How to

Which Twitch?

How you retrieve your lure directly influences your catch rate. DAVID GREEN explains the art of bringing a lure to life.

LURES work by imitating fish food, but imitating the prey item a fish is chasing is far more complex than just the lure alone. The difference between anglers’ catches is all about how well the lure is used, the type of retrieve and the way the lure is manipulated on that retrieve. Different species of fish respond to different retrieve patterns, and the art of getting a shut down or inactive fish to bite a lure often comes down to the careful manipulation of the lure that may, if moved correctly, entice a fish to bite.

This applies to soft plastics, hard-bodied minnows, surface lures and metal jigs. While most lures have an inherent action on a straight retrieve, a bit of skilful  rod work can greatly increase success. The following article goes through some common species and the types of retrieves that I’ve found to be the most successful. Regardless of whether you’re chasing bass in a dam or pelagics on the blue water, getting the lure moving in the right way can make a remarkable difference to your strike rate. A straight, slow wind is rarely the best option.

In general, getting the right type of retrieve requires knowledge of both the lure and the fish you’re chasing. To catch a bream on a small curly tailed soft plastic generally requires a slow, small twitch and pause retrieve. The lure is imitating a small invertebrate such as a worm, and bream just don’t expect to see a worm go racing by at high speed. Bream are smart and observant, and usually feed close to the bottom, so a retrieve that keeps the lure hopping up and down on the bottom is one of the better tactics. In comparison, a tuna chasing a metal lure thinks it is eating a fleeing baitfish, and expects that fish to be going as fast as it can swim. A high speed retrieve also blurs the image that the fish gets of the lure, and this can mean the attacking tuna doesn’t get a long and close look at a chunk of fleeing metal that isn’t even close to being an exact copy of the fish it was feeding on. 


Flathead are flat, have eyes on the top of their head, and hunt by ambush. They generally feed within a metre or two of the bottom. They are also highly tuned into anything that is moving on the bottom as they can sense the vibration through the mud or sand they are hiding in. Flathead feed on baitfish and a wide range of invertebrates. Actually, there isn’t much that they won’t eat. This means a wide variety of lures work on flathead.

When fishing hard-bodied minnows for flathead a jerky retrieve that has the lure constantly banging the bottom is the best method, and good sharp twitches of the rod tip definitely help. The rod tip needs to have a bit of spine so the twitches are transmitted to the lure. Soft, soggy rod tips dampen any twitches you make and have little place in most lure fishing pursuits.

The key with most soft plastic shads and curly tail style lures is to have very sharp lifts, followed by a drop, where the lure falls to the bottom. The sudden sharp twitch definitely seems to trigger a lot of bites from flathead, although nearly all the hits come as the lure drops back down to the bottom again. In deep water with larger curly tailed soft plastics the same lift and drop works well. The take home message for using most lures for flathead is sudden sharp twitches and lifts, followed by a pause as the lure sinks back, followed by another sharp lifting twitch. This makes a huge difference on the strike rate, and when you get it right you will be amazed as to how your catch rate increases.


Unlike flathead, mulloway seem to get startled by sharp, sudden retrieves. Slow and subtle movement seems to be the key to getting bites from jewies. Nearly all of the mulloway I’ve caught in recent years have fallen to soft plastics, and I really had to pack away all my vigorous flathead retrieves before I enjoyed any success at all on these great fish. One lure type that lends itself to subtle manipulation is the jerkshad. These hydrodynamically designed lures appear to have little inherent action when you first use them, but the tapering tail and two “pin tails” at the end are brilliant for small little twitches and shakes. I’m not too sure what a jewie actually thinks a jerkshad is supposed to be, but when you get the retrieve right they will at times eat them very aggressively.

The key seems to be to have a jighead with just enough weight to get to the bottom, and a retrieve that only twitches the lure a centimetre or two. A constant shaking of the rod tip seems to work well. Little twitches, short pauses and no lift and drop seem to be the most effective retrieve in my local waters. It’s important to remember that subtle retrieves get quite subtle bites at times. Some of my best fish have bitten like a small bream, and I think this is partly because the small twitches make it harder to feel the bite. So for jew, lots of subtle twitches are the go. Keep the lure on the bottom and strike at any hint of a bite. 


Bream are probably the smartest, most adaptable estuary fish in the country, and since the popularity of catching them on lures has skyrocketed, they’ve seen a lot of lures in our more populated estuaries. On hard-bodied lures a slow retrieve with pauses, small twitches and varying retrieve speed often works well. With floating hard-bodies the bites often come as the lure floats back towards the surface. The fish often seem to “peck” at the trebles as if they are something they can grab to pull back under. 

On soft plastics the general rules, as described above, are slow retrieves and small lift and drops. Long pauses on the bottom, sometimes of five to 10 seconds, often draw a bite from shy fish. The smaller the lure, the slower you need to work it. 


In some ways the retrieves and twitches used for snapper are just like an upsized version of those used for bream. I’ve found when targeting snapper on soft plastics that the majority of the bites come as the lure is sinking down to the bottom, and this is actually the most effective “retrieve”. Snapper get a lot of their food from dead or dying baitfish in the surface layers that slowly sink down to the bottom, so they are quite attuned to this type of feeding, and a slowly sinking soft plastic often is hit before you even turn the bail arm over, which is very similar to what happens when you fish a pilchard. I tend to let the lure slowly “free fall” with no twitches at all, then retrieve it back to the surface or mid water and repeat the process. 

In shallow kelp beds and reef areas I like to work the lure slowly with very small twitches, keeping the lure a metre or two off the bottom, but in general the bites on the drop outnumber those I get from working the lure on the bottom. 


Barra are the fish of a hundred different moods, and it pays to greatly vary the retrieve of both hard-bodies and soft plastics. In wild rivers and on dams they respond to a wide variety of twitches and retrieve speeds, but in general, the more active the fish are, the faster they like the lure. Often, however, slow, twitchy jerky retrieves with a lot of rod work outfish slow steady winds. Sometimes you just can’t go slow enough for barra. Some soft plastics, such as the popular Squidgy Slick Rigs, can be boiled in hot water to make them softer. This makes the tail wobble at almost zero speed, and this is a very effective method to catch shutdown fish. When fish are hanging close to structure, a constant twitch and wriggle with almost no forward motion keeps the lure in the strike zone and entices bites from fish that won’t stray far from the shade or cover a snag provides.

In deep water soft plastics fished with a constant sink and lift retrieve work well. Like many other species, the majority of bites come on the drop and can be quite subtle. Pay close attention as the lure sinks back down and strike at any bump. Barra spit lures out as fast as they suck them in. Lures that flutter back to the bottom quite slowly are often the most effective.

Neutral buoyancy hard-bodies like Rapala X-Raps work well as they tend to stay at a constant depth, and constant sharp twitches really fire barra up when the lure stays right in front of their faces. This is a great method in billabongs and dams.  


These great little fighters respond to a wide range of retrieve styles. Once again, the best retrieve for a given day is dependant on the mood of the fish. When aggressively feeding on baitfish, fast straight retrieves (“burn and kill”) using spinnerbaits or hard-bodied lures are often very effective. When bass are shut down, very slow minimal twitch retrieves sometimes work. Bass love soft plastics but suck and spit out in a fraction of a second, so any slight bump, slack line or slowing of a sinking lure should be struck on suspicion.

Bass like lures hopped along the bottom with little kicks and flicks. Twitches are generally less than 30cm, a bit more than used for bream, but way less than what you would use for flathead. The popular Jackall Brothers Masked Vibe works well with a constant sink and drop retrieve, but long pauses leaving the lure on the bottom often get bites as bass pick the stationary lure up from the mud or sand. Like barra, it pays to experiment when fishing for bass and try a wide variety of lures, retrieve styles and “mix up the twitch” a lot. 

Macks, tuna & ’hoo

Spinning with high-speed metal lures is a lot more than just pelting a lure out and winding is back. A change in the retrieve style can make a big difference to catches. Mackerel are suckers for high-speed metal lures, but there is one very neat trick that triggers bites when all else fails. Cast the lure as far as you can and let it sink well down, even to the bottom if you are in a snag free area. Commence a flat out rapid retrieve. After about 10 turns of the handle, stop. Then retrieve flat out again. About 80 per cent of the bites come on the third or fourth crank after the pause. I’m not sure why this is, but a mate showed this method to me over 20 years ago and it has worked for me ever since, regardless of whether we are chasing Spanish or spotted mackerel.

Tuna are also suckers for the “stop and start” style of retrieve, as are kingies  and amberjacks, but with mackerel the effect on the bite is quite amazing. When spinning with metals always try to vary depth of retrieve, speed and the interval between your pauses. It seems pelagics that often follow a lure, look at the lure when it stops, then pounce on it as the retrieve begins again. 

Think about it

There’s long been a saying in fishing that success is not based on the lures that you own but the way that you use them. Every time you cast out a lure, regardless of the fish you’re chasing, think about the type of retrieve you will do, the depth you want the lure to be at and how you will twitch it back towards yourself. Work out a plan, vary your retrieve styles and when you do get a bite repeat the same retrieve that got the hit. There are a thousand ways to work a lure. The secret to success is working out the best retrieve and twitch for the given day.

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