The strike was vicious. I’d just put the rod in the plastic gunwale holder and turned to the tackle box as I heard the crash.
From the corner of my eye I saw the top half of my treasured Lamiglas rod disappearing into Clarrie Hall Dam, the Daiwa Sol only 30cm above the surface. Horror turned to elation as Wayne flung out his right mitt to snatch the outfit from certain oblivion, handed it to me and I was battling an angry 37cm bass, our second in a few minutes.
As usual, we had a great time at the Australian Bass Association’s annual Bass Classic at scenic Clarrie Hall Dam, on the headwaters of the Tweed River. I haven’t fished a couple of the NSW South Coast bass dams yet, nor one or two in Queensland, but I still reckon nowhere could have it over Clarrie when it comes to the scenery.
And few dams, if any, have such fit, angry fish.
The ABA stocks Clarrie and dams in southern Queensland and the Classic is its major fundraising vehicle. This year’s effort was my 10th.
Held over the old Queensland May Day labour weekend for more than a decade, the running of the 16th event was delayed until late September after the Crams Farm end of the dam was turned into a US summer camp movie set and access restricted for long periods.
A few of the old hands had other commitments on the rescheduled weekend, allowing for some new blood to take part in an invitational comp in which it was thought somebody had to die before a place became available. The organisers rightly believe that catering and logistics would be just too difficult if the comp were to grow too much.
It was thought that the bass would be chewing their heads off after hardly seeing a lure for six months but in reality the fishing was almost as tough as it gets.
The usually lush lily flats down around Snake Island were disturbingly sparse and it looked as if they had died off over winter.
That threw a spanner in the works for many anglers who liked casting to the edges for their fish, ourselves included. After fruitlessly bombing a heap of our usual hot spots with every lure in the box, a couple of hours later we opted to try a bank across the dam. We never made it.
We decided to troll a few hundred metres across to the intended bank and when a second bass almost ripped a rod from the holder, the penny dropped.
The fish were out hunting 15’-20’ below the surface wherever there were baitfish, regardless of depth. And with the surface water temp fluctuating between 19° and 25° as the day warmed, it looked like the dam was starting to stratify. We saw baitfish and individual bass on the Lowrance all day, and caught a number of the fish we spotted after trolling our lures over them.
It was a bit like trolling around a school of feeding mackerel or tuna that were feeding deep. No signs on the surface but plenty happening down below.
Trolling is a bit of a ‘dark side’ thing for us but we learned plenty in a short time
But ABA stalwart Brian McFarlane and lure maker Rob Gaden knew all the tricks and easily retained their 2012 teams title with 10 fish averaging almost 39cm. Rob Gaden Jnr and his mate Ryan were second with 10 fish averaging about 1cm less. Shane Gartner and Brett Howell rounded out the placings.
Brian won the individual pointscore from Dave Hall, who caught the biggest bass of the weekend, a 433mm fish. Rob Gaden was third.
And for the first time for yonks, the Blues won the State of Origin contest, with the Queenslanders finally getting to eat some humble pie.
The Bass Classic is likely to remain a Spring event now. Watch these pages for details. – Tony ZannReads: 530