Last week we looked at a variety of techniques used with soft plastics including cast and retrieve, jigging, twitching, jerking and bottom bashing. Your homework was to get out on the water or off the bank and have a go at some of these methods before putting on a soft bait to target a big fish. Keep in mind, using soft plastics can be very affordable, but if your technique is not up to scratch you may be prone to snags and will lose not only your soft plastic, but also the jig head and clip on swivel - and that is when soft plastic fishing becomes expensive.
Like with all good baits, more than one species can be caught on the one type of bait and soft plastics are no different. The successful anglers come back time after time with reports of quality catches using soft plastics which match as close as absolutely possible to the live or fresh bait type the fish normally goes for. For instance if you usually take live bloodworms for chasing whiting, then the Gulp bloodworm variety is the shot. Of course, that said, a hungry sand whiting has also been known to hit the oddest of shapes in soft plastics - once even I have caught a whiting on a 2 inch white speckled minnow which I was trying to mimic as a diver whiting to lure in a big mangrove jack. You could imagine my surprise to find a whiting not much bigger than the soft plastic had taken a bite at it. The following soft plastics are suggested for targeting the main transitional species in the Sunshine Coast waterways:
Whiting and Dart: We find that the 6inch Gulp Sand Worm in natural and blood worm colours, cut into 2-3inch segments or the Storm Wild Eyed Twitching Nippers in 2 or 3inch in natural patterns are the best. Both types can be rigged using a light weight jig head or on a standard long shank hook with either a small split shot close to the hook or a running sinker. Both of these plastics form an important food group in both beach and river fish feeding habits and this why they are very versatile and have accounted for the capture of a wide variety of species.
Bream: Berkley 3inch Powerbaits in Pumpkinseed Scales and Pearl Blue Shad Scales are both extremely successful in the capture of bream in local waterways. The transparency of the light brown Pumpkinseed Minnow has a similar resemblance to a small green river prawn in the water. Small prawns make up a large amount of a breams diet and when fished with a jigging action on a 1/8oz jig head around structures like a bridge pylon these small minnows can be deadly to bream! A slow sinking minnow worked closely to pontoons and jetties can also prove to be very fruitful.
Flathead and Trevally: Theses species of fish will hit almost any soft plastic placed in front of them. My favourite flathead plastics are the 4inch Berkley Powerbaits in Pumpkinseed and Clear Gold Fleck scales. For trevally I prefer to use a Pearl Watermelon Scale colour in a 4inch Powerbait or Banana Prawn style in the 3inch Gulp shrimp depending on what type of bait they are feeding on at the time.
Snapper and Sweetlip: When it comes to big soft plastics which large snapper are likely to munch on, we use Berkley 7inch Gulp Jerk Shads in Nuclear Chicken and Pearl White as well as the 6inch Atomic Jerk Minnows in a variety of colours. For smaller snapper and most other reef fish the Exude 5inch SW RT Slug in Opeing day and Smoking shad, Gulp 5inch Jerk Shad in all the chicken flavors and Terminator Snapback 5inch Minnows in Blue Glimmer and Watermelon Red Flake are all winners.
Rigged Hooks: A single hook point is easier to feed through a soft plastic than a treble, often attempting to use a treble overstretches your soft plastic beyond use. Also a wide gape hook gets a better bite than a small one. The hook size needed for a soft plastic is always bigger than an equivalent sized hard-bodied lure with trebles. This means that they are easier to set and that they will hold better. The better the hook holds in the silicon-rubber mould, generally decreases the chance of missed strikes and pulled hooks. An upward riding hook, meaning the shaft of the hook runs along the "backbone" of the lure and the barbed hook points towards the sky will always snag less which is essential if your fishing ground is scattered with timber snags and a rocky bottom. With well designed bottom bouncing plastics the upward riding hook offers better exposure when a fish picks a lure up off the bottom.
Jigheads: Jig Heads have been designed for the avid soft plastic fishermen in mind. Most brands include chemically sharpened points, keeper devices just below the head of the jig to help hold the soft plastic on the shaft of the jig and a solid hook which won't straighten easily. Tackle stores stock a variety of brands, though everyone has their favourite and plenty of companies now sell jigheads loose or in small quantities for the discerning angler. There's a myriad of jig head shapes to suit the type of soft plastics used and jigheads range from 1/32 oz to a full ounce. Reflective eyes are also a common feature to look out for in many jigheads produced these days.
If you need some inspiration, I have detailed a few of my favourite spots where a soft plastic has rewarded me once or twice:
Noosa: Around the big yabby banks in the Frying Pan and river mouth, Munna Point Bridge area and the entrances to all the lakes.
Maroochy: The Bli Bli channel marker stretch, along any of the drop-offs between Chambers Island and the river mouth and just off the sand bags at Cotton Tree.
Mooloolah: McKenzies Bridge, especially around the pylons, Kawana Waters canals down to Minyama Island and in upper Mountain Creek.
Caloundra: Basically from the bar to the Boardwalk, around Military Jetty, along the banks between Bells and Coochin creeks, and Pelican Waters Canal.
So now, all you need to do is take your soft plastic rig to any fishing spot you would normally take bait. If you have accurately matched up your soft plastic to the correct bait for a species, then get ready to stalk their favourite feeding grounds. Drop into Swan Boat Hire with your catches as I'd love to swap stories!
Noosa: Plenty of quality coral trout to 5.8kg, a few big longtail tuna and yellofin tuna to 20kg on Sunshine Reef. Bream and dart around Double Island Point. Flathead near the bar and off Muna Point. Kawana: Snapper to 6kg and big parrot at the northern end of the Hards. Tarwhine, bream, whiting and a few big dart along the Kawana stretch. Good bream and trevally along the rock walls and in the canals. Sand crabs throughout the lower reaches. Mud crabs are on the move from the La Balsa Park area to McKenzies Bridge.
Maroochydore: Longtail tuna to 8kg and snapper to 3kg around Old Women. Average bream throughout. Whiting on the morning making tide on the banks between the bar and Bli Bli. Mud crabs in the creeks and above Bli Bli.
Caloundra: Flathead to 68cm in Currimundi Lake. Quality bream between the bar and boardwalk. Flathead off the Militarty Jetty.
Noosa: Plenty of quality coral trout to 5.8kg, a few big longtail tuna and yellofin tuna to 20kg on Sunshine Reef. Bream and dart around Double Island Point. Flathead near the bar and off Muna Point.
Kawana: Snapper to 6kg and big parrot at the northern end of the Hards. Tarwhine, bream, whiting and a few big dart along the Kawana stretch. Good bream and trevally along the rock walls and in the canals. Sand crabs throughout the lower reaches. Mud crabs are on the move from the La Balsa Park area to McKenzies Bridge.