How to

Flatties on Vibes

Estuary Luring

The new generation of vibration lures have been proven to be deadly on bream, bass, jewies and EPs. Now it seems the humble flathead can’t resist them. KEVIN SAVVAS reports.

FISHING is a beautiful thing. There’s too much to learn to know everything. Just when you think you’ve got something figured out things change. Nothing ever remains static. This is typified in fishing tackle, too.  

When I pull out the tackle draw and gaze on the lures I used 10 years ago they barely resemble those I use now. Funny thing is if I tied a few on and threw ’em around they’d probably still catch plenty of fish. More fish than my new must-have lures? Who knows? I just know I can’t live without my new toys. They give me confidence. In fishing, confidence is about the only constant you can rely on. Without it you’re screwed.

Over the past five years my confidence lures have been soft plastics. About the only way you could have missed the soft plastic revolution is if you were living under a rock. Softies are deadly fish catchers and I reckon the current bio-mass of flatties on the eastern seaboard have taken a decent hit because of them. Plastics lend themselves so well to flatties just by virtue of the way they are worked. I would have laid money on plastics to out fish any other lure for flatties six months ago. Now I’m starting to have second thoughts.

Good vibes

Recently, I conducted a comprehensive review of all the bladed lures on the market for this magazine. At the time I had limited experience using blades and had accounted for a handful of bream and estuary perch on the small Ecogear VX-35s. Initially, I was impressed with the action of this type of lure and only really tied them on when plastics weren’t working; not a good time to assess the potential of any new lure. They did, however, get bites while the fish were shutdown, even when plastics never turned a scale. I never gave it much thought. I guess I was too star-struck with plastics to consider they may at times play second fiddle to another lure!

The effectiveness of blades was driven home in a session I had at Lake Macquarie with good mate and fishing pal Christian Orsini.  We’ve got this special little spot in the lake we call “Flattie Ally”. It’s basically our gun spot where we go when we need fillets for the table. The spot is a no-brainer. Just turn up, flick in a plastic and, bam, you’re on.

I was a few weeks into my blade research and decided to go back to plastics to catch a feed and high-tail it for home. Unusually, the plastics were a little quiet and we failed to arouse any interest. I had been gradually building my confidence with blades after an inspiring session on the Shoalhaven on flatties and perch with Fisho colleague Sami Omari and editor Jim Harnwell, and reverted to these vibrating pieces of metal for inspiration.  To say I was astounded with the results would be

an understatement. Straight away the first flattie was boated with little more than a raised eyebrow from Christian. By the time I hit the half dozen in as many casts he was scrambling around in my tackle box for a vibe of his own. The flathead had no interest in our plastics but were lining up to hit the blades. Previously I may have well conceded defeat and left the area. A change of tack brought a change in fortunes.

Why Is It So?

Since that breakthrough session on flathead with the blades, flatties have become a regular feature in our catches. In fact, on some days the blades are more effective than plastics. After thorough examination I am yet to fully comprehend why this is so, although I have a few unsubstantiated theories.

The first of these theories ties in well to my overall mantra for successful luring – mobility. The reason I have success with soft plastics is the amount of water I can cover in any given session. The more ground I cover the more fish that see my lure; it’s a simple principle. Blades magnify this factor even further. They sink rapidly and are retrieved briskly. This means there is minimal “dead time” waiting for lures to hit the strike zone. Currently I’m finding I can cover up 50 per cent more water with blades than plastics in a given session. As I suggested, the more ground I cover the more fish I catch.

Another theory has to do with saturation. The take-up or participation rate of soft plastics over recent years has been nothing short of phenomenal. Fishos you would never expect to flick plastics are coming out of the woodwork. Take my 80-year-old grandfather for example. He’s a live bait master for Hawkesbury jew; and has been for 40 years. Try to convince him these days to catch some livies and go anchor up somewhere.  Watch the cunning old fox smirk as he reaches for his tackle box loaded with plastics.

The amount of lures being presented to fish these days has to have some impact on catch rates. It’s not an uncommon theme that fish “wise up” to lures. Bream fishos tout that line pretty regularly. Could it be that flatties are the same?  I hate to say it but early indications are that the once compliant flattie is becoming a little more fickle, especially in hard-fished waters. The Lake Mac scenario mentioned before wasn’t an isolated situation. I’ve turned to blades regularly lately when soft plastics are failing to put fillets on the table. If bream can learn, I can’t see why flathead can’t either.

Another reason I feel that blades are a bona fide flattie catcher is the seductive vibration the lure transmits and the effect it has on fish behaviour. I always felt that a flattie would normally strike a plastic if it entered into the effective strike zone of the fish. Being an ambush predator the strike zone would be anything in range . I assume that’s roughly two feet maximum. That’s not to say a flattie won’t chase down prey, as they do from time to time. Usually though, they will only break cover when prey enters into the zone. Blades have a habit of drawing fish out of this zone.

What makes me make that assertion is the way flatties hit the lure. Unlike plastics where the majority of hits come on the drop, with blades most hits come on the upsweep. What this highlights is one of two things. The first is that the vibration has drawn the fish out of cover for inspection and attacked when the lure was apparently fleeing. This is in contrast to plastics that fall in the strike zone and get hit on the drop. The second is that the fish has been drawn in from outside the logical strike zone, broken its cover, and committed itself to striking the lure. When flatties make the decision to break cover they become very aggressive. Short of calling them pelagic, at times I’ve seen flatties launch out of the water to hit a lure on the surface.  It’s a case of effort versus reward. If it gives up its location it’s committed itself to getting its tucker.

Blades seem to have that effect. The way fish, and in particular flatties, react to the lure is quite phenomenal. I’ve found that most fish caught, regardless of species, hit on the upsweep when the lure is vibrating rather than the flutter back to the bottom. It also makes for exciting fishing. The strikes are vicious and the fish seem to play up more than usual. I’m having trouble calling the size of fish on my line at the moment and am grossly overestimating the weight. Maybe that’s just a fisherman’s prerogative.  



Here’s the easy bit. If you have used soft plastics you can master vibes. Most retrieve styles that work for soft plastics can be transferred across to blades. While there are some differences in subtlety and rod craft, as a starting point just use the old lift and drop technique. This has been a major winner for most estuary species on softies and seems to lend itself well to blades. The things to remember are: always make contact with the bottom throughout the retrieve; use sharp rod movements; and let the lure sink on slack line. I found the more slack line on the drop the more action the lure has on the fall.

While the lift and drop is a good starting point, my gun technique is what I term the “long draw” (see pictures on page  16). It’s more a finesse retrieve style, if there’s such a thing with blades, but drags out the vibration for a longer time with much less intensity. Primarily, the retrieve starts with the rod parallel to the water. With a slow upsweep or draw the rod is lifted to vertical. At this stage I hold the rod at vertical and let the lure sink on semi-slack line. As suggested, this does restrict the action of the lure on the fall but many hits come just as the lure stops at vertical and just begins the decent. In this way I can react to bites faster. A key factor here is to only draw the lure as fast as is necessary to just get the lure to work. The blades that vibrate with slow subtle movements are the best in this scenario.


Just in case you thought the use of a new lure meant new gear, sorry to bust your bubble. Although I’m sure the wife won’t mind that the credit card won’t get smacked around a bit. Yeah, right!

The same gear you use for softies is absolutely perfect. I tend to use two rods, depending on the size lure I wish to use. I like to run an ex-fast-actioned 2-4kg, 7’ graphite rod on lures ranging from 3 grams to 7 grams. Due to the water pressure needed to get the larger lures to vibrate, I like to run an ex-fast actioned 3-6kg, 7’ graphite rod or equivalent. While this may be overkill for flatties, the extra backbone is needed to work the lure.  

In the smaller lure sizes I like to keep the leader size to a minimum. Heavy leaders definitely dampen the action of the lure, even with the use of rings and clips. Once again it’s a trade off. Go light for maximum lure action but heavy enough to protect against a flattie’s raspy teeth. That said, I don’t mind donating a lure here and there if I’m getting action to compensate for the losses.  


It’s common knowledge that blades are deadly on bream. Hopefully I have convinced you that they are decent flattie lures as well. The one thing I have been most impressed with is the amount and variety of by-catch. I have had a few days now where we have snared over 10 species in a session. These included flathead, bream, pinkies, tarwhine, whiting, leatherjacket, tailor, flounder and the dreaded trumpeter. I haven’t seen a trumpeter in years but since I started using blades I reckon I’ve caught over 100 of these feisty fish. Who would have thought the humble trumpeter would be a willing lure taker? They hit like a steam train as well!

Also, I have it on good authority that gun north coast locals from Port Macquarie are donking a stack of big blackfish on Koolabung X-Ray blades at night. From what I hear they are actively targeting the fish and getting consistent catches. I’m hoping to get in on this little piece of action. It’s hard not get excited about the prospect either. If it’s a repeatable pattern and accessible for most anglers, I can’t see why this can’t be another whiting-on-popper type craze. I hope to have something to report very soon. Watch this space.



What's your reaction?

Related Posts

Load More Posts Loading...No More Posts.