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How To Catch Whiting On Surface Lures: A Complete Guide

By Robert Thornton

There’s nothing better than nailing a few whiting off the surface, and Daiwa Australia have absolutely everything you need to get stuck into this very simple and exciting technique!

From the rod butt to the topwater bait, and everything in between, Daiwa’s range of lightweight tackle is absolutely perfect for this finesse style of fishing.

Despite there being a dedicated community of anglers who like spending time in the shallows tossing lures at big whiting, newcomers to the sport can still find this technique a little daunting. Given that some of the keys to success can seem counterintuitive at first, it’s no surprise many try, fail, and don’t ever revisit. 

With the right knowledge and tackle there’s no reason you can’t get stuck into a few elbow-slapping whiting on the flats and improve your angling tenfold while you’re at it!

A Time and Place

While surface feeding whiting inhabit tidal flats all around Australia, there are a few things to keep in mind, as while potential fishing spots are everywhere, finding really active and therefore fishable areas takes some reading of the water.  

There are two main species of whiting that will respond to surface lures, the summer, or yellowfin whiting (Sillago ciliata) and the western yellowfin whiting (Sillago schomburgkii). Both are often referred to simply as sand whiting. Between these two, they cover most of the east and west coasts, but also exist in pockets in South Australia and northern Tasmania. These very similar species share many of the same traits and habits, and therefore the techniques to catch them are transferable virtually all around Australia!

Daiwa Australia’s Digital and Creative Manager Brett Habener has caught loads of trophy whiting on lures and puts a lot of thought into finding a suitable location.

“I like to have current on the flat,” Brett explains. “Whether it be on a main river flat, or a big bay with a sand flat, you want it to be running in or out, preferably in, and you want to see signs of fish, whether that’s schools of whiting swimming along, or feed marks and small divots in the sand from where they’ve been eating.”  

“Having good quality polaroids will help you to see them.”

Time of day, season, tide phase and other factors can also play a big part in success when taking on this challenge, and while different areas may have their own nuances and idiosyncrasies, there are general rules you can apply.  

Daiwa Australia’s Product Development Manager Tom Slater has fished with these techniques Australia-wide and has a few rules of his own.

“I generally prefer fishing the warmer months, especifically when prawns are running,” Tom says. “This varies each year and in each area, but if you hear prawns are about in the system or you can actually see them, it’s a good time to start throwing topwaters.”

Brett agrees, however says that he feels comfortable fishing in this way anytime from early spring to late autumn, citing other factors like tide and weather as more important.  

“I like to have a bit of wind across the flat,” Brett says. “I don’t mind if I have sunny or overcast conditions – sunny days allow you to see them better, but overcast conditions will help conceal you from the fish.” 

“The wind helps to break up the water a bit to stop them seeing you and keeps your lure presenting well, whereas on those mill pond calm days the fish can see you.”

Tom also likes to have a wind-broken flat, but prefers a day of full sun if he can get it.

“I think that even though it’s a little harder in full sun, it makes it more fun because you can see them reacting to your lure,” Tom explains, “but you do want a little ripple and not glassy calm water.”

Whiting can be caught on all stages of the tide, however you might not necessarily find them feeding at all stages of the tide in any given location. Brett has watched how whiting behave for many years and chooses to focus his efforts when the water is creeping up onto the flat.

“During the early stages of the incoming, you’ll often notice fish milling around just off the flat,” Brett explains. “Often you can cast to these fish and they won’t react, but as the water flows up onto the flats it can be like someone has hit the feed button and they start eating.”

Interestingly, Tom chooses to wait until the tide is on its way back out again.

“If you fish on the run-out, it’s almost like the fish are trying to make the most of the feeding opportunity before they’re forced off the flat,” Tom says. “I tend to find they are more willing to commit.

“But it also depends on the spot, sometimes on a really high tide they can move into areas where you can’t access them, such as mangroves and other structures.”

“When the tide turns these fish are forced out back onto the flats.”

Tackle Talk

Getting set up for a topwater whiting session isn’t nearly as complicated as it sounds. Light spinning outfits are by far the pick. There are many options in the Daiwa range to suit anglers who want to hone this technique as much as they can, or those who wish to use one setup for a bunch of species like bream, flathead, estuary perch and bass like Brett.

“When I’m out fishing in the estuary, I’ll fish for different species at different stages of the tide,” he says. “The 20 Team Daiwa Black Grub'N 722ULFS rod is great for whiting and other species, particularly if you’re fishing land-based.”

Tom prefers to choose from the Daiwa’s 20 Infeet range of light tackle rods

“Obviously it depends if I’m on the bank or in the boat, but I’ll always go toward a shorter rod in the boat when I work my rod tip down, and the 6’10” Infeet rod is a good length for that,” Tom explains. “I’ll aim for one of the longer Infeets in the 7-7’6” range if wading and working the rod tip up.

Reels should be kept small and light like everything else, with Tom and Brett opting toward 2000-3000 size reels, again depending on whether they are fishing from a boat or wading.

“I like to go for 2500 in a shallow spool, and I find the 21 Revelry MQ FC - which has a shallow spool option – is perfect,” Tom says. “Shallow spool means a lighter drag, and this gives you a more finely adjustable drag, which is good for keeping smaller hooks pinned.”

“A bigger spool will also cast further because of the larger diameter of loops coming off the spool.”

Both anglers also agree that light braided line and a short trace is the way to go, but Tom puts a bit of extra thought into spooling up.

“My favourite for this is definitely 6lb J-Braid Grand in the Island Blue colour, which blends in with the sky to fish looking up,” he explains. “Your leader doesn’t matter as much because you’re fishing topwater, and I often start with 1-1.5m of 6lb fluorocarbon, and will upgrade to 8lb if I’m fishing around oyster racks or in areas with lots of flathead or tailor.”

Brett adds that monofilament can be useful leader material as well, especially if the light is lower.

“I sometimes go up to 10lb mono because it floats and won’t draw the nose of the lure down, and it’s also great in places when you’ve got larger by-catch in the area,” Brett says. 


The Infeet Slippery Dog. The 65, 80, 85 and 97mm models are all readily snaffled by whiting. Brett generally opts for the 65, as he finds this is a good way to start scoping the flat and work out what they want on that day. Tom prefers the 80, as it is heavier and will cast further, which is key to success on the flats.

“I’ll almost always reach for the 80 unless it’s really glassy calm, in which case I’ll go for the 65,” Tom explains. “But I’ll always run small stinger or assist hooks off the back and a treble on the belly.”

Brett uses this unique hook configuration too. 

“Assist hooks really do help,” Brett says, “You’re moving the lure quickly, and the small assists will tend to get slurped in by the whiting, resulting in a better hook up.”

The great thing about the Slippery Dogs is that they all now come with a pair of BKK Striker Assist hooks on the rear eyelet, meaning you’ll be able to start fishing with it straight out of the packet! 

It’s worth remembering that while the Daiwa’s Pro Team uses some of the finest gear there is, it isn’t crucial to success. Daiwa have a range of tackle to suit different budgets, and as long as your rod and reel combo is around the 2-4kg and 2000-3000 size respectively, you’re all set.

Learning the Technique – Don’t Stop!

Anglers will have their own subtle variations of this unique technique, however there is one constant bit of advice you’ll get from anyone who does it regularly: don’t stop! Whiting have good eyes, plus the small surface-going invertebrates they eat generally flick around erratically, not stopping for too long, if at all, on a flat with hungry mouths everywhere. 

“If you stop working your lures they lose interest and stop chasing,” Brett says. “Often they'll go after a lure as soon as it lands and follow it all the way back to you, and in this instance you can slow down or speed up, but don’t stop.”

One of the really nice things about this form of angling is that it can be done from a vessel or land-based. Having a boat, SUP or kayak will allow you to fish on flats that don’t get fished as often, but there’s no reason why you can’t wade out onto an easily accessible flat and bag a few chunky whiting that way. Nothing much changes from boat to land-based fishing in this game, however small adjustments to your approach and your gear will allow you to get the most out of each, whether you’re fishing from the sand or floating above it. 

“If you’re wading you need to think about being more stealthy, which means using the wind to make long casts,” Tom explains. “In the boat it’s easy to move around into a good position, but on land it’s going to take you longer to move around.”

“Larger lures like the 97 Slippery Dog and slightly longer rods that will cast further are a good idea from the bank too.”

Elbow-slapping good

As you can see, this exciting pastime isn’t as complicated as you might think, and Daiwa’s got you well looked after if you’ve got a topwater whiting session on the brain. These slippery suckers of the flats are as good a sport as anything on light tackle in our sunburnt country, especially when they’re so available. Make sure you add this to your list next time the mercury rises and the prawns enter your local system! 

Daiwa is always looking to provide anglers across Australia with the best gear and advice possible. You can find your local Daiwa store here and if you want more fishing tricks and tips take a look at our blog page here! Also make sure to sign up for our mailing list so you're the first to know about new blogs, product updates, and special giveaways!

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