Knowledge article - How to catch Flathead (For beginners)
How to catch Flathead (For beginners)
Pretty much everyone will have different opinions about gear and techniques, so this article is all about what works for me.
Since I arrived in Melbourne, (Victoria, Australia) I have successfully been chasing Flathead (also known as Flatties and Lizards) around various local locations from the land (jetties, piers and rock walls), the kayak and in boats.
The great thing about the mighty Flathead is when they are around and feeding, they will take almost anything you put in front of them, and on light gear they even give you a decent tug!
This makes them a fantastic fish to start targeting when new to lure fishing, because in all honesty, you don’t need a hell of a lot of different gear or experience to catch them.
Rods and Reels
I love to fish light gear when chasing Flathead, so I generally stick to a graphite type rod in 1-3kg or 2-4kg range (around 7 foot in length).
I don’t tend to treat my gear the best, so I try and get rods that are on special or are on the low to mid-range of the price range. I have been using the Shimano Catana range for about two years now and I’d say it’s a good starting point. (I have got them as low as $40 when on special). Personally, I don’t think I will stray from them unless I find some higher range models highly reduced.
The action of the rod is something that can change dependent on the type of lure you are using and if you want to know a little bit more about that check out this article.
There is various entry level, mid-range and high-end reels available that suit this kind of fishing, so if you have a brand preference, there will generally be a reel in the 2000, 2500 or 3000 size that can be teamed up with your rod. I have used the lower end of the spectrum, being the Shimano Sienna reel which does the job well enough and I now use a mix of 2500 and 1000 size Nasci + Sedona reels.
Line and leader
From as along as I can remember being active in the fishing community online, there has always been the mono or braid debate. These days, there is much more to debate than just them.
I am a big braid fan, simply because I believe it gives you much more feeling through the line directly to your lure, it comes in crazy thin diameters and decent ones greatly help the cast-ability of your setup. While there are others out there that may be similar, since going to braid, I don’t think I can bring myself to change.
I have used 6lb, 8lb, 10lb…..all the way up to 30lb braid to catch Flatties, but if I could pick just one, it would be 8lb. I have a few reels loaded up with the 8 Carrier Daiwa J Braid and I find it to be pretty good. I have also used unbranded, Savage Gear, Shimano, Sunline, Finns and Berkley lines and while it probably depends a lot to me what’s on special at the time, I would probably settle with the 8 Carrier J Braid if I had a choice.
Most tackle shops or online retailers have discounted items or big tubs you can go through to get some awesome deals on fishing line, so if concerned about budget, it’s worth taking a look.
I like to use 8lb to 10lb fluorocarbon leader when chasing lizards because if they do a few head shakes they will chew through anything lighter pretty easy. After using a heap of different brands, I find my favourite leader to be Sunline FC Rock, not only is it thin and ties well, but I’ve found it to have good abrasion resistance compared to others.
When I tie a new leader on, I generally make it the same length as the rod, so I can change lures a fair few times without needing the change the leader for a while.
Just remember that you don’t need some whiz bang braid or leader to catch Flatties, it just helps.
There is almost an unlimited amount of different sizes, shapes, materials and colours available for soft plastic lures and for a novice, it can become overwhelming to try and pick something to get started.
I have caught Flathead on every different colour in my tackle box and in lure sizes ranging from 2” to 5”, so I find that its really more important to fish in the right locations at the right times when your new to the game.
While I say they’ll take almost anything, there is always ways to increase your chances to catch more of the critters. I seem to side with plastics that have either a curly type tail or a paddle type tail as they pretty much have ‘built in’ action on retrieve and on the drop without too much effort.
My favourite Flathead soft plastic for Flathead is definitely the Jiggle Fishing 4” Curl Worm. Not only do I personally make them right here in Melbourne, but I’ve simply just had a heap of success on them.
Jig heads also come in all different shapes and sizes and you need to change up what you’re using to match up with the soft plastic you’re using and the situation. I always try to start off using a 1/8oz jig head and then increase the weight if its windy, the water is running fast or I’m fishing deep water. Once again, Flathead aren’t that fussy and I’ve caught them with a 1/2oz jig head with the rod just sitting in the rod holder, but I think you’ll catch more if you start off lighter as you tend to have a lot more natural movement from your lure and your able to keep it in the strike zone longer.
Hook size on your jig head will need to match the size of the plastic you’re using. On most 2.5-3.5” plastics a size 1/0 will suit dependent on how big the body of the plastic is and for 3.5-4” a 2/0 seems to fit better. I find you need to ensure you have a good amount of hook exposure to convert bites into hook ups.
I really love the head down tail up jig heads for Flattie fishing. When they are at rest on the bottom, they keep the head of your plastics down and the tail fluttering with the water. If you find its pretty weedy where you’re fishing, then a bullet or round jig head may get caught up less.
The simplest technique to use soft plastics is to cast them out, let them sink to the bottom, give two ‘hops’ of the rod (to get the lure off the bottom and then fluttering down again to attract fish) and let it sink to the bottom again. When you have finished your second hop, while you are bringing the tip of your rod down, make sure you give the reel a couple of winds to slowly bring the lure back in each time you repeat the process. While your doing all of this, keep as much slack out of the line as possible so you can easily see any movement in your line.
More often than not, Flathead will hit your plastic on the drop (when its fluttering back down to the bottom) so it’s a great time to pay attention to your line. You won’t always ‘feel’ the bite and most of the time I notice a bite while looking at the line near the rod tip or as it enters the water. The best way to describe it would be to imagine if someone flicked your line with their finger.
If you see any abnormal movement in your line or feel a bite, STRIKE to hook the fish. Striking on all abnormal movement in your line will increase your hook up rate.
Hard bodies (Minnows, vibes and blades)
While, I’m crazy about soft plastics, each lure has its uses and as with soft plastics, hard bodied lures, vibes and blades come in an endless array of shapes and sizes. Picking something that will help you catch fish, means you have to think about where you are fishing. Depth, tide, type of bottom (is it weedy, is it rocky, is it sandy) play a big role in your hard body lure choice.
I find that a sinking lure, like a metal blade or hard vibe can be used in a similar way to a soft plastic, letting them sink to the bottom and then drawing them up, causing the lures to vibrate or rattle like crazy. This makes them well suited to those locations where you want to get the lure down into the strike zone and work it along the bottom to entice a fish to bite. I find that, while these can be used land based easily, being in a boat or kayak in some 4m+ water is where these types of lures come into play and work best.
Hard minnows come with all sorts of different bibs allowing them to run from the surface, down to some pretty big depths. I find if using hard minnow type lures you want to match their diving depth to be just above any rocks or weed beds, or smack bang bouncing off the bottom if it is a nice sandy bottom with not much weed.
Mixed sandy or muddy areas are great for these types of lures, but just remember, these guys have treble hooks and you will pick up every bit of weed possible on your way.
Locally in Port Phillip Bay (and lots of other parts of Australia) most jetties and rock walls are suitable to start chasing lizards. The biggest piece of advice I could pass on would be to fish the whole area in the location you have picked.
Don’t just stand in one location and continually cast to the same spot. When fishing with lures for Flathead, you are hunting them down, so keep moving, but ensure you fully cover the areas.
A good method I use on Jetties is to start on one side and face the water, cast out 5 times, one to the left along the jetty, one to the left side, one straight out, one to the right side and then one more along the right hand side along the jetty. After I’ve done that, I move 5m up the jetty and repeat the process again and again until I have fished both sides completely. If I still haven’t caught anything after doing that, I change locations.
Your local tackle shop of Facebook fishing groups are a great way to gather some information on spots to start trying in your local area.
Locally around Melbourne I’ve found that the first two hours of the outgoing have been more productive, but in saying that, tide does not dictate when I go fishing.
Keep in mind, while I might have success on a certain part of the tide in my local locations, your local spots may fish better at different times.
If you are new to fishing, just get out there when you have time and clock up those hours, learn your local spots and have FUN.
Main line: 8lb, 8 Carrier Daiwa J Braid
Leader: Sunline FC Rock 10lb
Soft Plastic: Australian made 4” Curl Worm
Hard body: Delusion Minnow (75mm)
Blades: Bad Az Blade (11g) in Brown Town
Videos about fishing for Flathead: