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How To Catch Tailor Off The Beach 

How To Catch Tailor Off The Beach 

Aussies love beach fishing, and among the many iconic surf species, tailor would have to be one of the most sought-after. Surf beaches exist across the bottom half of the country, and tailor can be caught from most of them.   

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Anglers have been catching tailor off the beach for generations, with much of the knowledge passed down from old to young, and many of the old-school techniques are still practised today. With developments in fishing tackle and a better understanding of fish habits, though, tailor diehards are still constantly learning new things about their favourite fish.

In this blog we will look at how to catch beach tailor, how to identify good areas, and a few tips and tricks as well. But first, let’s meet the tailor. 

A beach favourite

  Tailor (Pomatomus saltatrix) are the only species in the family Pomatomidae, but they are found in a number of locations around the world, including Southern Africa, South East Asia, the East Coast of North America, The Mediterranean, New Zealand, and of course Australia. They are known by a few different names around the globe, but here they are known mostly as just ‘tailor’.

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They are a highly migratory species, moving along the coast in large schools in search of food. In Australia, tailor tend to spend the summer months in southern latitudes, moving toward the northern limits of their range (South East Queensland in the east and Exmouth in the west) in winter and early spring. At certain times, they will move into estuaries and bays, and sometimes even head offshore, however they are best known for hunting along surf zones and headlands. 

Tailor can reach around a metre long and about 9kg, but are more commonly encountered at around 40-50cm and 1-2kg, with smaller specimens often referred to as ‘choppers’. In Australia (and around the world) tailor are thought to have different populations on separate migration paths, which might explain why the larger average size in Western Australia.

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Their ravenous appetite and tendency to school in large numbers makes them a popular beach target, and they are reputable table fare if the catch is bled and looked after properly. 

Fishing for tailor

Being such an aggressive species, it’s no surprise that they can be targeted using a range of techniques and tackle. Bait, lure and even fly anglers can cash in on the tailor run, but it’s not always as simple as turning up to a beach and dropping a line in. Understanding the types of beaches and conditions they prefer is one part of the equation, and being able to present a bait, lure or fly to their liking is another.  

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Finding a beach for tailor

For most beach fishing the key is to find a good gutter, and tailor fishing is no different. However, the small, shallow gutters associated with bread-and-butter species such as whiting, bream, flathead and dart aren’t always the best places to find these toothy speedsters. You can read more about fishing for these species in our guide to beach fishing blog.

Gutters form when breaking waves gradually build a sand bar out from the shoreline. In front of this sand bar a deeper section is carved out by the water as it recedes to the side, and this deeper section is where smaller fish and invertebrates will seek refuge, and larger fish will hunt.

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Tailor and other predators like mulloway and salmon prefer a larger gutter with a clear entrance at one or both ends, sometimes referred to as a ‘rip’. They don’t like sand in their gills and will always enter and exit through a deeper channel. 

To find a good gutter, look for a steeper bank with calm or foamy water close to the shore, with waves breaking about a cast’s distance out. There should be a calmer channel or channels perpendicular to the bank, and this is the entrance. 

Obviously, if you can see tailor in the waves or if there are birds working and fish chopping, the area is always worth a prospect, but these features aren’t necessary. 

Higher stages of the tide are generally better when chasing tailor in beach gutters, ideally coinciding with sunrise or sunset.  How to catch tailor on lures

Lure fishing is a very effective way to catch these aggressive predators, and avoids the mess associated with bait fishing. When luring for beach tailor, having the right gear will improve your catch rate substantially, but there’s no need to break the bank!    

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Most luring off the beach is done with longer surf style rods. Daiwa’s Over There range and Samaki’s Zing G3 Surf range are designed for spinning off the beach and rocks, and have different models to suit the size of lures you intend to throw. Match these up with a 4000-6000 spin reel spooled with anything from 15-30lb braid (depending on the average size of the tailor) and at least a 20lb fluorocarbon leader, and you’ve got a deadly combo. The staff at your local Tackle World will be happy to help you put together an outfit for your local waters. 

As for lures, many types work, but bigger is usually better on the sand. The most popular style of lure for beach tailor is metals slugs. Halco TwistiesSpanyid Raiders and Sure Catch Knights are all synonymous with tailor, with models from 10g all the way through to 85g suitable for this aggressive species.            

Topwater lures such as the Zerek Zappelin 115Halco Roosta Popper 105 and Nomad Dartwing 130 FLT are great to tie on if you’re looking to create a bit more commotion. It’s also incredibly exciting watching tailor pursue these lures as they skip their way through the gutter!

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Larger lures like this can negate the need for a wire trace, as tailor have teeth that can bite through leaders. You might still lose the odd one, but you’ll always hook more without wire. 

With lures, the trick is to cast them to the back bank where the waves are breaking, and bring it back through the gutter relatively fast. Some days they might want a slower retrieve, and other days it’s almost like it can’t be fast enough! If you’re not sure how the tailor are behaving on the day, mix it up until you find what’s working.   

How to catch tailor on bait

Bait fishing for beach tailor is an old technique, but one that still works incredibly well. There is a lot of tackle designed for this very purpose, so anyone looking to try this for the first time is very well looked after.    Just like with lures, larger baits are preferred over smaller ones. Using larger baits will prevent smaller undesirable species from being able to eat your bait, and also reduce the likelihood of them eating the whole rig and snipping you off. 

Because of this, heavier style surf rods are the tool of choice and are perfect for throwing big baits. Gary Howard has been making rods for surf fishing for over 30 years, and has a few rods in his range that are perfect for a bit of beach tailor fishing. The Greenback Mid-Mount and Chopper Special Mid-Mount are ideal for heavier and lighter applications respectively, and are ideally paired with spin reels. The Low-Mount Greenback and Chopper Special models are better for anglers preferring Alvey side-cast reels, which is more traditional, but by no means any less effective. 

Bait fishos usually opt for monofilament mainlines in the 6-10kg range, with Platypus Super-100 or Lo-Stretch ideal for this pursuit.               Down on the business end of the rig, though wire traces were once popular, more and more anglers are opting to go without. Most prefer a gang hook rig, consisting of 3-4 hooks, a short 20-40lb fluorocarbon trace, a swivel, and a surf sinker above that. This will allow your bait to waft just off the bottom enticingly until a tailor comes along. The gang hooks act like a wire trace, preventing bite-offs most of the time. There are many rigs that will work, however this one of the simplest and most effective.

Gang hook rigs can be made at home, but pre-made rigs like the SHINTO PRO Ganged  Hook Sets are very popular among tailor fishos, coming in 3/0, 4/0, 5/0 and 6/0 sizes. 

Dead baits of whiting, garfish and pilchard are perfect for rigging whole or halved on gang rigs and can be bought from Tackle World stores Australia-wide. 

Casting these rigs to the back bank and letting the wave action roll it into the gutter, gradually taking up the slack with your reel, you should be able to figure out pretty quickly if there’s hungry tailor about. Staying tight to your rig is key, and best way to achieve this is to retrieve your rig slowly across the bottom. Once you feel the thump, take up that slack quickly with the rod and hang on!

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Tailor-made fun

Whether you’re a lure purist or a bait traditionalist, tailor are an awesome target for southern anglers, and provide a heck of a lot of fun. There’s nothing quite like a hot tailor bite with the sand between your toes, so if you haven’t tried beach fishing for tailor, make sure you’re ready next time the tailor swing by your local beach!