Welcome to Unsealed 4X4

Are you hungry for the latest in 4X4 news, reviews and travel?

At Unsealed 4X4, we’ll give you up-to-date 4X4 news, reviews and how-to's to keep you in fine form.

One of the Holy Trinity fish species, barramundi is elusive, iconic, acrobatic, and delicious. Here’s a bait box full of tips and tricks on how to catch ‘em.

Everyone wants to catch a barra. To southerners like myself they hold a special appeal. They represent heading into the outback, escaping big city life and replacing it with big fishing life. They are cloaked in the mystery of the remote top end of Australia, the great unknown. Australia’s final frontier. The feeling of catching your first barramundi can only be described as better than any feeling anyone who’s never caught a barramundi has ever felt. Barramundi are one of the Holy Trinity species which makes them even more sought after (Barramundi, Mulloway and Australian Salmon).

I’m no expert at catching barra, having only been in the business for a few years, but I have learnt a bit during my short career and have managed to land a few. My biggest maxed out at 83cm. Most of my fishing has occurred during the dry season (up North) and I don’t have a boat, so not too bad.

In this article I discuss how to catch barramundi from a land-based fishing perspective. It is split into two sections: traditional tips, and my super special secret tips.

TOP TIPS AND SECRET TECHNIQUES

GUIDE Catching barramundi

HOW TO CATCH

BARRAMUNDI

WORDS BY OUTBACK JOE

Terrain Tamer Parabolic Leaf Springs are designed for
the ultimate ride quality. Utilising a new design on an old technology, the parabolic spring allows a comfortable ride whether the vehicle is fully loaded or empty.

lighter – less unsprung weight
less shock – less shock load on differential gears
quieter – leaf springs do not touch each other
comfort – with better articulation

ADVERTISEMENT
SCROLL TO CONTINUE

This is similar to the techniques you’ll find in any ‘Barra fishing’ guide. Follow these points to improve your chances of catching barramundi.

traditional tips

Find a good spot. Look for snags, deep holes, intersections of two separate flows of water. Spots where a hungry barramundi will likely wait to ambush prey. Without a boat, a good spot generally means anywhere that you can access and cast a line. Beggars can’t be choosers.

1

Keep trying at one spot before moving on or giving up. Lazy barramundi can be indecisive and require repeated tempting before striking. If you’re land based fishing, you may not have many options. Keep fishing the same spot. Don’t stop.

2

Accuracy is important when fishing for barramundi, so you want short fishing rods. Around 6ft in length is good. Small means greater accuracy when casting, which is a requirement when fishing among snags. Small rods are also easier to manage when fishing around vegetated river and creek banks.

3

Some suggest baitcasting reels are best for improved accuracy and longer casting. I don’t have much experience with baitcasting reels, but with the experience garnered through losing dozens of lures, I’ve learnt to cast pretty accurately with my good old eggbeater reel. Also, unless you’ve had plenty of practice, I’ve found baitcaster reels prone to forming tangled bird’s nests.

4

A laceration- or abrasion-resistant leader or trace is required to protect against snags and the sharp gill rakes that barramundi possess (it will break). Thin braid or mono from your main spool isn’t good enough. Terminate your line with a length of heavy gauge mono or a steel trace to give you the best chance of landing a hooked-up barramundi. Some people believe steel traces lead to fewer hook ups, reason being that the barramundi can sense them and don’t like them. I don’t know if it’s true, but for lures I don’t think it matters much anyway. A fish striking a lure is quick and acting on instinct. It doesn’t have much time to sniff around and I’ve had good success with steel traces on lures. When using bait, you might want to consider heavy gauge mono.

5

“Barramundi are lazy ambush predators that wait for an easy target to pass by. Generally, they won’t pursue a fast-moving lure."

As a 4WDing couple, Paul and Donna O’Brien needed peace of mind that they’d get back what they’d invested in their setup if anything went wrong. And they feel more comfortable knowing that they’ve got cover wherever they go, including non-gazetted roads. That’s why they chose to insure with Club 4X4.

Paul O’Brien – Club 4X4 customer

traditional tips cont'd

It is said that barramundi migrate to different areas of river systems and estuaries according to season. Their aggressiveness also changes with the season. Middle of the dry season is most difficult to hook up barramundi. They move slow and try to conserve energy. Unfortunately, that’s the time when most anglers are trying to catch their first barramundi. Other times of the year are better. I’m not an expert capable of writing a lengthy thesis on barramundi migration, but I’ve found the most reliable areas regardless of season are deeper areas in the transition zone between fresh and salt, maybe say 25 to 75 kilometres upstream from the ocean. In the middle of the dry look for deeper pools in river systems or pools that have been completely isolated to form billabongs, forcing barramundi to concentrate there. Upstream of causeways also seem to be areas where barramundi congregate during the dry season.

12

When hooked up, maintain line tension at all times and retrieve quickly. Barramundi are skilled at spitting hooks and lures, even from apparently rock-solid hook-ups. Their mouths are extremely tough, resisting a good hook-up. Often the hook does not penetrate the mouth, but rather gets snagged on a ridge or bump. Releasing tension allows the hook to lift off the ridge or bump, freeing the barramundi. Many barramundi that I’ve caught end up spitting out the hook as soon as tension is released when brought to shore.

11

Although lures work well on barramundi, you still can’t beat bait, especially live bait. Small mullets caught with a cast net or small prawns or cherabin caught in opera house traps are the most popular live bait. When the going is tough and the Barra aren’t feeding aggressively, live bait may be the only way to catch a barramundi.

10

Vary your retrieval. Try extremely slow. Try medium pace. Try twitching your rod during retrieval. Try stopping your retrieval, twitching, then resuming.

9
8

The hook is hidden inside the soft-bodied frog lure and is exposed once the fish grabs hold of it

When lure fishing, retrieve slowly. Barramundi are lazy ambush predators that wait for an easy target to pass by. Generally, they won’t pursue a fast-moving lure. For a typically geared egg-beater reel like mine, a retrieval rate of around one hand crank revolutions per second is good. Make sure you retrieve fast enough for your lure’s swimming action to work. The minimum speed required to activate the lure’s action is, generally-speaking, a good speed.

7

Vary your lures. Change types and change colour and keep trying.

Some of the lures Outback Joe has enjoyed success with.

6

Best lures seem to be traditional minnows and soft plastics. Bouncing a frog lure across water lilies is also productive for catching barramundi. At night-time slowly retrieving surface popper lures to simulate mullet cruising around on the surface seems to be productive.

Super Special Secret Tips

So, you’ve followed the standard techniques and still haven’t caught any barramundi. You’re starting to question your manhood. I’ve devised a test to evaluate an area’s barramundi producing ability. Use this to rate how likely a fishing spot is to deliver barramundi. Each ‘yes’ answer scores one point, adding together to yield a score out of five. Give half a point if you think a condition is almost met. The higher the score, the better the chances of catching a barramundi and the more time you should dedicate to that spot. Seek out fishing spots that yield a higher score to improve your chances of catching Barra.

  • Is the area remote and difficult to access, on the end of a long, poorly maintained and badly corrugated dirt track?
  • Is the area untouched and undeveloped by man and lacking any facilities that would otherwise make your stay more comfortable?
  • Is the area inundated with biting midges? To score this point you need to be bitten by a midge at least five times per minute.
  • Is the area inundated with mosquitoes? To score this point you need to be able to hear uninterrupted buzzing of mosquitoes and a bite rate of at least two times per minute.
  • Is the area inundated with huge man-eating crocodiles? To score this point you need to be able to spot five or more crocodiles at any one time.

Interpretation of scores:
0 to 1 out of 5: Little to no Barra. It will be extremely difficult to catch barramundi. Best not try to avoid becoming demoralised by almost certain failure.

2 to 3 out of 5: Possible Barra. Maybe give it a go, but still difficult for the beginner barramundi fisherman and difficult if you don’t have a boat. Live bait fishing may be an option to improve your odds.

4 to 5 out of 5: Certain Barra. Dedicate as much time as you can to fishing this spot. It’s only a matter of time until you land a big Barra.

More Super Special Secret Tips

Trying to catch barramundi comes at great cost. That cost is lost lures, traces and fishing line. When you first start fishing for barramundi, don’t buy good lures. You’ll lose them.

Get yourself a bulk order of super cheap lures from ebay, and a bulk order of cheap traces and swivels too. You won’t be as devastated when you lose them all without catching a single fish. Once your lure attrition rate has stabilized, think about getting some better lures. Or just keep getting cheap ones like I do. Whether you get cheap or expensive lures, when you first start fishing for barramundi be prepared to lose a lot of rigs. Make sure you are ok with that before you start.

Unfortunately for lazy fisherman like myself, persistence is a big factor. Put in 12 hours a day of hard fishing in a good barramundi producing area with a four or five out of five rating, do it a few days in a row, and there’s a good chance you’ll catch something, if not a barramundi then some sort of encephalitis or ross river fever.

One other important factor is to go fishing early evening or at night. Barramundi generally feed more at night. As the sun sets, you’ll start hearing them splashing around feeding on the surface. This is the best time to fish. You have a much better chance of catching a barra. It’s also the best time to get killed by a man-eating crocodile and / or devoured by mosquitoes and biting midges. So, night fishing can come at significant risk, but it gives you your best chance of catching barramundi. In the dry season I have only ever caught barramundi late afternoon or at night. The problem with night fishing around crocodiles at night is that it reduces your life expectancy significantly.

Before casting, have a look around. Check which way the current is going. Look at the snags in the water and the overhanging vegetation that may catch your lure when you cast. Do a quick mental lure loss risk assessment. Figure out the best way to swing your rod. On your first few casts, aim far away from snags. Once you get a feel for the lure’s casting action and the prevailing conditions, start casting closer to the snags, probing for any potential barramundi. When you change lures or rigs, again aim away from snags for your first few casts. If using soft plastics, be aware they sink very quickly. As soon as a soft plastic hits the water, reel quickly until all slack in the line is eliminated. Soft plastics are the most frequently lost lures.

I use cheap lures. Personally, I can’t justify the expense of spending $20 on a lure, especially when they are so often lost. I don’t think there is much difference in fish attracting ability between cheap lures and expensive lures. A hungry fish presented with a reasonable looking lure will likely snap it up.

A good lure however will probably have stronger, sharper hooks which can help secure a better hook-up. Good lures have stronger split rings to terminate your line onto. Good lures may have a better paint job that doesn’t chip and scratch as easily when bounced along rocks and snags. But I’ve never noticed someone with expensive lures catching a lot more barramundi than someone with cheap lures. I’m happy with the el-cheapos.

Tips to Reduce Hefty Lure Losses

GUIDE Catching barramundi

HOW TO CATCH

BARRAMUNDI

TOP TIPS AND SECRET TECHNIQUES

One of the Holy Trinity fish species, barramundi is elusive, iconic, acrobatic, and delicious. Here’s a bait box full of tips and tricks on how to catch ‘em.

WORDS BY OUTBACK JOE

Everyone wants to catch a barra. To southerners like myself they hold a special appeal. They represent heading into the outback, escaping big city life and replacing it with big fishing life. They are cloaked in the mystery of the remote top end of Australia, the great unknown. Australia’s final frontier. The feeling of catching your first barramundi can only be described as better than any feeling anyone who’s never caught a barramundi has ever felt. Barramundi are one of the Holy Trinity species which makes them even more sought after (Barramundi, Mulloway and Australian Salmon).

I’m no expert at catching barra, having only been in the business for a few years, but I have learnt a bit during my short career and have managed to land a few. My biggest maxed out at 83cm. Most of my fishing has occurred during the dry season (up North) and I don’t have a boat, so not too bad.

In this article I discuss how to catch barramundi from a land-based fishing perspective. It is split into two sections: traditional tips, and my super special secret tips.

Terrain Tamer Parabolic Leaf Springs are designed for
the ultimate ride quality. Utilising a new design on an old technology, the parabolic spring allows a comfortable ride whether the vehicle is fully loaded or empty.

lighter – less unsprung weight

less shock – less shock load on differential gears

quieter – leaf springs do not touch each other

comfort – with better articulation

ADVERTISEMENT
SCROLL TO CONTINUE

This is similar to the techniques you’ll find in any ‘Barra fishing’ guide. Follow these points to improve your chances of catching barramundi.

traditional tips

Find a good spot. Look for snags, deep holes, intersections of two separate flows of water. Spots where a hungry barramundi will likely wait to ambush prey. Without a boat, a good spot generally means anywhere that you can access and cast a line. Beggars can’t be choosers.

1

Keep trying at one spot before moving on or giving up. Lazy barramundi can be indecisive and require repeated tempting before striking. If you’re land based fishing, you may not have many options. Keep fishing the same spot. Don’t stop.

2

Accuracy is important when fishing for barramundi, so you want short fishing rods. Around 6ft in length is good. Small means greater accuracy when casting, which is a requirement when fishing among snags. Small rods are also easier to manage when fishing around vegetated river and creek banks.

3

Some suggest baitcasting reels are best for improved accuracy and longer casting. I don’t have much experience with baitcasting reels, but with the experience garnered through losing dozens of lures, I’ve learnt to cast pretty accurately with my good old eggbeater reel. Also, unless you’ve had plenty of practice, I’ve found baitcaster reels prone to forming tangled bird’s nests.

4

A laceration- or abrasion-resistant leader or trace is required to protect against snags and the sharp gill rakes that barramundi possess (it will break). Thin braid or mono from your main spool isn’t good enough. Terminate your line with a length of heavy gauge mono or a steel trace to give you the best chance of landing a hooked-up barramundi. Some people believe steel traces lead to fewer hook ups, reason being that the barramundi can sense them and don’t like them. I don’t know if it’s true, but for lures I don’t think it matters much anyway. A fish striking a lure is quick and acting on instinct. It doesn’t have much time to sniff around and I’ve had good success with steel traces on lures. When using bait, you might want to consider heavy gauge mono.

5

“Barramundi are lazy ambush predators that wait for an easy target to pass by. Generally, they won’t pursue a fast-moving lure."

Paul O’Brien – Club 4X4 customer

ADVERTISEMENT
SCROLL TO CONTINUE
traditional tips cont'd

Best lures seem to be traditional minnows and soft plastics. Bouncing a frog lure across water lilies is also productive for catching barramundi. At night-time slowly retrieving surface popper lures to simulate mullet cruising around on the surface seems to be productive.

6

Vary your retrieval. Try extremely slow. Try medium pace. Try twitching your rod during retrieval. Try stopping your retrieval, twitching, then resuming.

9

Although lures work well on barramundi, you still can’t beat bait, especially live bait. Small mullets caught with a cast net or small prawns or cherabin caught in opera house traps are the most popular live bait. When the going is tough and the Barra aren’t feeding aggressively, live bait may be the only way to catch a barramundi.

10

Some of the lures Outback Joe has enjoyed success with.

7

Vary your lures. Change types and change colour and keep trying.

8

The hook is hidden inside the soft-bodied frog lure and is exposed once the fish grabs hold of it

When lure fishing, retrieve slowly. Barramundi are lazy ambush predators that wait for an easy target to pass by. Generally, they won’t pursue a fast-moving lure. For a typically geared egg-beater reel like mine, a retrieval rate of around one hand crank revolutions per second is good. Make sure you retrieve fast enough for your lure’s swimming action to work. The minimum speed required to activate the lure’s action is, generally-speaking, a good speed.

When hooked up, maintain line tension at all times and retrieve quickly. Barramundi are skilled at spitting hooks and lures, even from apparently rock-solid hook-ups. Their mouths are extremely tough, resisting a good hook-up. Often the hook does not penetrate the mouth, but rather gets snagged on a ridge or bump. Releasing tension allows the hook to lift off the ridge or bump, freeing the barramundi. Many barramundi that I’ve caught end up spitting out the hook as soon as tension is released when brought to shore.

11

It is said that barramundi migrate to different areas of river systems and estuaries according to season. Their aggressiveness also changes with the season. Middle of the dry season is most difficult to hook up barramundi. They move slow and try to conserve energy. Unfortunately, that’s the time when most anglers are trying to catch their first barramundi. Other times of the year are better. I’m not an expert capable of writing a lengthy thesis on barramundi migration, but I’ve found the most reliable areas regardless of season are deeper areas in the transition zone between fresh and salt, maybe say 25 to 75 kilometres upstream from the ocean. In the middle of the dry look for deeper pools in river systems or pools that have been completely isolated to form billabongs, forcing barramundi to concentrate there. Upstream of causeways also seem to be areas where barramundi congregate during the dry season.

12
Super Special Secret Tips
8

So, you’ve followed the standard techniques and still haven’t caught any barramundi. You’re starting to question your manhood. I’ve devised a test to evaluate an area’s barramundi producing ability. Use this to rate how likely a fishing spot is to deliver barramundi. Each ‘yes’ answer scores one point, adding together to yield a score out of five. Give half a point if you think a condition is almost met. The higher the score, the better the chances of catching a barramundi and the more time you should dedicate to that spot. Seek out fishing spots that yield a higher score to improve your chances of catching Barra.

  • Is the area remote and difficult to access, on the end of a long, poorly maintained and badly corrugated dirt track?
  • Is the area untouched and undeveloped by man and lacking any facilities that would otherwise make your stay more comfortable?
  • Is the area inundated with biting midges? To score this point you need to be bitten by a midge at least five times per minute.
  • Is the area inundated with mosquitoes? To score this point you need to be able to hear uninterrupted buzzing of mosquitoes and a bite rate of at least two times per minute.
  • Is the area inundated with huge man-eating crocodiles? To score this point you need to be able to spot five or more crocodiles at any one time.

Interpretation of scores:
0 to 1 out of 5: Little to no Barra. It will be extremely difficult to catch barramundi. Best not try to avoid becoming demoralised by almost certain failure.

2 to 3 out of 5: Possible Barra. Maybe give it a go, but still difficult for the beginner barramundi fisherman and difficult if you don’t have a boat. Live bait fishing may be an option to improve your odds.

4 to 5 out of 5: Certain Barra. Dedicate as much time as you can to fishing this spot. It’s only a matter of time until you land a big Barra.

More Super Special Secret Tips

Trying to catch barramundi comes at great cost. That cost is lost lures, traces and fishing line. When you first start fishing for barramundi, don’t buy good lures. You’ll lose them.

Get yourself a bulk order of super cheap lures from ebay, and a bulk order of cheap traces and swivels too. You won’t be as devastated when you lose them all without catching a single fish. Once your lure attrition rate has stabilized, think about getting some better lures. Or just keep getting cheap ones like I do. Whether you get cheap or expensive lures, when you first start fishing for barramundi be prepared to lose a lot of rigs. Make sure you are ok with that before you start.

Unfortunately for lazy fisherman like myself, persistence is a big factor. Put in 12 hours a day of hard fishing in a good barramundi producing area with a four or five out of five rating, do it a few days in a row, and there’s a good chance you’ll catch something, if not a barramundi then some sort of encephalitis or ross river fever.

One other important factor is to go fishing early evening or at night. Barramundi generally feed more at night. As the sun sets, you’ll start hearing them splashing around feeding on the surface. This is the best time to fish. You have a much better chance of catching a barra. It’s also the best time to get killed by a man-eating crocodile and / or devoured by mosquitoes and biting midges. So, night fishing can come at significant risk, but it gives you your best chance of catching barramundi. In the dry season I have only ever caught barramundi late afternoon or at night. The problem with night fishing around crocodiles at night is that it reduces your life expectancy significantly.

Tips to Reduce Hefty Lure Losses

Before casting, have a look around. Check which way the current is going. Look at the snags in the water and the overhanging vegetation that may catch your lure when you cast. Do a quick mental lure loss risk assessment. Figure out the best way to swing your rod. On your first few casts, aim far away from snags. Once you get a feel for the lure’s casting action and the prevailing conditions, start casting closer to the snags, probing for any potential barramundi. When you change lures or rigs, again aim away from snags for your first few casts. If using soft plastics, be aware they sink very quickly. As soon as a soft plastic hits the water, reel quickly until all slack in the line is eliminated. Soft plastics are the most frequently lost lures.

I use cheap lures. Personally, I can’t justify the expense of spending $20 on a lure, especially when they are so often lost. I don’t think there is much difference in fish attracting ability between cheap lures and expensive lures. A hungry fish presented with a reasonable looking lure will likely snap it up.

A good lure however will probably have stronger, sharper hooks which can help secure a better hook-up. Good lures have stronger split rings to terminate your line onto. Good lures may have a better paint job that doesn’t chip and scratch as easily when bounced along rocks and snags. But I’ve never noticed someone with expensive lures catching a lot more barramundi than someone with cheap lures. I’m happy with the el-cheapos.