Topwater Favourites Lures Retrievals And Fish Species

Jamie Robley shares his experiences and techniques about this style of lure fishing.

A wide variety of species will take a swipe at a surface lure at one time or another.We get the see our quarry hit the lure and sometimes this can be quite explosive. I’ve even managed to score a couple of luderick on the top in the past, which was quite novel. Mostly though, anglers flicking lures from the shore, a boat or kayak will be aiming for popular favourites like bream, whiting, flathead and bass. So here we’ll take a closer look at each of these species and how best to approach them with surface luring techniques.


Perhaps the most widely distributed and accessible species to most people, bream can also be quite a challenge to consistently fool with surface lures. Due to their sheer numbers though, it doesn’t matter so much if an individual fish refuses to hit the lure, as there are always plenty more and soon enough one will be caught. So taking that factor into consideration, it’s not overly difficult to catch numbers of bream during a given period, be it hours, days, weeks or months.

Firstly, we need to target bream in places they’re more inclined to hit a surface lure. Through the warmer months, the shallowest margins, including lake foreshores and tidal flats are prime skinny water bream areas. Snag lined creeks, oyster racks, rocky points, pontoons and moored boats are other reliable things to look for.

Without doubt, the early morning period, from about 20 minutes before and up to an hour after sunrise is the best time to cast a surface lure for bream at most locations. However, depending on the tides, prevailing weather and potentially half a dozen other factors, it may be possible to catch bream right through the day or at certain stages of the tide in some places. As a starting point though, set the alarm and give that sunrise period a serious shot.

The amount of potential bream surface lures on the market these days is staggering and increasing all the time. Most surface types under 60mm will interest bream and sometimes a much larger lure will do a great job. Generally though, lures that roughly resemble the shape or profile of a baitfish or prawn in the 45 to 60mm bracket should be considered first.

I firmly believe that some lures earn a false reputation, often via careful marketing or unproven hype. So when buying lures consider big name brands over cheapy unknowns and look at what experienced bream anglers in the magazines, websites or DVDs are using. Secondly, try not to be fooled into thinking a lure ‘should’ look great to the fish, as our way of thinking and a bream’s way of thinking is entirely different! jr5

Some of my personal favourites that do really well on bream include the Ecogear PX45 and PX55, Daiwa Silver Wolf Slippery Dog 65, Daiwa Gekkabijin Shiranui, Maria Pencil 55 and Viking Lures Pop’n’Crank. I don’t believe colour makes a huge difference, although confidence is given when using reasonably natural or subtle colours. In low light, say just before sunrise, black can also do well.

A fish may hit the lure during any stage of the retrieve from the instant the lure splashes down, though to just as you’re about to lift the lure from the water. Quite a few different retrieve styles or ideas also work. The best tips I can offer here are to firstly let the lure sit there, motionless for a while before commencing any sort of retrieve, give the lure another long pause or two during the retrieve and try mixing things up a bit rather than doing exactly the same sort of retrieve or lure movements over and over.

Bream can be pretty brutal on small hooks, especially the larger customers. So check each lure’s hooks before tying the lure on and after each fish is caught. It’s not uncommon for the very first fish of the day to crush or bend a hook, so it will need to be replaced or bent back into shape before the next cast.


It’s not uncommon to snare a whiting whilst casting surface lures for bream, but to enjoy any sort of consistency with whiting there are some differences to consider. Perhaps the main thing is that whiting are much more likely to be found within their geographical range. So this excludes some parts of Victoria and Tassie, but the chances of finding whiting increases along the NSW and Queensland coasts.

The favoured habitat of whiting tends to be shallower sandy or mud flats, rather than rocky or weedy bottom structure and quite often the shallower the better. Even water that’s only 15cm deep can still house plenty of good size whiting and such places are where surface lures work quite well. jr2

While most of good bream lures also work great for whiting, a major difference that leads to success is the retrieve. In short, a constant steady pace, without any stops or pauses is generally the best approach. Very occasionally a whiting will hit a lure that stops, but if you seriously want to pin whiting with topwater lures than keep it moving, especially when a fish comes up from behind and starts trying to nip the lure.

Although the early morning period is still a good time to try, in many places it’s possible to keep on catching whiting right through the day. They tend to be more willing to smash a lure when a puff of breeze puts a slight ripple on the water, rather than dead calm conditions and in some areas a rising tide may be an important part of the equation as well.


The humble lizard may not be as commonly caught with surface lures as bream or whiting, but they’re certainly possible at this time of year and many keen lure fishing addicts would be keen to pin a few, so let’s see what it takes.

As is the case with whiting, shallow flats are the main arena and the shallower, the better. Over my many years of casting surface lures around estuaries I’ve managed the odd flatty here and there, but have only found one particular spot where it’s possible to catch them consistently. That place is a shallow channel running between a small semi-tidal creek and a lagoon. Flathead congregate on the extremely shallow flats on the lagoon side of the channel and by shallow I mean only 10 to 15cm.

The technique that’s worked best here is casting poppers and stickbaits in the 45 to 50mm range and keep them moving, with lots of extra commotion imparted via the rod tip. It’s basically the same deal as for whiting. Keeping the lure moving is the real key, but it also seems that more splashing attracts their attention. Some of the hits from flathead are quite spectacular and sound like a giant rat trap going off, so it’s definitely worth trying just for the potential fun.


Of the four species mentioned here, I reckon bass are the most naturally inclined to hit surface lures, as bass in most areas feed a lot on insects falling to the water’s surface anyway, so they in tune with it. Although they’re not always in the mood to hit lures, bass also tend to muck around a lot less than bream for example. They either hit or they don’t, unlike bream or whiting which frustratingly follow a lot, without committing.

Another great aspect of lure casting for bass is that such an enormous and entertaining variety of lures can be successfully employed. Sure, some lures may be better than others at times, but they’re the type of fish that could potentially hit almost anything when they’re in an aggressive mood.

A few key points here are to concentrate efforts more early in the morning or later in the afternoon, cast lures either hard up against the bank or right next to major snags and use surface lures when the weather and water temps are high, rather than just after a cooler change.

Just like other species, bass may also gravitate towards quite shallow spots at times. Either side of a shallow rocky rapid is always worth a few casts, even if it looks too shallow. Sandy or muddy banks that don’t look appealing at all can be another surprising place to cast a lure. Bear in mind that prey items like small fish or shrimp like to shelter in the shallows.

As for retrieve techniques, almost anything goes. In a few tidal creeks I’ve fished they’ll only hit a lure that keeps moving, just as mentioned for whiting and flathead. In the upper reaches of most freshwater creeks or rivers though, a stationary lure will always be in the running to get smashed. So once again, mix up retrieve styles and see what works best on the day. Of course, we have plenty of other great fish worth targeting with surface lures, right around the country. Barra, cod, estuary perch and predators ranging from queenfish to tailor can all provide lots of thrills and spills when a lure skittles across the top. So pick a species, location and be sure the hooks are sharp. You may just become a surface fishing addict!


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