Trolling whacks the big ones
  |  First Published: February 2014

As we move into the last month of summer, the closed barra season will reopen as of midday 1 February. I’ve been feeling the barra bug biting hard and provided there aren’t any big rain events to move fish on, I know where there are some waiting in the freshwater.

The Boyne and Kolan rivers below Awoonga and Monduran dams have plenty of barra throughout. A little homework will see you finding several launch sites on these rivers. Just because you head to the same spot as everybody else doesn’t mean you’ll be in for the best fishing, as sometimes the less pressured fish will provide the best action.

A lot of my focus this year has been on chasing fish in the saltwater. I’m planning a trip to Mackay to bring my Polycraft 4.1 Challenger back home to South East Queensland so I can do even more of this fishing. This of course will mean a session or two on the barra up around Faust and Kinchant so next month’s northern reports should be much more detailed. Whenever I head away on a planned trip, a lot of research goes into the fishing. Phone calls, Facebook and reading fishing reports and competition results can all help prepare you for what lies ahead. To know what the fish are biting on helps when it comes to packing the right gear and forming some kind of game plan. My motto is leave nothing to chance. The more you can do in preparation prior to a trip the better – and it is not uncommon for me to spend a full day respooling, tying knots, changing hooks and packing tackle and supplies.

On the game plan side of things I learned a valuable lesson last year on the same trip. I headed away for a boys’ week with my son Blake, Jason Medcalf and his son Hayden. I did the research on how and where the fish were being caught prior to our trip but over the course of a week or so things had changed. Where barra were being caught shallow, the bulk had moved out into deeper water. With little time to fish and work out the pattern we plodded away in the shallows, missing a lot of action that was taking place out in deeper water. This just goes to show how things can change in a short period and if your mind isn’t on the ball and prepared to adapt when necessary, you can miss out on some action. That’s fishing!

Recently, I decided to unpack some big boxes and tidy up my shed since we have now been in our house for over a year. Inside one of the boxes I found a selection of hard, jointed swimbaits, about 30 in total. I had played and experimented a little with these lures in the past but since we now have a swimming pool (a.k.a. lure testing facility) I took one of each for a test swim to see how they looked in the water.

The difference between these lures was amazing. Most had a life-like action when retrieved, some twitched really well but the standout sinking ones swam like beauties on the drop. I can’t wait to use these models on the barra up north around weed beds. Next time I visit Kinchant I think I’ll give them a run. I can’t think of anything else that looks as good in the water so I hope the fish have the same opinion. I just hope their jointed sections can stand up to the brutal punishment.

This experiment at home certainly helps you work out how to best fish your lures. If you, the neighbour or mate has a pool, be sure to give new lures a run to see how to work them in the clear water. You’ll be surprised at how different lures respond best to subtle changes in speed and rod work.

Until next month, buckled rods from the Colonel!

South East Queensland
Closest Towns: Toowoomba, Crows Nest

Last month, the trolling action out in the middle of the dam slowed down. The heat seemed to play havoc with the thermoclines and some kind of rollover effect took place out in the deep areas of the dam. I fished the dam in mid January and the thermoclines were already coming back so it won’t take long for everything to return to normal.

The bass should resume their previous behaviour and will be found out in the deep areas of the dam over 12m. Trolling is the best option to catch these spread-out fish.

The buoy line that runs over to Deer Island has been a good area to troll, especially around Bass Bay below the picnic area. Between the third and fourth red marker buoy is a nice drop-off that seems to hold better numbers of fish. Up near the Eagles Nest rock wall is another good spot to troll. In this area, work through the deep water and across the tip of the point that extends out from the toilet point on the opposite side of the dam.

When trolling, deeper lures seem to work well most of the time. Poltergeist 8m Crazy Deep, 1/4oz Hot Lips, Blitz Baga and Kezza Freak are just some of the lure styles that will get down and boogie at over 7m deep. It also pays to run a shallower offering in the mornings and afternoons, in case there are some fish sitting shallow. The fish may be spread-out and hard to tempt but the quality should be pretty good with heaps over 40cm in length. Uncle Trev had a good session last month landing 8 bass to 48cm on the Kezza Mud Mouse early in the morning.

Schooling fish are most likely to be found on the points. Deer Island, the toilet points at both ends and the ones just west of the campground are all worth a look. Soft plastics and blade baits could entice these fish. Sometimes a plastic rigged with a beetle spin blade can make all the difference during the summer months.

Redclaw have been caught but mostly overnight. The day seems to draw a blank but campers have been rewarded when working their pots late in the afternoon and first thing in the morning.

The entry fee at the boom gate has been removed but the 8 knot speed limit is still in place. Hours for boating and day use of the recreation area are 6am to 8pm until they shorten in May. For all your supplies, expert advice and to check on the boating restriction, call in at Fish’n’Bits in Alderley Street, Toowoomba, or give them a ring on (07) 4636 6850. The boys at the store all compete in bass tournaments and really know their stuff.

Closest Towns: Esk, Kilcoy

The golden perch have been the standout fish over the last month. These fish seem to be coming from all over the dam with the best areas being around Queen Street and the start of the timber north of Kirkleigh.

A good way to find the goldens is to toss out a deep diving lure and troll. We have had a lot of success in deeper water where the fish have been suspending. If you manage to pull your lure over a drowned tree in this deep water throw a mark on the GPS and give it a thorough working over. We had a snag on a tree about 5m deep in 12m of water. When getting the lure off the tops of the branches, the sounder lit up with goldens, which suspended about 5-7m deep. Every drop with a blade scored a fish for the next 10 minutes. Similar stories of bulk numbers of goldens have been coming in. Even out on the flats, bass anglers have been catching heaps.

The bass have been a little harder to catch. Good numbers are holding around the flats south of Kirkleigh and the Queen Street wide flats. Look for these fish in over 9m of water by sounding around or trolling a diving hardbody. At this time of year, a lot of the fish will be suspended, which makes trolling a lure at the right depth one of the best options.

Lure casters will need to present their lure to the fish, which can be tricky out in the deep water when the bass aren’t holding near the bottom.

Spinnerbaits fished on light spin tackle are one of the preferred offerings. Try using heavier downsized models that weigh 5/8oz. The light spin gear gets the lure down deeper with less resistance on the fishing line due to its thin diameter. Trolling these lures can also work well if you can work out the correct boat speed and amount of line out to sink the lure to the right depth to pull it through the suspended fish.

Closest Towns: Esk, Fernvale

Anglers have been taking advantage of the new restricted use of outboard motors on Wivenhoe. The allowance for 4-stroke and fuel injected 2-stroke motors to be used at under 6 knots has allowed more anglers the chance to experience the lake’s great fishing. With outboards, anglers are able to explore the lake without the fear of running out of battery power and can feel safer knowing they have the grunt to get them home.

I have heard the points about 15 minutes run NNE of Logans Inlet are firing well for golden perch. Like Lake Somerset, the goldens are going off. Anglers have trolled medium running lures like the Smak Golden Child and Brolga and Oar-Gee Pee-Wee in 4-6m of water with great success.

Most of the yellowbelly being caught are over 40cm in length with the occasional one going well over 50cm. If good numbers are found to be schooling in a particular area, try jigging blade baits in them. Small blades like the Berkley Powerblade 35 and 40 or Ecogear VX35 and ZX40 are ideal and can really produce big numbers of fish when they are on the job. If bass are mixed in with the goldens, these small blades are likely to tempt them as well. Another method slaying the goldens has been to hop soft vibes. Colours can make a difference so it pays to have a natural one and a dark one in your box of tricks.

I haven’t heard of any bass reports apart from the few being taken mixed in with the bulk numbers of yellas. I would imagine they can be located around the flats between Billies Bay and Platypus Cliffs. Trolling is a great way to locate these fish and once found try hopping small blades and lipless crankbaits through them. These same lures can also be slow trolled on the electric when the fish are scattered throughout an area and you are trying to pinpoint the best location to pull up and attack them.

Closest Town: Nerang, Gold Coast

Hinze Dam has been going off over the last month. Bass are whacking topwater lures. Toga are turning up on a regular basis and golden perch numbers have increased. Bait fishers have whacked plenty of eel-tailed catfish so it seems everyone is happy.

Go Camping at Nerang has sold out of all the hottest lures but should have more stock by the time you are reading this. Lipless baits like the Cultiva Mira Vibe and Jackall TN50 and TN60 have been whacking the golden perch. Spinnerbaits in 1/4oz and 3/8oz have whacked the bass and occasional saratoga. Topwater lures in all styles have been drawing plenty of interest from bass in the early morning.

The pick of the spots has been the shaded banks in the morning. Along the eastern side of the dam at Sticks Point and Sapplings Point anglers have fared well. When launching from the western side, try heading to Des’ Bend and Allens Alley for some shaded banks to fish your topwater lures early. As the sun rises, the fish move deeper and this is when to pull out the spinnerbaits and lipless baits to keep the action flowing.

A permit is required to fish Hinze Dam and these are only $5/week or $40/year. These are available through Go Camping at Nerang. No outboard motors can be taken on the dam so it is electric motors only or paddle power if you want to tangle with the Gold Coast’s fiery little bass. For all the latest information and best lures for the job call in and see the guys at Go Camping, 10 Spencer Street, Nerang.

Darling Downs Granite Belt Region
Closet Towns: Highfields, Toowoomba

The golden perch have steadied up at Cooby Dam. Bait fishers are having the best luck fishing live shrimp and sometimes saltwater yabbies. Where fish were coming from all over the lake a couple of months ago, it seems only a few of the better spots continue to produce. An area worth trying has been in 7m of water out from the bank on the right in the start of the northern arm.

Cooby is an electric motor only dam and is well suited to kayaks and canoes. The concrete boat ramp is on a shallow angle when the dam is full and can be slippery in places but a big electric powered boat can still be launched with care. Outboard motors can be left on the boat but must not be used. The boom gate entry fee has been removed so you can keep your change for an ice block or stubbie on the way home. Live shrimp and saltwater yabbies can be purchased from Highfields Bait and Tackle on the New England Highway in Highfields. Call in and see Doug and check out the great range of kayaks and accessories he has on display.

Closest Town: Inglewood

The golden perch continue to bite well and an increase in Murray cod encounters has taken place over the last month. Trolling lures at the start of the timber and in the deeper holes inside the timber has been fooling these fish. The good old Aussie made timber lures have been excelling. I guess it is the stronger action of these lures which attracts more bites from the stained water of Coolmunda. Lures like the Taylor Mades, Wilson’s Slick Backs and Kezza Lures have been selling fast at Fish’n’Bits Toowoomba. If you struggle finding good timber lures, you can settle for one of the closest things in the plastic hard body department and that is one of the Smak models. At Coolmunda I’d be opting for something like a Smak 16 or Golden Child. Black and gold and green and gold have been the standout colours.

Casting lipless crankbaits has also been scoring cod and golden perch. The TN60 Jackall seems to stand out above all the rest when it comes to making these fish bite. Despite their small size, the Coolmunda cod just seem to love them. My biggest to date went 111cm so you never know if the next one you hook will be undersized or a beast.

The Coolmunda Caravan Park is only around one kilometre away from the lake. The park is just off the Cunningham Highway but far enough away from the noise of trucks to get a good night’s sleep. It offers camping sites, cabins, caravan facilities, tennis courts, a swimming pool, BBQ shelter and a camp kitchen. To take advantage of this and the great fishing opportunities in the lake and the river below, give the park a call on (07) 4652 4171.

Closest Town: Warwick

There have been some changes to where the fish are being caught over the last month. Possibly due to the heat and extra boat activity over December/January, goldens and even cod have ventured out into the deep water of the main basin.

A trolling run working parallel with the bank out from the boat ramp in roughly 16m has been the spot where the action is taking place. Despite the water being so deep, the fish are suspending shallow in the mornings and afternoons. You could try trolling deeper in the middle of the day but they just seem to slow right down. Lures that dive 3-4m have been ideal. Trolling lipless crankbaits is very effective as they swim nicely at this depth when pulled along with an electric motor or slow trolled with the outboard at around 3km/h.

One lucky angler scored a metre long cod on a TN60 Jackall using this approach. In the clear open water you couldn’t ask for a safer spot to hook a fish of this size.

For any tips and gear for fishing Leslie Dam or the Warwick area, call in and see the guys at Warwick Outdoor and Sports in Palmerin Street Warwick. The store stocks a great range of freshwater gear that is well suited to catching our Australian natives.

Wide Bay and Burnett Region
Closest Towns: Proston, Kingaroy

The fishing action has gone ballistic over the summer months. With the main basin now clear, lure fishers have been nailing bass and golden perch all over the place. Trolling has been the most successful method. Even though bait will pick up fish, most of the bait fishos have turned their hand to trolling as it is just so easy at the moment.

Suspended fish can be found around 7-10m deep so working deep diving lures like the Blitz Baga and Golden Child will see you in the middle of them. Purple or blue have been the gun colours. Trolling heavier spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits on lighter tackle will also see these fish climbing over your lure. The fish out in the deeper water have been of good quality.

Most points in the main body of the dam are holding fish. The majority of these are golden perch and can be caught by casting spinnerbaits into the edge and working them down the contour of the bank. While a reliable place to try, the bigger models just seem to keep coming from the deeper water. And with bass over 50cm and goldens 2.5-3kg caught in the last few weeks, who can argue with that?

Closest Towns: Murgon, Goomeri

The bass and golden perch have moved deeper but continue to play the game. Fishing guide and tackle store owner, Matthew Mott says it is the best the dam has fished for numbers of fish for the last 10 years. Big goldens are being caught but the bass are smaller between 30-40cm in length.

Casting blade baits and hopping them back to the boat along the bottom is working well for the lure casters. Where fish were mainly in the timber a month ago, they are now being caught all over the dam with fish being taken from the wall to the timber. Of course there are still the hot spots so look around focusing on points, underwater humps and drop-offs.

Lure trollers are the ones having most success. The Smak 16 has been smashing them in the darker colours. Try the purple or black ones and you can’t go wrong.

For help catching Bjelke and Boondooma fish, call into your local Bass 2 Barra store. You can see Matthew at Kingaroy or Dylan in Dalby and the boys will have you all geared up and ready for action in no time.

Closest town: Gin Gin

The barra fishing at Monduran has picked up again. Even with the hot water temperatures, fish keep coming from relatively shallow water. Jamie Bein, one of the local fishing guides has been rather generous this month and has shared not only his favourite lures but directions to some of the best action in the dam. While most of the barra are still of a smaller size, the best fish on one of his charters recently went 78cm and there is sure to be bigger models out there.

The bulk of fish are being caught on smaller hardbody lures. The Yo Zuri Crystal Minnow and Jackall Squirrel have been the standouts for Jamie’s clients. Points and weed banks with heaps of lilies are producing well, especially if they pop up to the surface in the middle of nowhere out in more open water.

The gun tip this month has been to head right up the dam to fish a mass of lilies between F and H. Here the lilies are littered along a corner where the bottom is between 1-2m deep. When casting into these lilies, the boat is out over a drop off and at times can be in 13m of water. The key is to work your lure right up to the ledge giving it heaps of pauses and twitches as you go.

The tackle store in Gin Gin, Foxies, stocks a range of effective barra lures. The store will mail order and you can check it out online at www.barratackle.com.au . Be sure to call in and get directions to some of the best barra fishing in the area or pick up one of the detailed maps.

Accommodation can be booked through Lake Monduran Kiosk and Tackle Shop. They look after all the cabins, houses, powered and unpowered camp sites, as well as house boats and boat hire. You can also make bookings for Guide Lines fishing charters through the kiosk, on (07) 4157 3881.

Jamie Bein runs Lake Monduran Barra Charters and fishes that dam more than anyone I know. His regular visits ensure he has a good understanding of what’s going on. Contact Jamie on his mobile, 0407 434 446, or through his website www.lakemonduranbarracharters.com .

Capricornia Region
Closest Town/s: Benaraby, Gladstone

For a while I’ve been hearing unconfirmed reports of barra action at Lake Awoonga. I can now say it is definitely true. Guests at Awoonga Gateway Lodge have been heading out and provided they put the time in the right areas have fared well. The barra are spread-out and when found are living in numbers.

It takes time to find these fish so don’t expect to stumble upon them straight away. Try looking in deeper trees over 6m deep. Hardbody lures have been doing the damage. Jackall Squirrels in the Hank Tune model have scored plenty of the fish, along with the deeper Aussie-made lures like Scorpion 90, RMG Poltergeists and DK. These lures dive a little deeper than the Hank Tunes so will reach the barra holding that little bit deeper. It pays to mix it up with the different depth lures.

Adding weight to floating lures is another trick. A floater can be made to suspend by adding weight strips or dots. These self-adhesive lead weights can be purchased from most good tackle shops. When the lure is weighted to almost suspend, it can stay in the zone a lot longer on the pause. Crank the lure down deep and then pause it, giving it a few twitches before more winds.

The barra caught in Awoonga have been cranky fish. When found, they have been going off and trying to destroy the lures put in front of them. Powerful fights have followed on fish that just don’t want to give up and seem to have more energy than other barra their size. Most models have been around 70cm in length with the odd one up to 90cm.

If you are keen to try to tackle some fish in the dam, give Lyn and Mark from Awoonga Gateway a call on (07) 4975 0033. At Awoonga Gateway you’ll find clean, modern cabins and your hosts will be full of useful advice to help you try to land that barra of a lifetime.

Whitsunday Region
Closest Towns: Proserpine, Airlie Beach

The barra fishing up the back of the dam has still been a bit touch and go. The deep trees and major points have been producing a few fish on occasions but the numbers still seem to be out in the main basin.

In the main basin, trolling is a great way to hook these big brutes. The average fish is over a metre long and out in the open water, they are much easier to fight and land. If you have never caught a big barra and want a good chance now is the time to take advantage of these easier fish and have a go at it.

Trolling deeper diving lures like Poltergeists and RMG Crazy Deep Scorpions during the day will fool the barra when they are holding deeper. At night, the barra rise higher in the water column with the baitfish and can be caught on 3m lures like Scorpion 3m, Laser Pro 190 and Barra Bait 12+.

Mix up the troll speed to see what the fish want. A faster troll of 6km/h is often most successful but don’t be afraid to slow it right down. Trolling a plastic or vibe at a slower speed using an electric motor or paddling a kayak could be just the trick to getting stubborn fish to bite.

If you are in the area call in and see the boys in town at Proserpine Bait and Tackle. Lindsay Dobe has spent years running charters on the lake and has a good idea where the barra will be and how best to catch them. If you are interested in a charter make sure you get in early with your booking. Lindsay can be reached through the store on (07) 4945 4641.

Closest Town: Mackay

With the hot, dry conditions, the water level has been falling fast. At this time of year, releases are made to ensure farmers can keep their sugar cane crops happy. A fair bit of rain fell mid-January so this may help slow the fall of the dam level.

The falling level has dropped the dam fast enough to kill off a lot of the weed beds. The tops of the thick weed are now lying over on top of the water and it is harder to find those areas where the weed is just below the surface. Some fish can still be caught where there are pockets of open water with weed below and in some areas casts can be made all the way to the bank. Here shallow lures like surface walkers, soft plastic frogs and weedless plastics will provoke a few strikes.

More action is likely to come from the well-defined weed edge that can extend well out from the bank on the thickest weed beds. Casting soft plastics into this edge and fishing them down the face before retrieving is a good option. Hard body lures like Halco Hammas and Rapala X-Raps are also ideal to pause along the face of the weed as you work them back to the boat.

Stickbaits are another lure worth experimenting with and are rarely used. Hard stickbaits aren’t readily available in Australia but one model that is locally designed and easier to find is the Stiffy Bony Bream. When retrieved slowly, these lures have a slow side-to-side shimmy. This retrieve style is ideal over the tops of drowned weed. On the edge of the weed you’ll need to keep your bait in the zone longer and a twitching style retrieve is best. Another model stickbait that you may find locally in our stores is the Rapala Sub-Walk. I have even caught barra on the old style Halco Hamma 85 Suspender with the bib removed. These lures are definitely worth having in your box and there are many options available from overseas where they are more popular.

For accommodation at the lake give Kinchant Waters a call on (07) 49541453.

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