Chasing inshore pelagics on lures by Mick Underwood

One of the most popular ways to fish with clients on charter is to introduce them to fishing for big shiny tropical speedsters with light to medium spin gear and lures. Even though a high percentage of the people that I take out for a fish are keen for a tasty reef fish to bring home, I've never had a complaint from anyone about catching something that tries it's best to pull them out of the boat. The big cheesy grins and looks of exhilaration on people's faces when I net a nice fish for them is very rewarding and as a guide I know at that moment that I've given someone an experience that they will remember forever.
We're very fortunate in coastal Queensland to have a large variety of species to chase after and it doesn't really matter what time of the year or your location, there's always a target species somewhere nearby. Here at Hydeaway Bay at the top of the Whitsundays we are fortunate to have a plethora of species to chase and they're all ravenous predators eager to eat a wide array of lures.
Amongst the trevally family the giant trevally is the apex predator, followed up by his golden, diamond, goldspot and tealeaf cousins. In the mackerel family the Spanish mackerel is king of the castle with school, spotted, grey and shark mackerel also on the cards. Both mac and longtail tunas are available locally, as is the occasional cobia. You can't forget about the humble queenfish either - they're one of my personal favourites, especially once they reach XOS proportions.
Locating any of the above-mentioned speedsters is one of the biggest challenges of the game and a part of it that I enjoy a lot. It's the hunt - where are they going to be today? They can literally turn up anywhere at any time and unless it's your lucky day you can bet they won't be where you found them yesterday. They might be on a headland, a reef, a rubble patch or, as I quite often find, they're out in open water in the middle nowhere in some vast structureless paddock of water.
The key with finding inshore pelagics is the same as it is with lots of predatory fish; find the bait and you'll find the predators. To locate the bait the two main tools we have are our eyes and a good sounder. If the bait is sitting up high in the water column then our eyes are our best tools. The more sets of them scanning the ocean, the better. When travelling at 20 knots between locations I always ask whoever is on board to assist in the hunt by keeping a sharp lookout for any signs of life. This may be in the form of a scared baitfish scurrying across the surface, or it may be the presence of a light oil slick on the surface where some heavy feeding has gone on recently.
Birds are a dead set giveaway and it doesn't have to be flocks of them. Sometimes it takes only a solitary tern dipping down to sea level somewhere off in the distance to give the show away. If the bait is sitting deep in the water column then a sounder is your best tool. Pressure points and current lines that run off the corners of islands or headlands are a good place to have a sound as big predatory fish love to herd up and push baitfish into these areas. For a poor little baitfish, swimming into a current line is like swimming into a brick wall, they become disorientated and confused, making them easy prey. Locations like this can become natural feeding stations for all pelagic species.
When searching for bait in open water it's important that your sounder works reliably when you're on the plane, otherwise you could be driving over masses of fish and not have a clue.