King of the Shallows – By Nick Thompson

Flathead are the king of the shallows. They stalk their prey, camouflaging themselves by changing their colour to match the sandy or muddy bottom they are feeding on.

Flathead move up the banks when the tide comes in and move down when the tide comes goes out hunting for prawns and herring.

To target flathead, you’ll need the right bait or lure selection. I will start off with bait. My favourite bait is a pillie [pilchards] and the easiest way to set up a pillie is with a set of gangs – up to 4 in one set, but I prefer 3 in a set.

Another way to do it is put a single wide mouth through the eye of the pillie and then through the body. With pillies, the size of the pilchard does not matter as sometimes the small flathead will eat the big pilchard and the big flathead eat the small pilchard.

Another good choice of bait is freshly caught yabbies. The easiest way to rig up a yabby is with a long shank hook or a very small circle hook. The only downside of fishing with yabbies is all of the little fish like bream and whiting will prefer to feed on yabbies. Yabbies are good for a fun day on the water but if you are targeting flathead and flathead only,  you are best using other baits.

Mullet is a very good bait when flathead fishing. I find that the big mullet seems to work but the smaller mullet has a greater success rate. The easiest way to rig up a mullet is with a circle hook strait thru the back try not to get in the spine as the mullet will not swim and create vibrations and decrease your success rating. When the mullet is alive it will increase your success rate. Mullet are one of the hardest baits to catch so if mullet is too hard to get, use other baits

Prawns are probably the most common prey for flathead which means prawns are a good choice of bait. There is a problem when fishing with frozen prawns as you will have a smaller chance of a flathead over a live prawn although you still might snag one.

Live ones will have a greater chance of a larger flathead. If you do wish to fish with a frozen prawn it is best to use a long shank.  When using a live prawn use a circle hook.

Whitebait are a great choice of bait as flathead love to feed on them. Whitebait is probably the easiest bait to rig up all you need to do is stick the hook through the back of the bait fish.

If bait fishing is not for you, it’s time to talk about your lure selection for flathead. My all-time favourite is the ribbon tail. I love the way the lure moves thought the water creating small amounts of vibrations which makes the flathead  become curious and strike. Ribbon tails work well on the double hop action.

Paddle tailed lures also work effectively when flathead fishing. The paddle tail attracts the flathead by both movement and by sending out big vibrations through the water. Again, I prefer the double hop technique with paddle tails as well.

Hardbodies would not be my first choice for a flathead lure. Hardbodies take a longer time to catch a flathead than plastics. However, hardbodies work well because they always create noise and vibrations.

My favourite action for flathead fishing is the double hop or the single hop. When you cast it, you make sure it hits the bottom. When it does, lift your rod once for the single and twice for the double hop. There are other actions that can be effective like the slow roll – this is one is the easiest action as all you need to do is wind it in slowly.

There is also an action called fast then pause.When you cast it, you need to wind it in as fast as you can for 2 seconds then let it sink to the bottom. This also depends on far you can cast as the further you cast the longer you wind. I sometimes find that when the bite is slow on lure but hot on bait, you can just leave your lure in the water and that might attract a bite.

Sands bars are the most common feeding ground for flathead. The reason for this is because prawns and herring feed here and the flathead come to feed on herring and prawns.

You can find sandbars along the edges of estuary and rivers. In the low tide you can walk along the sandbar and look for flathead like shapes in the sand as this is where a flathead has been laying in the sand and has been feeding so this means that this is a flathead feeding ground.

Yabby beds are great spot for flathead fishing because they hold a lot of food for the flathead it.It starts with the prawns feeding on the mud.The herring eating the prawns and yabbies the whiting come and feed on the herring, prawns and yabbies and the flathead eat everything often at yabby beds.

If there are short drops, this is when it is shallow then becomes deep quickly. The flathead sits on the edge of the drop off on the dropping tide and wait for the food to swim past.

In the gutters is also a common feeding ground for flathead.This area is where it is shallow then goes deep then shallow again. This area is quite often found near or around yabbie beds

Once you have the right bait or lure and have found a good fishing spot the most import thing in flathead fishing is knowing where to cast. I prefer to cast as far as I can into the main current. The reason for this is because the flathead sit on the edges of the drops-offs and by casting up current it allows my bait or lure to move with the current and over these drop-offs. It also allows me to wind it right up to my feet, which is good because a lot of flathead will chase a lure right up until the last second.

When fishing for flathead on lures you will feel a big bump on your line – this a flathead eating the lure, when this happens you need to wind in your line very slowly.

If you miss the hit, this is not a problem because the majority of the time the flathead will stay where it hit your lure, so you cast it in the same spot and the flathead will often strike at it again.

When fishing for flathead on bait there will also be a big hit but when this happens, you need to leave it there for about thirty seconds and put slight pressure on the rod by lifting it and slowly winding it.

The reason for this is because when the flathead eats something it eats tail first, but it needs to swallow it head first so in its mouth it turns it around and then it swallows it whole.

When you hook the flathead, the fight is on, flathead can swim fast over short distances and fight hardest near the boat or bank you are fishing on.

Over all flathead are one of the best fish to catch. They fight hard, taste good and they are an awesome iconic Aussie fish. But remember to always to check the local flathead laws before taking it home for a feed. Cheers, Nick