Barramundi
Lates calcarifer
Other names: Giant Perch, Sea Perch
Similar species: Nile Perch

It is with good reason that the barramundi reigns as Australia’s premier lure taking sportfish. No other fish invokes the same spirit of adventure, takes anglers to so many varied and remotely beautiful waters, nor offers such a thrilling yet acid challenge. More so than other glamour sportfish, barra give rise to Murphy’s Laws of fishing; more of the unforeseen occurs between the strike and the boat
than can happen in any other form of lure fishing. The demands barramundi make on tackle are even more severe. If a lure has a weakness, count on a barramundi finding it.

Barramundi are spread across the northern half of Australia, along the Gulf of Papua, through Indonesia, the Philippines, and South East Asia between southern China to the Gulf of Bengal. A variant, Lates japponicus, lives on Okinawa. The Australian distribution extends lakes in the south east Queensland hinterland to the small tidal creeks at the bottom of Exmouth Gulf. Historical records relate
to a presence in the Brisbane river.

Barramundi habitat extends through extraordinarily varied waters. These extend from inshore islands, coastal headlands, bays, rivers and feeder waterway from their mouths upstream to where barriers – natural and man-made – prevent further movement. It also moves, mostly as juvenile fish, into billabongs and waterholes where it becomes isolated during the dry season. Impoundment stocking projects in Queensland have been spectacularly successful. Stillwater growth rates eclipse those of free-ranging fish. Ten year old barra in Lake Tinaroo are going through one hundred pounds.

Equally responsive to casting & retrieve and troll techniques, barra are both an open water fish and cover oriented. The precise location and disposition of fish depends on tides, or in the case of those landlocked, time of day. Tides are double edged, helping carry barramundi to their food and/or bringing food to this apex finned predator. Stillwater fish tend to lay up in shade by day and hunt extensively between dusk and dawn. Encounters happen more frequently through an understanding of those movements.

Many things go towards the making of a great barramundi lure. In summarising those characteristics – running depths, action, shape, action, colour, castability, hook up and fish holding capacity, buoyancy and backup and the capacity to withstand battle damage – it must be said that none of the genre remotely embodies same amount of those qualities as does the Scorpion into its sleek outline. The Scorpion is the ultimate barra lure.

The 90mm model – also available in three depth rated models – is a perfect casting lure, especially around timber where the wide bib on the 4m model allows anglers to bump it off snags without hang ups. Those contacts provoke strikes. The bib towed 125mm models – which feature Halco’s exclusive bullet-proof bib, a fixture that stands up where other lures fail – come in 1m, 3m, 5m and 8m models. In many minds this is the definitive “barra caliber” Scorpion, equally at home being cast or trolled. The 150mm Scorpion comes in a standard 3m model, a deeper 5m model and with the revolutionary Crazy Deep bib that can get down to a hitherto unreachable 8 metres. As such it becomes a deadly – and perhaps only – tool for reaching those fish laying on deep structure.

That the sculptured Scorpion shape and trademark high-frequency shimmy can be offered in so many sizes, depth ratings and in such a brilliant array of colours cements it’s niche as the supreme barra lure.

The Halco stable has yet more to offer barra anglers. The Laser Pro range, especially the 120mm and 120MT models in highly reflective metallic finishes are highly consistent producers. Cast to cover and worked with a short, sharp jinking action, these produce strikes where other lures fail.

The Poltergeist 80 is also a highly credentialed barramundi offering, particularly when trolling deep structure.  It’s ability to walk through heavy timber to where the barra are located makes this lure a must have for any serious barra angler.

The Tilsan range brings yet another dimension to barra fishing. Besides a realistic baitfish shape and action, Tilsan’s “Barra” has a unique neutral buoyancy that allows it to be “hovered” in and around weed beds, rock bars and snags. This capacity for pause is a deadly tool. Another Tilsan strength – besides a central metal chassis that provides an exceptional durability for a timber lure – is a colour range that’s largely based on muted and natural – dark upper surfaces, light lowers – colour schemes. Of such tones much good can be said.

More recently Halco has added a range of soft plastic lures to its stable under the Madeye branding.  Lures like the 4 and 5 inch Paddle Prawn are perfect for barramundi when rigged on a conventional 3/8oz jig head and 3/0 or 5/0 hook.  Alternatively they can be rigged weedless on a worm hook to avoid snagging in heavy timber or weedy areas.

Barra can be moody. There are times when an “in their face” presentation will trigger otherwise dormant fish. This is where the noisemaker fast vibrating Trembler 70XS comes into its own. The lure is at its best when allowed to sink down to fish holding structure and worked with a steady sink and draw routine.

In any conversation on barra you’ll hear names like Halco, Scorpion, Poltergeist and Tilsan. That kind of speaks for itself!