by Jarrod Day
Black Rock, south of Melbourne is a fishery that continues to attract lure anglers throughout the year. It may only be a stretch of coastline approximately three kilometres long, but does have an extensive underwater water reef system varying in depths between five to ten metres.
The reef attracts baitfish and thus, attracts many predatory fish including flathead, snapper, kingfish, calamari, salmon, red mullet, pike, barracouta and snook.
Hooked up on first light.
Fishing methods can differ from angler to angler but in this location lure anglers have most success.
Being the most productive fishing technique used on shallow reef systems, flicking soft plastics give’s the persona of small baitfish.
Soft plastic fishing requires a special technique but as simple as it is, drifting and letting the softie bump over the reef can lead to some solid hook-ups.
There really isn’t much to flicking around plastics except you might find quite a few snags. Although these might result in a few bust-offs you’ll soon work out at which point you have to begin working it.
When I first began to use softies I never really understood their concept. I was told to point the boat with the current and cast the soft plastic out from the transom. Put the rod in the holder and wait until you could see the rod tip buckling as the lure caught the reef. At this point, pick up the rod and flick the tip into the air with a double pump while simultaneously retrieving the lure. Repeating this process caused the plastic to bounce over the reef.
After practicing this for some time, my technique evolved and although the motion is very similar, I now feel, move and control the plastic in an exact manner, to that of a baitfish.
The main idea is to work the shallows with a finesse style of angling. This can be done by beginning at the jig head. A jig head is a lead weight moulded to a specially designed hook. When fishing these reefs it is imperative you use the correct weight or you’ll find that if it is too heavy you’ll snag on the reef.
I’ve found the Gamakatsu Darter head design in 1/8th 2/0, 1/4th 3/0 and 3/8th 3/0 weights and hook sizes work exceptionally well.
The darter head design enables the plastic to dart about like a fleeing baitfish; this makes it hard for the fish to distinguish between the plastic version and the real thing.
The main reason for the different weights is for when fishing different depths. A heavier head will be required when fishing deeper water and a lighter head for shallower water. Always use a lighter jig head where you can, this will allow it to freefall in the strike zone for a longer period. For instance, a 1/8th head is ideal for depths up to 10 metres, between 10 and 15 I like the ¼ weight and any deeper I use the 3/8th.
Remember, there’s jig heads and there’s jig heads. You only get one shot at fighting a fish on a soft plastic so make sure your hooks are good quality. Recommended brands include, Gamakatsu Darter heads, Owner Ultra Heads and TT Tournament Series Heads.
Soft plastics will always differ in size and colour depending on the species your targeting. In this location 3' minnows are highly recommended. On any particular day you’ll find one colour out fishes all others. Most soft plastic anglers have at least a few sizes and colours available and if you’re new to soft plastics I suggest you also get a few assorted options.
There are thousands of brands, colours and sizes available for this style of fishing and sure, if worked correctly a salmon, flathead or snapper will eat any of them.
My best results have occurred when replicating baitfish in the area. The one thing I learnt was to always use popular and well known branded lures. Why? Because they are proven fish catches, that’s why!
My favourite soft plastic selection for snapper and salmon are Berkley 3' Bass Minnows in the Pumpkinseed, Grey Ghost, Casper Clear, Pearl Watermelon, Pearl Blue Shad and Pink Lemonade colours and the Squidgy Pillie 110mm flick bait.
While most of the fishing at Black Rock is centred on flicking for snapper, finding them is the biggest task. Anybody can cruise up to the reef and flick in a softy, yet, most of the hook-ups meet with smaller fish. There are plenty of larger fish about but time has to be spent working particular areas of the reef at different times of the day.
Early morning or late in the evening are the most productive times to find larger snapper. During these times I like to work the edge of the reef in 8–10 metres of water.
More often than not, we sound up the fish first before working an area, and then deploy our arsenal of plastics. I choose the colour of the plastic based on what the sun is doing. Early morning and late in the evening, I tend to use darker colours including Pumpkinseed and grey ghost getting the better results. When the sun rises above the horizon line most of the larger fish head back out to deeper water and the only snapper options are on the smaller ones. When this happens, the lighter coloured minnows including Pearl Watermelon, Pearl Blue Shad and Casper Clear colours work well.
When working a reef you’ll often find most of the hook-ups occur as the soft plastic is freefalling.
Snapper are suckers for eating the lure on the way down so be ready to strike. Always run the line through your fingers as it is falling so to feel for the bite. Given there thinner diameter, braided fishing lines are by far the best way to feel for when a fish attacks the lure. You don’t need to fish heavy but six or 8lb is recommended, you can still put enough hurt onto a fish to stop it with such light line. In conjunction with a light braided line, use a heavier leader material. For larger snapper I suggest 12 to 20lb strengths while the smaller stuff can be taken on six, eight and 10lb. Fluorocarbon leader is a good choice because of its abrasiveness against the reef. If a fish chooses to try and bust you off, you will have enough strength to pull him away from it avoiding a bust off.
Pinkie snapper are a common catch on daylight.
Next week we will dive further into lure fishing Port Phillip, stay tuned for Part 2