Iluka – Shark Bay – 2/3/4 March 2021

On March 2nd I decided not to fish but I still woke early, caught sunrise and had a look at the swell at Iluka Bluff. Fortunately the mid-morning high tide and the 1.5m swell meant fishing would be too hard in this spot anyway.

Iluka Bluff sunrise

I retired to my cabin and ran through my tackle. It is amazing how you always find something missing and convince yourself that if only you had it, your fishing results would vastly improve. I am currently having an internal struggle over soft plastic jerkshads vs shad/paddletails. I have always been a fan of the minnow and jerkshad soft plastic lure profiles but, with the arrival of a really good shad tail in the GULP range – the Paddleshads -, I am having to think harder about what will work best.

GULP Paddleshad
GULP Jerkshad

I would just like to clarify that apart from a 3″ Minnow Grub sample packet, given to me by Adam ‘Mad Dog’ Royter at a Jones Tackle Brisbane soft plastics information evening in about 2007 – I have received no inducement / money/ free stuff to carry on using or writing about GULP soft plastics. I use them because they have consistently worked for me and I believe their fairly soft texture and the scent/ gunk that they are infused with gives them an edge over other soft plastics. But the other key element is confidence. If you are confident that a particular type of lure or soft plastic will catch fish (usually based on your own past experience) then you persist with it far longer than you would when you are trying out something new. This usually means you catch more fish with it.

But back to the Paddlshad vs Jerkshad comparison. I am currently persuaded that Jerkshads and Minnows work better on the tailor, bream and dart but Paddleshads are more attractive to the mulloway and flathead. But I also believe that a scented Jerkshad/ Minnow will outfish a unscented Paddleshad and vice versa.

Just for the record, if the private equity billionaires at Sycamore Partners in New York, who recently bought Pure Fishing and all its brands for USD 1.3 billion are reading: If you want to send me some complimentary GULPs, I will not send them back.

I woke up early on 3rd March and drove into Iluka, but I could hear the swell was up as soon as I started driving out to the Iluka wall – where I had planned to fish. The wind had built up from the south east overnight and brought a 1.6 to 1.8 m swell with it. It was also starting to rain and so I gave up before I had started.

In the afternoon the rain looked like it was easing off so I drove round to the flat rock platform, at the beginning of Shark Bay to fish through to the bottom of the tide. This is typically a good tailor fishing spot. However when things are tough you can only really be sure of a fish at dawn and dusk.

I started on the north east corner of the platform casting a brass coloured 60g Halco Twisty – no luck. I swapped to a GULP Jerkshad in Satay Chicken colour, on a 3/8th ounce jighead. This got a couple of bites from the resident Long Toms but nothing else. I decided a metal slug was my best chance of a decent fish so I swapped again. This time to a HALCO 60g Outcast metal slug in the blue colour. I hurled it out to the north east and wound it back in fairly quickly at constant speed. About 40 metres out I felt a hit, and a few revolutions later my rod tip bent over. It was a small tailor just over 40 cm long. I threw it back and kept casting.

It was only just after 4.00 pm and the brief period of sun had ended abruptly. The sky was looking ominous to the south west, so the weather was coming my way. I decided to up the stakes and put on a big SAKU 130mm Stickdog sinking stickbait lure. This was huge in comparison to the HALCO Outcast I had used previously but tailor rarely consider anything is too big, if they are eating. As this area is very snaggy I fish with single hooks on these more expensive lures – to avoiding losing them. It casts a good distance so I started peppering the zone with a semi circle of casts. About 25% through my arc a fish knocked the lure clean out of the water but I did not hook up. I cast back out and this time a tailor grabbed it not long after it hit the water. It put up a good fight and with a single hook it is important to keep the tension up on the line right to the point where the fish is at your feet. I landed it safely, snapped it and released it.

The rain was not faraway but I could not stop now – I had caught some fish. I had to see if I could catch some more. But as the light rain turned to heavy rain and then to a torrential downpour, I had to give up. The rain was cold and came down so hard that it completely flattened the sea. I grabbed everything and trudged back to the car. That was it for the day.

The next day the rain eased off and the swell started to drop off. I headed back to Shark Bay in the afternoon but could not find any fish, casting slugs on the north east edge of the rock platform. I went over to the north west side. The north easterly had picked up and the water was still quite cloudy from all the rain. I decided to put on a popper as this area is very snaggy. I chose a Halco Roosta popper in the gold colour. After a few casts a good sized tailor (around 50 cm) came up and grabbed it , inches from the base of the rocks. I had the drag pretty tight and a 40lb leader and as I pulled tight the fish just launched itself out of the water and landed beside me. They never cease to surprise me. I decided to bleed this one and keep it for supper.

After cleaning the fish I headed back to the car and witnessed a great sunset. I had my fingers crossed for falling seas over the next few days.

Iluka – Middle Bluff, Iluka Bluff & Fraser’s Reef – February 2017

In early February, I had a few days fishing at Iluka. The weather was not ideal with strong northerly winds, but generally clear skies. These made casting difficult but I fished all the rocky headlands of the Bundjalung National Park – Shark Bay, Woody Head, Middle Bluff, Frasers Reef & the Iluka Bluff.

I fished with soft plastics, metal slugs and some hard-bodied lures. For the soft plastics, I generally used 1/4 ounce and 1/6th ounce jigheads and the most successful slug was a brass colored 70g Halco Twisty. I swapped up and down between 12lb and 30lb fluorocarbon leaders. I caught Trevally, Bream, Pike, Dart and the highlight was a keeper size jewfish on a GULP Cajun Chicken Jerkshad soft plastic at Iluka Bluff. I did not catch a tailor all week but did see a few pulled from the water at Iluka Bluff.

Iluka – Woody Head – Bream & Tailor – 10 June 2015

Wednesday

Woody Head had been promising on the previous afternoon so I decided to go back the next morning. The wind was a light south-westerly but was forecast to turn into a very strong south-easterly in the early afternoon.

I arrived before first light at about 5.45 am and walked out on to the rock platform.  I walked carefully to the south with my headlamp on. Moving very slowly across the slimy rocks. By the time I reached the spot I know as Snapper Rock it was about 6.00 am and the horizon was glowing.

I thought the tailor might be around so I started with my heavy rod and a big red and white Halco Roosta popper. I threw about 25 casts in all directions with no luck. I was joined on the rocks by another keen fisherman and he effortlessly landed a good-sized bream of fresh bait, right next to me.

I decided to swap to the other extreme. I picked up my lighter rig and tied on a 1/6th ounce, size 1 hook jighead. I was using 20lb fluorocarbon leader and I chose a GULP 3” Minnow soft plastic in the Smelt colour. This was slammed as it sank and line started peeling. I kept in touch with the fish but the light rod did not give me the power to force the pace and the swell kept crashing in against the rocks. It was pulling hard but in the low light I could not be sure what it was. With the help of a wave I got it up one ledge but then it buried itself in a small valley in the rocks and left me snagged as it swam away. It had a yellowish dorsal fin so I think it may have been a small kingfish or amberjack.

So back to the heavy rig, 35lb leader, a 1/6th ounce 1/0 hook jighead and a GULP 4” Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour. It took a couple of casts but then I was on again. The drag was set quite tight and the fish pulled a fair amount of line with ease. I tried to apply some pressure and then the line went slack. I pulled it in and saw that the hook on the jighead had straightened. I re-rigged again with a heavier hook jighead but it seemed the fish had moved on.

I moved down to the area known as ‘Mossies’ and fished various plastics for about an hour with no luck. I then moved back to ‘the Barnacles’ towards the north edge of the rock platform. It was now 8.30 am, just about on low tide and the wind was building from the south-east. I was fishing with the GULP 4” Minnow in the Lime Tiger colour, but I had put on a heavier ¼ ounce jighead to cope with the rising swell. I was using the light rod with 20lb leader. I cast the plastic out and counted to five, a ¼ ounce jighead would sink very fast so I had to try to keep it moving with only the briefest of pauses. After about two pauses I felt a solid knock then another, and another and as I pulled the rod tip up, it bent over and started shaking. It was a 40cm tailor, well hooked and so I soon had it at my feet. I bled it and put it aside for supper.

I cast out again and the soft plastic was thumped, as it landed in the water. This was a bigger fish but it buried itself in the rocks and left me snagged. I re-rigged and after a few cast this happened again.  I decided to move back to a spot where I had a better chance of pulling the fish clear of the rocks.

I swapped to the GULP Mantis Shrimp in the Lime Tiger colour, a few casts with this produced a solid 36cm bream, at the base of the rocks. I continued for another hour but only had a few bites and soon the south-easterly wind made fishing impossible for the rest of the day.