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Mythbuster: Bream on lures

SO you’ve been successfully luring bream for years now and the last thing you want to read is another repetitive “how to” article. Right? If so, maybe it’s time to think about some of the myths and so-called facts that have become entrenched in the ever-growing sport of hookin’ bream on lures. In my view, many hard-core lure anglers seem set in their ways and are often blinkered to new opportunities. Personally speaking, I’ve never been scared to experiment and by doing so I’ve discovered some very interesting things that seem to fly in the face of commonly held beliefs. There are other guys discovering exciting stuff as well, so let’s explore some of the topics I’m often debating with comp anglers and addicted bream junkies these days and maybe you can compare your thoughts against those of others. I’ll start off with a fairly juicy and smelly topic.

This bream couldn’t resist a scent-laden Bekley Gulp! Crabbie. Image: Patrick Linehan

Myth 1: Scents – do they work?
The new breed of soft plastics these days all seem to come with added scents and I know there are a lot of anglers who swear by them. There’s also an array of sprays, gels and all manner of stuff to smear over lures, hard or soft. Adding an odour to lures is certainly not new but the claim these days is that some of these smells actually stimulate fish into eating. All fish have got nostrils and taste buds so it’s quite possible they actually work. In reality, though, can it be proved? I get plenty of stories about how one angler using a scent will out fish his “scentless” mate two or even three to one. My argument is that this tally difference can also happen when both anglers are using the same lure (scented or not) and all other variables remain the same. In fact, in most cases isn’t it weird how one angler often out fishes his mate when they are doing, and using, exactly the same thing? Then there’s the whole matter of unwanted smells. A common thought is that sunscreen, cigarette smoke and even human pheromones can put fish off. I reckon most anglers swear this is actually fact. So when I smeared my soft plastics with my best 30+ sunscreen to see if it was true, I was a little puzzled with the result. It seemed to make no difference at all and I caught fish just like any other day out. It got me thinking that maybe it could even attract fish in for a taste! So I repeated the sunscreen test and again caught plenty of bream. As for human odours, well, I often lubricate the tails of my Squidgy Wrigglers with spit, because often they fold back on themselves and stick together. A bit of saliva keeps the tail fully extended and “wiggly” when retrieved. I’ve been doing this with the very first packets of 80mm Wrigglers I ever purchased all those years ago and according to most, it should have stopped me from catching fish. Maybe I’ve only ever caught about half as many fish as I should have? And, to think I’ve never used “proper” scents on my lures, so by that count I’m thousands of more fish down. Convince me about scents and I’ll believe it. I mean between sunscreen, human stink, aniseed oil or even the latest magic attractant – what’s the difference to a fish? (I really don’t get the garlic thing, by the way). They are all totally foreign aromas to our quarry, yet some are supposed to attract and others repel. I think it’s another case of these products catching anglers more than fish. Often a scent is applied in desperation during a very slow session. Finally a fish is caught and it’s all because of applying the scent – or is it? Maybe a fish just finally turned up? Or adding the scent made your lure sink a little more or changed its action. It’s easy to see how anyone can be tricked into believing a so-called miracle scent actually works. Logic tells us that fish are a very visual predator and thus have no real need to smell or taste the active prey items our lures are supposed represent. In other words, they see or sense the lure and hit it.

A dead and motionless bait, on the other hand, may indeed require a fish to sniff or taste it before eating. You know, I really want these attractants to work because I’ll then buy them and it will mean more fish landed for me, but somehow I have big doubts. I can’t quite call it busted, so the question of scents just makes it into the plausible basket.

Myth 2: Light lines and leaders catch more fish
This is my favourite topic at the moment and I’m going to blow this myth right out of the water before I even get started. I’ve made a lot of noise over the years about how I fish up to 8kg leaders when chasing bream. Some of you might even be bored with my rhetoric but I gotta tell ya I’m totally sick of watching and hearing about big bream getting busted off by so many other anglers! Why in the hell won’t anyone be brave and upgrade their line classes and stop the silly angling with cotton-like lines? On this subject I’ve done the homework and it goes back for years and years of proof. When fishing with dozens of different anglers over time, including some of the best bream comp boys, I’ve never once pleaded with them to give me some of their 1 or 2kg fluorocarbon because my 8kg Tortue monofilament is costing me fish. Sure, I’ve been out fished at times in the past but that was probably due to the other guy being a superior angler or having a better lure or technique on the day. Maybe he just had better luck than me. However, over time I have more than held my own and I can assure you of one thing – I hook plenty and hardly ever lose big fish. I’m also able to horse my fish in pretty quick and get them back in the water and then casting to another bream in very quick time. This will also get my numbers up when spending a whole day on the water. It is claimed that when fishing deep water (3 or 4 metres plus) with blades and plastics, lighter lines get more hook ups. In fact, the deeper you fish, apparently the lighter you should go. I rarely fish this way so I’m unqualified to comment fairly on the technique and it may indeed have merit. A good mate of mine, Rick Morrison, hooks heaps of bream on blades and all he ever uses is 7kg leaders. As far as all other standard luring practices with hard bodies and softies, I’m more than convinced my 8kg leaders and 6lb or 8lb FireLine makes no difference to my catch rates. If going heavy does actually cost me a few fish, I make up for it with the ones that don’t break me off. I have, in fact, influenced a few mates who do rather well in the bream comps to double the size of their leaders to five or even 6kg and guess what? They still catch plenty of fish and are rather happy with keeping them on all the way to the net (and to the weigh-in station). They also can’t believe how or even why they went so light for so long. Yes, I realise 8kg sounds radical but I’ve used these leaders for more than 10 years. Do you really think I would be dumb enough to persist with it if my catch rates were compromised? I’d suffer using one pound line if it meant landing more bream but I know otherwise and my fishing diary tells me I’ve landed over 700 bream this year so far. And these days I mostly fish gin clear water with 8kg, so don’t try and tell me you have to go light when water clarity makes bream extra spooky – that’s more crap. Sadly with so many anglers fishing extra light and breaking off leaders, the bream are suffering as well. There are way too many fish swimming around with lures jammed in their mouths for weeks or probably months on end. Look, until more of you are willing to prove me wrong and experiment with stronger lines (and land more fish), I’m thinking this theory is totally and utterly busted. 

Clear colours are often preferred when targeting bream on surface. Image: Patrick Linehan

Myth 3: Lure colours are critical
Well, here’s a topic everyone has an opinion on. Mainly because we all have our favourites and, further to that, we all tend to stick to our “go to” colours for years and years. The facts are simple here and I don’t think I need to expand a great deal on this subject. Firstly, it’s just about impossible to prove any colour works better than another and even if you did, it would probably change on a daily or monthly basis due to water temperatures or clarity, light levels, or maybe even the mood of the fish. Secondly, if certain colours were to be so effective, over time they would completely dominate the market. Then there’s the whole issue about do fish actually see different colours anyway? Let’s not go there because, again, it’s impossible to prove. Lure colours catch anglers and tying on your favourite is all about the C words – confidence and conviction. As long as we all know colour is important to the eyes of an angler and not a fish, logic shall again prevail. For this reason alone colour is indeed very important, especially to lure makers, so on their behalf this theory is fully confirmed. As far as being important to fish? Undeniably busted.

Myth 4: Hard bodies are better than soft plastics
With a huge swing back to hard bodies at the moment, I hear some guys say that catching bream on a soft plastic these days doesn’t really count. What?! It seems some are even claiming that softies are no longer as deadly as they once were. I think it’s just another cyclical thing. A lot of bream anglers are using suspending or slow sinking hard bodies and metal blades at the moment. Soft plastics will again be flavour of the month – it’s just a matter of time. So which sort of lures work better? It’s a question I hear a fair bit these days and possibly there is no real answer. Both types of lures are suited for differing habitat scenarios. I reckon HBs are a great searching tool when fishing structure because they don’t snag up as much. SPs are deadly over shallow sand flats and jigging deep. Blades and vibes are a deep water dream come true and help win a lot of comps. Over the past six months I’ve caught a truck load of bream on my suspending Evergreen Micromax lures, as the bream seem to want to hit a dead stationary lure after a couple of short sharp jerks. In other fave bream waters of mine, I’ve got most fish on unweighted Squidgy Wrigglers that I twitch just below the surface. There was way too much weed to try a diving hard body and over a two week period during four visits this accounted for about 60 bream and 10 perch. Just recently I’ve been using fast sinking, bibbed Viking lures to land bream in about 3m of fast flowing snag water. My point is this – I just use the best tool for the job. Another important element in presenting lures to bream is what I call “the foamy water syndrome”. That is, a lure type gets flogged so much to a population of fish  they eventually become totally ignorant and desensitised to them. They just see too much of the same thing.  My final word on softies is about those deadly Gulp! worms. The Turtleback and Camo edible plastics are still an extremely deadly bait and will still be catching bream when the current run of blades and hard body lures are retired to draws in the shed. Hard bods better than placcys? This myth is busted.

Myth 5: Blades are deadly on bream
Hardly a comp goes by these days where metal blades don’t account for most of the bream weighed in. I know most anglers would prefer to fish snags or shallow sand flats, but when fish are hanging out in very deep water the best way to target them is by using blades (some anglers call them vibes, but a lot of plastic hard body lures are also called vibes, so I still refer to them as blades). Quite a number of people really don’t enjoy or even refuse to sit in the same spot jigging and “tea-bagging” away for hour after hour, but it is certainly a proven method and actually developing into a very deadly one. Just through the sheer number of anglers hooking so many bream on these lures, there is no doubt this method is going to be around for a while yet. I have mates who have even developed a technique for slowly trolling blades and catching big numbers of bream, so if you have yet to get on the blade bandwagon, well, it’s time to get into some heavy metal, man. So are blades a deadly bream tool? This is no myth and absolutely confirmed.

Myth 6: Fishing almanacs
I better declare my hand early on this one and get you ready for a complete busting! Nearly every angler I know will get on the water whenever he can and he hardly wants to be restricted by what a book is telling him, when he has to fight so many other obstacles. You know … cranky missus, work, bad weather, wrong tides or maybe even floods just to name a few. Then there’s trying to balance fishing time and family commitments like weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, kids playing sport or doing the school runs etc. So when an almanac tells you prime fishing time is on a Thursday at 3:15 pm, are you really gonna bust your balls to get on the water? Worse still, what if it says your only free Saturday for the next month is a very “bad day” for fishing. What are you gonna do? Stay home? I know a few anglers who reckon almanacs really work, but all of those guys eventually stopped talking about them because of the reasons I just mentioned. To be guided by an almanac is just so impractical and, anyway, who says nothing is learned by not catching a fish? Some of the most valuable lessons are those that have us coming home with a tally of zero. There is no logic to putting your angling faith into a method that is nearly impossible to follow, so if you are a seriously dedicated angler, chuck the almanac out because they are busted big time.

Bust out yourself
So these are just a few topics I have discussed with a lot of anglers over recent times and there are plenty more. My message is one that maybe all of us tend to forget about at times, and that is to keep on experimenting. Breaking off those shackles that lock us into certain methods for year after year might one day have us all discovering things that could revolutionise our great sport of angling. Seek and ye shall learn.

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