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Nick Whyte – How to Fish for Flatheads

Nick Whyte – How to Fish for Flatheads

Flathead are a species that are found all the way around the Eastern Australian coast. They are a great sports fish target and great fun for all the family to catch. Flathead are readily available as they inhibit the shallower estuary systems in water depths from 1ft to 20m. They are an ambush predator and like to sink themselves into the soft top layers of the ocean floor waiting for their prey.

My two brothers and I have had great results chasing the lizards in the iconic Gold Coast Flathead Classic finishing inside the top 5 the last 6 years and taking back to back Champion team the last 2. I use my sounders in every aspect of my fishing and without my Lowrance HDS units my results would not be as consistent as they have been. Flathead are not really a target that most people would associate using their sounders to locate. I would like to share a few ways I use my Lowrance units to keep the flat fish coming over the side.

Flathead are an ambush predator and most people believe this is the only way they feed. Hiding behind structure and pick off one bait fish at a time. To a degree this is true. But when Flathead find large bait schools they can actually act more like pelagic species. They will gather in large numbers and gorge the bait. They can feed like this in shallow 2-3ft of water or even midwater in 50ft.

I have actually seen fish in 40ft of water feeding on bait on the surface. Knowing this, finding large schools of bait is a massive advantage. I use my StructureScan side imaging to locate large schools of bait out to 100 feet out each side of the boat. Bait balls will look like a brighter contrasting haze. You will sometimes see the larger targets mixed in.

In deeper water StructureScan down imaging can be used to see individual fish crashing through the bait. I will use my 2d or traditional sonar to stay on top of bait balls and while vertically jigging through i will watch my lure on the screen and lift or drop to the same depth as the bait and flathead eating them.

Structure is a massive key also. When the Flatty’s are not gorging on bait they can be found lying behind, in front of, beside or on top of structure. These structures being ledges, dropoffs, holes, rock walls, weed beds, natural rock bars and sunken trees. These structures offer protection for a flatty’s food source. They present area’s for an easy feed and protection from their own predators.

StructureScan side imaging opens your eyes to the underwater structures. With picture like quality from the Gen3 units you are able to locate these target structures quickly and easily. You can then direct your casts or drifts to or along these areas.

I like to use my waypoints a lot. By marking the bottom of rock walls, isolated rock, submerged trees or drop offs it really helps to set up drift lines to keep your boat in the area where the fish are. Use different icons for different targets and this way you know what is what and where it is in front of you by watching your chart screen.

Using your trails is also something that offers a great advantage. Driving along drop offs on the low tide while you can see the structure then gives you a perfect line to come back and work that area on the high. This is also a great way to mark out areas of weed you wish to target at later dates.

Insight Genesis is a massive tool for me.Being able to have 1ft contour lines of an area makes the area’s you want to target really stand out. At different parts of the tide Flathead will sit at different parts of ledges. I have my maps set with customised colours at 5ft intervals. For example if I’m fishing a ledge that drops from 5ft to 20ft I will have 0-5ft blue, 5-10ft green, 10-15 yellow and 15-20 in red. If i find i’m catching fish on that ledge in the 5-10ft range i can then target the green section on my chart all the way along that ledge.

There’s a few ways my Lowrance units help me on the water. Get out there and have a go using these features on your Lowrance to put more Flathead on the deck.