Barramundi Fishing Reels

By MATT FLYNN of North Australian FISH FINDER TM


A small overhead casting reel (below) is the most popular design for barramundi fishing. Though small, these reels are powerful, and allow easy thumb control of the spool when casting.

They are usually used to cast lures, but are termed "baitcasters".

Baitcasters are ideal for trolling and good for casting with medium to heavyweight lures and baits.

Threadline or spinning reels are becoming more popular with those who throw very small, light lures for barramundi, because it is difficult to cast a light lure with an overhead reel, especially into the wind.

Lightweight, neutral buoyancy lures are usually used on estuary flats or in billabongs with spinning reels.

It is perhaps best one rod and reel for each style of barramundi fishing.

Buy the best reels you can afford, because the barramundi will test them. Buy only saltwater grade reels.

Have reels serviced often for a more enjoyable fishing experience, and longer reel life.

The best reel brands are well known – ABU, Shimano and Daiwa.

Barramundi Fishing Lures

By MATT FLYNN of North Australian FISH FINDER TM


Today, the bibbed minnow remains the most popular style of barramundi lure. Soft plastic lures are attracting a growing following.

Surface lures take third place, followed by jigs.

Most barramundi lures are bibbed minnows that float until retrieved. Sinking and suspending models are also available.

Floating lures are good for casting over rocks and other snags. They will rise when the retrieve is stopped.

The floating-diving minnow with a big bib is best for trolling snags. Most deep-divers have big bibs and tend to swim head-down with the bib bumping over snags, keeping the hooks clear.

Sinking minnows are harder to fish – the lure will often sink into snags. Nonetheless they can be very effective when snags are too deep or steep for floating divers.

A sinking lure or floating lure with a weighted trace can be used where a snag or bank is steep and instant diving ability is required.

Depth of dive is the main issue when choosing a bibbed minnow.

The lure’s rated depth of dive should match the depth you intend to fish. Most lures are made in several dive ratings, usually stated in feet as 3+, 5+, 10+ and so on.

Dive depth also varies according to the boat speed, the amount of line out and line thickness.

Trolling depth can be altered a little by raising or lowering the rod, but fishermen still need shallow, medium and deep divers for trolling at different depths.

Shallow divers or surface lures are essential for fishing flats and shallow bank edges where predators ambush bait.

Soft plastics and prawns have become popular in the barramundi fishery because they are effective, especially in the wet season, often getting a strike when hard bodied lures won’t.

The waggly tail seems to drive predatory fish wild.

Soft plastics no longer have to be assembled on a jig head – they can be bought in packs with each lure’s hook and weight moulded into the body.

Some anglers however like to use a range of jig heads on the same bodies and buy the heads and bodies separately.

Resin heads are popular for finesse fishing with almost unweighted lures, and can be hugely effective because of their lifelike action.

Most soft plastics have a single hook and the hook-up rate can be low, but the fish will often strike soft lures multiple times. Plastic prawn imitations also work well in northern fresh and saltwater.

They work best on a light threadline (eggbeater) outfit because they are so light.

Jigs are dropped down and then jigged back up to the boat, or are simply jigged up and down on the spot.


Small rattling jigs are effective on barramundi when jigged along deep snags. Jigs can also be cast and retrieved but tend to foul easily way because they have no bib to bounce over the snags.

Poppers and fizzers are worked on the surface and can be very effective at night or in shallow water.

They can also be effective around snags and weedbeds.

Work poppers slowly, especially at night.

Bait for barramundi

Many people like to catch barramundi using bait. A popular bait is cherabin, or freshwater prawn. Freshwater prawns are one of the Top End’s special treats.

The prawns, locally called cherabin, grow as big as saltwater prawns, taste as good, and can be easily caught. Cherabin live in most freshwater habitats. They can be caught in baited traps, with a spear, or with a cast net, but are easiest to catch at night, when they are most active.

cherabin for barramundi fishing

In shallow sandy areas such as the far upper Daly River or Katherine Rivers, a fish carcass can be staked to the bottom, and a cast-net thrown over the carcass every half-hour to collect cherabin – but watch out for crocodiles that may be attracted to the bait. Cherabin eyes shine red in torchlight, just like a barra.

Cherabin are the number one barra bait, if you manage to not eat them. Another inland crustacean is the redclaw, which looks like a southern yabby, or freshwater crayfish. These are caught using similar methods to catching cherabin. They are also great eating.

Mullet are also top livebait for barramundi. They can be caught in a cast net. Herring, garfish and sardines are also good baits. Barramundi only occasionally take dead baits.

Boats, Cars and Other Gear

Daly River barramundi fishing The Northern Territory has good roads and most boat ramps can be accessed by 2WD, although 4WD is recommended as even good concrete boat ramps can be slippery and difficult at low tide.

Boats of all sizes are used to go barramundi fishing, but because of the presence of large crocodiles in Northern Territory, anything under 3.7m is not recommended.

Casting platforms are very useful in a barramundi boat, as are livebait tanks, and a long-range fuel tank. However a standard 3.7m cartopper is suitable for many barramundi hotspots.

Click on the link here for more on barramundi fishing boats.

Rods and reels for barramundi fishing

Overhead casting reels are hugely popular for lure fishing. Small spinning reels (eggbeaters) work fine however and are good for casting light lures. Click on the link to find out more about barramundi fishing reels.

See your tackle shop to find a matching rod – there’s too many choices to list here, but good rods are available at low prices.

Line breaking strains today are usually 8kg to 15kg, with a tendency to use the modern braided lines. barramundi fishing tackle

Other gear

A good echo sounder can help you locate barramundi, although it is not an essential item for much barramundi fishing. A GPS unit is handy when you are in unfamiliar waters as local fishing maps generally provide GPS data.

You will need a landing net, preferably a small mesh net that will not split the fish’s fins. Many barramundi are released because the NT has strict bag and size limits and these fish must be handled carefully to ensure their survival. A measuring sticker should be attached to the gunwhales so you can see if your barra is over the legal 55cm limit.

A lure desnagging pole will help you retrieve lures that are invariably snagged while fishing the lairs in which barramundi shelter.

Sunscreen, a good hat and lots of drinking water are other essentials.

Northern Territory black jewfish

More about barramundi fishing seasons

Successful barramundi fishing requires an understanding of northern seasons. Let’s start from January. It’s the wet season and the rivers are swollen. Barra are moving up the rivers and out onto the floodplains feeding on frogs, tadpoles, rainbow fish and the like.

With so much water about, the fish can be hard to find, but anglers who fish inflows, junctions or eddies, or where bait is concentrated, will find barramundi.

By March, the floodplains are flowing clear water into the rivers and sea. This is the “run-off”, when fishing is at its best. Barramundi can be found lurking at the floodplain creek mouths.

The best fishing is usually as the floodplains empty their final contents.

By April/May, when most of the floodplain-fed creeks have dried up, a strong freshwater flow remains in the big rivers, and barramundi are targeted in the clear green water. Trolling and casting to eddies and structure can work well, as well as working mullet schools on the incoming tide.

In tidal waters, barramundi will travel up and down a river with the tide, providing short but furious action as they pass by.

Landing a barramundi

By June, as the upper rivers stop flowing, barramundi become landlocked in billabongs, where they become creatures of ambush, waiting in weeds, snags and rockbars for passing meals. Cold spells will slow them down. Successful anglers work in close to snags, losing lures but hooking more fish.

If trolling and you feel the lure hitting snags or the bottom, you have got it right. Use lures that dive to the depth your sounder shows. Bibbed lures that float when stationary are good for trolling as they bump over snags, floating up when line is released. Sinking lures can be dropped beside deep snags.

Towards the end of the dry season, about September, as the weather warms in the build-up to the wet season, barramundi become aggressive and fishing improves tenfold. September, October and November are great fishing months, although the noon heat and afternoon storms put some people off.

The monsoon hits in December, when westerly winds and driving rain see most fisherman preparing their gear for the year ahead.

Barramundi often feed best at night, and in the early morning and late afternoon. They can easily find a lure in complete darkness. Despite the fish’s large size, small lures fitted with strong hooks often work well, especially during the run-off when tiny bait abounds, and when tiny prawns fill the estuaries.

Northern Territory barramundi fishing – DIY

You can catch barramundi without a professional guide, using your own boat. It is hard work, but a lot of fun at the same time. Click the link for more information about DIY barramundi fishing.

Meanhile, check out some barramundi fishing videos.

jumping barramundi