Lure Fishing For Flathead : Ultimate Guide

Welcome, lure fishers! This guide is a distillation of insights and strategies from the collective wisdom of countless flathead fishing experts I’ve had the privilege of interviewing. Each has shared their unique perspective, honed through years of experience, to help you unlock the secrets of successfully targeting flathead with lures. What better way to enhance your own flathead fishing journey?


The Diverse World of Flathead Species

Let’s start with a basic understanding of the diverse flathead species across Australian waters. There are many species of interest to anglers, but the most commonly targeted tend to be:


  • Dusky Flathead: The dusky is the most popular among anglers for its impressive size potential and estuarine habitats. Found along the east coast, duskies prefer sandy bottoms and estuaries, with the larger “crocs” often lurking in deeper channels.
  • Sand Flathead: Sandies are widespread across southern Australian waters, identifiable by their sandy color which makes them masters of camouflage. They frequent inshore sandy areas, making them accessible targets for shore anglers.
  • Tiger Flathead: These bottom dwellers are found on offshore soft bottoms and are a common catch for those fishing deeper waters. Their distinct tiger-like markings make them easy to identify.
  • Bartailed Flathead: A northern species known for its distinct tail markings and preference for tropical and subtropical waters. Bartailed flatheads are often found in sandy or muddy bottoms near reefs and estuaries, adding a unique target for anglers in northern regions. 

Timing and Tides: The Rhythms of SuccessA unanimous insight of my podcast guests is the critical role of tides, daily and seasonal cycles that determine the best times for flathead fishing.

The consensus among experts is clear: You can catch flathead on lures at any time of day and on any tide, but a couple of standouts emerge:

  • Outgoing tides: The outgoing tide is a prime window for flathead fishing, concentrating baitfish and making flathead location and behaviour more predictable. As the tides run out you should focus on areas that baitfish are forced to retreat to. Drains, gutters and holes that contain water as the flats around them drain are prime territory. Flathead usually lie in wait as baitfish and prawns are swept into these areas.
  • Incoming tides: Don’t overlook the incoming tide, especially around shallow feeding grounds. Trophy flathead often move up with the advancing water, sitting in just a few inches of water where hapless baitfish congregate to avoid other predators.
  • Low light periods: Tidal factors tend to be the key to finding the best times for flathead fishing, matching various stages of the tide and water movement to the habitat where flathead will wait in ambush. But flatties also live in places that don’t have so much tide, and so low light periods can become more important. Like most species, flathead tend tobecome more active around first and last light, so these are great times to focus efforts in less tidal areas.
  • Seasonal behaviors: It’s important to understand season factors and how they influences the best times for flathead fishing. These factors vary both by species and location, so it’s worth catching some of the podcast interviews below to get more specific information.
  • Weather: A large proportion of my podcast guests have shared their preference for flathead fishing on days when there is a little wind and/or a little cloudiness or colour to the water. Flathead are ambush feeders and use these conditions to surprise prey. But wind ripple and water colour also provide cover for anglers wanting to avoid spooking fish.

Mastering Flathead Territory

Through our discussions, a detailed map of flathead territories has emerged, marked by key features that attract these ambush predators:

Strategic Positions: Channels and Drop-offs

Channels and drop-offs are hotspots for flathead, who use these areas for ambushing prey. As you’re assessing these fishing spots, keep in mind that fish tend to position themselves facing into the current. This enables them to see baitfish and prawns being carried towards them and should also tell you something about where the fish will be and the direction to work your lures (ie with the current, generally speaking). Working along contours and fanning casts to methodically cover water is a great strategy.

The Underwater Camouflage: Weed Beds and Sandy Flats

The edges of weed beds and the transition to sandy flats have been highlighted by numerous ALF guests as prime territory. Flathead use areas of broken bottom for camouflage, waiting to strike at passing prey. They also tend to move along linear structures such as the edges of weedbeds, or places where the bottom changes between sand, rock and mud. These areas should be worked thoroughly to maximise the number of fish encountered.

The Estuarine Maze

Navigating the complexity of estuaries, with their mix of structures, is essential. From oyster racks to mangrove roots, identifying areas where flathead might hide and ambush prey is a skill honed over time. The changing conditions post-rainfall also offer unique opportunities, making estuaries a dynamic environment for flathead fishing.

Conversations Through Lures: The Expert’s Choice

The collective expertise shines brightly when discussing lure selection and techniques, underscoring the importance of “speaking flathead” through your lure:

  • Soft Plastics: Celebrated for their versatility, soft plastics that mimic the flathead’s natural prey are a staple. The art lies in the retrieve—simulating the erratic movement of a wounded fish to trigger the flathead’s predatory response.
  • Hard Body Lures: For deeper explorations or targeting specific channels, hard body lures offer an enticing action that can tempt even the most stubborn flathead.
  • Topwater Lures: While perhaps more niche, the explosive action of topwater lures on a calm morning provides unmatched excitement and a test of angler skill.


ALF Podcast Episodes About Flathead Fishing

Forster Flathead Fishing With Russell Babekuhl

Russell Babekuhl has a very different take n fishing for the humble flathead, turning it into a fast current, white knuckle affair!

  • Flathead fishing has been elevated to “sportfishing” status as more anglers target and release trophy fish on lures.
  • Due to their accessibility from shore, boat or kayak, fishing for flathead is extremely popular and a great way to get started at lure fishing.
  • Because of the way flathead feed, lures will often outfish baits simply because lure fishers can cover more water to find the fish.
  • Many flathead species will come into mere inches of water to feed an hunt on the incoming tide. 
  • A common rule of thumb when flathead fishing is “big lures take big fish”. It seems that big flathead are often ignore small food items.
  • It’s usually possible to catch flathead on very light tackle, but a heavy bite leader is required to prevent them wearing through the line.
  • Dusky flathead (Platycephalus fuscus): The largest species, found from southern Queensland to eastern Victoria.
  • Sand flathead (Platycephalus bassensis): Southern and eastern Australia, from Queensland to Tasmania.
  • Bartailed flathead (Platycephalus indicus): Tropical Australia, from Western Australia to Queensland.
  • Tiger flathead (Neoplatycephalus richardsoni): Southern and western Australia.
  • Blue spotted flathead (Platycephalus caeruleopunctatus): Found from southern Queensland to Tasmania.
  • Northern sand flathead (Platycephalus laevigatus): Northern Australia, from Western Australia to Queensland.
  • Yellowfin flathead (Platycephalus conatus): Southern and eastern Australia, from Queensland to Victoria.
  • Rock flathead (Platycephalus laevigatus): This species is found in southern Australia, from Western Australia to Victoria.

There are many more species, but these are the main ones of interest to anglers.

  • Soft plastic lures such as paddletails, curltails, shads and so on  in 3-6″ sizes, fished on jig heads or rigged weedless.
  • Soft vibes in sizes from 75-110mm.
  • Hard bodied diving lures from 75 to 120mm long.
  • Small metal blades of around 35-40mm.
  • Bent minnow style surface/sub-surface lures
  • Floating stickbaits, poppers or other surface lures
Mastering Gold Coast Flathead With Guy McConnell

Mastering Gold Coast Flathead With Guy McConnell

Flathead are distributed right across the Gold Coast in good numbers, but spring is the time when the bigger fish become more concentrated and easier to target. Gold Coast sponsored angler Guy McConnell does a great job of sharing tips that will help anyone catch more (and better quality) flathead on lures.

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The Five Best Fishing Spots In Sydney With Luke Kay

The Five Best Fishing Spots In Sydney With Luke Kay

The greater Sydney area has no shortage of fishing opportunities for lure tossers, as today’s guest Luke Kay shares in this interview. From the bays and estuaries to the ocean rocks, Luke takes us through where he likes to go in search of fish.

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Discover the Best Fishing Spots in Southeast Queensland this Spring

Discover the Best Fishing Spots in Southeast Queensland this Spring

For the boating angler, Southeast Queensland during spring is all about big snapper, quality jewfish, threadfin salmon, flathead and plenty more! Nabeel Issa is a multiple time ALF podcast guest and always has plenty of great info to share. Today he walks us through why spring is his favourite time to fish in SEQ and gives us the rundown on how, when and where.

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Episode 532: Top Brisbane Landbased Fishing Spots In Winter With Beau Rixon

Episode 532: Top Brisbane Landbased Fishing Spots In Winter With Beau Rixon

Brisbane offers an astonishing range of land based fishing options to suit anglers of all skill levels, ranging from the hunble flathead right through to tailor, squid, bass and jewfish. Local fishing tutor and land-based guide Beau Rixon spends a lot of time fishing the area from the shore and teaching others to do the same, so for today’s episode I invited Bea to jump onboard and share some of his favourite land based spots.

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Episode 182: Jumpinpin Flathead With Nick Whyte

Episode 182: Jumpinpin Flathead With Nick Whyte

Jumpinpin is famous for bream and hold quality jewfish…… but for the flathead enthusiast it’s also home to some quality crocs. Brisbane angler Nick Whyte explains what you need to know to target the big lizards in deep water.

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Episode 151: Lake Macquarie Flathead With Mark Williams

Episode 151: Lake Macquarie Flathead With Mark Williams

Lake Macquarie is one of the three trophy flathead fisheries in New South Wales and flattie gun Mark Williams knows the system better than most. In this episode Mark shares some secrets for targeting the big “old girl” flathead in this popular system.

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