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How to Catch Winter Bream

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By Dale Baxter

As the cold, short and wet days start encroaching with the onset of the depths of winter its seems easier to just stay inside and keep warm, but this is a time of year when you can chase big bream and if you understand where to target them you can have very consistent results.  Occasionally you find the sun will come out and the winds abate for a great day on the water. It is cold and the fish are not in abundance and as aggressive as they normally would be in the warmer months, however, the quality of fish you can find is of a higher standard than normal. 

You will come across larger schools of bream getting ready for the spawning period if you are sounding around. I actually tend to avoid these fish as they are less interested in eating than doing other things. I will normally chase resident fish that will hold around structure and find targeting less tide affected structure better as you need to slow down the retrieve to get the bites.  So I usually find myself heading to the pontoons and jetty pylons that line the edges of Melbourne’s rivers as the flow doesn’t tend to push as hard along these edges, it also creates shelter and with mussel growth so an abundance of food and here is where you can find quality fish and challenging fishing on lures.

A couple of key points for finding these fish are, to always keep a lookout for feeding fish still high up in the water column, most notably from the middle of the day to early afternoon, as this will be the warmest time of the day and they tend to move around a little more rather than sulking on the bottom.

If you cannot sight fish, then use your sounder to see if you can find them holding tight to the bottom under the structure. Sidescan on most modern sounders is a great tool to help you find more fish and use your time on the water more effectively.

Once you have found the fish now how to choose and present the lure is the next challenge. A couple of lure options for this time of year are stick minnows, micro vibes, soft plastics in both creature baits and grubs, Cranka Crabs and occasionally a hard body minnow are a great choice. Whatever lure you choose make sure you have confidence in it.

I will usually try to present the lure as close to the structure as possible and let it sink to the bottom.  If you can see the fish watch them follow it down, however if you aren’t successful with a take how you then retrieve the lure is the key to drawing a bite.

Slow the retrieve down as much as possible, don’t be afraid to let the lure sit for 30 seconds or longer, if you think you have left it long enough then count another 10 seconds. After the pause small movements are the key. If using stick minnows , plastics or micro vibes repeated short lift and drops are the way to go. If using crabs I tend to use a very slow wind to move the crab along the bottom, you can usually feel it walking this will more often than not entice a bite. Most times you will find after you have left it once you go to lift for the first time there is weight as the fish are pretty much sitting on it.

If you are having no luck with any of the above don’t be shy in trying a minnow style hardbody lure with a twitch and pause retrieve, especially if you can sight fish high in the water column. Or try the deeper or second drop off along the edges of the rivers, as this can be another option.

Now the fun part of battling them away from the structure and landing them.  Hopefully, some of the tips above help you land some bigger winter bream.

Tackle to use

  • Rod in your favoured length in the 1-3kg / 2-4kg range.
  • 2000 – 2500 LT Reel
  • 6lb - 8lb J - Braid. 
  • 4lb – 8lb J-Thread Flurocarbon leader

Lures

  • 38mm – 40mm stick minnows
  • Micro vibes
  • Soft plastic grubs/creature baits
  • Cranks Crabs – light
  • 40mm hardbody lures

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