Drive 27km northwest of the South Coast town of Bega and you’ll find beautiful Brogo Dam nestled in the Warrigal Range, the southernmost NSW impoundment that harbours stocked Australian bass.
Damming the Brogo River began in 1964, and by 1976, a 43m high concrete wall was firmly in place to retain 8980ML of water for irrigation and town water supply.
This wall impedes the bass as they head up the Brogo River but there is plenty of sweetwater connecting to the salt below the dam to facilitate wild spawning.
At full capacity, Brogo Dam’s 100ha surface is fed by 400km2 of prime catchment. With a maximum depth of 24m and abundant shallow bays, sunken timber, weed banks and rocky drop-offs, Brogo is prime bass habitat.
The scenery is spectacular with the rocky gorges in the Nelson Creek Arm rising over 50m. The Far South Coast Bass Stocking Association, in conjunction with NSW Fisheries, releases 10,000-20,000 bass fingerlings into Brogo annually.
The association hosts the Brogo Bass Bash, a friendly, catch-and-release tournament, on the first weekend in December each year to aid restocking this thriving, well-managed fishery.
Due to Brogo’s small size and large catchment area, it is nearly always at 100% capacity, allowing mature fish to venture over the spillway during the spawning season from June to August.
The average size bass encountered in Brogo Dam is 20-30cm, with 35-40cm fish considered trophy-size. But what they lack in size is made up for in numbers.
Double-figure catches are common if conditions are optimum and for their size, Brogo fish would be the hardest fighting bass in the country. I’m not sure if this is due to the cool, clear water or the light tackle I choose to catch them on, but they are very strong little fish.
The best time of year to target larger specimens is the beginning of spring or in March/April, especially if the dam level is below the spillway.
The boating angler gets the best of Brogo but small pockets of shore-based opportunities are accessible. An 8-knot speed limit makes the dam friendly for kayaks and canoes, too.
Casting your offerings dangerously tight to the edges of the shore will score best results, especially edges fringed heavily with rushes. It helps if those rushes extend out from a point.
Work these areas vigilantly, as they provide great vantage points for bass to ambush baitfish. I start my retrieve with two quick cranks of the reel handle before going to a slow, steady roll. I work the lure around 3m from the point of splashdown before a brief pause and then repeat the process. Most of the strikes will be in this first 3m of the retrieve.
It’s worth making multiple casts at one area if there are subsurface subtleties, such as weed and snags, prevalent. I’m a believer in making your first presentation count but peppering a likely area may result in a bass attacking your offering out of aggression.
Crankbaits around 40-50mm that dive to 1.5m are ideal, especially in gold or flashy colours.
I have found large spinnerbaits and heavy lipless crankbaits are too big for the Brogo bass.
Flyfishers enjoy the best of Brogo with delicate presentations cast deep into the pockets of water behind the weed edges.
Speculative casts around the shallower weed beds in the open bays at the head of the dam will produce fish, too, but don’t give these fish an inch once hooked as they dive hard for the weed.
Small topwaters and soft plastics do well early and late in the day. Surface lures worked over the shallow weed will produce larger fish.
Hopping small metal blades along the rocky gorges is a good way to score during the middle of the day. I caught my best Brogo bass, 38cm fork length, this way.
Wattle trees lying close to the water’s edge are a favourite target. When the wattle is in bloom, from September on, bass station beneath them waiting for all manner of insects to drop from the overhanging branches.
Accurate casts are required, so I prefer shorter rods. I have played with a few but have found the 6’4” Daiwa Generation Black Pinster 2kg-5kg best for this. It is a pleasure to use when presenting small lures, and affordable.
I run 4lb braid and 8lb leader and find this a good trade-off between finesse and strength.
Do not go loaded for bear. The majority of Brogo fish are small, and if you go lighter you’ll enjoy higher catch rates.
Remember, bass can be temperamental and turn their noses up at every offering, leaving you demoralised. On those sorts of days remember that Brogo is a picturesque setting laden with wildlife, so remember to look up and indulge in the whole experience.
Southbound, on the Princes Highway 20km past Cobargo you cross the long, narrow Brogo River Bridge. Following the highway a further 2km and then take the Warrigal Range turn-off on your right.
If you’re venturing from the south, you’ll find the Warrigal Range Road turn-off 14.5km north of Bega.
Warrigal Range Road is partially sealed before converting to gravel. The single lane boat ramp is situated near the dam wall, 12km inland from the turnoff at the Princes Highway. You’ll find picnic and BBQ facilities here as well; however, camping is prohibited in this area except during Brogo Bass Bash.
The Brogo River below the Dam wall can produce great bass fishing too. The Brogo winds through mountains and pasturelands, before merging with the Bega River.
The Bega too, is famous for big bass, with the Australian record of 3.78kg and measuring 63cm hailing from these waters. The Bega River flows toward the coast and spills into Mogareeka Inlet just north of the coastal town of Tathra, before emptying into the Tasman Sea.
• For an entry form to the Brogo Bass Bash, or a guided fishing tour on Brogo Dam, call Darren and Jan Redman on 0427 934 688 or (02) 6493 4857
• Call Stuart Hindson of Aussie fish Estuary Adventures, on 0400 062 504 for a guided fishing experience on Brogo Dam or surrounding coastal rivers and lakes.
• Brogo Wilderness Canoes (02) 6492 7328 for canoe hire and/or tours of Brogo.
• Keep an eye on Brogo dam levels.