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Fly Fishing

Chasing Golden Trevalley on the Magnetic Island flats.


Enjoying one of the many beautiful beaches of Magnetic Island.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Catching Barramundi on Hard Bodied Lures

I have to admit straight up that I am no Barra expert! To be honest, up until a couple of years ago, I found Barramundi to be a bit of a bore to catch. I thought they were very over-rated. "Put a Fingermark of the same size on the end of there line and they you have a fight on your hand" I use to say. But that was when I use to do a fair bit of live baiting in the creeks. Then, a little over a year ago, we purchased a small 3.86m Seajay secondhand from Townsville Marine. It allowed us to get into some smaller creeks and, with the addition of an Electric Motor, try our hand at lure casting. And THAT is when I discovered just how much fun Barramundi can be to catch! There is no better feeling than working a lure among the mangrove roots and have it inhaled by a big fish. The strike is sudden and aggressive. So I am going to share a little about what I have picked up in the last year or so about luring Barra in the creeks.

I have approaced lure fishing for Barramundi from two different angles. The first of which is using small soft plastics lures on light 1000 size spin reals and only 8lb braid. This is what I have termed 'fineness fishing for Barra'. Now this is a bit unconventional and deserves and atricle all on its own. So stay tuned for that one.

The second is the more common method of Hard Bodied lure fishing on 20-30lb braid and baitcaster tackle. That will be the focus of this article.

The Tackle

Tossing lures accurately for hours at a time demands good quality tackle that will handle heavy braided lines and big fish, while still remaining light and nimble in the hand. By far the best for this is short Graphite rods and low profile baitcaster reels. A short rod of between 5'3" and 5'6" is best for luring from a small boat. It allows quick and accurate casts over short distances, and lets you flick underhanded when trying to get lures in underneath mangrove ledges. Distance is not a necessity here, accuracy is! A G•Loomis GL2 CR644 is about the best rod on the market for this purpose. And, for a Loomis, its not too expensive either. Match it up to a low profile baitcaster, such as the Shimano Curado 200E, and 20lb Power Pro braided line and you will have an awesome weapon. I have been using a GL2 with Calcutta 200 for quite a while now. But the reel is too big in the had to use comfortably all day. I now have a Chronarch low profile reel on a custom graphite rod, and it is doing the trick so far. The guys in a ProTackle will happily put any reel on a rod for you and give you a demo.

The Tides

Big tides will dirty the water and create far too much run for effective lure casting. Conversely, small tides won't make the bate move through the system as much and therefore the fish don't feed as actively. I like tides that are somewhere in the middle! Enough movement to activate a good bite, but not so much that fishing is impossible. I also find that fishing is better while the tides are building. That is, the tides are in the part of the cycle where they are getting larger every day. The fish will be hungry after going through the slack period of the neap tides.

I much prefer a falling tide for lure fishing. On the top of the tide bait will move deep into the mangrove roots in search of cover from predatory fish. Fish like Barramundi will follow these bait into the 'sticks' where they can, and its not uncommon to hear big boofs from 1m+ Barra 30m or more back into the mangroves. But when the tide turns the bait must come out into the main channel, and its here that the predators will sit and work the edges for an easy meal.

The perfect tide would be something around a 2.5-2.8m high tide right on day-break. Falling to about 1 to 1.5m later in the morning will give a full session of lure casting. But thats not to say you won't catch Barramundi on any other tide or time of day! Its just my preference for what has produced the best fishing for me.

Lure Selection

I have said it before and I'll say it again, by far my favourite lure for casting to Barramundi in the snags is the Killalure Flatz Rat. But most of the popular Hard Bodied lures will work when set up and worked correctly. The most important feature of a lure when casting in the snags at Barra is to have it 'almost' neutrally buoyant. That is, you want it to suspend in the water column for a period before slowly rising. A lure that sinks will just result in lots of snags, and one that floats too quickly will rise out of the strike zone before the Barra has a chance to size it up and hit. Modifying a lure is simply achieved by replacing hooks and/or split-rings with ones that are heavier. It is generally the case that hooks and rings from lures out of the box will be too weak for Barramundi anyway, so upgrading these will be required for this reason alone. Sit with a bucket of water or a pool near by and replace hooks and rings until the lure has a gently rise through the water. Keep in mind that salt water is more buoyant that freshwater, and that hooks do not need to be of the same size all the way along the lure. There is a very simple hook upgrade that can be done to a Flatz Rat in less than 5mins and will give you exact action required. I have written an article on this here.

Deep diving lures are the best ones for casting around sunken timber and drop offs. They allow you to pull the lure deep into the water column without bringing it too far away from the structure. But shallow divers come into their own up on the flats and in the mouths of shallow drains. Poppers are very effective too, at the right time, and there will be an article dedicated to 'Poppering Barra' in the future. Again, the guys in ProTackle have years of lure casting experience between them and will help out with specific lure selection.

What ever you lure selection is, the biggest tip I can give is to SLOW DOWN your retrieve. Barramundi are not Mackerel! For the most part they will size up a prey item for several seconds before engulfing it. Just watch one in a fish tank one day. If you pull the lure too quickly the fish will spook and turn away. I like to give a twitch of the lure and then count to 3 before twitching again. 3 seconds seems to be about the right pause time. Counting sounds a bit mundane, but when things are quiet its really easy to slip into simple 'cast and retrieve' repetition without realising it. And it just won't be as effective. 


I much prefer fishing with braided fishing line for lure casting. Its much more sensitive and gives direct contact to the lure. But a small section of Monofilament or Flurocarbon leader is required to absorb the impact of the strike. Fishing with a 20lb braided main line then a 40lb mono leader will be adequate for most average size Barramundi. However, larger specimens will wear through light leaders fairly quickly with their rough mouths and sharp gill plates. If big Barra are the target then 30lb braid with 60lb mono leader will be a better option. Leaders should be about a rod length so as to cast freely. I like to tie a short double in the end of the braided main line using a simple spider hitch. I then use a double uni knot to connect leader to the double and a simple loop knot for tying the lure to the leader. An alternative is to skip the double and connect the main line to leader with a slim beauty knot. This will cast better as it runs more easily through the small guides of baitcaster rods, but may not be as strong.

Forum member Phil Lawlor has taken all the hard work out of leaders and is producing a hand made custom leader system known as the 'all aussie shock leader'. These are available for purchase in 40, 60, 80 or 100lb configurations. They feature a Dacron loop for easy connection to the main line, a line guard to prevent wear from the mouth and a strong clip for lure connection.


When you start to read all the books and magazines on Barramundi you start to think that they can be found just about anywhere! And to a point its quite true. You can get Barra in the snags, in drains, on the flats, above weed-beds, at the mouths of creeks, right up the channels, in the salt, in the fresh and even around headlands and islands! But the one thing to remember when it comes to chasing Barra is that they are bloody lazy fish! They will look for the easiest place to sit that will bring them the most amount of reward for their efforts. Its that simple! 

I am a really big fan of drains and Barra. On a falling tide prawn and other bait fish will have to exit the drain into the main river. This is an ideal ambush point for the Barra. And if there is a nice snag at the mouth of the drain for the fish to hide in, all the better. Flats are good too, especially on the top of bigger tides. Bait moves up onto these flats to escape predators, but Barra will follow them. There is a smaller 'window' to fish for Barra on the flats, as when the tide falls the fish will move off quickly. It also requires a more stealth approach as fish spook easily in shallow water. Snags around the deeper edges of the main rivers are also good. They provide protection for bait by breaking the flow of water. Barra love this and will sit under the snags waiting for a feed to pass them by. But don't discount features as simple as an indent in the bank, this can be enough to provide the 'soft' water that Barramundi love. 

There are plenty of other spots in creeks or around headlands to catch a Barra. But no matter where you are chasing them, look for areas where bait will gather and the Barra can sit lazily and wait close by for the food to come to them.