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Southern Spars

Cold water and jelly prawns

by Lee Brake on 4 Aug 2013
Sam's first barra of the day at 61cm. It sure was a surprise on the 2" Prong! Lee Brake
This week Lee Brake reports on a hot little cold water session that saw ultra small lures as the weapon of choice for some solid cold water barra.


Yesterday I got a lesson in perseverance, adaptability and observation. It all started with a plan and the plan was simple: Sam McCowan and I would take my 3.9m Hornet and sneak into a little creek to the north of Mackay in search of grunter and fingermark on light gear.

I hadn't been there in quite some time, but remembered that the mouth was very shallow, so decided to arrive a few hours before low water during the run-out tide. I wanted to fish the run-in with the light gear and soft plastics, but had some ideas of how to kill the time while waiting for the change. The time-killing plan was to fish the deep bank at the creek mouth with snag-resistant hardbodies for maybe a jack or barra, followed by a series of drains on the shallow side with soft plastics for flathead.


Well, the water temperature was all of 19 degrees, so it was no surprise that the snaggy bank didn't produce a single swirl, but with cool water like that I was expecting more than the 20cm flathead that was the lone fish off the front drains. With those two options already proved to be flops, it was decided to go exploring. We pushed up the creek until the electric prop started finding patches of rock and decided that now was as good a time as any to transition into the ultra-light soft plastics gear. We were both using 1000 Shimano Stradics on 1-3kg and 2-4kg 7' graphite flick sticks. Five pound braid and 12lb leader completed the combos. What followed was a flurry of bream bites with many hits but few hook-ups. It appeared that the bream where missing the hooks in our 3' jerkshad softies. Sam decided to downsize and was able to land a nice black bream on a 2' Atomic Prong. The Prong is a small prawn imitation that has proven its worth time and time again in estuary environments; however, most northern anglers prefer the 3' and 4' sizes. I tied on a 3' Prong and we slowly worked our way back out towards where I wanted to be for the run-in tide. It was the deepest part of the creek with a rubble bar that drops into about four metres of water. Unfortunately, it was still slack tide and for the next hour we cast our plastics for no result.

I'll admit. I was starting to feel as if I'd made a grave error in my judgement...


As they say, my 'get up and go' was rapidly getting up and leaving! Morale was low, but we opted to persevere at least until we were sure the tide was pushing in at some pace. And finally, we detected some movement, and with it came a marked increase in bait presence. Schools of jelly prawns could be seen spraying around the nearby banks and the sounder was suddenly returning some pretty serious shows of life. We started to get a few hits and while mine were a lot more tentative on the 3' Prong, Sam was shortly hooked-up to the first of a trio of 30cm-odd grunter. These little fish were too small to be legal, but on ultra-light gear they gave him a real thrill. However, not as much of a thrill as what followed...

I was in two minds about changing to the 2' and was still throwing the idea around in my cranium when sudden he gave a yell of, 'Yep, on again!'

'That looks like a better fish; maybe a pelagic,' I replied as the fish scooted through the water parallel to the tinnie. We were both thinking trevally when suddenly a barra's head and shoulder broke the water some 20m from the boat, leaving us to collect our jaws from the gunwale. The fish fought like a winter barra and certainly didn't have the energy for any big jumps, but to Sam's credit, he battled it like a pro. Once netted, it measured 61cm and hands were shaken and backs patted.

Next up was a decent trevally and a fingermark – also to Sam! Yes, you guessed it, I made the downsize to the 2', but it was too little too late, because just as I was getting the 2' into the water, I was reaching for the camera once more, and there was no doubt about what this fish was!

Sam had been 'tea bagging' – that is he'd seen a show on the sounder, dropped his little plastic over, let it hit bottom and lifted it up and down like a tea bag in a cup – when suddenly the little rod was just about ripped from his hands and a larger barra boiled on the surface 10m from the boat, little Prong in its gob!

This was a much harder running fish and really kept Sam on his toes. After some nervous minutes though, he had it boat-side, only to feel the hook move in the fish's mouth through the braid. 'That doesn't feel good,' he muttered, 'We might not have much longer contacted...'


Luckily, on the second pass, the barra slid into the net and the little 1/4 ounce jighead, which was almost straightened, fell out in the net. Talk about good timing!

Of course, after that the bite shut down, but I didn't mind. I had some awesome photos and a top story to share with you fine folks. And, as mentioned, I also learnt some valuable lessons! Next time, I'm putting the 2' on first!

Fish hard and stay safe.

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