How toTips & Techniques

Big lures for trophy flathead

CATCHING a trophy flathead is a memorable moment for many Aussie anglers. The dusky flathead’s cunning nature and unique appearance make them a highly sought-after fish in our calm, saltwater estuaries. Flatties are very accessible, tasty and are great fun to catch on lure. Just about everyone that has picked up a rod has some exposure to flathead fishing with lures, whether it was fishing as a kid on holidays or chasing a feed with friends, which is perhaps why captures, stories and photos of monster-size fish are so revered.

Some of the most effective lures for catching flathead are small soft plastics, about 3 inches long. But there’s an ever expanding range of lures targeted at flathead fishos; some are designed for flathead and work well, most are not and still work well! Needless to say, at times, flathead aren’t very fussy at all. But to catch big dusky flathead consistently, you really need to know what you’re doing. Despite what some say, flatties in excess of 80 centimetres can be as difficult to catch as any other “trophy” fish on lure consistently – barra, cod and jewies included!

Below, I’ll explain why I believe bigger is better when it comes to catching croc-sized fish consistently and what lures I focus on. It’s important to preface this by saying that it’s undoubtedly helpful to have the basics of estuary lure fishing sorted before trying to target the trophy sized fish with big lures!


It’s worth pointing out that, for many, using smaller lures is the way to go. You’ll catch more flathead, on average, with a 3 inch soft plastic than the lures I’ve listed further below. But this article is about trying to catch big flathead, in excess of 70cm, consistently…

There’s no denying big lures are incredibly effective for many trophy-size fish. It makes sense – the bigger the fish, the bigger the appetite. It should also be noted that, generally, fish with big gobs eat big lures (think barra, jewies, Murray cod), dusky flathead are no different! These fish have evolved to eat big prey and exert little energy… Videos of big dusky flathead eating smaller dusky flathead off the rod tip near the boat are a dime a dozen online, too – it’s no secret: dusky flathead are not afraid of a big meal!

Big lures are also used to weed out smaller fish – a tactic utilised by many anglers the world over. I’ve consistently observed (from above and below the water) that big female flathead are often accompanied by several smaller male flatties. Sometimes, there can be several fish laying on top of a much bigger fish! In this situation, using a big lure increases the likelihood of tempting only the biggest fish to bite, leaving the pesky squeakers in their dust… That’s the theory, anyway!

With the above in mind, it’s not surprising that a pile of big lures have proved effective for crocs over the years. Big glidebaits, swimbaits, XL soft plastics and even oversized surface lures are all effective at raising crocs off the bottom. But what works best?


There’s plenty of big lures that catch flathead. As explained, they have a reputation for being aggressive feeders and small fish are often overzealous. Though, don’t expect to tie on a big lure and start catching giant flathead… Big dusky flathead can be painful lure eaters some days; they can shut down completely.

That said, there’s definitely lures that perform better than others in certain conditions. Over the years, I’ve narrowed my big lure arsenal down to four lures/lure types and will usually use a mix of these during every session. Remember, to catch big flathead consistently, you need to be observant, versatile and dedicated.

1 Unweighted soft plastics Big, unweighted soft plastics are easy to use and the hook up rate is second to none. That said, they can take time and tweaking to get the rigging and action just right. These lures are best suited to a medium sized spin outfit or a light/medium baitcaster swimbait outfit. I use either a 3000 size spin reel or 150 size baitcaster with 15lb braid and 15-20lb fluorocarbon leader on 7-7’6” rods rated 5-10kg.

Slug-Go 9 or 12 inch – rigged unweighted with a size 6/0-10/0 screw in weedless G hook with treble ‘stinger’. This lure is best suited to fishing in water up to about a metre in depth. Use long casts and work the lure back with plenty of twitches and long pauses. Ideally, you want the lure to rise, glide and twitch or kick before sinking slowly and resting on the bottom before moving it again. When rigged correctly, these big plastics are deadly and the hook up rate is exceptional, earning them the top spot in my book.

Irukandji Sicario 7 inch – rigged unweighted with a single bottom facing hook and a stinger treble (YouTube “Castaway Fishing flathead swimbait rigging” to watch a video on how I like to do this). The retrieve with this lure consists of a very slow roll with the occasional twitch/pause. It has a strong body roll and thumping paddle tail that works extremely well in shallow water when the fish are active. Not surprisingly, the downward facing single hook configuration hooks a lot of flatties in the soft, bottom jaw and also acts as a “keel”, keeping the lure swimming upright.

Pro Lure XL Shad 200 – rigged unweighted with the same rigging method as above with a treble “stinger”. This is a big lure and works best with a very slow roll. It has a mesmerising tail beat that works well in shallow water. I like to add one or two tungsten nail weights in the bottom of this lure to get it running slightly deeper and swimming upright at all times.

2 Jerkbaits Jerkbaits have the ability to “flick the switch” of most predatory fish. Specifically, there’s something about a suspending jerkbait used with a “twitch, twitch, pause” retrieve that just drives fish crazy… I rate these lures pretty highly in the list as the hook up rate is also pretty good. To get the best action out of the below lures, you’ll need a dedicated jerkbait outfit. I prefer using a 2500/3000 sized spinning reel on a 6’8 – 6’10 fast actioned 3-6kg rod with 10lb braid and 15lb fluorocarbon leader.

Daiwa Double Clutch 95 – while not a ‘big’ lure, this 95mm suspending, silent jerkbait entices big flathead. It casts well and has been the undoing of many big fish over the years. You’ll need to fish it with a light drag and upgrade the trebles (I like using size 8 BKK Spear 21).

Rapala MaxRap 130 & 150 – These are long, slender jerkbaits that cast a mile. They work well with an aggressive action and get slammed on the pause. The hook up rate is good and they will accommodate stronger trebles than similar sized jerkbaits. I think these have been discontinued in Australia, which is a real shame…

Duo Tide Minnow Slim 140 – Much like the Rapala MaxRap, this lure is a long, slender jerkbait that casts very well. It works well with an aggressive action and also gets slammed on a lengthy pause. It has been working really well on the Gold Coast this season.

3 Glidebaits/swimbaits Best suited to a medium ‘swimbait’ outfit. I use the below lures with a 150 size baitcaster reel with 15lb braid and 20lb nylon or fluorocarbon leader on a fast action 7’6” swimbait rod rated 6-12kg. These rather peculiar lures can take a while to get used to. They have a very subtle and realistic action and you can feel very little ‘feedback’ through the rod tip on the retrieve. The realistic look and action of these lures seem to trigger a bite when big flathead are lethargic. Though, at times, the hook up rate can be diabolical, which is why I rate these lures lower down the list.

Jackall Gantia 180 (adjustable floating/sinking) –  the Gantia can be used as a floating, suspending or slow sinking swimbait by adding a chin weight. It’s very easy to use and a slow wind will produce a lifelike swimming action that will get bites. The Gantia can also be manipulated with the rod tip for a more aggressive jerk and pause, side-to-side action. It’s a very versatile swimbait.

Gancraft Jointed Claw 178SS (slow sinking) – this is a slow sinking glidebait that produces a lifelike swimming action that will get bites from big fish. This lure can be used in water up to about two metres deep. It has a very lifelike profile and finish.

Fish Arrow Glide Jack 180F (floating/suspending) – This is a floating glidebait but it will swim subsurface by fitting it with bigger, thicker gauge trebles. It’s an awesome glidebait for skinny water and can be manipulated with the rod tip for a more aggressive jerk and pause, walk-the-dog action.

4 Topwater Best suited to a medium sized spin outfit. I use these lures with a 3000 size spin reel with 10-15lb braid and 15-20lb fluorocarbon on a 7-7’6” spin rod rated 5-10kg. These are effective lures when fishing skinny water during low light periods or during windy sessions when surface activity is high.

Bassday Sugarpen 120 – these lures can be effective for flatties in knee to ankle deep water using a variety of retrieves. I like to use them with a constant walk-the-dog retrieve and occasional pauses. This is a great lure to imitate a baitfish or leader prawn on its last legs. The consistent action of these lures makes it easier for big flathead to find the hooks.

OSP Bent Minnow 130 – work the bent minnow with plenty of rod work or a series of sweeps and pauses, where it will dart subsurface like a jerkbait before floating back up to the surface. These lures are really erratic and will get plenty of attention, but often the bites are hit and miss, literally!

Crossfire 195 – this is a big, bent surface lure and can be surprisingly effective for raising GIANT flathead. It works best with some wind and chop and plenty of rodwork. Use fluorocarbon leader as it will pull the lure underwater for a better action. These are undeniable big fish raisers, but again the hook up rate can be a real let down.

Most often, the strike from a big flathead – on all lure types – will come on the pause. If you’re spooking flathead and you suspect your lure has travelled over them, then it’s time to try a different lure and/or mix up the retrieve.


The bite from an 80cm+ croc in shallow water is aggressive and fast. React too slowly, and you will miss bites. A firm initial strike followed by a relatively light drag setting during the fight has landed me most fish. Despite what some might say, big flathead will put up a decent fight in the shallows. Quite often, big fish will thrash around on the surface and occasionally jump out of the water upon hook up. Some of these big girls can get up and scream across the flats!

Using big lures for giant flathead opens up a world of possibilities for thinking anglers. By understanding flathead behaviour, putting in the time to perfect your lure presentations and fishing with dedication, who knows, you might just hook that unicorn “metrey”!

Patrick Linehan is a professional fishing guide at Castaway Estuary Fishing Charters based in Port Macquarie, NSW. Get in touch here:

What's your reaction?

Related Posts

Load More Posts Loading...No More Posts.