Finding and catching barramundi can be a tricky puzzle as they can be initially hard to find and even harder to convince to bite your lure or bait. The one thing to take solace in is the fact that once you do crack their patterns and feeding behaviours, you will quickly find your catches increasing tenfold. It’s often the case of a single breakthrough catch which sees pieces of the puzzle come together to begin forming the big picture. Here are a few simple yet very effective ideas to help boost your chances of finding big old bucket mouth and get you closer to solving the barramundi puzzle.
To start with, narrow down your target area by picking a single system or river to concentrate on. Instead of hitting multiple creeks and rivers, focus your attention in one place so you can invest the maximum amount of on-water time in one area. The beauty of doing this is, once you learn this system back to front you can apply the same knowledge to other creeks and rivers nearby which will have similar features and structure. When choosing your target system, think carefully about its potential as some systems hold more barra than others. Take note of what you are seeing being caught on social media, in magazines, and even chats with your local tackle store owner in making this decision.
The next step is one I cannot stress enough, and that is the importance of having a decent sounder. Before you can catch a barramundi, you need to be able to find them, and there is no easier way then having a high-quality side and down imaging sounder. Sounder tech has come such a long way in the past two years and, unfortunately for barramundi, it really leaves them with nowhere to hide. Due to the barras size, shape and the way they sit in the water, they present up better than any other fish on both side and down imaging. There is no doubt that the best bit of barra gear I own is my Hummingbird mega sounder, and I wouldn’t even bother chasing a barra without it. Its ability to clearly define fish both on the flats and in snags has shaved years off trying to piece together the barra puzzle and its worth every cent. Whilst your sounder won’t help you to get the fish to bite (more on that later) it will help you locate where they are and give you the confidence to know you are in the game. Barra fishing is all about confidence and persistence and seeing those big barra shadows moving across your screen will bring you plenty of both. If you are going to invest in a quality sounder, my best advice is not to skimp and to get the best, most powerful unit you can afford. Buy right, and the unit will pay for itself in many years to come.
Finding barramundi and catching them are two different stories. This is where you need to be flexible with what you are throwing at them in trying to get the bite. One of the most effective ways to prospect for barramundi is vibing. Casting vibes into fish and then ripping it off the bottom creating a mountain of vibration is a very effective way to get bazza to bite. When you are doing this, keep an eye on your sounder as this will give you a strong indication if they are showing interest or not. This was something I noticed once taking delivery of my Hummingbird mega. Fishing into located barra with Transam vibes I started seeing more barra moving into the range of the sounder often coming right to the boat. Initially, I thought they were travelling fish but soon realised they were following the vibe back to the boat. Once I had their interest, it was just a matter of varying the retrieve to get them to bite. This is another important piece of the puzzle. Often it's not the lure but the way it is worked which gets the bite. Lure speed plays a massive part in getting barra to bite, and slowing things right down when they won’t bite is a good start. Choosing lures like vibes or prawn patterns which can be fished slowly and methodically are excellent choices.
If they still won’t bite (get used to this) then mix it up big time varying retrieves, speed and lures until you find what they want. Dropping down your line class is also a good idea, and I always keep a ten-pound outfit in the boat for these occasions. Using light line and leader on big fish does require some luck for a successful capture, but it's better to hook up and lose a fish than not hook up at all in my opinion.
When fishing for barramundi, you need to get used to the idea that some spots may hold fish, but this may not be where they feed. In these spots, barramundi are likely seeking refuge or on the move from one spot to the next. Targeting moving barra or refuge barra is very difficult as they are not looking to feed and are either resting or travelling. They still can be caught but require that inch perfect cast right in their face. Sometimes it's all about timing, and once that tide gets low enough or high enough, they will come on the bite. This is why it pays big to sit on fish for hours as once you get this piece of the puzzle you have yourself what barra anglers term a ‘honey hole’. This is the holy grail of barra fishing success, and many top barra anglers have spots like this which they would rather die than share. They literally allow you to pop the boat in for a couple of hours, have an epic barra session, and then be home before you know it. If you do find a honey hole, take care of it. Don’t over pressure it and especially don’t take every barra you catch from it. Sure, its fine to take a fish here and there for a feed but if you rape it, the barra will move on, and you will have to start from scratch all over again.
If you are looking for numbers, bigger schools of fish are the way to go. These fish are usually around that 50 to 70cm size and are great fun to catch. Creek mouths and flats are good places to start looking for these fish as they move with the tide. If you are having no trouble catching barra but just can’t upsize to that big metre fish, then you need to change it up a little. To start with, look for smaller schools of fish holding in deeper more isolated areas. This could include small rises or ledges. These bigger fish tend to be more solitary and reside in different areas to the school-sized fish. One of the best ways to find them can be on the troll which also allows you to use bigger lures which these larger fish prefer. When it comes to choosing which lures to troll for big barramundi, it’s hard to go past the Barra Classic range of lures. These lures are renowned big barramundi lures and are just dynamite in the spread. Check your water depths (usually between 2- and 4 metres is a good start) and choose the right diving Classic to suit. You want your lure to be just off the bottom or bumping over structure here, so keep your rod in hand to feel this register. For me, the black Tracker and the Number 42 Blue are the go-to patterns.
Another option is live baiting with big baits as this will also bring in the big girls and mullet around 20cm in length is a good place to start here.
If you haven’t cracked the barra puzzle yet for 2019, don’t be disheartened. The puzzle can be a tricky one but once you get a few pieces in place by adopting some of the ideas above it will quickly come together.