Matt Hildebrandt

Central Queensland Sponsored Angler

Saratoga fishing is an obsession for central Queensland sponsored angler Matt Hildebrandt and in this episode he shares some tips he’s learned after targeting this species through numerous systems including the Mackenzie, Dawson and Connors Rivers.

Matt’s Top Saratoga Fishing Tips

  • Saratoga fishing is best when the water is clear. Rains in January 2020 have dirtied up the waters in the Mackenzie, Connors and Dawson systems, resulting in difficult fishing conditions. Matt suggests giving it a kiss for a couple of months until conditions improve.
  • Although Saratoga are a year-round option in these river systems though Matt has noticed they tend to feed a little deeper in the water column when the temperatures get up a bit. still, glassed out days fish best and rising water levels don’t hurt. Mornings and afternoons fish best, but not too early or late as there is not enough light to see the fish.
  • This species can pop up anywhere and doesn’t seem to be associated with any particular structure. It’s important to stay alert and on the lookout for cruising fish as they might be along the edges, among lilies and snags or out in open water cruising just beneath the surface.
  • If you spend plenty of time observing Saratoga you can start to read their body language and know which fish are hunting actively versus those that are less interested. Less interested fish can often still be tempted, but require a bit more effort. Matt and his colleagues have noticed that fish that appear dark in colour are often less aggressive, whilst those that are brighter will take lure more freely.
  • If you can get the sun behind you it will be easier to see the fish and harder for them to see you. But be careful of spooking fish with your shadow.
  • You’ll often only get the opportunity to put in one or two casts per sighted fish, so don’t rush in. It’s better to sit back and watch the fish for a while then put your lure well ahead of the fish and in its path than to spook it and not get another shot.

Matt’s Saratoga Fishing Tackle

  • Matt likes mainly 6-8lb braid, a 2-4, 2-5 or 2-6kg spin rod with a 2000size reel and a 12-20lb fluorocarbon leader for the smaller 50-75mm lures. he’ll switch to a heavier leader if he’s using larger, jointed lures and wakebaits.
  • It’s worth having a baitcast outfit in a similar line class available too. Matt likes these for casting the heavier lures like swimbaits and spinnerbaits.

Matt’s Saratoga Fishing Lures

  • Sixth Sense Crush 25X is a small hard body lure that can be used as a wake bait a centimetre or so beneath the surface or can be worked down deeper by cranking the reel and stabbing the rod a couple of times. This allows the angler to immediately adjust the presentation depending on whether the fish stays on the surface or heads deeper. Once the lure is down deeper you can slow the retrieve down again and the fish will usually take it. A steady slow roll works fine, no need to add much more action than that.
  • The Lucky Craft Sammy 65 or Gunfish 75 are great topwater lures for Saratoga fishing. Matt finds that working the lure faster than normal will often switch disinterested fish on. Speeding the lure away from the fish initially can cause them to have a crack before the lure escapes.
  • A Westin Swim Stickbait, Jigspin with plastic trailer, spinnerbait or Chase Baits Frill Seeker 175mm jointed wakebait makes up the lucky dip of lures that you’d find tied to the baitcast combo in Matt’s boat.

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Matt’s Sponsors

ACM Custom Hand Crafted Rods make an awesome line of top quality rods that Matt uses for his saratoga and barramundi fishing

Sixth Sense Lures Australia produce a wide range of lures for all species, including the lures Matt mentions in this episode.

Matt does a lot of kayak fishing for saratoga and reckons that Dream Kayaks are the goods for this style of fishing.

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