Estuary, Fishing stories, Stuff we've learnt, Think like a fish- fishing techniques

Trolling for Whiting – with poppers!

Trolling tiny poppers behind a noisy two stroke doesn’t work. It’s all about stealth, long casts and delicate presentation. Did I mention you need the latest in Japanese lure tech? Don’t be shy, $30 is nothing to spend on a 3 gram piece of plastic…

That was my mindset when my nephew George lobbed a $2 popper out the back of our moving boat that resembled an offshore oil rig such was the quantity of black smoke coming from the spluttering two stroke outboard. ‘Yeah right mate, ya dreaming’ was my call as I manouvered the boat towards our next drift where I would cut the motor and pepper the edges with what I thought would be the winning technique.

I was wrong. After just a few meters George came out with the call ‘I’m on!’. I turned to see him wrestle an elbow slapper boatside and we snuck the net under her to the howl of a victory shout from George. I was too shocked to say anything. Fluke, surely, it was a fluke.

The fish that started a trend. Nice work George!
The fish that started a trend. Nice work George!


To set the scene, our location was Jervis Bay on the South Coast of NSW. I was visiting my parents and trying to balance social responsibilities with fishing urges. I don’t leave the tropics much and my to-do list while down south was stupidly long. Meter plus kingys, crayfish while diving, a photo of a flying fish in mid flight… yep there was no way I was ever going to tick all those boxes! Still, one goal right up the top was a Whiting, Bream or Flathead on a popper.

Whiting territory - deep channels, bordered by shallow sandbanks
Whiting territory – deep channels, bordered by shallow sandbanks

St Georges Basin was our first destination. Its a recreational fishing haven – seriously, thats what they call it, and it has extensive sandflats with weedy patches that make it prime habitat for my target species. It’s also packed with small prawns and I’m guessing this is what the little micro poppers we were using aim to simulate. I was sure we’d snare a few whiting in no time.

Sunset session on the Basin - happy to be out there
Sunset session on the Basin – happy to be here

Liam aka ‘Nightcrawler’ came along for the first trip. He’d claimed many a whiting on  popper and was just back from a trip chucking plastics at flathead with cricket score results. I was confident he could show me the way to popper domination. We flicked, popped, slurped and zigzaged well into the night and finally I heard a mini ‘boof’ somewhere near my lure. No hookup. A few more pops and another ‘boof’. Still no hookup. Maybe I was halucinating about a session long past on the Daly River? Back to the popping and bang! finally I was on! Surely this was my target. I cranked that poor fish in like there was a shark after it and it wasn’t until I fumbled with my head torch that it finally revealed itself as a pesky bloody tailor. After a few more choppers we called it a night. The Whiting would have to wait.

Then came the day when George changed it all. The boat was tied up to a private wharf out the front of a fishos dream abode our mates were renting. Everybody needs a wharf, its a basic human right I’d say!  We had spent a fruitless hour trying to crack the Whiting on surface lures code and I was manoeuvring us into position for another likely looking drift that would take us past shallow sand flats, jettys and weedy drop offs. We could see the buggers but do you reckon they would take any interest in our lures? Of course not!

George’s hadn’t been conditioned to the do’s and don’ts of whiting fishing so there was nothing to stop him from trying a new technique. There’s a lesson in that for all of us. His optimism led to a discovery (for us anyway) that produced such great surface action it had me calling it the most exciting estuary fishing I’ve experienced.

I can’t really call it a ‘discovery’ because lets face it, there isn’t alot in the fishing world that’s new these days (ie similar to yo-yo’s, soft plastics have been the ‘new thing’ at least twice in the last 20 years). But hey if you’ve been trolling up Whiting then you’ve been keeping quiet about it because its certainly something I’ve never heard of and I troll websites and fishing mags with the persistance of a patient marlin fisho.

Mitch whiting on popper1
Mitch with a nice whiting caught trolling a micro popper

Next time you hit the water in a boat or kayak give this recipe a go:

– Purchase cheap popppers – you know the ones they come in lots of three for $10 and you get a free tackle box. It’s good to have a few spare cause Pike and Tailor will steal some and the constant action will cause a few to crack and sink.

– Grab a vessel and don’t worry if it has a 250hp donk from the 60’s on the back, noise isn’t an issue. Chuck it in gear and idle over anything from weedbeds and sandflats to channels up to 10m deep.

– Flick out your lure, let it stray back a good 20-30m and jiggle your rod in a ‘who gives a stuff’ type fashion.

– Prepare for the show. We had a lot of hit and misses especially in deeper areas where the fish would launch out of the water as they chased your lure. Exciting stuff that!

Trolling the poppers really put the fishing fun back into a summer season that was pretty slow on the kingfish and squid front. It’s always great to learn a new technique and Geroge, if you are reading this, I can’t wait to see what you can teach me next summer. Marlin on mullet hooks maybe…

Good luck folks, just leave some for me when I get back down there because I will certainly be giving this trick another go!


1 thought on “Trolling for Whiting – with poppers!

  1. Jervis bay looks pretty as ever! Didnt know you guys were down south….

    I miss the missions in IBK469N

    Punk Tim

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