Julian Chidgey


With the warm weather here, many people are heading to the coast for a day trip or holiday. While the family are chilling on the beach with a bucket, spade and ice cream why not enjoy some great action with your lure tackle?

Over the last few years fishing for Ballan wrasse has become of my favourite styles of lure fishing. Any piece of coastline which features rocky ground or structure is likely to hold these colourful hard fighting fish, and best of all you probably already have all the gear that you need!

So what do you need to get started? My preference is for a rod of around 2.4-2.7m with a casting weight of 10-30gm, currently I am using the Rage Terminator Pro jigger finesse 240.  This is twinned with a Prism 2500 reel this is loaded with 10.55kg 0.13mm Jig Silk. Whilst this tackle is my personal choice, I am sure that the tackle you use to target smaller pike, or big perch and zander will be more than up to the task.  


Additional tackle will be a small shoulder bag with some 16-23lb fluorocarbon for leaders, a selection of cone weights ranging from 7-15gm, offset hooks between 2 and 1/0 and a selection of soft plastic lures. Over the years I have caught wrasse on most types of soft lures but there are a couple that I really wouldn’t want to go to the coast without- Small paddle tails are the perfect imitation of prey fish that frequent the rocky shoreline.  9cm Spikeys or 8cm Tiddler Fasts have caught me a lot of good fish, and I’ve found it pays to ‘match the hatch’ by opting for darker shades with greens, browns and reds that match the resident gobies, shannies and scorpion fish that the wrasse pray upon. Secondly, worm type baits in the same patterns and 10-15cm in length have proven equally effective.

Looking at the thick kelp beds, and jagged rocky gullies where we expect to find our target species you would expect to lose a lot of terminal tackle. However, by fishing texas style and having the hook flush with, or just inside the body of the lure you often go whole sessions without losing any gear.


When looking for spots to fish, it pays to ‘switch on’ your watercraft. Wrasse like to sit out of strong tidal flow where food will be delivered to them by the tide, or spots where they can dart out of the rocky crevices to intercept food. If you arrive to find the tide in a lower state try rocky headlands or  gullies that still offer a reasonable depth. Whilst any boulder fields or rocky ridges are best explored on an incoming tide as you will find the wrasse will creep into very shallow water to feed on the larder such spots will often hold. Man made structure shouldn’t be ignored either and I have had some great fish of busy piers, harbours and breakwaters too.


For good success with wrasse the correct retrieve technique is paramount. Once I have found a spot I want to target I cast the lure and feel it down on a tight line, as lots of bites come at this stage. Once, the lure hits the bottom I just use little lifts and drops aiming to keep contact with the bottom throughout the retrieve. If I have balanced the weight of the cone lead against any tidal flow then the lure should trundle across the bottom without me doing very much, very much like rolling meat for barbel. As the lure moves you will get a slight bow in the braid and I watch this throughout as you often see the take develop before you feel it hence my choice of a high visibility braid. Takes are usually a series of sharp taps, followed by an arm wrenching take so make sure that clutch is set.


Unlike most species wrasse feed throughout the hottest of summer weather, and throughout the day. Making them the most ‘family fishing friendly’ species I have come across. Combine this with their unbelievable fighting prowess and stunning colours and you have the perfect target for some fun, saltwater fishing during the summer months.


Jules' top five rock tips-

  • Always be careful when fishing on slippery rocks. Fish in pairs or at least tell someone where you are fishing and take a phone.
  • Look for likely spots where wrasse can sit out of strong tides to intercept food. Headlands, gullies and mad made features are all worth targeting
  • Match the hatch, opt for colours to imitate the natural food.
  • Balance your weight to the tide, for a natural presentation and more bites
  • Wrasse have very little food value and are a vital part of the food chain in rocky coastlines. Please carefully revive and return all wrasse that you catch.


Footnote- Wrasse have recently begun being removed in huge numbers and transported from their native coastlines to be used in the salmon farming industry. They are placed in the salmon farms to eat any parasites that inhibit the growth of the salmon. This could have a disastrous effect upon the delicate ecosystems where the Ballan Wrasse originate. If you enjoy fishing for wrasse, or are feeling inspired after reading this article please take a minute to sign this petition to protect the wrasse -http://www.devonwildlifetrust.org/wrasse-campaign-2017