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Becoming a clear winner
  |  First Published: February 2007



Below average rainfall is expected by the Bureau of Meteorology between January and March, so you should expect that water colour in our creeks and rivers will be generally clear and fairly stable.

However, any rain substantial enough to cause a reasonable amount of runoff won’t always result in dirty water.

Where rainwater runoff flows through sandstone country, the water will remain fairly clear and get progressively murkier as you head into areas that are predominantly soil-based. The same can be said for areas close to civilisation where runoff makes its way into the rivers and creeks via street drainage, causing the water to be discoloured.

If you’ve ever fished the Nepean near Penrith after reasonable rain, you’ll know how clear the water can be around Erskine Creek and how filthy it can be near the M4 bridge.

Some anglers would rather fish clear water but often fish are more spooky in clear water, especially where plenty of anglers fish that stretch. For clear water, it can pay to downsize your line and use smaller lures in more natural colours.

If you’re into soft plastics or fly fishing, you’re in with a better chance in clearer water. In clear water, slow lures gives a fish time to eyeball your presentations. Slightly quicker retrieves give fish less time to decide whether to eat it or lose it.

I’ve found that in clear water, a lightly weighted or unweighted soft plastic such as a minnow is too much of a temptation. Sure, they take time to sink but the way they glide and turn slowly makes them look real enough to easily mistake them for a small baitfish.

Dirtier water is probably least favoured by anglers, possibly due to the fact that they may not appreciate just how acute fishes’ senses are. Just because we can’t see much doesn’t mean fish won’t be able to.

Once you appreciate just how acute a fish’s senses are, you won’t mind fishing dirty water, especially if you hook some of the larger fish that feel protected in such water.

In choosing lures for dirty water, I like to go for presentations that appeal to as many of a fishes senses are possible.

Lures offering vibration, sound, texture and a degree of taste are ideal. My favourites would be my 1/4oz Whiz Bangers because I can change the colour of the plastic to suit conditions. It offers vibration and flash from the blade, a soft texture with the 3” Slider and can easily have various scent types added. I’m hoping that with Berkley having bought Nitro they’ll re-introduce the Whiz Bangers soon. Bett’s Spins, Beetle Spins or spinnerbaits are also excellent.

Lipless lures and noisy divers offer the visual appeal as well as vibration and sound and can still be given a dose of your favourite scent. Or you could always try a Lake Police Mask Vibe, a lipless, durable soft plastic without the internal rattles of the hard-bodied Jackall.

Colours for dirty water include fluoro and sometimes darker tones but my favourite colours, especially in plastics, have to be pearl or silver. These just seem to reflect what light is available in the murky water. I also go for larger lures to be as visual as possible.

SURFACE STRIKES

One bass technique that gets the adrenaline flowing is using surface presentations. Whether it’s in dead of night or in clear water, nothing beats the excitement of a surface strike.

It’s important to get the lure, fly or plastic to land softly on the water. Make it look natural. Smacking the water with lures like a brick touching down isn’t something I recall with pride from my early bass days.

These days, most fish seem to have a PhD in lure identification so natural surface presentations are vital. With practice, any lure regardless of size, can be cast softly onto the surface with a gentle slowing of the line by feathering your threadline spool or gently thumbing your baitcaster. If you’re having trouble with the softly-softly approach, try an unweighted soft plastic or fly.

Casting onto lily pads and moving the lure off in a natural way, casting into the backs of small weed pockets, under foliage, in the shadows between overhanging trees and under rocky overhangs are where gentle surface presentations work.

Skipping lures or soft plastics also gets them landing softly prior to stopping for the final time.

DEEP TACTICS

Whatever your thoughts on fishing competitions, whether it’s the tactics of our home-grown champions or those adopted or refined from Japanese or US contests, we all benefit.

Most anglers fish pretty much the same areas all the time but with fish having seen so many presentations and the same basic retrieves, you sometimes need to look for another approach. There are other places to fish besides bankside structure and weed beds and other ways to catch them.

Bridge pylons and deep structure get less attention than most other places and with so many deep methods available, why not try them? Deeply-worked flies on sinking lines, jigging, lipless lures and dropshotting plastics all make deep bass and perch accessible.

Bridge pylons are productive places, especially in the eddies behind the pylons where fish can sit out of the current waiting for food to be washed by. The M4 bridge at Penrith, and the bridges at North Richmond, Windsor and the Bridge to Nowhere at the mouth of the Colo never seem to attract the attention of anglers but they certainly attract fish at times.

While weed beds hold prey which attract larger fish, when weed doesn’t produce, try fishing wider from the bank and away from the vegetation. Polarised sunglasses help you locate the deeper weed so a long cast to the edge of the weed and across the top of deep weed is sometimes productive.

Any sunken timber in deeper water around these areas is perfect. Some quick reflexes will hopefully turn a hooked fish before it gets a chance to bury you but if they don’t, that’s fishing.

The Terraces near North Richmond has been a great place to go deep. It has some dense weed beds covering most of the area and plenty of submerged timber, both visible from the surface and some noticeable only on the sounder.

Bladed and lipless lures are excellent in this type of water but remember that with the rise and fall of the rod tip and the turning of the reel handle your lures can quickly move out of the strike zone. Remember to allow the lure to drop back into the zone by opening the bail arm on your threadline or depressing the bar on your baitcaster.

With these deep tactics you need to get your lure down where the fish are. Knowing what depth your lures run at with your chosen line or knowing the sink rate of your lures helps you get in the zone.

DARE TO BE DIFFERENT

The fear of criticism stops a lot people trying different things in life.

I was in a large tackle shop years ago looking for the two topo maps that covered the Windamere area before it was dammed. I explained that if I could mark out the top water level of the dam I would know exactly what fish-holding structures were under the water before I even left home.

My idea was laughed at and I was told that all I had to do was run over the dam with a sounder. What a mug! I’m sure he thought my idea was ridiculous but later my results showed whose idea was ridiculous. Being able to put co-ordinates into my GPS at home has made for much more productive use of my time when fishing Windamere.

When Dave George from the Western Sydney Bream and Bass club won the John Bethune Testimonial Fishing Competition last August, he did so by fishing for bass under the houseboats at Wisemans Ferry using bream techniques. If Dave had told others his game plan before he headed off, I suspect the strong majority would probably have been very sceptical. Dave stuck to his plan and there were quite a few bewildered looks when he revealed his winning strategy that night.

As fishing becomes difficult in hard-fished waters, those who are prepared to experiment and refine known tactics will do better than those who stick to the same old stuff.

BARBED COMMENTS

A nurse from one of the local hospitals tells me he treated a patient recently who had been fishing at Yarramundi after dark, caught a massive bass and in trying to remove the hooks the trebles embedded themselves in some fingers.

With the lure still firmly attached, the hapless angler made it to the hospital where the nurse couldn’t believe the size of the trebles or the lure attached to this guy’s fingers.

If you haven’t crimped down the barbs on your hooks, seriously think about it.

You can perform your own hook-extracting procedure if you’re up to it but it’s far less painful to remove hooks without barbs. You can keep fishing without having to wait at a hospital and no barbs mean a better release for the fish.

As for whether you lose more fish by crimping down barbs, I don’t think there’s much evidence to show it. I’ve been doing it for years, as have many others, and we experience few problems.

• All lures and tackle mentioned in this column were paid for by me and not part of any sponsorship deals or freebies.

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