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Advanced Lure Fishing: Cutting Edge Bream

Once a bread & butter mainstay, bream are now a top level sportfish. BUSHY outlines a few cutting edge tips to help you maximise success on these popular yet finicky fish.

FISHING for bream with lures has been going on for a long time, but it’s anything but old hat. In fact, I’d say the pointy end of the game is changing faster than any other type of fishing in Australia.

Not everyone wants to fish in a bream competition, but there’s no doubt that the comps and competition anglers have driven the revolution in bream tackle and techniques to an extraordinary degree. There’s definitely been a flow-on effect down to rank and file bream anglers who have now been exposed to a real bream upgrade. The best of the comp fishos are well and truly out there, and they’re doing some weird stuff to catch fish. One thing the best guys all have in their arsenal, however, is a really good grasp of three or four hot techniques that work well just about any time in any bream water. To be a successful tournament angler you need to constantly practice and refine the way you use your confidence lures until catching fish with them becomes ingrained. Attention to every little detail time after time will eventually make you bulletproof under pressure. While you’re at it, pay some attention to your sounder and electric motor because some fine-tuning to your set-up here will instantly translate to more bream per session. Even if you just want to spend some fun time fishing successfully for bream with lures, without the pressure of fishing in a comp, the way to catch more fish is still to really work on core techniques and sharpen yourself up so that rod, reel, line, lure, boat and angler are all working efficiently and in harmony.

I’ve caught and attempted to catch bream with many lure fishing methods – some basic and some verging on the insane – but in reality I catch about 80 per cent of my bream with three basic tactics. The trick is that each of these tactics has been refined and honed to be as diabolically deadly as I can make it. I doubt that any other fish rewards skill to quite the same degree as bream. It really is pretty simple – push the absolute limits with your lures, tackle and boat set-up and you will catch more bream – maybe a lot more bream!

The greatest change in bream fishing in the past couple of seasons has been the emergence of open water fishing for schooling bream. For a lot of years I preferred fishing snags and rock walls, partly because I like that style of fishing and partly because I just didn’t realise the potential of the open water stuff. I know in the early days fishing with Chris Wright he used to have to nag me to turn on my sounder – let alone go looking for school fish. Things changed when I upgraded to a really effective sounder. With the Furuno FCV 620 I now run, I can confidently find fish at 30 knots and with my old Skeeter I once sounded fish in the Gippsland Lakes at more than 60 knots! Okay, that was on a dead flat day, but with my new boat even on a rough day if I happen to run over a patch of fish I can identify them and target them at speed. It just isn’t good enough anymore to have a half-arsed sounder that might show fish and then only when you are dawdling around at five knots. My sounder runs perfectly on full auto and the screen is either white or it has fish on it. There is no mucking around and even on full auto there is no clutter to try and make sense of – just fish. The sounder is so important to me now that I have developed “flounder” disease – I think one eye has migrated around the side of my head so it can focus on the sounder screen every minute I’m in the boat. If you want to be a good bream angler you just have to buy quality electronics. Take particular care when setting up the transducer to ensure you get a good read-out at speed. Transom mount transducers are probably the most common mounting option but in my last couple of boats I have “shot” the beam through the hull and got a perfect readout. Some hulls are cleaner than others and pull less bubbles, but whatever set-up you have, it’s worth every effort to ensure you get the best possible read-out at speed. If you can’t find ’em – you can’t catch ’em!

My thinking has also changed in regard to electric motors. When I just fished oyster racks, snags, flats and rocks, I loved the simplicity and reliability of the cable steered Minn Kota. I still think the cable steered model is the most efficient for these jobs, but now so much of my fishing is done in open water I use an auto-pilot model. Yeah, I know – I used to say they were the work of the devil, but in my defence there have been massive improvements in these units and my current model has been abused for two seasons with no problems. The clincher is Minn Kota’s revolutionary iPilot function – hit one button on the remote control and you stay in the one spot. My iPilot was retro-fitted but now it comes as standard on various Minn Kota models. This is mindboggling technology and it makes open water fishing diabolically effective. Find fish on your sounder – catch one; and then hit the button to stay on the fish until you stop catching them! It doesn’t matter what the wind and current are doing – you just stay in the one spot until you want to be somewhere else. If you want to fish in a comp in the open water now, you need an iPilot or you might as well stay home.
If I do find fish in open water, fishing a vibrating blade lure is my first choice. When you cast it, a vibe goes a long way, it gets to the bottom fast, and it covers a lot of fish reasonably quickly. Oh yeah – it also catches the hell out of bream most of the time. Anybody can fish a vibe – all you do is wait for it to hit the bottom and then jerk it up a bit and hang on. Well – sort of. Fishing a vibe is like sex when you are 17-years-old – you think it’s pretty easy – it definitely is fun – and it takes a while to work out that a bit of finesse will take you places you couldn’t even imagine when you first started!

Put two anglers in a boat, each fishing with identical tackle and the same type of vibe, and it is entirely likely that one will out-fish the other by a considerable margin. It’s what you do with the vibe that’s vitally important. The speed the vibe travels up off the bottom at is important and the height of the lift is important. You can work a vibe with short fast hops, long slow lifts, and any combination of the above. Sometimes bream are like bank vaults – close isn’t good enough – and you have to have the right combination to get the money. If you have a good patch of bream on the sounder and you are not catching one every third or fourth cast – at least – then something is wrong. There are times fish just will not take a vibe but I would say that about seven times out of 10 they will if you get it right. Most of the time when anglers can’t make a vibe catch bream it’s because they are working it too aggressively. If you don’t work a vibe hard enough, the fish don’t know it is there – work it too hard and it just scares the hell out of them. Get it just right and the results can be mind-blowing. The trouble is that the magic lift is often very precise and difficult to really hit consistently. There is a definite art to working a vibe – and an art is just a science arrived at by trial and error.

Drop-rate in vibe fishing is also critical and it is a function of braid diameter, leader diameter, length of cast, weight of vibe and depth of water. Change any one of these parameters and you change the drop rate. Bream will happily pick a vibe up off the bottom but a hell of a lot of bites happen after the vibration but before the lure hits the bottom again. Small variations in drop-rate have large impacts on the catch. Sometimes you catch more fish at the end of a long cast because with more line in the water the drop-rate is slower, and the fish can more easily catch the vibe before it hits bottom. Conversely, if your drop-rate is a bit slow a long way from the boat, as you have less line in the water it increases and you might get more bites close to the boat because the lure hits a drop-rate the fish find attractive. If your brain is starting to hurt about now I apologise, but things are only going to get worse from here on in, so you might just want to go back to bait or swap to a golfing magazine before I start to get a bit more technical on you! 
I really like braided line when I am “vibing” because it allows me to get a bit more feedback on how my lure is working. Using monofilament straight through does work but I prefer braid with a long leader. Most vibe work is done away from snags so you don’t need to pull too hard on hooked fish. Light braid works best and I use the lightest I can find. As far as brands go there are plenty of good ones around – I like Castaway because it lasts a long time and it is fairly trouble free. Nitlon tangles a bit more easily but is very thin and fishes well. Lately I have been using three pound Power Pro in the white and that seems to be the pick of the bunch so far. Time will tell.
You can go nuts trying to work out the best leader, both for length and diameter. As a starting point I use 6lb fluorocarbon and tie it to the braid with a Slim Beauty knot. This knot – a diagram showing how to tie it is published on page 22 – is a ripper and allows long leaders to be cast with very few mess-ups. It also is so strong that a double is just not needed. Doubles have gone the way of catgut lines and the dodo – if you are still using one – don’t!

Since I wrote that last line I’ve had a coffee and made a phone call to the editor to fess-up that I am only getting started after burning a heap of words. Look out for Cutting Edge Bream – Part II in the January issue. If I don’t get too carried away we might even fit in some deep-water plastics and my favourite way to fish shallow hard-bodies.
Stay tuned!  

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