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Alex's Column 26 April 2024

As predicted by just about everyone who can chuck a lure, one of our best Runoff seasons ever is now well under way.

There are some great barra being caught and plenty of them.

Many of the bigger fish have been thanks to forward-facing sonar.

However, there are still plenty of anglers out there who are not equipped with Active Target or similar.

A mate of mine is one of them.

He’s an accomplished angler who hits barra water almost weekly, but it’s been over 20 years since he caught a big one – a barra over a metre long.

In my view, the reason for his lack of metery success is that he doesn’t fish with proven hard-body lures at least 15cm long.

I’ve advocated many times and in many forums over the years that, if you want to maximise your chances of catching a big barra, you need to fish with bibbed, hard-body lures, and preferably troll them.

One explanation for this is that you can be very precise with the depth you wish to fish when using bibbed, hard-body, minnow-style lures.

The only way you can be really be sure what depth you’re fishing with soft plastic lures or vibes is by counting them down or bouncing them along the bottom.

As I mentioned above, live imaging is changing this to some extent, and no doubt will continue.

Hard-body, bibbed lures come in packets which actually state the depth that they swim at.

A great example of this is the Classic range of lures. Not only is the swimming depth information displayed on the packaging, but it is also inscribed on the clear plastic bib. That makes it even easier to select your Classic lure from a plastic lure box.

Experienced barra fishermen also understand that bibbed, diving lures will swim at different depths depending on how they are being fished.

For example, a cast-and-retrieved hard-body lure will generally not swim as deeply as the same lure trolled behind a boat, primarily because a trolled lure would normally be positioned further away from the angler than can be achieved on a normal cast.

Plus a cast lure will swim down as it is retrieved and then start swimming towards the surface as it gets closer to the angler’s rod.

Mind you, there are other vagaries, such as working a bibbed lure once it has reached its potential depth.

If the lure has positive buoyancy, working the lure with a stop-start, rod-tip jigging action will make it dart forward and down, then float upwards as the slack is retrieved.

So many big barra get caught thanks to that erratic-action retrieve, and it works a treat with active imaging.

If the lure has neutral buoyancy – ie it is a suspending lure – working it with a stop-start action will kick it forward but it won’t rise, and thus the lure will stay in the firing line of a big barra which has had its interest aroused. A soft-plastic or vibe can’t be worked like that at a predetermined depth.

Getting back to trolling, once again, a trolled, diving, hard-body lure will dive deeper the further back it is positioned.

However, the current is a factor too.

A lure trolled against the current in a tidal river, for example, will not dive as deep as it will when trolled with the current.

This is due to water pressure on the line, leader and lure: with the current, there is less pressure than against the current.

Whether casting or trolling, with a bibbed, hard-body lure, you will have a fairly good idea of what depth it is swimming at because you have the manufacturer’s nominated swimming depth.

The iconic Classic 120, for example, is available in the following indicative depth parameters in feet: 3+, 6+, 10+ and 15+; in the 10+ swimming depth, it is also available as a suspending lure.

The ability to target bigger barra that are suspending at a given depth is a major factor in the effectiveness of the deadly, fast-trolling technique in tidal rivers.

If barra display on your fish finder at a given depth, you can select the right hard-body lure to swim at that depth. You just can’t do that with a soft plastic. It’s one reason why the larger Bomber lures have accounted for so many big barra in recent years.

Those big silver girls that travel up or down a river with the tide often swim around the 1.5-2.5m mark… and that’s the depth range of a big Bomber trolled well back at pace.

Layla Hadden measures a plump 73cm barra caught on her recent Daly River adventure.

Spotted on Lowrance Active Target Live at a Daly River creek mouth, and cast to with a suspending Classic 120 10+, AJ’s terrific barra couldn’t resist an erratic, stop-start jigging action.


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