42cm Whiting on Cultiva Gobo popper taken on the run-out tide.
Before even thinking about throwing small lures for Whiting we first need to have some reasonable knowledge on where to find them?... And how they are likely to behave during each stage of the tide.
Sand Whiting are mostly found over sandbanks, along the edges of weed beds, around holes and gutters and in shallow channels running between sandbanks. Basically they love areas that they can move onto and ‘Graze’ over. Here they forage for prawns, yabbies, soldier crabs and worms. They are quite active and efficient feeders across the flats, with mouths specifically designed for foraging and extracting food from the sand.
When it comes to chasing Whiting on surface lures, we need only focus on the shallow sand banks. This is where effective surface luring can be put into place and commonly it is over sand banks that may be less than knee deep in water. Landbased fishing and/or getting out of the boat wading the flats is quite often an effective way to fish them and you will be able to cover a lot of ground this way. If you manage to find yourself sandbanks that have a healthy population of yabbies then you can be reasonably confident whiting won’t be too far away.Yabbie holes will be clearly visible on the banks especially on the low tide.
Both stages of the tide can fish well when luring for whiting. The run-in tide fishes well as the fish move out of deeper channels and holes, therefore becoming easier to locate. On the flats they forage over the newly flooded banks which may have been previously exposed. The first hour or two is normally the best time on the run-in and don’t be afraid to be casting lures into what may be considered incredibly shallow water. Whiting only need enough water to cover their backs and will move up into very shallow areas.
The run-out tide can be a very interesting time when luring Whiting and many choose not to fish it believing the run-in is the best time. Like most fish Whiting are also opportunistic feeders and while they may have been forced to stop their ‘foraging’ across the flats as the water is dropping dramatically, they will move, hold and feed in other areas.
Once the water really starts to move on the run out key areas can be the edges on sandbanks where the current/tidal flow is moving and running out and off the flats. It’s here that whiting like to hold in the current and will become more of an opportunistic feeder. Facing into the current they can simply ambush any prawns, shrimp or worms that have been washed off the flats and caught up in the current. The added bonus here is that whiting feed more aggressively. If they don’t do so they will simply miss out on a passing opportunity. Its attack or let a nice meal fly by in the current.
Some of my more productive sessions have been on the run-out tide and working small poppers and stick baits brings about some surprisingly aggressive hits.
Using BOTH - Surface Poppers and Surface Stickbaits
Small Surface poppers are the most popular choice for whiting and they do their job of imitating a fleeing prawn very well. Popping across the sand flats is a relatively simple matter of working the popper with small jerks of your rod and keeping the lure moving at a steady (not super-fast) pace.
A nice blooping action across the surface will see you gain the attention of any hungry whiting across the flats and once you spot a bow wave behind your lure it is important to keep the lure moving. Pausing or stopping the lure will usually see the fish shy away.
My favourite popper for this type of work is the Cultiva ‘Gobo’ in the white/clear colour. I have had excellent success with this popper and it casts like a bullet across the flats, which helps achieve excellent distance. The little bit of red on the head of the popper seems a deadly combination.
While surface ‘popping’ for Whiting has been a highly successful method of capture for me I have also realised just how deadly surface stick baits are on Whiting. Surface stick baits are lures that lack the cup face like that of a popper and instead of ‘blooping’ and pushing water across the surface when in use; Stick baits walk and dart from side to side.
This action achieved by the lure is commonly called ‘Walk the dog’ and it’s this little walk that whiting seem to find irresistible. A Small stick bait walking rather inconspicuously across the surface seems to really gain the attention of whiting that are hunting across the flats particularly if they are a little shy. Although poppers work extremely well I have had many a session where the fish maybe a little non-committal or timid and this is where the little stick baits really come into their own.
This could possibly be a noise thing and on the given day they may not be liking the additional ‘Splash’ or ‘Noise’ coming from the popper, where as a silent stick bait walking across the surface is another story and can quite often be the undoing of many fish particularly when finicky.
After using quite a few small stickbaits I have now settled on the ‘3B Scum dogs’ as the size and action is near perfect for Whiting. At 48mm with a tight walk across the surface they are ideal for this sought of fishing.
When it comes to lure colours for Whiting there is no doubt that clear and natural colours are the stand out performers. In the 3B’s my preferred colours remain ‘Hooch’ and ‘Bitza’ with each colour claiming some very nice fish for me.
Getting out there
Surface luring for Whiting (like any surface fishing) is highly addictive due to it being a very visual form of fishing. Seeing a big bow wave behind your lure and a strike in such shallow water can be a real buzz.
The other beauty about chasing Whiting on lures is that it is just so available and anyone of any age group can easily have a go. In many cases a boat is not a necessity and a walk down to your local waterway will see you casting lures across the sand flats in no time.
Now is the time to get out and enjoy this exciting fishing – don’t let this summer pass you by.
By Peter Morris