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Fishing blades on the Parramatta River

There’s more to blades than bream, as Nick Wood discovered during a couple of sessions with an estuary lure fishing gun in Sydney’s Parramatta River.

Ever wanted a lure that catches most predatory species, casts like a bullet, gets down deep and stimulates shut-down fish to strike?

Hell yeah! But it sounds too good to be true, right? Not so … In fact, a lure family that does all this and more has been around for some time. Many anglers with be familiar with the lures I’m talking about. But not me. That is until I spent some time out on the water with comp fisherman and blade extraordinaire Codie Stewart.

During a recent chat with Codie he suggested we spend a bit of time in Sydney’s Parramatta River so he could show me how he fishes with blades. To me, blades were a lure comp fishermen used for bream, and only then when the usual crankbaits weren’t producing the goods. While bream are the major species caught on blades, I found out that these lures can actually catch just about anything that swims – if you use them right.

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My first outing on the Parramatta was an early morning affair with a high tide that would enable us to hit the flats just adjacent to the Ermington boat ramp. Two minutes from boat ramp to the fishing grounds is something I could get used to … Codie had piqued my interest when he’d mentioned the whiting were suckers for a well-presented blade. Fished well, they’d have us getting into the big dark whiting that feed in the murky waters of the Parramatta.

This major urban waterway holds a diverse range of species including tailor, flathead, trevally, whiting, bream and mulloway. On our first morning, the only fish we didn’t catch was a mulloway … not bad for a couple of hours on a busy river smack bang in the middle of Australia’s largest city.

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So what’s so good about blades? Probably more importantly, what’s the best way to use them? As mentioned, the first spot we fished was a flats system near the boat ramp. As most estuary angelers know, flats are a key habitat for whiting and other foraging species. Flats are marked by areas of shallow water bordered by channels and drop-offs. If you position yourself on the edge of the drop-off, cast out into the deeper water and retrieve up over the edges, chances are you’ll pick up bream, whiting or flathead. By putting yourself on the edge of the drop-off you can also switch to working the shallower water in search of whiting and flats feeding bream.

Blades come into their own in terms of casting distance. With 6lb braid and 4lb leader, a 1/8 oz blade (which measures about 35mm in length) will cover a considerable distance. Choose your spot and fan cast until you find the fish. To my surprise, we had some good-sized whiting in the boat before I’d even got the camera out. Whiting are well documented for liking surface lures, especially when prawns are running, but the blades proved to be as good, if not better, for these feisty little fish.

Fishing the flats is a high-tide bite so as soon as the water dropped we decided to head out into the main river and see what else we could pick up on our blades.

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With the water levels dropping, our next stop involved the poles and structure that litter the banks of the Parramatta. Marinas and bridges provide good hunting grounds and can produce some big bream if you can get your lure in the right place. One of Codie’s top tips for fishing the poles and structure with blades is a technique called “tea bagging”. It’s a simple approach to lure fishing. Find a pole or bridge pylon that you think might hold fish – a good clue is to focus on structure featuring white marks which are exposed by the low tide. This is where bream have sucked and gnawed potential food from the mollusc and weed-encrusted structures. Get up close to the structure – being careful to keep noise to a minimum – and cast or drop the blade down to the bottom adjacent to the pole or pier. Let it settle and then just dip the rod up and down to see if anything is lurking in the depths waiting to ambush a passing baitfish. For someone like me who’s not so great at casting around structure, this technique opens up a chance at the big bream that loiter in and around these areas. Blades are an excellent choice for this technique as they are weighted (thus making them easy to cast and quick to reach the strike zones) and their “vibing” action can stimulate aggressive strikes.

It didn’t take us too long to catch a few decent bream by tea bagging with blades. Next we decided to experiment in open water. Codie has a lot of knowledge when it comes to the Parramatta River so we decided to head up to one of his favourite spots, the Silverwater Bridge. This is where fishing limits of the river end due to restrictions but it’s a gun spot if you know where to work your lure. Our target species for this section would be the elusive mulloway. I’m always sceptical whenever anyone talks about catching mulloway during the day on lures – but I have done it before with my old buddy Brent Delaney on the Georges River. We had success with soft plastics so it’d be interesting to see if the blades did the trick.

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As we were fishing in open water just off the main flow of the bridge, I decided to upscale from a 3/8oz blade to a ¼oz, with the hope that a mulloway might be more interested in a larger offering. Codie explained that a good tip when fishing open water on the Parramatta was to wait until one of the river cats has passed and then put your lure into the wash zone. The water churned up by the powerful jets on the ferries leaves prawns and crabs vulnerable to predatory fish like bream and mulloway.

I followed Codie’s advice and cast straight into a ferry’s wash zone. I soon had a screaming run from a decent sized fish. On a 2500 reel and a 2-4lb rated rod, it was great sport. Codie followed me up with the electric motor as the fish had near emptied my reel on its first run.

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Experiment with colours

After what seemed like a lifetime, we caught a glimpse of the silver bar that anyone who’s caught mulloway knows and loves. Once safely in the net, I felt really happy that the fish had proven Codie’s theory that blades are a great all-round lure for estuary fishing.

Since I’ve experimented more with blades, and done some research, I’ve also discovered they’re an option for light offshore jigging. You might even want to use them for trout in the alpine lakes as well as natives including bass, EPs, golden perch and Murray cod. I have it on good authority that blades will even catch the omnivorous luderick … They really are a useful lure.

Blades come in all shapes and sizes and there are many quality brands to choose from. Most blades feature fairly light weight trebles, which needs to be considered when you’re fighting a fish. Even quality hooks will suffer at the mouths of oyster crunching bream. Keep a constant check on the condition of the hooks on your blades as they will get bent out of shape.

For most of the time I fished with Codie I used a 3/8 oz sized blade. When specifically targeting larger species like flathead and mulloway, especially in deeper water with fast currents, you might want to use a larger lure, maybe around the 1/4oz size. These bigger blades generally have beefed up trebles as well.

As for colours, Codie recommends something along the lines of a “Muddy Prawn” or “Ghost Gill Brown”, both of which are patterns in the Atomic range of blades. Other brands will have similar colour schemes. These patterns out-fished all the other colours during our blading sessions but it’s up to you to experiment with colours that work in your waters. It’s one of the challenges fishing has to offer – getting the right colour and size of lure on the day.

So if you haven’t fished with blades, give them a go. They’re an extremely versatile lure.

 

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