over the past 22 years I have been teaching many anglers how to improve their fishing ability in my “How, Where, When and Why to Fish” classes throughout tackle shops in Sydney. In 2002 I had my first book published (Fishing Sydney’s Waterways) by AFN and it has been revised 3 times. Since then I have now had 4 more books published: 2005 Beach and Rock Fishing Australia. 2010 Fishing guide to South of Sydney. 2011 How to catch Australia’s Favourite Saltwater Fish. 2013 Land based Fishing GUIDE FOR Sydney Harbour. I have also produced along with Scotty Lyons 2 dvd’s; A Day on the Bay and Port Hacking – The Jewel of the South. Over the past 11 years I have successfully competed in a number of bream tournaments. Ranging from ABT, BETS and the Southern Bream Series. I am currently sponsored by the following companies: Pure Fishing/Pflueger/Shakespeare now for 22 years as one of their Pro Anglers. Australian Fishing Network (AFN) Tackle Tactics. Strike pro.

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