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Size Matters – Bushy on Lures

If you want big fish, then it makes sense to use big lures. Right? Well, not necessarily …

IF you want to catch a fish on a lure it stands to reason that you first have to select a lure to tie to the end of your line. We’ve already looked at many of the important parameters of lure selection such as shape, colour, running depth and even smell, but if I had to pick the most important factor in lure selection it would be size. Selecting the right size of lure for a specific fish species in any location can be a challenge and often the right choice can be quite counter-intuitive and difficult.

Even when we are dealing with one fish species, the right sized lure can be radically different depending on the habitat or even the time of year. The size of the fish you wish to target should also very definitely influence the size of the lure you tie to your line.

I remember fishing the Ord River with local guide Macca. His favourite bait for big barra was a mullet of about a kilo and a half. Macca went to diabolical and somewhat dangerous lengths to stalk and throw his cast net over the big baits rather than settle for average sized baits. I also seem to remember being “busy” rigging up when Macca wanted a volunteer to walk behind him in waist deep water to hold the bait bucket!  Anyway, the proof was in the pudding and after I obeyed instructions to the letter and persevered with one of the giant baits, I was rewarded with a wild metre-long barra. About now you might be thinking what has all of this got to do with lure fishing, but the point is the big barra in that river at that time were keyed in on big baits and if you wanted to catch a big one on a lure I am sure that tying on the biggest lure in the box would have been right on the money.

I don’t know exactly why those particular barra were so keen on a big bait but probably those baits were in the area and maybe a big lazy wild barra only wanted to feed in one big gulp and then chill out for the rest of the day.

Fishing for big impoundment barra can be totally different. There are certainly large prey items in the big dams but most of the really big fish are taken on relatively small lures. Guides like Jason Wilhelm have forgotten more about barra fishing than most us know and Jason has a theory that even the biggest impoundment barra like to eat the small to medium bony bream that are in plague proportions rather than chase really large single prey items. This probably makes sense because the massive bait schools are always on tap and a big barra can fill up on small baits that are easy to catch, easy to swallow and easy to digest.

When it comes to creek fishing for barra there is no doubt that the smaller fish  do prefer small prey items. If you use a small lure you will probably catch lots of fish but they might well be tiddlers. In most barra creeks there will be at least a few big fish and you can target them with a bigger lure. Just the fact that the big lure generally attracts fewer small fish will give you a fighting chance of leaving the lure unmolested until a big one has a chance to see it and latch on.

You can see that this lure size thing is a bit trickier than it might seem but there is yet another thing to consider when tackling up in new territory. Occasionally there is a prey explosion of one particular type of food and you have to be prepared to key in your lure size to take advantage of it.

There was one trip to Cape York when we hit the juvenile hardyhead mother lode and every fish in the world (including the whoppers) wanted to eat lures and flies an inch and a half long. Luckily we had enough little lures and flies (just) or the trip would have been pretty tough.

On another trip to Ningaloo in WA we ran into a mass migration of baitfish. I think they might have been anchovies but I guess it doesn’t matter – what mattered at the time was that every cobia, shark mackerel and whatever else wanted lures or flies that were four inches long or they just didn’t want to play. 

If you want to work up a rough game plan for selecting a lure size for just about any fish species in any location, firstly just do your basic homework and ask around before you go to get a rough idea on where to start. If there are a few of you in one boat, each of you should try a slightly different sized lure – the fish will tell you which is the hot size.
If you want to catch plenty of fish but you don’t care if they are monsters then stick with smaller lures. If you don’t mind putting in the hours and you want big fish then try larger lures.

And keep your eyes open for that prey explosion – if something is really plentiful and easy for the fish to catch it might well be on the menu even if it is bigger or smaller than “normal” tucker.

I guess lure fishing isn’t rocket science but getting the right sized lure on the end of your line can make a hell of a difference to your catch at the end of a session.

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