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Advanced Flathead Trolling

In a competition that features the very best anglers, Team Wilson won the 2019 Gold Coast Flathead Classic by switching up to trolling.

Trolling for flathead is not new and there are many great lures out there that will catch flathead on the troll in the Gold Coast's waterways, however it is an undeniable fact that the Zerek 50mm Tango Shad sits right up there with the very best ever made.

But trolling is not as simple as throwing a lure out the back and driving around the shallows, although this does work. To make the most of trolling, you need to work at your craft, spend a lot of time on the water and know your tackle and locations intimately.

We spoke to our boys from Team Wilson (Kord Luckus, Rob Payne and Scott Fleming) about how they go about their trolling and what pointers they could pass on to others. This is relatively easy given Kord is our GM and Scott Fleming is one of our reps, and Rob Payne is a good mate of Wilsons who has helped us out on many proects and displays over the years.

The Set Up

Scott, Robbie and Kord have fished together a lot and have a well-structured plan for how the boat operates.

Apart from the general mayhem of fishing, the crew sets up with Robbie fishing out the right hand side while driving and looking at the main sounder, Kord centre trolling and looking at the main sounder and Scotty fishing off the front deck on the left side and using the front mounted sounder.

Everyone needs access to a sounder so they can literally drive the Tango Shads they are trolling by manipulating drop back, rod height and action.

Robbie has a very important job - to keep the boat in the right position. It must be noted here that the boat position is all about making sure the lures are in the right spot, not about the boat being in the right depth. This is a mostly forgotten element to good trolling: You are driving the lures not the boat. Because of this, Robbie tends to flat troll, only adjusting the lure by dropping and lifting the rod tip for extra depth or less depth.

Kord, as the centre troller, can see the main sounder and accurately judge what is coming up for his lure. Kord is probably the most active of the trollers constantly adjusting his lure's position in the water to take advantage of what the sounder is telling him. Kord will lift the rod tip, drop the rod tip, quickly wind in a couple of metres, drop the lure back a few metres, all to make sure the lure is exactly where it needs to be in relation to the bottom and the structure being fished.

Scotty has the task of being the scorer, photographer and fish processor. When he is not doing any of these jobs, Scott uses the front sounder to manage his lure's position. The vital information he gets on depth allows him to adjust his lure where necessary. When he is processing the fish, his rod sits in the rod holder and flat trolls, letting the lure do the work.

This set up is not for everyone, but the boys are a well-oiled machine when it comes to trolling. They each know where their lure is sitting behind the boat and when to adjust how the lure is running to get the maximum out of each troll run.


It's not just as simple as grabbing any old rod, reel and lure and throwing it out the back to catch a flathead. Like their driving of the lures, the team is very particular about the gear they use to ensure everything is working to its best.

Across all three, the number one trolling rod used is the Aussie-built Blade N Tails Ultralight Elite. This rod is 6'10" and has a softish action that is perfect for trolling lures. The rod has a little bit of grunt down low that helps with landing fish, but the main reason this rod is used is that it is soft and doesn't pull or straighten the fine hooks used on the lures. Their back ups include the newly released Blade N Tails RLFBT17, also a 6'10" 4-8lb model and the RLFBT04, which is a 7' 4-8lb rod.

On the troll flathead are often hooked through the skin rather than through their lips. The small hooks catch on the skin and a soft rod allows the lunges and runs of the fish to be absorbed without tearing the hooks out. This is a very important point. It's not like fishing a jighead where you need to punch the hook through the roof of the mouth with a stronger tipped rod. Here you need to keep the fine hooks in the skin and the Ultralight Elite and the BNT models are made for this purpose.

The reel used is either an 800 or 2000 ATC Valiant Carbon Fibre reel loaded with 8lb braid. To the braid a leader of 8-12lb is attached with Wilson Fluorocarbon the choice. Robbie explained the difference in leader saying that he has a couple of rods rigged as it's harder for him to alter the lure's running depth than the other guys. If he needs a little extra depth, he'll grab the 8lb leader set up. If he needs a little less depth, he'll grab a 10 or 12lb leader set up. It is these subtle differences that separates those who really understand their gear from other trollers.

As for lures, the number one choice is the Zerek Tango Shad 50. This lure, given all the manipulation the crew use to achieve certain outcomes, can be fished from 1.2m right down to almost 2m. They are excellent at shedding weed with the angler giving the rod tip a sharp rip and the colour range is staggering.

Having said the colour range is staggering, there is one colour that dominates over most of the others for this team and that is colour BL. This is a dark purple/black lure with white UV highlight stripes and when the flathead are feeding on gudgeons in the weed, it produces fish after fish. It's also worth noting that most of the successful lures have at least some UV enhancement, such as dots, chin highlights or tiger stripes.

The Tango Shad 50 is attached by using a size 0 or size 1 Mustad Fastach clip. These clips make lure changes easy and allow the team to adjust very quickly if they need to alter colours or simply change a lure because it has been damaged. Which brings us to one other extremely vital point. If the lure is damaged in any way, be that a slightly bent hook, a hook point rounded off or a split ring bent from an oversized fish thrashing in the net, the lure will be swapped out and a new one put out immediately. There are no second chances and Team Wilson pay extreme attention to their lures. All the damaged lures are fixed up overnight with new rings and hooks fitted where necessary. 

Again, it is the attention to fine detail that makes the difference.

Fun Game

Team Wilson pride themselves on having fun and that is a key to success. If you're not enjoying your fishing, chances are you will not fish the best you can.

Any time you see Team Wilson on the water they are laughing and that is a very strong take home message. There is no doubt the boys take the tournament very seriously, the work they do before the comp is testament to this, but they do not let this serious edge take away from their desire to have a good time.

With these key points, hopefully a few of you out there will improve your trolling. It's certainly not a dumb or simple, no-thought-required option, rather it's a very technical and planned approach that puts fish in the boat. After all, putting fish in the boat is exactly what tournament fishing is all about.

And remember, these are not just tournament fishing tips. If you're on the water chasing flathead at any time, a lot of these techniques should be used to make the most of your time on the water.


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