HOW TO CATCH BREAM ON LURES
BY JUSTIN WILLMER
Bream are a popular target species as they are readily available around much of Australia's coastline, fight well on light gear, love eating lures and yet can still be a challenge to work out at times.
When & Where
There are two main things that attract bream to an area and they are structure and food. If you find areas that are holding bream food, such as small baitfish, prawns, crabs and marine growth, then you are partway to catching fish.
Structure is the other key and it is available in both manmade and natural forms, with both holding fish at different stages of the tide and season. Manmade structure includes oyster leases, rock walls, jetties, pontoons, boat ramps and bridges, while natural structure includes rock bars, mangrove edges, weed beds and drop offs. Structure provides protection, a break from the current and ambush points, while also attracting bait.
Often when targeting bream the secret is to get your lure as close as possible to the structure, to draw bream out and trigger strikes. This may be a skip cast into a shady pocket under a pontoon, a pinpoint cast close to the mangroves or allowing your lure to run just over the top of the weed and draw the bream out of cover.
When it comes to rods, reels, line and leader for bream, it's often about light, finesse gear to cast and control light lures, feel the bites and fight the fish without pulling hooks. Rods of around 1-3kg and 2-4kg are often fitted with 2000 to 2500 size reels, loaded with 4-8lb braid and 2-10lb leader. Like any type of fishing, if you are in an area that holds larger fish, especially around nasty structure such as oysters, then you may step to the heavier side of the gear, while in open, clear water, you may have to fish as light as possible to get the bite.
Okuma Competition CM-S-702ML 7' 4-12lb 2pce rod and Okuma Alaris ALS-20 spinning reel.
Okuma Cerros CER-S-701L 7' 1-3kg 1pce rod and Okuma Epixor EPXT-20 spinning reel.
Okuma Helios HS-S-701L 7' 1-3kg 1 pce rod and Okuma Helios HSX-20 spinning reel.
Generally the best soft plastic lures for bream are smaller profiles around the 2"-2.5" size, including ZMan 2" CruzteaZ, 2" GrubZ, 2.5" GrubZ, 2.5" Slim SwimZ, 2.5" TRD CrawZ and 3" TRD HogZ. One plastic that has dominated the bream tournaments, while also catching a stack of different species in the fresh and salt, is the ZMan 2.5" GrubZ. This curl tail plastic represents a stack of different prey and has loads of built in action, making it ideal for beginners and a great plastic to start bream fishing, as well as a lethal weapon in the hands of experienced anglers.
Based on the plastic you select and the structure you are targeting, there are a handful of popular retrieves that are used when targeting bream, however it's important to mix things up and the best retrieve is the one that works on the day.
Slow Rolling (Slow Winding) - Simply casting out, allowing the plastic to sink to the desired depth and then slow winding it back can be very effective and is ideal when fishing plastics with plenty of built in action, such as the ZMan GrubZ or Slim SwimZ. You can vary the speed, add some pauses, or include the occasionally twitch to find out what the fish want on the day, however often the action of the plastic is enough to attract a bite.
Hopping - When hopping a plastic, make a cast, allow it to sink to the bottom or the desired depth and then use a vertically lift of the rod to 'hop' the plastic upward, representing a startled or fleeing baitfish or prawn. A 'double hop' retrieve is popular and involves an upward lift of the rod tip, quickly followed by another, and then a pause before repeating. You can adjust the length, number and aggressiveness of the hops, along with the duration of the pause, until you start to get a few bites. Wind up the slack line following the hop, while still allowing the plastic to fall naturally on the pause. All of the aforementioned plastics can be used effectively with this retrieve.
Burn and Kill - This retrieve is basically built around a few winds of the reel handle (burn) and a pause (kill) that is repeated. Cast, allow the plastic to sink to the desired depth and then commence a burn and kill retrieve. By varying the speed of the burn and the duration of the kill, you can regulate where the plastic travels in the water column. This is a great retrieve to introduce kids to fishing plastics and you can get them to say 'wind, wind, wind' as they wind the handle of the reel and then '1, 2, 3' as they pause for a few seconds to allow the plastic to sink again. Another effective retrieve when using a plastic with built in action, such as the GrubZ or Slim SwimZ.
Shaking - Shaking is all about the plastic fleeing and then pausing, with a few winds of the reel combined with a shaking of the rod tip, followed by a pause. As you retrieve, think about the plastic shaking and dancing in the water as it tries to escape a predator and then add the pause as a means of triggering a strike from the fish before the prey begins fleeing again. You can mix up the speed of the wind, aggressiveness of the shake and duration of the pause until you crack a bite pattern. Shaking is an effective retrieve with any of the aforementioned plastics.
Dead Sticking - A simple but effective retrieve for a species that hunts around structure and is an opportunistic feeder. Make the cast, generally close to structure and allow the plastic to fall naturally on a slack line, while watching the line for any sign of a bite, including a subtle 'tick' in the line, the line speeding up or the line stopping when it should be sinking. These are all signs that a fish may have eaten the lure, so set the hook. Another effective retrieve with all of the aforementioned plastics.
Let's have a look at how we approach some different types of bream structure.
Pontoons - When it comes to fishing canals and pontoons make casts to the shade under the walkway onto the pontoon, the back corners of the pontoons and along the edges of the pontoon, while also allowing the tide to suck the lure underneath the pontoon. Pontoons are like upside down reefs, with marine growth and crustaceans on their underside, so by fishing light with a 1/20oz or 1/16oz jighead we can slow the sink rate of the plastic and keep it around the structure and in the strike zone for longer. The TT Lures HWS (Hidden Weight System) jighead has been designed for this type of fishing, with the weight concealed inside the plastic for maximum realism and a slow, natural, horizontal sink, with 1/40oz, 1/28oz and 1/20oz weights extremely popular.
When fishing pontoons you can employ a dead sticking retrieve, allowing the plastic to fall naturally, while paying close attention to the line for signs of a bite. You can also then thoroughly fish the corners and edges by casting past them and utilising a slow roll, hop or shake, before dropping a couple of casts to the bottom under the pontoon, if the area is not too snaggy, and try a hopping retrieve to see if the fish are holding on the bottom or have followed your plastic to the bottom as it sank. Make note of any ropes in the water and around pontoons before making a cast as these are magnets for snagging your lures. Common jighead weights include 1/40oz, 1/28oz, 1/20oz and 1/16oz in TT Lures HWS jigheads and 1/20oz and 1/16oz in TT Lures HeadlockZ.
Rock Walls - Rock walls offer shelter, ambush points, current breaks and food for bream, so are always worth some attention. You can fish your soft plastic down the face of the rock wall, using a hopping or slow rolling retrieve, staying close or in contact with the rock wall, while avoiding snags where possible. As you work your way along the wall you will begin to work out whether the fish are all over the wall, holding at a particular depth or concentrated around the base of the wall, and you can then pay more attention to these particular areas.
You can also fish parallel along the rock wall, fanning your casts to fish high on the wall and working casts down the wall until you are fishing along the base of the rock wall where it meets the sea bed. Jighead weights can vary based on depth and current, from 1/16oz - 1/4oz.
Mangrove Edges - Bream will often be found around natural structure like mangroves, moving into the mangroves on a rising tide and back out of the mangroves as the tide falls. On big tides you will often find the bream have moved too far back into the mangroves to target them effectively, so it may be worth fishing these larger tides an hour or two before or after the high.
Like when fishing rock walls, you can sit a cast distance out from the mangroves and fish back into the mangroves or you can fish parallel along the mangrove edge. If the mangrove edge is clearly defined with few points, inlets and snags extending out from the mangroves, then it may be worth fishing a few metres out from the mangroves and casting along the mangroves, fanning casts from close to the mangroves, to a few metres out. When there are plenty of points, snag piles and inlets in the mangroves it is probably more effective to sit further out from the mangroves and cast back in tight to the mangroves, specifically working this standout structure. Mix up your retrieves until you find what gets the bite on the day. Common jighead weights can include 1/16oz, 1/12oz and 1/8oz.
Flats - On the higher stages of the tide bream will often move up onto the yabby and weed flats that they cannot access at low tide, looking for an easy meal that will find it difficult to escape in the shallow column of water. The trick when fishing the flats can often be to cover as much water as possible, utilising a slow rolling or shaking retrieve to search for active fish and the productive sections of the flat. If the flats in your area are smaller, you may be able to fish slower and more comprehensively.
Try and 'match the hatch' if possible. If there is baitfish on the flat, then slow rolling a Slim SwimZ may be effective while on a yabby bed a TRD CrawZ may get the bite. If the flat is mainly sand and mud then you may be able to fish the bottom, while weed beds may require a retrieve over the top of the weed to avoid fouling the lure. Common jighead weights include 1/16oz, 1/12oz and 1/8oz.
Deep Structure & Schooled Fish - At times bream will be schooled deep, whether it be due to bait, structure or seasonal spawning. When targeting these fish cast up current and allow your lure to sink to the schooled fish, where you can commence your retrieve through the fish, with a hopping or slow rolling retrieve both popular options. Current and depth will dictate your jighead selection, with 1/12oz - 1/4oz jigheads a popular option.
Jetties & Boat Ramps - Offering both structure and food, including discarded bait and fish frames, jetties and boat ramps can often be bream magnets. Remember that bream will often hold tight to structure, so anglers casting away from the jetty are often casting away from the fish. Fishing vertically around the pylons can often produce more fish, however you may need to gear up on the heavier side when it comes to line and leaders.
Look & Listen
When fishing any of these areas, keep your eyes and ears open as bait or prawns flicking on the surface may signal a bream feeding in the area, with many a cast made to flicking bait resulting in an instant and aggressive strike from a bream. Listen for bait being harassed or the 'kissing' sound of a bream slurping down bait or feeding on the underside of a pontoon and get a cast in there!
When it comes to targeting bream there is little doubt that natural colours dominate. Some anglers try and match the water colour, others try to match what the bream are eating, while for others it's all about whether the lure reacts to UV light or not.
When the water is clear and the day is bright, anglers often select a light natural colour, such as Opening Night, Bad Shad and Greasy Prawn, or a non-UV colour such as Bloodworm. When the water is stained or dirty they switch to a darker colour that offers a solid silhouette, such as Pumpkinseed, Gudgeon and Watermelon Red, or a bold UV reactive colour such as Motor Oil or Midnight Oil. If these colours aren't working, it's worth trying a bright colour, such as Bubble Gum or Space Guppy.
Fish have UV receptors in their eyes, where humans don't, so lures that react to UV light can stand out more to fish, catching the available light and 'popping' more in the water. This can be a good or bad thing and explains why two of the most popular colours in the ZMan range for bream are Motor Oil (UV) and Bloodworm (non-UV), with both winning plenty of bream tournaments based on the conditions.
When selecting jigheads to suit your bream plastics the choice is often about finesse and hook penetration on light line and light drag settings, along with a #4, #2, #1 or #1/0 hook size to match the smaller profile plastics. Let's have a look at some common jighead choices for bream and a couple of specialist jighead options.
TT Lures HeadlockZ Finesse - The most popular bream jighead option thanks to its quality, fine wire Gamakatsu black nickel chemically sharpened hooks. These jigheads are all about maximising hook penetration with light lines and light drag settings, turning the smallest taps into solid hook sets. HeadlockZ Finesse also feature TT Lures unique 'head lock' keeper, designed to make rigging ZMan 10X Tough plastics simple, while also locking them in place. Depending on the range of environments being fished, bream anglers will often kit themselves out with weights ranging from 1/20oz - 1/4oz.
TT Lures HeadlockZ HD - Heavier drag settings and heavy structure often require a heavy wire hook, to wrestle big bream out of the nasty stuff. HeadlockZ HD jigheads feature the 'head lock' keeper and are built on a Mustad heavy wire, black nickel chemically sharpened hook. They are a balance between chemically sharpened penetration and a heavier wire for putting more pressure on the fish. Again common weights range from 1/20oz - 1/4oz.
TT Lures NedlockZ - A mushroom style stand up jighead that combines with the naturally buoyant ZMan plastics to form the ultimate Ned Rig presentation, a finesse technique that has boomed in the US. The mushroom head and buoyant plastic means the lure is always working, fleeing on the retrieve and rapidly hinging back to a claws up defensive pose or tail up feeding pose when paused. Popular in weights from 1/15oz - 1/5oz.
TT Lures HWS (Hidden Weight System) - The ultimate finesse jighead for presenting your plastic naturally on a slow, horizontal sink, with the weight concealed inside the plastic for the ultimate realism. A go-to for anglers targeting bream that are holding higher in the water column around pontoons and jetties, while also having applications wherever that slow, natural fall may convert a tough bite into a taker. Popular weights range from 1/40oz - 1/12oz.
TT Lures ChinlockZ / SnakelockZ Finesse - Weedless rigging is becoming more popular as a means of fishing structure such as mangroves, laydown timber and weed beds, with minimal chance of snagging or fouling. The release of a fine wire 'finesse' version of the popular TT Lures ChinlockZ and SnakelockZ Series jigheads has made it viable for anglers to rig their smaller profile bream plastics weedless and fish them in structure that is not possible with other lure presentations.
The smaller #4 and #2 hook sizes are ideal for rigging small plastics, with the unweighted ChinlockZ suitable for surface and dead slow sink fishing, while the SnakelockZ features an interchangeable front head weight that allows you to sink the plastic deeper. Both series feature TT Lures unique 'chin lock' keeper that is ideal for securing the 10X Tough ZMan ElaZtech plastics onto the jighead.
Another effective lure for bream is the TT Lures Switchblade metal vibration blade in the 1/8oz size. This is a bite size snack for bream that vibrates aggressively when retrieved, making it easy for bream to locate, especially in deep or murky water. The design and weight of this lure makes it extremely versatile. It casts like a bullet, making it an excellent search bait, covering plenty of water and drawing fish to the lure. Allow it to sink to the desired depth and retrieve it with a straight slow roll or throw in a pause or twitch to mix things up until you find what the fish want. In shallow water simply raise the rod trip higher or speed up the retrieve a little to run the Switchblade over structure.
You can also fish the Switchblade vertically, targeting structure, bait or schooled bream, or effectively fishing vertical structure, such as rock walls, jetties and bridge pylons. One treble can be removed from the blade or both trebles can be replaced with singles when fishing snaggy areas to minimise snagging and fouling. When fishing vertically mix up the retrieve, without getting too excited with the way the blade shakes the rod tip. Many anglers fish blades too aggressively, with long sweeping lifts, when all that is required is short, sharp pulses that call the fish to the lure, without moving it out of the strike zone. Add scent to your blade and fish will often pick it up off the bottom when it is paused.
Adding scent to your lure can mask foreign scents like fuel and sunscreen, while also attracting fish and triggering strikes. Bream can eat and reject a lure in a split second, if it doesn't feel or taste right, so if we can get them to hang onto the lure a little longer it dramatically increases our chance of setting the hook. Scent is especially effective when targeting bream, even more so when you are fishing a slow, finesse retrieve.
Pro-Cure Super Gel is Australia's #1 scent, thanks to its easy dispenser bottle, super-stick gel formula and its mix of powerful amino acids, bite stimulants, UV enhancement and real ground bait. Favourite flavours for targeting bream include Shrimp, Mullet, Bloodworm and Inshore Saltwater.
Land Based Tips
Bream are also readily available to land based anglers and again, structure and bait are the key. Focus on areas where you can cast around rubble bottom or over weed beds, along with obvious structure such as mangrove edges, rock walls, pontoons, bridges and jetties. Where possible cast your lures along the structure where bream may be holding or feeding and gradually fan your casts further out from the structure, just in case there are other species feeding or the bream are holding on less obvious structure that is not as visible, such as weed beds or rubble patches.
When fishing vertical structure, such as rock walls, bridges and jetties, many anglers cast as far as they can away from where they are fishing... which could be the best fish holding structure. Don't forget to fish your soft plastic or Switchblade vertically beside the wall, bridge pylon or jetty pylon as bream will often hold and feed close to this structure. You may need to up your line and leader a little though as extracting big bream from tight structure can be white knuckle stuff.
Landing & Handling Fish
A landing net is a good idea for landing bream as they are armed with a good set of spikes, can be hard to get a hold of when landed and because of the way they feed they are often only just hooked. Once in the net it means less potential damage to the angler and also to the fish, especially if it is to be released.
You can then handle the bream with a wet rag or grip it firmly on each side of the head with a wet hand. There is a run of spikes across the back fin of the fish, along with a couple of sharp anal spines on the underside and the gill covers can also be sharp. Handle with care and with experience, and probably a few spikes, they become much easier to handle effectively.
Hopefully there's a few tips in there to get you started on your bream on lures journey or to get you hooked up to few more. Bream can be a fun, exciting and challenging target on light gear, as well as a species that can be targeting in a wide range of environments with an even more comprehensive array of techniques. Hook a big bream around structure on light gear and there's one thing for sure, it will test your gear and angling skills to their limit. Fish on!
ZMan 2" CrusteaZ
ZMan 2" GrubZ
ZMan 2.5" GrubZ
ZMan 2.5" Slim SwimZ
ZMan 2.5" TRD CrawZ
ZMan 3" TRD HogZ
TT Lures HeadlockZ Finesse jigheads
TT Lures HeadlockZ HD jigheads
TT Lures HWS (Hidden Weight System) jigheads
TT Lures NedlockZ jigheads
TT Lures SnakelockZ Finesse jigheads
Pro-Cure Shrimp Super Gel Scent // Bloodworm