Each winter Australian bass turn their minds to spawning. Biological urges compel female bass to head downstream in search of spawning grounds. Their annual migration can take them hundreds of kilometres down river to the eagerly awaiting males. During these cooler months’, large schools of migrating bass can be found at various points in the river system. These congregations can be vulnerable to over exploitation by fisherman. When targeting these iconic sport fish, there are a number of things the recreational fisherman can do to ensure good catch rates for years to come.
Australian bass are catadromous. This means they migrate downstream to spawn. Most catadromous fish migrate to the sea to spawn, however bass only need move into the brackish water to breed. Rainfall events between May and August trigger the females to move downstream into the estuary to breed. Males tend to remain in the estuary after spawning, whereas the females move back upstream where they remain until the following season.
Bass prefer to spawn in water of low salinity (about 1/3 sea water). Therefore, it could be predicted that; in most south east coastal Australian river systems bass will be congregating to spawn during the winter months where the salt water meets the fresh. The exact locations will vary each year, dependent on conditions such as salinity. However, spawning often remains within the vicinity of a predicable part of the river each year. The predictability of these congregations of spawning bass make them vulnerable to over fishing.
Some anglers would argue the key to conservation here is catch and release. But it is likely that the trauma caused to a fish after capture and release would at the very least ‘kill the mood’. At worst the eggs or the milt may be purged and spawning for that individual is delayed until next year. Our native fish already face enough adversity through loss of habitat, pollution, over fishing etc. Thus, targeting spawning bass is simply not good practice. Despite this, in NSW the laws currently don’t appear to prohibit targeting spawning bass. From June to August each year a zero-bag limit applies, but fishing in these areas is still allowed. This raises a few questions. Does this mean catch and release anglers can still legally target bass in rivers over winter? More importantly is it ethical?
Pre-spawning and spawning bass fishing tactics
Perhaps the best rule of thumb is to fish for bass in your local dam during winter. Bass in our rivers are busy ensuring future generations of bass, so they are best left alone to do their thing. The good news is that bass also tend to congregate over the winter months in our dams as well. Their instinct to spawn often has them forming schools in the lower catchment. Large congregations of bass can often be found near dam walls or spillways that prevent their migration downstream. Of course, there is no saltwater in our impoundments, so the bass can’t breed anyway. So, bass fishing over winter can be guilt free and highly productive.
In the cooler month’s schools of bass tend to hold down deep out in the middle of the dam. Cycling through a variety of deep presentations such as ice jigs, blades, soft plastics and lipless crankbaits are the ‘go to’ baits over winter. At times these schooling bass can be tight lipped, so varying retrieves and presentations is the key to success on any given day. Perhaps the most valuable technique is to ensure you don’t disturb the school too much. Pressuring a school by the capture of numerous fish can cause the school to shut down. A captured and released bass somehow puts out a vibe which often alerts other fish to possible danger. By temporarily retaining the fish in a live well, the angler can catch a number of bass before the school wises up.
Post spawning bass fishing tactics
After spawning female bass want to return home to their freshwater habitat. September is the best time to intercept these post spawning females as they make their way home. The freshwater areas immediately above the estuary are the areas to focus on. Spawning activity has left the bass hungry and competition caused by the presence of other bass, means they are particularly vulnerable to capture. Care should be taken not to over exploit the fish stocks at this time of year. Tackle choice plays a large part in the conservation of the fishery.
All the usual array of baits tend to work in September; spinnerbaits, diving minnows, soft plastics, blades, lipless crank baits, flies, surface baits etc. With such an increase in the likely hood of catching high numbers of bass, it makes sense to moderate your approach. First, try using baits that are less likely to cause injury to the fish. Baits with single hooks such as spinnerbaits and soft plastics are less likely to cause injury to vulnerable mouth, eyes and throat parts of the bass. A bass hooked with a single hook is also much easier to release and less likely to cause injury to the angler.
September/October is an ideal time to fly fish for bass. Fly fishing can often be a bit daunting due to lower catch rates compared to fishing with lures. But with plenty of hungry bass around now is the time to practice ‘waving the wand’. Focus on the shady areas around snags during the day with clousers and streamers etc. Tie on surface flies such as Dahlberg divers in the low light conditions of early morning and late afternoon. A fly is also far less likely to cause injury to a fish’s mouth parts and eyes compared to many other baits.
When the fishing is tough using lures with double trebles increases your likelihood of hook up. A fish only has to sniff a fine gauge treble and it is hooked. But when unhooking small fine gauge trebles from a high number of captures, you may notice the injuries these trebles can cause to fish. These hooks tend to stick to and penetrate anything they touch, including the fish’s eyes, throats and gills. Modifying trebles by flattening the barbs and even cutting off one of the hooks goes a long way in ensuring the survival of released fish.
At this time of year it is possible to pull a number of fish off each snag. If your intention is to catch and release and you have a live well, be sure to detain each fish temporarily. As with bass fishing in the dams, your catch and released bass might alert the rest of the school to your presence. It is important here you know the local rules and regulations in the area you are fishing. At time of writing, in NSW taking of only 1 bass over 35cm from rivers and 2 from dams is allowed. So even if your intention is catch and release, possession of numerous bass in a live well may not be allowed? In this case the alternative is to release each fish at a distance from the area you wish to keep fishing.
To ensure future stocks of Australian bass, anglers would benefit by altering their fishing locations and techniques just before, during and after the spawning season. In winter avoid fishing in rivers, instead concentrating on dams. Use catch and release friendly tackle such as baits with single hooks or flatten the barbs on trebles. By following local rules and with a little forethought, the iconic Australian bass will be around for many future generations to come.
We arrived at the dam at 7am ready for action. As we were unpacking the gear the natural beauty of our surrounds demanded our attention. The mist slowly rising from the lake, revealing lotus flowers in the morning light. I heard someone comment “just being here was worth it already”. It is always such a pleasure to hear people appreciate the natural beauty of this wetland as much as I do. My job was already done and we hadn’t even wet a line yet.
The 5 of us diligently peppered the lake with our lures throughout the morning. We cycled through a number of different presentations, altering our retrieves and changing lures. But we had no bites at all. The water at Clarrie Hall is currently very turbid. I haven’t seen it this colour before and I am not sure what has caused the turbidity. With no significant recent rainfall, the discolouration it is likely due to an algal bloom. These events can strip the water of oxygen leaving the bass lethargic and unwilling to eat. High temperatures alone also decrease dissolved oxygen levels and may have resulted in a die off of some aquatic weed. This could further exasperate the issue. Either way the fish were certainly ‘off the chew’ so we decided to head for the river.
It was good to see the Tweed had recovered from its previous turbid and somewhat stagnant state. There had been just enough rain to flush the system and it looked great. Using spinnerbaits and hard bodies the boys worked all likely looking snags. By 5pm the boys had caught about 10 bass between them. They worked hard for their fish and deserved every one of them. Their enthusiasm, appreciation and help throughout the day was awesome. Days like this its a real privilege to be a guide. You guys are welcome back anytime!
Tom showed up keen as mustard ready to fish Hinze Dam for the first time. The weather had cooled since the previous days, so conditions were very pleasant out on the water. First up we headed straight for a nice looking bay where we fished the surface for saratoga. Tom tied on a popper and it wasn’t long before he had his first inquiry. The toga snaffled the lure on the pause, jumped a few times and spat the hook. Saratoga have hard mouths and throw violent head shakes when they jump, so staying connected with a toga is a volatile thing. I have heard many say “expect to land about 1 in 5 toga hook ups.”
We continued to fish the area but with no luck we decided to tie on spinnerbaits and fish the structure. We fished the edges of the timber where plenty of fish were identified on the sounder. But with no wind the fish just didn’t appear to be feeding. I threw everything I had in the tackle box at them but the bass were very tight lipped. In the afternoon the wind picked up but it appeared to make little difference. The bass were there but just not interested
As the shadows grew longer towards the end of the day we came across a school of bass that were keen to play. Both Tom and I had several hits from the school and we landed a fish each. We certainly worked hard for those 2 fish and we were very happy to take a couple of photos and release them to fight another day. Hinze Dam is a beautiful place and a valuable fishery. I can’t wait to get back there soon.
Spinnerbaits would have to be one of the most versatile lures for Australian native fish. Bass, cod, saratoga, yellow belly and sooty grunter all love ’em. They can be worked horizontally, vertically, deep, shallow and are quite snag resistant. When fishing heavy structure many other lures would see you snagged up again and again when trying to present the bait to the fish. Fish will often strike after the lure has hit some structure, so it is best to get the lure right into ‘tiger country.’ The spinnerbait design allows you to clank and clang the lure right in among the timber, with only the occasional snag-up. A tackle retriever such as a Tackle Back will help you ‘de-snag’ and about 9 times out of 10 you should get your lure back.
Today after a solid 2 hours fishing the surface I finally conceded that the surface temperature of 30 degrees was just too warm for the bass. Out deeper the bass could be seen on the sounder at around 7-8m holding tight to the sunken trees in the dam. There appeared to be a thermocline at around 6m and the bass were consistently sitting just below it. Using a 5/8 spinnebait I would cast and allow the bait to sink whilst counting to 12. This put the lure right in the strike zone. A steady roll back to the boat was enough to entice a number of bass. I landed 6 fish up to 40cm and had several other hits. I had a stinger hook on so it appeared that the fish were hitting the blades.
What do you do when it’s too hot to go fishing?……”MAN UP GIRLY BOY” and go fishing anyway!! With temperatures forecast to reach the high 30’s/ low 40’s it was always going to be hot. So with plenty of sun protection and plenty of fluids Ned and I hit the dam nice and early. To make things more challenging, there was not a breath of wind until about 1pm so it was a little sticky to say the least.
With the surface temperature so warm we chose to give surface fishing a miss and immediately tied on the Jackalls. Although diving minnows appeared to be the lure of the day for Ned, my lures attracted no fish. Ned’s little Jackall swam and swam all over the dam and by the end of the day he had racked up a total of 10 fish! I, on the other hand couldn’t raise a fin. I flogged the water with the same Jackall lures but in every other colour variation than Neds lure. It seems he had the ‘go to lure’ for the day and it was the only one in the tackle box. This for me confirms the importance of colour. On this day it was clearly the difference between an abundance of fish or none.
Over the years I have noticed this particular colour consistently catches more fish. It has always been my favorite colour for cod and bass fishing, but today really highlighted just how dominant it can be! I am almost at the point where I could throw out all the lures in the tackle box and replace them with ……….. ones. Anyway it was a huge pleasure to show Ned around our beautiful dam and put him onto some nice bass. Especially on his birthday. …..Happy birthday Ned!!
After a long drought the heavens finally opened up last night. Parts of the Tweed Valley received 150mm of much needed rain. When Dave and I launched the Slayer kayaks on the dam this morning it was still drizzling. The overcast conditions remained with us all day which was a blessing compared to spending a day in the punishing sun. The low light conditions also provided an opportunity to fish closer to the surface.
Dave busily prospected using a variety of lures throughout the day. We fished the edges, we fished the surface and we fished out in the open. Fish could be seen on the sounder at all these locations around the dam. When the wind picked up a little we found a large school of bass on the sounder, suspended in the current created by the wind. We busily cycled through all that we had in out tackle box. We danced, slow rolled and trolled our offerings through the school, but the schooled up fish were simply not interested.
Using a variety of techniques and lures we caught a number of solid bass in various locations around the dam. The fishing was by no means easy, but with a little persistence, patience and know how, Clarrie once again offered up her gems 🙂
What better way to start the new year than a day fishing for our native Australian bass. Matthew, a bream tournament angler was eager to sample the bass fishing in the Northern Rivers. We were lucky to have some low light overcast conditions in the morning at Clarrie Hall Dam which often results in some surface luring action. At this time of year under such conditions popping sounds can be heard as the bass suck in frogs, bait fish and insects from the surface among the lilies. However today the bass were holding down deeper. Plenty of fish could be seen on the sounder out in the open water at varying depths. There was no shortage of fish to target with the finesse hard bodies that Matthew bought with him.
Matthew worked the edges of the weed with his lures and was stoked to land a couple of bass for the morning. With the sun inflicting its punishing rays upon us we opted for some lunch in the shade of the pines at Crams Farm. After lunch we fished the Tweed River. By this stage the temperature had reached mid to high 30’s and the water temperature in the river was like a warm bath. The water at the dam was crystal clear in contrast to the rivers murky soup. We worked our lures for hours on the river but didn’t get so much as a touch. The bass were obviously shut down in what must have been very challenging conditions for them.
The Tweed River has seen very little rain in 2016 and it is showing signs of stress. With little rain to flush the system nutrients can build up in a water body. This initially promotes vegetation and algae growth. But as water temperatures and turbidity increases this growth can die off. The microorganisms that assist in the decomposition process have a high oxygen demand. The decomposition process ultimately strips the water of oxygen. Turbidity reduces available light and therefore photosynthesis and productivity is further reduced. The hot spell we have been experiencing warms the water which in turn reduces the capacity of the water to carry dissolved oxygen. The combination of these processes often lowers pH levels too. Bass could be seen on the sounder but there was no way they were going to feed in the river.
The dam however looks great! The water was so clear that fishing with a light fluorocarbon leader of about 6lb is wise so as not to spook the fish. A stealthy approach is also necessary under these conditions to ensure the best results. Bass could often be seen as streaks on the sounder that would rise diagonally towards the kayak. When the bass spot a boat or kayak they rise to the vessel out of curiosity. Once they spot you however, they are unlikely to fall for your bait. They must have seen many anglers before and know to be cautious. So, long casts, light lines and a quiet approach should all be part of the plan at Clarrie Hall Dam.
I headed to the Tweed River today for a solo ‘bass fishin mission.’ One of my all time favorite lures are the smaller size ‘finesse’ diving minnows that dive to about 2m. I believe the smaller models around the 40-55mm length are less intimidating to a bass than the larger ones. Therefore they are more likely to be snaffled by even the most finicky fish. Most small diving minnows-baits come with two very small treble hooks. These hooks do a brilliant job in hooking bass first time, every time. The fine gauge wire ensures the hooks penetrate the bass’ skin, even if the bass is just side swiping the lure to drive it away from its territory. These hooks tend to stick to anything that comes near them. This is great for hooking fish, but unhooking them can be a real issue.
Some species such as bream tend to have a tough mouths for dealing with shells and crustaceans. However the bass’ mouth contains some very fine membrane. This thin almost transparent layer of skin is often where the hook ends up. As the fish kicks and struggles either in the water or in the boat, the membrane can be pierced several times and thus becomes entangled in these tiny trebles. Major tears in this membrane can result when the angler tries to unhook the bass. These tears can be so severe that the outer edge (maxillary) of the upper jaw can come free. I have even caught bass that were missing their maxillary on one side completely. I can only imaging this is from a previous capture and release where the angler struggled to unhook the fish.
The eyes are another vulnerable part of a bass’ anatomy that can be pierced by these small trebles. With one treble firmly lodged in the mouth, the other treble can end up in the eye. This has happened to me on an occasion where the bass was kicking in the net and landed eye first on the hook. This is a particularly troubling thing to witness. When fishing in waters that are heavily pressured by anglers I have caught bass with one ‘milky’ eye. I suspect these milky eyes are from hook injuries. These kind of eye an mouth injuries mouth injuries would obviously hinder the fishes ability to find and eat food. The good news is that you can make a few simple modifications to lower the risk of injury to our native fish.
Firstly, ‘de-barb’ all the hooks. Simply take some pliers and flatten the barb on all hooks on each treble. This ensures that any hook piercing can easily be removed. This significantly reduces any potential damage from occurring to any fish you plan on releasing. Using barbless hooks doesn’t necessarily mean a reduced hook up rate either. As long as you keep a ‘tight line’ when playing the fish (which you should anyway) there is no reason why the fish could spit the hook.
The second thing I like to do is cut off one hook on each treble, so you now effectively have 2 doubles (not trebles). Again this reduces the chance of injury to the bass whilst not compromising your hook up rate. Sometimes I go one step further and replace the trebles with a single lure hook. But I think modifying the trebles already provided with the lure is cheaper, easier and takes advantage of these small sticky hooks. Both these modifications can be made with a simple set of pliers.
With all my hooks now modified I had a trouble free day on the water today. I managed to land 9 bass averaging about 36cm long. All the strikes from the fish I caught today were converted into landed fish. My customized hooks worked brilliantly.
The bass continued to bite well on the Tweed River today. Edward and Craig were more than happy to take advantage of the great weather and the hot bite. Using spinner-baits and diving minnows the boys racked up a respectable tally of bass between the two of them. Neither had caught bass before so it was a great introduction to our native fishery. Once again the Tweed river offered up its gems. Thanks for a great day gentlemen 🙂
Some of the fish had damage to their mouth parts which might be the result of injury caused from previous captures. If your intention is to catch and release, remember to flatten the barbs on your treble hooks. I like to snip one or two hooks off each of the treble hooks, just to reduce injuries to the fishes mouth parts and eyes. I don’t believe it significantly reduces your hook up rate.
Today was no ordinary fishing trip. Whilst paddling our way up the river we came across a calf in the water. It appeared the poor little fella couldn’t make its way up the steep river bank and we feared it would drown. So I jumped in the water to help it out. After lifting the calf out of the water and placing in on the river bank I realized it couldn’t stand. On further inspection I could see an umbilical cord still attached to its belly. I soon realized the mother cow must have recently birthed the calf in the river and it was yet to take its first steps. After a little encouragement the little calf stood on its back legs and eventually propped itself up on all fours. The calf was a little wobbly but immediately made its way over to me, presumably for a feed.
By shear stroke of luck Ray knew the property owner and he called the farmer and notified him of the calf’s dilemma. You’ll be happy to know that mother cow and calf have since been reunited and all is well. Now that’s a fishing trip with a difference! Oh and we caught some bass too 🙂
An early start had us on the water by 6:30am. Pip and Thomas adapted quickly to their Slayer Propels and were soon stalking the bass among the snags. It wasn’t long before they both had a few takers. Fishing the snags in this river is always interesting because half the time the bass take the lure back into the snag before you even know you are “on”. Within a few hours we had tightened our drags to virtually ‘locked.’ Strong line and leader of about 10lb is necessary with this style of fishing and the locked drag seemed to do the trick. The boys managed about 20 bass between them today. An excellent tally for a mornings work.
Some of the fish had a ‘cloudy eye’, probably from encounters with treble hooks from a previous capture. Its a good idea to flatten the barbs with some pliers on all your lures especially when using 2 treble hooks. This greatly reduces the risk of injury, both to the fish and yourself. Staying connected to the fish need not be compromised as long as you keep a tight line.
Conditions were perfect out on the Tweed today; a slight breeze, some cloud cover and mild temperatures. Niya and Anthony were keen to enjoy the conditions. Anthony scored the first bass using a cast and retrieve technique. Niya was next on the score board with a feisty bass on the troll. The fish were certainly in the mood for food and all that was needed was good lure placement. Anthony ended the day with about 5 bass and Niya clocked up 2. An excellent effort considering neither had been bass fishing before. Well done!
Lenore and Ben showed up this morning bright eyed and bushy tailed ready for action. We spent the best part of the morning at the dam. It was dead calm, not a breath of wind. The water was like glass and all around us the mountains were mirrored. After lunch we fished the Tweed River and managed a couple of feisty bass. Ben scored his first bass ever so it was smiles all round. Awesome day and great company. Thanks guys.
Have you noticed that bass seem to like low light conditions? Whether your fishing in the shade under a tree, at dawn or dusk or on overcast days, the bass appear to be more active in these situations. My theory is that predators such as birds of prey can see a fish better on a bright sunny day, because the light penetrates deep into the water column. But low light condition appear to give bass the extra confidence to move closer to the surface to feed. Perhaps evolution has played its hand here and any sun bathing fish have been quickly dispatched from history. The wiser more cautious bass have lived to pass on their genes to the bass we see today.
With a thick coverage of clouds my fly of choice was always going to be a surface fly. Twitched in amongst the cabomba weed it was only a matter of time before my frog imitation drew a response. After landing one fish and dropping another, the heavens opened. As the rain poured down I noticed I could no longer hear the popping sound of bass inhaling the gudgeon against the surface of the lake. Perhaps the rain had scared the baitfish down deeper and the bass may have followed. I quickly switched to a deeper presentation.
A lead eye clouser is such a versatile little fly that can be worked at a variety of depths. Retrieving the fly along the edges of the weed resulted in a couple of feisty bass attacking the tasty looking morsel. After some perseverance another fat bass was in the live well. By now I was soaked to the bone, so I released the bass and made a hasty retreat for home. But rain hail or shine Clarrie Hall Dam always offers up some gold.
Had a great trip to Clarrie Hall today with Tim and Tyson. An early start saw us on the dam which was completely enveloped by the mist. I believe the low light conditions the mist provides usually gives the bass the confidence to feed near the surface for as long as the mist hangs around. However the fish had other ideas today and we saw very little surface activity at all.
By around 9am the mist had dissipated revealing a picture post card day at the dam. Not a cloud in the sky or a breath of wind all day. All around us was mirror images of the horizon and each others boats as we persistently peppered the edges of the lilies with our lures. As the sun rose we switched to deeper presentations. Tim ran a 1/4 oz Slider across the points and flats and Tyson chose a 1/8 oz Revehead Jig Spin with a Slider Grub.
All 3 of us got a number of bites but on this day the bass appeared to be apprehensive in committing to an all out attack. Tyson came up trumps with a solid bass of around 36cm. Once hooked it gave him plenty of curry and soon Tyson had his first bass on a soft plastic/spin. One of many more to come no doubt. Another great day on the dam!
I tried out Austackles ‘Shimmer Stik’ today at Clarrie Hall Dam. After first hearing about its ability to swim backwards away from the angler, I was very keen to give it a go around the edges of the weed. Sure enough when cast out to the edge of structure, as the lure slowly sinks it shimmers backwards away from the direction it was cast. I have always thought that if a someone invents a lure that swims backwards they would surely make a million dollars. Because by casting to the edge of a tree or weed like lily pads, the lure will actually swim under the structure where the fish are!
Once the lure has rested on the bottom I would slowly lift the rod and impart a few twitches. This provided an excellent darting action that I imagine would be very tempting to a hungry bass. I would then wind up some slack before letting the lure flutter back to the bottom. To a bass the whole show must have looked a bit like a wounded bait fish trying to regain its senses between epileptic fits! Whatever the case I was very pleased with the action and the bass appeared to like it too.
There are plenty of lures on the market that wiggle or shimmy on the drop but most are either too light and don’t cast very far or too heavy and sink too fast. The beauty of the Shimmer Stick is it casts a country mile but sinks at quite a slow rate. This allows the lure to hang in the face of the target species which should improve your strike rate considerably.
After giving it a go today and catching a couple of bass I am convinced it is a great addition to the tackle box. The Shimmer Stik is no magic bullet, but it certainly comes close.
Check it out here Shimmer Stik
Here is the latest video showing some highlights catching bass on the Tweed River. On a still day this place is heaven on earth!
I fished the Tweed River on a solo mission today. I am pleased to say the bass are starting to make an appearance back in the freshwater. These bass move back into the fresh after they do their spawning business in the estuary over winter time. Over the next month or so I expect they will be showing up in ever increasing numbers so now is an excellent time to book a charter.
I must say that fishing these waters in the Slayer kayaks is an absolute pleasure. Not only is the scenery on the Tweed River picture postcard, but the versatility and comfort these kayaks offer just makes the day effortless. Having the ability to sit back and maneuver around the waterways hands free is just ideal.
I managed 4 solid bass for the day with two around the 39 & 42cm mark. They were all too eager to snaffle my Destroyer jerk baits from Austackle, one of my favorite lures for targeting bass around the snags.
Fishing for natives in our impoundments can be tough. It takes a lot of planning, preparation, checking weather forecasts, organizing time off work, preparing tackle etc. But if the fish aren’t willing to play all the best laid plans go to waste. I am happy to say this was not the case with my recent trip to Clarrie Hall. One of the most beautiful dams in Australia.
It was an extremely hot and humid day and shortly after I put the boat on the water I had to seek shade for an hour or so. This gave me some time to collect some underwater footage and do a little research as to the bass’ potential food source. There was certainly plenty of bait fish swimming amongst the lilly pads. Probably Firetail Gudgeon and Gambusia. So I made a mental note to collect some next time for identification.
The other thing I noticed is there appeared to be more weed than usual. There has always been a thick perimeter of lilly pads around the edge of the lake with another rim of feathery submerged weed, I identified as Ambulia, leading into deeper water. I think this ambulia has spread since last I visited the dam and it is my theory that the extra cover provided by the weed has drawn the bass out of from under the lily pads thus making them more susceptible to angling. In any case the fishing was great!
I worked the edges of the ambulia with hard bodies, jerk baits, soft plastic frogs and dahlberg diver flies. I caught fish on all my presentations and finished the trip with about 12 bass. Watching the bass crash tackle the surface flies is always a highlight! As usual the bass aren’t huge in Clarrie Hall but they are a robust and hard fighting population with a very respectable average size of around 35cm. I also managed my personal best for Clarrie Hall dam landing a fish of 38.5cm.
I have fished many impoundments on the east coast of Australia but perhaps none as beautiful as Clarrie Hall Dam. I find it necessary to be on the water at sunrise to achieve the best results. At that time of day, as the rising sun slowly dissipates the mist covering the dam, the true beauty of this wetland materializes from the early morning haze. Lush green lily pads, purple and yellow lotus flowers come to light as the lake margins are revealed. The calls of water fowl echo and the popping sounds of Bass feeding are all part of the morning symphony as this ecosystem begins another day. Finally when the fog lifts, Mt Warning watches over the lake.
This particular morning I fished a tan coloured Dahlberg Diver, blooping it across the surface like a frog or insect of some type. Initially upon touch down I let the fly sit there for a while then gave as little action to the fly as possible. If that drew no response I would make short ‘bloops’ back to the boat. I had about 5 hits and boated 2 fish of around 33cm. About average for this dam. Once the sun rose higher I changed tactics, pulled out the spin rod and flicked out a small diving jerk bait. I immediately got smashed but the fished shot into the snags and spit the lure.
All in all not a bad 3 hours of fishing. If I had managed to convert a few more hits into fish landed then I could have had 5 Bass in the live well. Clarrie Hall is my local impoundment and I have fished it numerous times. The Bass are of modest size and I rarely come home with cricket score card numbers of fish, but the place is just so incredibly scenic. I will be back!
Last summer I was able to dedicate some quality time to fishing. Chasing Australian native fish in my local creeks, rivers and dams I was lucky enough to tempt many fish on both lure and fly. By-catch included some very nice eastern cod that can be a real test on light bass gear.
A couple of valuable lessons were had during these fishing trips. On overcast days, fishing the surface is an excellent proposition even in the middle of the day. On some of my local dams, it is difficult to raise a fish at the best of times. However, tying on a surface lure in any low light conditions, be it dawn, dusk or during overcast day light hours can produce great results.
As an added benefit I found that often the larger fish are the most eager to scoff a well presented surface lure or fly. During a recent trip in the canoe down the skinniest of creeks I managed a 42cm bass on a cicada surface lure. I was amazed at the size of this fish inhabiting such a small creek. Upon closer inspection I noticed a small water dragon protruding from the bass’ mouth! What a guts! He had obviously just eaten the dragon and then decided to have a go at my lure too. No wonder he was so big.
On a different trip I was using the same cicada lure, again targeting Bass. This time a nice 65cm eastern cod snaffled my offering. The loud implosion when he smashed the lure at the surface nearly caused me to wet my pants. The fish then proceeded to put up an excellent tussle on my 6lb outfit.
Our Australian native fish species often appear to react to a lure out of instinct. ‘Reaction strikes’ can be triggered if a surface lure sounds just right when it hits the water. If the lure or fly touches down with the same sound as an insect such as a cicada, a bass for example, will smash the lure in a split second without a second thought. Similarly a jungle perch will follow a lure as it is cast through the air across the river with tremendous speed and crash tackle the offering as soon as it touches down. If not in the mood for food a cod will simply chase away any intruding lure from its territory. However if you can provoke the cod by landing the lure in it’s face, the fish will smash the lure in an instant. In these cases the strikes are lightening quick. There was no time elapsed for contemplation.
The challenge of catching our natives lies within figuring out how to trigger a reaction strike on any given day. Ya just gotta love fishing for Australian natives!
Simon Fitzpatrick (Fitzy)
When catching bass under lily pads it is hard to go past fly fishing. A fly such as a Dahlsberg Diver can be presented again and again without having to wind the lure back in each time as you would with conventional tackle. This can be very effective with fish such as Australian Bass who often prefer to strike a lure or fly as soon as it hits the water. As mentioned in my previous article, if you can mimic the sound and sight of an insect splashing down, a reaction strike can result. Furthermore the fish aren’t always willing to chase a surface lure as it is being retrieved.
However if you snap your fly rod trying to contend with yet another snagged fly on a lily pad like I did, then its time to pull out the trusty old spin or bait casting outfit. After doing just that, I discovered an absolute ripper of a surface lure that is virtually snag proof whilst retaining an exceptional hook up rate. Not only that they cast a country mile and you can hop them across the lilly pads all day long with very few snag ups. Further more, Bass go nuts for them. These hollow belly frog style lures impressed me so much they deserve a style all to there own……It’s not fly fishing, not lure fishing, but frog fishing!!!
When you fish them you become the frog. Hopping from lilly pad to lilly pad, sending out little hopping vibrations down the lilly stems, telegraphing that it’s dinner time to all the hungry Bass below. Finally when you jump off the last pad and out into the open the Bass are already waiting and BLAMMO, your history!
Watch this video for some tips on how to catch Australian bass under lily pads using hollow belly frogs and rev head jig spins.