How to catch luderick on lures
THE past couple of decades of Aussie sportfishing are littered with revolutionary moments that have transformed the way we view some of our most popular fish species. With the advent of new tackle or techniques, what was once presumed to be a "bait only" species can suddenly become a realistic and exciting lure eater.
Bream are the prime example of this, with soft plastics and micro hard-bodies triggering a dramatic reinvention of the popular technique for these fish back in the mid-90s. Then came sand whiting on surface stickbaits, and it wasn’t even that long ago that snapper were seen as "bait only" species. It all goes to show that even in our modernised world of sportfishing, new horizons are always there to be developed.
With new gear and lure types constantly being developed, the opportunity for "new" species to be added to the list of legitimate targets on artificials is virtually endless. The humble luderick is one of those species that has been teetering on the edge of lure flicking viability for some time now, and I’d wager it won’t be long at all before they join the ranks of old bread and butter favourites that have been reinvented as genuine, lure whacking sportfish.
Anyone who has spent a good bit of time flicking fake baits at bream anywhere between the Gold Coast and Gippsland will probably have scored the odd luderick over the journey, and I’m sure just about all – including myself when I got my first one on a lure quite a few years back – will have probably written off these encounters as mere fluke. And that’s fair enough, as luderick are not exactly known for being a predatory fish, let alone one that will smack a lure. But with a few sneaky little technique tweaks and the right lure choice, it’s absolutely possible to deliberately target blackfish on lures.
What they’ll eat and where
Obviously the thing that has made luderick such uncommon catches on artificials is their herbivorous diet. These guys chiefly feed on filamentous algae (green weed etc), however, like most fish they will certainly take the opportunity to munch on some protein packed live prey when they get the chance.
In fact, luderick are more than partial to a nipper, prawn or squirt worm. This small predatory streak is what provides the chance to tempt these hard fighting little fish onto a lure, and to up your chances of doing so, it stands to reason to fish areas where there is lots of these food items available.
That’s the first trick to catching luderick on lures with regularity – identifying situations where these fish are more likely to be targeting invertebrate prey instead of browsing on weed. In an estuary situation, systems where the luderick’s favoured weed does not bloom so well tend to offer lure flickers a far better chance of catching these fish with regularity.
Likewise, events that see a sudden abundance in an alternative food source for luderick such as a prawn run or a worm hatch can see these fish suddenly turn overtly predatory. So much so in fact, that they can become totally transfixed on finding and feeding on the prawns or worms, and so will aggressively take lures that imitate these types of prey.
The likelihood of luderick on lures also seems to be very much linked to the region you’re fishing. Certain sections of coast definitely seem to throw up better opportunity for finding predatory blackfish than others. For example, the south coast of New South Wales down into eastern Gippsland over the Victorian border is possibly the best stretch of water in the country for spinning up blackfish, as the many estuary systems along this long stretch of coast seem to be particular hot spots for lure munching luderick.
Even in the best estuary system though, one that’s home to blackfish with a real killer instinct, you’ve still got to find the right situation to have these fish whacking lures one after another. The kind of ideal settings to look for are silty flats adjacent to mangroves, isolated strapweed beds surrounded by flat sand and mudbanks loaded with nipper/cockle beds. These types of areas have plenty of live feed such as pink nippers, prawns and squirt worms and very little filamentous weed for luderick to browse on, so the fish here are more likely to be on the lookout for live prey.
An incoming tide also seems to be an important factor for these fish, as they generally like a bit of water over their backs before they’ll push up into the shallow margins. Once the tide has risen a reasonable amount, they usually lose their spooky ways and become much more receptive to little lures.
During their annual breeding run through winter and early spring, luderick will aggregate into big schools around any significant reefy/weedy structure at the mouths of major estuary systems. Early on in this seasonal run when they’re in full spawning mode, and old salt blackfish fishos will tell you they’re often very picky about eating even a well presented local weed bait until they’ve done the mummy daddy thing.
But for the lure fisho, things are very different at this time of year. When in their spawning aggregations, luderick may not be all that interested in feeding, but they sure have the angry pants on. Those primal instincts kicking in make them overtly territorial and aggressive, which means it’s quite easy to draw reaction bites out of them and pull blackfish after blackfish out of the one school simply by annoying them with a little lure.
Lures for luderick
So then, what types, makes and models of lure do luderick like most? While I don’t profess to be any sort of expert on the subject, the lure types I’ve had most success with on luderick are metal blade vibes, medium to deep diving hard-bodies and worm style soft plastics.
I would rate small metal vibes as far and away my number one choice luderick lure, which is something that I still find surprising. These lures were originally designed and engineered to imitate a small fish shimmying its way through the water column, which doesn’t sound like something a blackfish would have much interest in. But the way Aussie anglers have adapted their technique with these lures to entice bream has actually had the unintended consequence of revealing them to be killer luderick lures, too.
When hopped over a silty/muddy seafloor, blade vibes look surprisingly "prawn like", which would appear to appeal to the luderick’s secret craving for the odd meal of prawn, shrimp or nipper. In a situation where blackfish are gathered in a large school, these lures are also great for eliciting those reaction bites mentioned earlier.
The most successful blade vibe I’ve used for blackfish is the TT Lures 1/8 oz Switchblade, particularly in red/black or gold colours. The Ecogear ZX30 is another standout on these fish, which stands to reason as this diminutive little blade has more of a prawn or shrimp based design, so you could see how it would provoke more luderick strike triggers than a standard baitfish pattern blade vibe.
Next on the luderick lure list are 40-80 mm, medium to deep diving hard-bodied minnows. Obviously there’s a near never ending choice of makes and models within this genre and size range that would be likely to draw strikes out of blackfish, but from what I’ve seen, colour is perhaps the most critical factor (other than diving depth to get the lure swimming along close to the bottom) in choice of hard body.
Again, because we’re looking to imitate prawns, shrimps and nippers that luderick have that penchant for, hard bodies that have subtle, translucent yellow, orange or light green colour patterns are usually the best bet. For the record my number most successful would be the 48mm Viking Crank Minnow in translucent yellow.
As for soft plastics, luderick will have a go at most styles of 2-4 inch plastics from time to time, but one of the better choices are worm style plastics such as the 2 inch Berkley Gulp Sandworm. In situations where these fish may be feeding on squirt or sandworms – such as through the Gippsland lakes where bream fishos using live sandworms often encounter a lot of luderick by-catch – worm style plastics can really get bit. However, converting these bites with a single hook rigged plastic can be tough given the squat little mouth a luderick possesses.
For some reason I’ve never had any luck on luderick when fishing with prawn imitation soft plastics. You would think lures such as the Squidgy Lobby or Atomic Plazos Prong would be perfect for the job, but then again maybe I just haven’t fished them in the blackfish right situation!
Whichever lure type you choose, make sure it’s equipped with small, very fine, and very sharp hooks, as pinning these fish in their aforementioned tiny little mouth is not always easy. Not surprisingly given the arrangement of their maw, luderick have a habit of nipping at a lure rather than just grabbing hold, so little, super sharp hooks are vital to give yourself every chance of connecting with these short, sharp hits.
If, like myself, you’re part of the current generation of sportfishing obsessed Aussie fishos and therefore, may not have ever targeted blackfish before using the traditional long rod, precisely weighted float and green weed bait techniques, you could be in for quite a shock when you do come up tight on one of these fish. Hooked on standard bream spinning gear, they go hard!
The first luderick I ever caught on a lure while spinning hard-bodies for bream had me convinced I was onto a new PB breambo. Admittedly it was a nice fish at around a kilo and a half, but even still it pulled so much string and put up such a stink I was expecting a 50+ cm bream to eventually come to the net. By the time the fish was revealed as a nice blackfish, I’d developed a whole new viewpoint on these fish and was dead keen to go spin up some more!
Although there’s still a way to go until we can label luderick as genuine "on a lure" targets, there’s no doubt whatsoever that it possible to deliberately target these fish with artificials. They’ll never be the kind of fish you’ll catch dozens of in a single session (with the possible exception of those spawning aggregation events when it’s possible to really dong them), but if you fish the right lures in the right areas they are much more than just a lucky catch.