Johnny Mitchell – Barra – Lures – Thoughts

Lures have done their job when sold at the tackle store, anglers having chosen on any number of characteristics, often drawn in by look, colour or shape. In truth, the salesman is already happy, but the avid barra angler is faced with having to turn that purchase into results.

Every lure is made to a standard, some basic, others high tech, balanced like many Japanese designs. When hitting the water it’s dead set true that where barra are found should dictate lure selection rather than a lure being tied on first ‘wanting’ it to catch a barra.

Here’s some considerations and tips to turn lure fishing into more of a success story.


Lures are simply tools, one for every situation.

Fish size- Consider this before casting, if they’re mostly 90+ cm, don’t be afraid to upsize lures to 20-30 cm as bigger fish often want to eat one meal instead of wasting energy hunting smaller prey. Six inch (150mm) lures are small. Give them big lures and see what happens. (of course sonar info tells us their size or local knowledge shares that information)

Depth- This one is key, if shy fish are showing 14ft down (4.2m) and your chosen lure dives half that depth you’re not really in the game. Pulling a lure down to the fish and ‘in their face’ as people often say is such a powerful but misunderstood concept. Good anglers read sonars carefully, extracting key info like depth and fish size, then select a lure to suit that situation.

Diving Limitations- Most hard body lures have a depth rating, a lure rated to dive six metres is not going to reach that depth on cast and retrieve, likely a metre or two short. If reaching six metres is essential hardbodies can be tricked up with weight, even removing a treble and adding a dropshot weight or sinker will help obtain greater depths casting. Reach the fish first, that’s a big priority.

Line Control- Casting 25m and watching the lure splashdown on target is great, but having 29m of line come off that reel during the cast leaves four metres of belly slack in the system. Once that slack touches the water it can’t be removed and is responsible for some nasty negatives working against the angler, reducing catch rate. We explain this is depth in the Masterclass seminar, but for now practice both ‘casting accuracy’ and ‘line control’ for improved results. Keep a tight line!

Wind Affect- Same again, the wind can blow across the line creating a ‘bow’ or ‘belly’. The lower the rod is held the lesser amount of line out of the water being affected. Lure response is dampened by the belly line as direct energy drive from the rod does not reach the lure as an angler expects; with wasted energy and deficient lure movement the result – strike rate falls with this!

Take it further!

Stance-  Watch a baseball hitter, golfer or cricketer- they all need space and adopt a stance that provides multiple advantages. Standing flat footed facing your lure is a recipe for missed strikes and reduced lure movement. Take stance seriously.

I watched clients over the last 14 years land close to 10,000 metre-plus barra and there are days where individual clients won’t even get a bite (until tuned) because of the last three subjects mentioned. These alone play a massive part in the equation needing serious attention on charter and in everyday angling scenarios.

Untuned Lures- Take them back to the shop, or give them to a young angler, or bin ’em when flogged out as a lure out-of-balance can severely reduce strike chances. If a tyre on a racing bike has issues, it’s replaced, if a pro tennis player’s racquet loses feel, it’s restrung.

Lures work because they are tuned and when suitable angler effort is applied they beat to a rhythm that excites barra. Get the beat wrong and that genre of music doesn’t appeal to the fishes. No one gets up to dance (strike).

Great anglers have smooth operation where it counts, busted arse boats, shit hats, torn shorts, old rods- that doesn’t matter one bit, plenty of good tunes have been played on an old fiddle, and it’s within the ‘SMOOOOOTH FLUENCY’ where the ‘POETRY IN MOTION’ brings a skilled fisherman’s lure to life.

Watch a violinist play a beautiful song, they work hands, brain and body together in a series of pressure variations where the end result brings a crowd of people to applaud. Give that same instrument to the average Joe and the noise would scare the neighbour’s cat.

Keeping both hands in play on rod and reel handle keeps a closed circuit between muscles and brain, ready to react to the strike. Anglers ‘letting go’ of the reel handle are breaking the circuit, the outcome not positive.

Line Whippers- There are many minnow lures and soft plastic lures that can be ‘jerked’ to create lure action. Get this bit wrong and an angler spends most of their day just ‘whipping slack line’. Think about that for a sec- soooooo many anglers are guilty of this and overlook it, yet the body’s energy isn’t being transferred effectively to the lure, it’s mostly just tightening and loosening the line creating the firm whipping sound. Short sharp ‘pulls’ provide a better outcome and the lure moves as per expected. I’ve watched this for 20 years – line whippers catch 10% of what’s possible…………or don’t even get one bite.

Technique is everything- Imagine a 10 ft diving minnow (floater), rigged with enough added weight to create neutral buoyancy. A lure rigged to remain neutral in freshwater would float in denser salt waters.

In barra lakes, cast that lure beyond the snag, point, or along a weed bank. Start winding the reel handle reasonably quickly  six or seven times to enhance the lure towards it’s diving depth. Once at depth, stop, then begin a ‘draw and pause’ technique where the lure is drawn a metre or so through the water then allowed to stop motionless for five to 15 seconds. Repeat the draw and pause motion, strikes come during the pause, it’s often the key trigger. If you forget to stop and count and therefore never let the lure pause – the strike rate diminishes rapidly. Technique is huge, get it right and fish respond, get it a bit buggered up and the fish simply have no interest.

Captured using a surface lure – the technique had to be refined first. Once refined the fish responded, in this case, the noise from the lure drawing a reaction from the fish. The smile says a lot more than just landing a barra. Learning technique is actually fun, especially when the fish confirms with intent.

Lure fishing is fine art, the more time you’re willing to invest the greater the likelihood you can master techniques. The fish confirm or deny your technique- that’s how we learn, observing how wild animals respond to our actions.

Johnny Mitchell


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