by Rupe •
If reader feedback is anything to go by, you all seemed to enjoy my little bass lolly basics ramblings a few months back, so much that the big wigs here at Fishing Monthly have asked me to pen something similar for everybody’s favourite time of the year – season opening for the mighty and powerful Murray cod.
The undisputed heavyweight champion of the freshwater rivers that stretch across the majority of the Australian east coast and down into South Australia where the Murray River eventually meets the sea, the green beasts known for thousands of years as ‘goodoo’ remain close to, if not on top of the bucket lists of anglers all around the world.
Tales of Jurassic Park-sized fish that would attack Murray River paddle boats and photos of your mate’s great uncle’s sister-in-law’s second cousin who used to live on the Vic/NSW border in eighteen-whenever holding a 400lb fish (that is most likely a goliath groper from up north) refuse to go away and will probably never stop. It’s safe to assume they’re not real, but it sure as hell keeps the imagination going and the trigger finger shaky on your casting arm as you wind that expensive swimbait that cost more than your dad’s first car past the best looking tree in the river!
The good news is that despite being almost wiped from existence thanks to overfishing and environmental destruction during the late 1800s and early 1900s, Murray cod are really thriving as a species and it’s getting to the point where they’re nearly as accessible and easy to catch as they would have been all those years ago when numbers were strong and most fish would have never seen a lure.
Lure fishing for cod can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people and none of them are wrong. There are so many weird contraptions out there that look horrible to some of us but have accounted for massive numbers of fish over the years. Have you ever seen an aeroplane spinner? What the hell is that? What fish in their right mind would find something so clunky and metallic appetising? Cod would. That’s who.
A territorial species that is more of an opportunistic eater than a hunter gatherer who goes swimming for miles looking for tucker, the goodoo will eat almost anything that has even the slightest appeal if it’s close enough to its big bucket mouth. Having witnessed them eating small ducks, cormorants, lizards, frogs and even snakes, I know there is no bounds to their menu.
With that in mind, let’s get to the topic of looking at some essential lures you should have with you the next time you go in search of green monsters. I’ll speak a little about each category and then give you a ‘Rupe’s six-pack’ of my go-to lures for those categories. Who doesn’t love lures and who doesn’t love six-packs? Whether it’s a sixer of Great Northern Original or a mix of lures, you’re onto a winner!
Trolling or Casting?
As with most things fishing-related Down Under, we took our lead from the Americans. When lure fishing came into vogue, choices were limited. Looking back, designs like the Flatfish or Kwikfish seem uninspiring but thankfully times have changed and, as always, Australian ingenuity kicked in and we began to produce some fantastic lures in every category.
Trolling dominated the scene early, so lots of big-bibbed deep divers were thrust into the marketplace. Lures designed with cast and retrieve methods in mind soon followed and the fish quickly let everyone know what was strong enough and what crumbled under the immense pressure generated by a hulking cod.
Highlighted by the sheer volumes of lures coming out of a couple of hotspots in the Wagga/Riverina and New England regions of NSW, we were able to produce some absolute cracker lures which still catch fish today. The classics never die.
To troll or to cast has been the subject of rigorous conversations around campfires and now in 2017, on Facebook forums, with everyone having an opinion on what’s right, and what’s not. As long as people are catching fish, I’m happy.
A lot of cod fishos will tell you they’re either a hardbody guy or a spinnerbait guy. To me, it’s nice to have favourites but you’re going to miss out on fish if you’re not equipped with more options than that. Hardbody diving lures provide a lot of things to the hopeful angler on the end of the rod that’s throwing them.
When purchasing a new lure or deciding what to tie on the first thing I look at is the bib. Long bibs at a shallow angle will usually dive deeper when given enough line. Conversely, shorter bibs at a steeper angle will normally be shallow divers – great for rocky, snaggy holes in rivers.
A lot can also be learned about the action of the lure from the width of the bib. A wide bib will give the tail of a lure a nice, slow, wide wobble (think swimming platypus). The narrow bibs give the lure a much higher cycle rate (think nervous baitfish)
They’re available in an endless line of local and imported options these days in timber and plastic form and in every colour you could think of, and some you’d never think of yourself. Remember, these old lure whittlers have inhaled a lot of thinners over the years.
My hardbody divers six-pack
- AC Lures ‘Invader’
- Kuttafurra ‘Mudhoney’
- Cutting Edge Lures ‘Tomahawk’
- Predatek ‘Boomerang’
- Basko Lures ‘Cudgee’
- Storm ‘Arashi Rattling Deep’
Spinnerbaits are perhaps the most versatile thing you’re likely to find on the walls of your local tackle emporium. Spinnerbaits can be fished in any depth, at any speed and for just about any species. You only have to look at my good friend Stephen Worley’s recent article (Click here) on catching massive snapper with them to see just how ingenious they are as a fish-catching invention.
The first guys to fish spinnerbaits here were using imported lures that proved to be incredibly successful at getting the bite, but weren’t up to the task of staying together during the intense and sometimes long battles they were having with big cod. Guys like Glen Casey from now world-renowned Bassman Spinnerbaits and a select group of other manufacturers went about devising a solution. Stronger hooks, stronger wires and better blades were the result and boy, have they brought some fish over the side since those early days.
Today, you’ll find hundreds of colours and choices of willow blades, Colorado blades and combination blade setups. The most important thing to think about here is the amount of weight on the head of the spinnerbait. Getting the weight right for your situation is paramount. For smaller water, go for less weight. You’re probably casting it at snags and you don’t want to be throwing 6oz bombs all day. Your chiropractor will love you but your wallet won’t. If you’re planning on trolling them, grab a heavy rod and spinnerbait in the 2-6oz range and hang on tight.
My spinnerbait six-pack
- Bassman ‘Codman 4×4 5/8oz’
- DUO ‘Realis Spinnerbait 1.5oz’
- TT Lures ‘FroggerZ Snr Spinnerbait 3/4oz’
- OSP ‘High Pitcher 1/2oz’
- Leavey Lures ‘T-Rex 1.25oz’
- Cod-X ‘Twin Spin’
Much like their bladed cod bait cousins, the chatterbait is an extremely versatile type of lure to have in your tackle box. However, to me they really come into their own when you need to fish deep water slowly and methodically in order to get that tough bite to happen. Fish ‘em like Nan cooks a roast – low and slow while you throw back a couple of coldies.
My chatterbait six-pack
- Cod King ‘Natural bait series chatterbait 2.5oz’
- Bassman ‘Mumbler Jaw Knocker’
- Nories ‘Hulachat’
- Imakatsu ‘Alive Chatter Monstro 120’
- Cod-X Lures ‘Chatterbait 5/8oz’
- Zman ‘ChatterbaitZ’
These type of lures didn’t get a lot of love until people started having a lot of success with them as the trailer attached to the back of their spinnerbait or chatterbait. It also helped a lot when manufacturers began selling upsized versions of old favourites. Lures up to 12” long are now commonplace and goodoo love to gobble ‘em up. Excelling in heavily weeded areas, soft plastics can offer you virtually snag free retrieve when rigged correctly. Paddle-tail presentations dominate the market, and as such, catch the most fish.
My soft plastic six-pack
- ZMan ‘SwimmerZ 6” model’
- Daiwa ‘Duckfin Liveshad 8” model’
- Westin ‘Shadteez 9” model’
- Zerek ‘Flat Shad 9” model’
- Live Target ‘Trout 7.5 model”
- Dynamic ‘FX Fury 8” model’
Vibes and Lipless Crankbaits
I’ve seen a lot more accidental captures of cod on vibes and lipless crankbaits than I have of fish being actually targeted with them. Anglers fishing 50-60mm lures for yellowbelly or redfin with light gear are all of a sudden in the fight of their lives.
There are more ‘cod-sized’ options on the market these days and surprise, surprise – they love to eat them too. It’s not the first type of lure I’d personally tie on but still a very worthwhile addition to any tackle box. These are best worked around weedbeds, heavily timbered areas and around broken rock by hopping and dropping. Make sure whatever model you use has quality through wire and terminal tackle.
My vibes and lipless six-pack
- Samaki ‘Vibelicious 125mm Thumpertail’
- Harima ‘Mazzy Vib Forte 100mm’
- Storm ‘Arashi Vibe 70mm’
- DUO ‘Tide Vib Slim 140mm’
- Jackall ‘Doozer 85mm’
- Sebile ‘Flatt Shad 77mm’
This category was my first exposure to surface fishing for cod and at that point in my life easily the most exciting thing I’d ever done after dark. How the times have changed. No doubt built to mimic big insect life, distressed baby birds and the like, surface crawlers fall right into the lap of the opportunistic cod. If they can go through the drive-thru and grab a family meal for one, they will.
Bibs will either be bent at an appropriate angle to create a walking action that throws a lot of water or built with two cup faces which produce more of a ‘clip-clop’ sound. I prefer the metal bibbed offerings both in terms of strength and sound, but that’s just my preference.
On some models the lure body will be jointed, while others are one piece. This is nowhere near as important as the bib itself. If you need an idea of the perfection when it comes to a surface lure bib, just pick up an Arbogast Jitterbug next time you’re in your local fishing emporium. It’s been around since 1938 and hasn’t been beaten in my eyes.
My surface crawlers six-pack
- Arbogast ‘Jitterbug JB700’
- Water Stalker ‘Spook Walker 140mm’
- Mudeye Lures ‘Triple Paddler’
- Croaker Lures ‘Big Betty’
- Leavey Lures ‘Moth’
- Kingfisher ‘Mantis Articulated’
Swimbaits and Glidebaits
You’ve seen the pictures. Cod love a good swimbait. The trouble is not all swimbaits are good! Inside any decent tackle store these days you’ll find an assortment of swimbaits that range in size, colour and price. My recommendation would be to steer well clear of the $5 job with more dust on it than grandpa’s golf clubs and hooks so thin they could actually be figments of your imagination. Look to buy something built to last. There’s no point spending all your time and energy looking for a fish and tempting them to eat it only to have the lure fall apart mid-fight. Events like this can ruin you.
Whether you go for timber or plastic offerings, look for something with sturdy construction, thick wires, tough split-rings and trebles that won’t let you down.
Also consider how you want to fish it. Floating or sinking and the rate of sink are all things you should be mindful of. ‘Horses for courses,’ as they say; just to be safe you better buy one of each.
My swimbait/glidebait six-pack
- DEPS ‘Silent Swimmer 250mm’
- Lucky Craft ‘Real Bluegill 165mm’
- Jackall ‘Gantia 180mm’
- Swimbaits Australia ‘Muzza 150mm’
- Evergreen ‘ES Flat 145mm’
- Chilton Tackle Co. ‘Gordon 210mm’
Wakes, Snakes and Creature Baits
To me, this is hands-down the coolest way to whack a green fish. When I think of wakebaits my imagination takes me to a glassed-out lake with my tinnie positioned far enough off the bank that I can cast my lure to right where the water meets the grass as the sun sets in the background. It is at first and last light each day when they are at their most effective.
This is when cod will push up into the shallows and look for a tasty feed of whatever swims past and, being a lazy creature, the bigger the meal, the better. Once again, a long cast coupled with a low and slow retrieve is what will serve you best with a wake, snake or creature bait. Think about how the real version swims. Lizards, ducks, mice and rats – they’re all on the menu.
Each lure will have its own subtleties that may demand more or less work from you, so have a play between key bite windows and get it right so you’re primed and ready to slay when it’s go time. When considering lure selection here, there is no such thing as too big. If you can cast it, you should and even people in our industry who make plastic lures will tell you nothing compares to timber lures in this category.
My wake/snake six-pack
- Evergreen ‘Timber-flash Noisy Dachs’
- Mudeye ‘Rattle Snake’
- Far-Q ‘Baby Platypus’
- JJ’s Plague ‘Splinta 220’
- Koolabung ‘Wake Snake’
- Water Stalker ‘Sneak Rat’
So that’s it. You should by now have a shopping list as long as the rods you’re meant to throw the lure with and hopefully some handy information on when and where to use your new toys. While we’re speaking of rods, don’t be afraid to ask Santa for a big new baitcast combo either. There are some fantastic rod options on the market from all your favourite brands – Wilson, Daiwa, Shimano, Samaki, Dobyns, EDGE and many more depending on your needs and budget. Pair it with a quality reel with a nice deep spool and plenty of drag and you’re all set.
Catching Murray cod of any size is an amazing experience and something we should all treasure. Best of luck to you all for the upcoming season.
To keep up with Rupe’s fishing adventures or misadventures, follow along on Facebook and Instagram.