How toKayaking

Sydney bream on the kayak

TOURNAMENT angler Luke Kay and I go back a few years, and it was on a crisp morning around the end of winter 2009 that we both caught our first monster bream, each within five minutes of each other.

Blades had just become the new must-have lure and we bounced them around the rickety old jettys and floating sea-gull fortresses which characterise this part of Sydney’s  Lane Cove River.

With numb hands and frosty nostrils, we were soon warmed up as our shiny new lures started screaming towards the nearest structure with a whopping big barnacle basher attached.

By the end of the encounter it was adrenaline causing the shakes instead of the cold, and we proudly posed with the biggest bream we’d ever seen for the obligatory brag shots. 

That was a few years ago now and while I headed North to build my biceps on Top End trevally, Luke hung around in Sydney to perfect the art of harbour breaming, and he’s now winning comps for it.

While a 40cm plus bream was a remarkable capture for us 11 years ago, for Luke nowadays it’s almost like strolling down the shopping aisle in his Lane Cove backyard.

He’d been talking up his consistency in catching the big fellas for a while so I decided to let him put his money where his mouth is for an article. I was in Sydney for a visit, so we lined up a quick afternoon session in the old stomping grounds for the first time since I left.

The pressure’s on as we head for the launch. I need a poster shot of of solid bream or we may not get another opportunity for a while. He loftily announces as we make our way from the launch  “Mate, it’s not a matter of if, but when”.

Luke’s targets a few different areas in the harbour, but his favourite structure has changed in the years since we fished together here. It is something we would have passed a hundred times before and never given a second thought: channel markers, and he reckons just about every one you see has a thumping big bream holding post… so to speak.

Channel Markers

To fish these from a kayak requires a fair bit of skill and experience. You have to position yourself down-current and land a lure past the channel marker with the aim to get it on bottom and bouncing slowly by the base of the pole.

Current speed and your lure weight is going to determine how far past it you have to cast. There needs to be some current, though the particular tide doesn’t really matter.

It all sounds easy in theory. It’s not so easy especially when the wind comes into play. It can help if there’s a slight breeze to one side to help coax your lure closer to the pole, but a stiffer breeze will not make things easy for you.

Re-positioning the kayak after the cast might help too. This is definitely a situation where having a pedal driven kayak is a major advantage.

Whatever you have to do to get that lure bouncing past as close as possible to the base of the pole is key.

It’s worth having a few casts with a soft plastic and then ping it with a blade before moving onto the next one. Luke prefers the Pro Lure grubtail plastics in motoroil on a 1/12th jighead, and for the blades a Pro Lure V35 in mat brown or cammo colour.

As we approach one of the markers, Luke goes “Watch this. This pole right here, there’s a 99% chance there’s a good fish on it.” He was right, there was a good fish there. Too good and it blew him to smithereens in a few short moments.

Boat hulls

Some of the boats in the harbour look like the the old acronym Break Out Another Thousand finally broke their owners and there they sit withering away, fiercely guarded by their new masters the cantankerous squawking seagulls.

But the older and gnarlier they look the better your chances might be for the bream spooking around underneath. The growth under the hull is home to many organisms the bream feed on, so a nice shiny clean hull is a bit like an empty kitchen. It can be worth a shot, but you can spend hours targeting boats.

If you want to pick the more likely ones, go for the old decrepit looking things, particularly the yachts as the keel and rudder provide better underwater structure than a stink-boat.

And don’t ignore that lonesome little punt either. Back in the day Luke pulled a kegger out from under a boat so small the fish must have been wearing it as a hat.

The mooring block is worth a shot too on any of them, you just have to try and work out from the angle of the rope where it is.

For the mooring block, a plastic on a 1/12th jighead should do the trick. For around the hull you’ll have to go a bit lighter and Luke recommends any creature bait on 1/28 or 1/40th jighead depending on the wind. His go-to lure is the Pro Lure live yabby.

You can catch fish off boats at any time really, but low tide might be your best shot as it brings more fish in from the edges of the bank.

Wharves, jetties marinas

Good structure is the easiest way to find fish and the challenge of sniping a lure through the smallest of gaps and the ensuing heart-in-your-mouth battle certainly makes it an addictive way to target these fish.

A kayak certainly has an advantage especially somewhere like a marina or wharf as you can venture deeper where no boat will ever squeeze in.

Good luck pulling a boss out of somewhere like this though. If you are targeting bream in these underwater cities, you may want to up your line class to 8 lbs or be prepared for tears before breakfast. Generally speaking, between 4 and 6 lbs will see you through the other scenarios.

The general rule of no-run, no-fun applies as much in this territory as it does in most other situations, but the particular tide doesn’t make too much difference.

You can use the same as what you’d use on the boat hulls, creature baits up higher in the water column on a light jighead, or a plastic on 1/12th to get down low or in windy conditions.


You certainly can’t neglect the flats if you are after a stonking harbour bream. Their big mouths sift through the bottom substrate looking for morsels of food and at certain times there is no better place to be.

On this afternoon, the breambos were making it tough for Luke to come up with the poster fish we were after, and between work and family commitments he doesn’t have long to be on the water nowadays.

It’s too easy to stick with where your confidence levels are even when you’re struggling, but Luke demonstrates the importance of having a bit of variety in your techniques and target locations. He could have spent the hour and half we had on the water purely targeting the poles, but he tells me “You know what, these flats are always worth a few casts because you just never know.”

In around 10 minutes he had the big fella we were looking for dancing circles around the kayak.

This one took a liking to his grubtail on a 1/12th jighead. Between 1/16th and 1/12th is good place to be depending on what the wind is doing.

It’s also worth throwing around a mid diving crank bait too. If you can get the bib digging into the mud and stirring up the bottom, that’s perfect.

The secrets

Luke lets me on a couple of his big secrets. One of those is the wind.

Wind is your best friend or your worst enemy. There’s nothing more irritating than the wind blowing out a big belly of line, pushing your lure away from where you want it, reducing your contact and awareness of what’s happening on the other end, all while you’re battling to keep the bow of the yak pointing where you want it.

Luke has learned to make the wind his friend. He says the fish are more comfortable and less wary when it’s blowy. Rightly so when many anglers are hopeless at fishing in it.

The trick is to only use lures where you can maintain constant contact with them. You need to be able to feel when something is having a crack. Trying to use a hidden weight plastic with virtually no weight is next to useless. Blades are a good option as are diving hardbodies or a heavier weighted plastic.

You want enough contact with the lure to feel the bites, but not too much that it’s going to affect the the action of the lure too much.

His next secret is to think about the bottom of the structure you are fishing. He reckons the big boys club is hard up against the structure on the very bottom. If they’re hungry or agitated enough they’ll come up for a sniff, but Luke catches a whole lot of kilo plus fish down low.

If you want a big fella from the harbour, between the end of march and the end of august is your best shot.

It’s been great to come back after all these years and learn new tricks from an old friend. It still gives me a buzz to see a big thumper and know there is a healthy thriving population in the harbour I grew up in. 

I can tell you though it’s one thing to know the tricks and another to pull them off. The subtlety and skill required to get these honkers seems to have abandoned me over the years and I could only manage to stir up a couple of small fry.

Luke’s words of consolation pretty well summed it up.

“You know what? Sometimes bream just suck”

Too true, but if you have the patience and perseverance for them, the challenges they throw up only make the victory all that much sweeter.

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