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Mastering the Art of Flathead Fishing: A Comprehensive Guide with Pro Tips

Mastering the Art of Flathead Fishing: A Comprehensive Guide with Pro Tips

Where to catch Flathead?

  • Flathead can be found right around Australia though the species of flathead may vary. The basic information below can be used for all flathead.

  • Flathead will lay on the bottom and watch the bait fish above them on the edge of rocky or weedy areas

  • Weedy bottom – the sandy patches between weed patches are like highways for bait fish and the Flathead will hang out there to take them down! Get your soft plastic right in there.

  • Rock walls leading down to sand.

  • Look around for flathead lies at low tide. This will let you know that the fish live in this area, and where to cast when the tide comes back in.

  • Look for drains, channels and deeper drop-offs near sand flats. Flathead will wait here for small fish and prawns as the sand flat dries up and they are forced off. The falling tide is a great time to fish for flathead near the flats.

  • Flathead legal sizes and bag limits vary from state to state. Always check online or at the local Tackle World in the area you are fishing. Refer to your state’s Department of Primary Industries website for the latest information.

Best fishing gear for catching flathead

  • Use high quality polarised sunglasses like Spotters to be able to see the sand highways in between weed patches, so that you can get your lure in the perfect spot.

  • Make sure your landing net, lip grip or gloves are ready to be used. When a fish is on the line is no time to be digging through your bag to find what you need.

  • If your selected lure or bait is not connecting with the bottom, make a change by adding more weight or switching to a sinking or deeper diving lure.

  • Always check your line and leader after landing any flathead. They have rasping teeth that can damage a leader reducing its strength by half or more. Check the line for wear, and replace it immediately if damaged.


How to catch flathead?


  • Get in the zone! Flat head live on the bottom so you need to make sure your jig-head, lure or bait is on the bottom

  • Cast up into the current on a weed patch or edge of a rock wall, bring the lure back down with the current so that you know your jig head is on the bottom – if you’re fighting the current on your retrieve you won’t be on the bottom

  • By casting up into the current you are less likely to spook fish. Most fish will be facing into the current expecting food to come that way to them. By coming the other way you may scare them into thinking they are being approached by a predator.

  • Hopping: If you’re fishing soft plastics you’ll want to use a simple motion lifting the rod tip up once or twice, and then letting the lure swim/fall all the way back down until your line is slack, then lift up again and repeat. Flathead will see the lure coming down which is when you’ll get the hit!

  • Working lures slowly with pauses gives fish more time to identify and chase your lure. Slow presentations are effective if the activity is low. If the activity is high; faster, sharper lure action is more efficient and allows you to cover ground quickly.

  • Flathead are masters of spitting out a hook with a large hard mouth. Once hooked, angle your rod tip down and never let their head break the surface – keep them underwater as much as you can, as they tend to shake their heads if you lift their head too high. Do not allow your line to become slack once you’ve hooked a fish, by maintaining pressure you will hold the hook in place.

  • Look for sand patches in weed beds, clumps of weed on an otherwise sandy bottom and structures like fallen timber or rock walls. Baitfish will gather here and so will flathead to find their next meal.


  • Live bait work really well on predatory flathead. Try lightly weighted live prawns, bass yabbies also known as pink nippers and small baitfish in the shallows. The lighter the weigh the better to allow for maximum movement.

  • Use a specialized bait bucket with an aerator to keep your live bait in tip top condition.


  • Use just enough weight to get your bait, fresh or live, down to the bottom in deeper water but not too much to anchor it in one place. Allowing your bait to move with the tide will cover more water and come in contact with more fish.

  • Soft plastic lures are a firm favourite with flathead anglers because they get fished where the flathead live – on the bottom. Adjust the weight of your jig-head to suit the depth of water you are fishing.

  • Prawn imitation plastics are always good – natural colours for the shallow flats and bright days and vivid pinks and greens for overcast days or turbid water.

  • Soft plastic baitfish imitations also work well, and some really big flathead have been caught on very large plastics in the estuary too – don’t be afraid of offering flathead a big meal, they enjoy that!

  • Bibbed minnows are eaten by flathead regularly, as long as they are being fished right down near the bottom, preferably making contact and disturbing the sand or mud. Fish with plenty of pauses and rod work to make the lure dance.

  • In deep water where bibbed lures won’t hit the bottom, try sinking lures like blades, rattling spots or metal vibes.

  • When the fishing is tough try adding some scent to your lures and baits. The added smell can attract and entice lazy fishing into biting.

  • Make sure you cover a lot of water, boat anglers can do this by trolling lures or drifting with the tide when bait fishing.

How to handle a flathead?

  • Be careful! There are some serious spines on the back of the gill rakers – the smaller the fish, the sharper the spines. Use lip grips and a landing net to care for the fish, and protect yourself.

  • Support from underneath with wet hands, and ensure any measuring device is wet down and cool

  • A thick glove is a great thing to have to grab and hold onto slippery fish. Dropping a fish intended for release onto the deck of your boat or dry sand can cause irreparable harm to the fish.

  • Lip grips are very useful for the land based angler and boat angler alike when dealing with sharp toothed flathead and a sharp hook somewhere about. Please never lift a fish solely by the jaw with fish grips, always use a second hand to support the belly if taking the fish out of water for a photo or measurement before release.

  • Landing Nets for flathead should have an opening with a minimum of 40cm and a depth of at least 40cm because you never know when a big flattie will take an interest in your offering. Boat and land based anglers fishing rock walls will appreciate a net with a longer handle, while those wading the sand flats or fishing from kayaks are better off with a short handled net.


Flathead gear

  • Light 2-5kg, 7ft+ spinning rods capable of casting lures up to 15g are perfect. Reel sizes of 2000-3000 are well balanced on an appropriate rod. Braided line is highly recommended. 6-10lb braid attached to a fluorocarbon leader of 10-16lb is the ideal range. Be mindful of a their raspy, abrasive mouth which is capable of wearing through light leaders if they swallow your lure.

  • Large flathead can be landed on light gear, but a medium/heavy 5-10kg outfit will make casting big lures and heavy weights much easier. Reels 4000 to 5000 range will suit the heavier actioned rod and double as a good mulloway or snapper outfit.


Flathead Fish Facts

  • Male and female dusky flathead have different growth rates, but both reach 25cm at around 2 to 3 years of age.

  • Interesting fact. Recent research has found that, unlike barramundi and yellowfin bream, dusky flathead do not change from males to females as they grow (Pollock 2015). The sex of an individual is determined at the juvenile stage and is maintained through the lifetime of the fish. The dominance of female fish in the larger size classes and older age groups are a result of the slowing growth rates of male fish in comparison to female fish, and female fish living longer. Link click here.

  • Female flathead can carry anywhere from 300,000 to 3.9M eggs, so it’s important to catch and release

  • Dusky Flathead can grow up to 1.3m!

  • For further information you can watch Flathead Seminars on Tackle World Gold Coast Youtube channel.

  • Flathead is a key target species on the Gold Coast, and the area hosts the ‘Flathead Classic’ competition so the local boys really know their fish.