Over the past few years, surface fishing for Murray Cod has taken off! It is now the go to technique; not because you catch more fish, but because the adrenaline and excitement is second to none!
Being frightened out of your skin when a cod cracks your surface lure at your feet is something you can never get enough of. It may sound stupid that being scared by a fish is fun… but if you’ve ever experienced it you will certainly agree.
Never caught a cod on surface? But keen to learn how?
Then this article is just for you. Let’s cover the few things you need to know about surface fishing:
First of all we have our weapon of choice, the offering that we tie onto the end of our line. Surface lures have come a long way in the past two years with nearly every cod lure manufacturer making a surface option due to the high demand. If they aren’t making surface lures they are missing out.
If we go back a few years the only surface lures you could find were the Arbogast Jitterbug and the Halco Nightwalker. These two lure have accounted for masses of Murray Cod captures as they were the only surface lures around. Today the market has been swapped with large blooping paddlers, snake and lizard representations and massive wakebaits. Now to say these lures are big is an understatement. Surface lures are now probably the largest (biggest in size) lure on the shelves. The good old 150mm AC Invaders were a massive lure, but now it’s not uncommon to see surface lures over 300mm in length.
Every year the target size for the monster cod gets bigger and bigger and the lures follow suit. We are starting to realise that to catch big fish you need to match the size of what they are eating. This is why these surface lures are so long in length, to represent a snake or water dragon swimming on the surface.
Surface Lure Styles
The Walker or also known as Paddler style of surface lure is by far the most common. This name comes from the action of the lure as it is retrieved across the water’s surface. The lure wobbles side to side creating a blooping and splashing sound. The water disturbance and noise the lure produces is irresistible to Murray Cod.
The action is created by the large cup faced bib on the front of the lure. They come in a range of designs and styles which change between each lure maker.
Food source it represents: injured bird, ducks, large cicadas, large moths or any other small mammal that has accidentally found itself in the water.
The Wakebait is a relatively new style of lure that is now becoming the cod angler’s favourite type of surface lure. This could be due to the more natural action it produces, which then means its closer to matching the hatch and as a result… catches more fish.
The wakebait swims with a side to side action just beneath the water’s surface creating a bow wave effect. Majority of wakebaits are jointed with either 2 or 3 body parts. This allows the lure to swim more freely and more natural. They produce less sound compared to a paddler style and some models will make a clicking noise in the joints of the lures.
The wakebait will usually have a short bib on the front that points at a downward angle. Similar to a normal bib but not as large and points at a more downward angle.
Food source it represents: snakes, lizards, water dragons, cruising fish (carp and trout), mice, rats and any other creature that finds itself trying to escape the water.
Other Surface Styles:
The paddler and wakebait are the two main styles and if you’re going to do a bit of surface fishing I recommend you start with either of these. Other styles include:
Weedless – These are usually small, soft and hollow; frogs and mice. Perfect for fishing in the dark or in extremely snaggy water.
Poppers – Hard of soft plastic popper style surface lures require a flick of the rod tip to impart an action.
Twitch Baits – These are very common in the costal scene but there are some larger native options available. They are like a large stick bait that floats and again this lure needs to have an action imparted upon it via a flick motion, known commonly as ‘walk the down’.
Buzzbaits – These are a variation on the spinnerbait. The only difference is instead of having a blade, a buzzbait has a plastic propeller that rotates as you wind and this keeps the lure on the surface. Only downside to these lures is you cannot pause when you get a hit because the lure will sink, in saying that they have a better hookup rate, than standard surface lures.
Surface Flies – Another step up in challenges is to catch Murray Cod on surface fly. This requires a fly setup suited for cod. The flies are usually cup faced and bloop across the surface like a popper.
Sizes of Surface Lures
Surface lures come in a range of different sizes from 50mm-300mm. I recommend using 60-100mm in creeks and small river and up your size to 120-200mm when fishing for large dam and lake cod or even the wider deep rivers. In saying that if you are fishing a small creek but you’re chasing a huge fish then use a huge lure.
My recommendation for when you head out is to start with either a paddler or wakebait surface lure. While you’re fishing keep an eye on your surrounds and see what’s on the water’s surface, what might be splashing around or causing noise. If you spot lizards swimming around the edge of the dam then a wakebait is the way to go. Or if you see large moths buzzing around or small ducks splashing on the surface, then a smaller paddler style is the way to go.
Best Locations for Surface Fishing
Rivers and Creeks –
There are some locations that will fish better on surface then others. First of all the rivers and creeks are brilliant surface fisheries and you can catch cod on surface in almost every river and creek system. In saying that the better locations for surface fishing are the slower flowing waterways.
These small creeks, billabongs and slow moving rivers allow you to cover almost every inch of the water because you lure isn’t being swept away by the current. In the smaller creeks the best technique is to just cast across to the opposite bank and retrieve your lure back slowly.
The larger irrigation river can be harder to fish and generally speaking the fish won’t hit surface as much. In saying that surface fishing in rivers like the Murrumbidgee can be exceptional up around Wagga in the faster flowing water, you just need a different approach.
Rather than casting the whole way across and winding the lure back you have to target the still water in against the edge of the banks. Find still pockets off the edge of the fast current and working these over will produce fish. Shaded areas and in against plenty of timber. Always remember to fish the areas that are loaded with logs, willow and structure. This means the fish will be there and quite possibly could be sitting up higher in the water column.
Dams and Lakes –
You will catch more fish in the river systems but the size of the impoundment fish makes it well worth the effort. In saying that the shallow lakes like Mulwala are surface fishing meccas! This place is known as one of the best surface fisherys in the country and it’s not only due to the high population of cod and timber but also because of the shallow flats in which the cod move onto to feed. The best places to target in this lake are the very shallow sections close to the river bed. You want to be fishing in no more than 1.5m and below 1m is even better.
The shallow rule also applies to the larger lakes and dams we have across the country. These water storages are generally deep and cool which makes surface fishing a little tougher, but these big fish do feed off the surface and when they do it’s exciting!
The best places to target are the edge of the rocky banks. You want to find good rocky banks that aren’t too steep because you want your lure close enough to the fish so they will be tempted to come up and attack. A good way to work your lures in the dams is to hug tight in against the banks and cast right along them. This way your lure is very close to the fish that are sitting in the shallows feeding (best time to use this technique is in the dark).
If you fish a dam that is home to thick weed beds then make sure you fish them with surface lures. Try to run your casts along the edge of the weed and the closer the better. This will allow the lure to swim in the clear water but still close enough for the fish to poke their head out and hit your surface lure.
The back of bays and creek mouths are also another great spot to try your luck. Casting where the water would normally run in from a creek can hold not only good fish but active fish as they are waiting for food to come down with the inflow of water.
Time of Day
Low light periods! This is a given and surface fishing in the low light will always produce more activity compared to high light periods. Murray Cod are a very stubborn fish and majority of the time won’t come up near the surface during the day (unless under thick shade), if the location is in direct sunlight. A thick overcast day or a shaded area is much like the low light periods so just keep that in the back of your head. It may be the middle of the day but if the sky is covered in dark clouds then surface fishing is definitely an option.
Once the afternoon sun dips behind the horizon, this is when you want to bring out your surface lures. Fish the afternoon and we like to cast our way into dark (either on small creeks, walking the bank in the river or out on the dam). In the dark is the time when you will catch most of your fish on surface. The cod especially the larger ones will have more confidence and prefer feeding in the dark. If you can match this with a full moon then you’ll be able to see what you’re doing and therefore put your lure in better spots.
In summer I prefer to fish in the dark and also during the morning, as the fish seem to feed well on surface at first light. This may be because the hotter water has had time to cool off over night and the fish continue to feed into the morning before the sun comes out. Whatever the reason, morning surface activity is better over summer.
If your lure gets boofed by a cod, don’t strike and make sure you pause. If the fish has taken the lure and you can feel weight then lean back and set the hooks. If the fish missed the hooks, let it sit for a few seconds and twitch the lure as if it was injured. If the fish doesn’t come back on that retrieve then do the exact same cast, most of the time the fish will come back again in the exact same spot.
Remember don’t strike like a normal lure as you have always learnt, let the weight of the cod set the hooks. If the fish misses the lure and you strike the lure will come flying back at your head and you will have missed your opportunity.
This is just a brief overview into the world of surface fishing for the mighty Murray Cod. There is a lot more to cover and over the summer we will share more tips and techniques for this style of fishing. Now you just have to grab yourself some surface lures and start casting! Just remember, to hold onto your rod at all times!
PS. If you’re keen to learn more about surface fishing for Murray Cod, have a look at the Complete Guide Series: Murray Cod on Surface. This tutorial series will teach you everything about using surface lures for Murray Cod.