Sneaky Tips For Tough Fish – Crankbait Bream

This is an article I wrote for Fishing World back in September 2011, covering the finer details of the techniques we use to crank bait for Bream in Sydney Harbour.  If you missed it, it’s reproduced here in its entirety…

Technical Breaming
Lure fishing for bream continues to evolve and change and anglers need to do the same to stay on top of the game. Champion tournament angler GREG SEETO offers up a few tips to help you fish busy urban waters for this notoriously fickle and challenging species.

I LOVE lure fishing for bream. Living in Sydney, you can be spoilt by the sheer amount of options available, but my favourite bream location would have to be my home waters of Sydney Harbour. Living only five minutes from my local boat ramp on the Parramatta River, this bream haven is filled with all kinds of man-made structure from boats to pontoons and jetties to rock walls.

On the flip side, Sydney Harbour is one of the most pressured urban waterways in Australia. No longer commercially fished, but hard fished nonetheless. It’s a fickle waterway that can be “going off” one day, when you seemingly have the place wired, yet overnight the whole ballgame can change.

Like many anglers, I’m time poor. Family and work commitments prevent me from spending as much time on the water as I’d like. So when I do get the opportunity to fish, I want to make the most of my time.

Light & fast 
All forms of lure fishing have their merits.  Ask any number of bream anglers what their favourite technique is and you’ll get a range of answers as varied as the number and type of lures available.

My preferred technique is to cast small hard-bodied lures on ultra light spin gear, and retrieve them adjacent to the various forms of artificial structure on offer. It’s often heart-in-mouth fishing, and it’s an active approach that plays on the percentages. Those percentages are that if you make enough accurate casts at enough bream-holding structure, you’ll eventually find bream.

Obviously, bream will hold in the full extent of the water column, however, I’ve spent a great deal of time over the past couple of seasons fishing only the top of the water column, be it in half a metre of water or 15m. The fish are up high on the structure in these instances for one reason – and that is to feed. Covering a lot of water quickly to actively seek out feeding fish is my approach to fishing heavily pressured urban waterways.

The Structure
You’ve doubtless heard it before. Structure provides shelter and shade and attracts bait. Throw in some current and you have the recipe for thumping big bream. Rock up to Sydney Harbour for the first time and you’ll find there’s almost limitless structure on offer. Where do you start?

Pontoons & Jetties: The foreshore of most urban waterways is littered with pontoons and jetties. Sydney Harbour is no different, and you can fish kilometres of pontoons in an outing without even putting a dent in what’s available.

I target pontoons on points and in current first. If they’re wind blown as well, all the better. I target pontoons on the later part of a rising tide, when the fish have moved up from their staging points to feed on the edges. They use the pontoons for shelter, and as an ambush point as the current pushes food past.

Casting my lures past the back of the pontoon on the up current side, I slowly roll them back along the edge. Often there’s no need to pause the lure – remember we’re targeting fish that are actively feeding and they’ll chase the lure down if they want to eat it.

When you’re fishing like this, you need only make a couple of accurate casts per pontoon before moving on. I’m a firm believer that if the cast is good, if the fish are there, and if they’re aggressive and hungry, they’ll hit the lure on the first cast anyway.

Don’t neglect the shoreline between pontoons. These retaining walls, many of which feature scattered oyster-covered rock, rails from slipways and various other items of debris, are fish-feeding havens.

Marinas: Think large glorified pontoons. Marinas provide a good deal of shelter for bream, and are often situated close to or in deep water. Unlike pontoons and jetties, I target marinas at the bottom part of the tide.

A slow rolling retrieve is usually enough to entice a bite, but a well calculated pause of the lure, adjacent to the mooring poles, often doesn’t go astray.

Moored Boats:  I prefer to fish boats in no more than four metres of water. Bream use this structure to hold at during the bottom half of the tide before moving back onto the edges to feed. Fishing this kind of structure, it’s important to be observant. Often you’ll hear bream “kissing” the surface as they feed, and it’s a sound that fills me with anticipation. I make long, accurate casts from the stern of the boat, past the mooring line and roll the lure back along the keel and the rudder. It’s often a good idea to target the water above the mooring block as well. Even in 4-5m of water, bream will hit a crankbait swum enticingly over the mooring.

As with fishing pontoons, I move quickly when fishing boats. Not more than a couple of accurate casts per hull before moving onto the next. Remember you’re trying to locate the fish, not waiting for them to arrive.

Tackle & Technique 
In recent years, the trend in fishing rods for breaming has been for fast or ultra-fast seven foot or longer rods, to fish braided mainlines with long fluorocarbon leaders. My preference for fishing crankbaits in heavily pressured waters is to use 3lb fluorocarbon lines straight through to the reel. Although fishing this light is high risk, fluorocarbon is nearly invisible in the water, which is an important quality when fishing parallel to structure in this manner. It also gives the whole system you are using a good degree of stretch which is important to minimise pulled hooks.

In these situations, when fishing with trebled lures and fluorocarbon main lines, a regular action rod is a better proposition than the fast rods more commonly used. I use a Daiwa Infeet Gekkabijin RF68-T matched to an Infeet Gekkabijin MX 2004 reel, or a Daiwa TMZ-I 662 ULFS Interline rod matched to a Caldia 2004. Both reels are spooled with 3lb Sunline Sniper FC straight through.

A regular action rod bends with a parabolic arc right through the blank, exerting more even pressure on the guides, line and ultimately the lure, resulting in less pulled hooks. The stretch in the fluorocarbon line also allows you to use a lighter drag pressure, because the rod is doing all of the work.

When retrieving the lure along the edges of the structure, the takes from fish are often very subtle, as they chase down the lure and “mouth” it on the retrieve. Sometimes they’ll hit the lure three or four times before hooking up. I simply keep winding and gently turn my body away from the fish, using the action of the rod to load into it.

Fishing with light fluorocarbon line requires a slight adjustment to your fishing technique as well. On a straight pull, you’d be hard pressed to get any bream to bust you off if you have the correct drag pressure set on the reel. But you do need to protect the line, which is not as abrasion resistant as heavier lines more commonly used for breaming.

Once hooked, bream that are high up in the water column will tend to swim straight back into the structure, not down, putting your line at risk from abrasion from the bottom of the structure you’re fishing. When this happens, I immediately drop the rod tip down into the water, allowing the line and the rod to exert an even pressure on the fish. Using the electric motor, I tow the fish out into open water where I can resume a more traditional fight. This “gently, gently” approach works a lot of the time, you just need to remember that the harder you go on the fish, the harder it is likely to pull back.

It’s also really important to regularly check your knots and line for nicks and abrasions. Given there’s only one knot to tie in the system, there’s really no excuse for laziness. At the end of each fishing session, I check the last couple of metres on the spool and trim it off if necessary.

You can check out our detailed lure reviews in the Lure Junkie series

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