by Justin Wilmer •
Weed – we curse it, pick it off our baits and lures and avoid locations because of its presence. For fish though, weed beds offer shelter, increased warmth and also salinity levels in the salt, along with a home for the creatures that they feed on like prawns, crabs, baitfish and snails.
For kayak anglers weed beds are readily available and close to launch points. You’ll often have them to yourself as boat anglers avoid the weed and venture further afield into deeper waters. The question remains, how do we fish this weed effectively without it continually fouling our baits and lures?
One way to prospect the weed with baits is to use a float and suspend your bait just above the weed. Either allow the bait to drift across the weed flat or anchor and drift your float out to target specific structure such as sand, rubble patches, fallen timber or deeper sections of the flat. Berley can also bring the fish out of their hiding places in the weed.
The berley can be made up of small pieces of your chosen bait, such as fish flesh, mullet gut, chicken gut, prawns or yabbies, mixed with sand, bread, prawn shells and other scraps. Don’t overdo the berley – just use small, fairly regular portions to draw the fish into your strike zone. When targeting some species, including gar, a berley bag attached to a rope and floated out the back of the yak can be effective, especially when you float your bait back within close proximity to the berley bag.
I use a simple float rig made up of an A-Just-A Bubble Float, a unique float that uses a simple twist of the top cap to twist its internal surgical rubber tube onto the line, locking it in place with no need for stoppers or knots – there’s no damage to your line. Water can be added to the float to increase casting distance. Split shot can be added to the line below the float if required. This cocks the float to minimise the resistance when a fish attempts to pull the float under. Float fishing can be extremely visible, fun and effective when working the weed.
Other Rigging Options
Another rigging option to keep your baits up and out of the weed is a dropper rig, set up with a sinker at the end of your line, and a baited hook or two on dropper loops further up the line. This means your sinker will be down in amongst the weed, while your baits are positioned around the top of the weed, attracting the attention of hungry predators.
Fishing unweighted baits is another option. These unweighted baits slowly sink, often get eaten on the drop and tend to settle on top of the weed, rather than sinking deep amongst the weed. Load the hook up with bait to minimise hook point exposure and fouling.
A sure way to avoid the weed is to fish a surface lure, whether it’s an unweighted soft plastic, popper, walker, paddler, fizzer or other. It’s amazing the variety of species that will eat a surface presentation, especially in shallow water, including obvious targets such as bass, saratoga and barramundi in the fresh, along with bream and pelagic species in the salt.
When fishing soft plastics, heavier jigheads will plummet to the bottom quicker, punching through weed and burying themselves deep in the thick of it. Lighter jigheads allow the soft plastic to flutter down slower and more naturally, to settle on top of the weed rather than punching through to the bottom and fouling heavily.
On sandier bottoms I’ll often fish a 1/4oz jighead and fish it faster. It should bump into the bottom to send up puffs of sand and mud to attract the attention of predators. Switch to a weedy bottom and I’ll change to a 1/8oz jighead, fish slower and allow the plastic bump the weed or settle on it before imparting a few more hops or twitches.
Depending on the type of weed you fish, a sharp rip of the plastic can dislodge the weed from the lure, attract the attention of predators and imitate a prawn or baitfish that has flicked out of the weed in an attempt to escape. This technique can trigger some brutal strikes, as predators react to the sharply fleeing prey and pounce.
Roll With It
Another effective technique when fishing soft plastics in weedy areas is to roll them just above the weed, rather than hopping them off the bottom. Predatory species will often lay in the weed and burst out to attack bait that ventures too close. Simply count the plastic down until it hits the weed, and on the next cast, count it down and commence your retrieve before it contacts the weed. In water under a metre deep, you can commence your retrieve immediately.
If you aren’t catching, mix it up until you find what works. This may include varying retrieve speeds or pausing occasionally to allow the plastic to make contact with the weed. I prefer plastics with plenty of action, such as curl-tails or paddle-tails when rolling above the weed, as they send out plenty of vibration and alert predators to their approach.
When snot weed fills the system or when prospecting weedy areas, the biggest saviour for me has been weedless jigheads. Weedless jigheads allow you to rig your soft plastic so that the barb and hook point are pulled down against the top of the plastic to minimise fouling.
This is an extremely effective way to fish timber, weed and other structure. When the fish strikes the soft plastic, the hook point is revealed and hopefully the fish is hooked. You can increase the snagless properties of this rig – just pinch the back of the plastic a little and pull it up onto the hook point, slightly embedding the hook point in the plastic. The downside of this is that you can compromise the hook-up rate.
The kayak is the perfect vessel for fishing weed flats flooded by the tide. Combine the low profile and minimal shadow cast by the kayak with the stealth factor and we can cruise these flats in less than a metre of water in search of waiting predators. I’ve had many sessions as the water flows from the flats, fishing in shallow water, and caught bream from slight depressions in the flat and flathead from amongst the sand and rubble patches, while the boats are a hundred metres away fishing the channels.
Keep an ear and an eye out for bait movement, fish feeding and other signs of life, along with structure on the flats, such as drains, logs and depressions that can hold bait, create eddies and act as ambush points for predators.
Don’t curse the weed, embrace it and welcome the structure, bait and fishing opportunities that it offers us. Be prepared, have a rod rigged for bait or lure fishing the weed, and you could soon find that you have a few new favourite fishing spots, without the crowds.