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Swimming in sweet surface strikes
Jackson Bargenquast

This keen eyed barracuda around 15kg followed the author’s stickbait all the way to the boat and then smashed it, followed by screaming runs.

A surface strike of a feeding fish is something that always seems to amaze us, whether it’s a bumper bass sipping an insect in the glare of the morning sun or a monster giant trevally exploding into a school of bonito on sunset. This is truly when we get to see the pure power and grace of how predatory fish feed.

The tropical waters up here in the Cape are loaded with a huge variety of species that will actively take surface lures. The high water temperatures and lack of commercial pressure result in the fish stocks often feeding violently on the surface.

The pelagic species are known for their tendency to destroy surface presentations, however, there is still a lot to understand about fishing for pelagics on surface. On days when species such as tuna and queenies are very fixated on small baitfish (baitfish under 3”) they can be very difficult to attract on big poppers and stickbaits. Generally slugs, jigs and small soft plastics are the go. To improve the actual physical element of a surface strike, use light to unweighted plastics so the presentation is just under the surface by about an inch. This is just as impressive to watch as a fish taking a stickbait.

This is often what southern fishers have to do when fish are eating small bait, but this is Cape York. Many times, even when the pelagics are feeding on bait as small as 1cm, they still chase down big poppers and smash them without hesitation. Often it takes a few casts to get tuna interested at all. Queenies will chase the lure right to the boat and then, to the agony of so many anglers, turn away and return to the bait school.

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