The time is nigh
  |  First Published: March 2007

The cooler months are my favourite time to fish for bass. As they get ready for the big swim to brackish water for spawning, they start to feed up and put on some weight. Bass become more aggressive when they’re looking to bulk up, so over the next few months there’ll be plenty of happy bass anglers.

Time To Go Soft?

Soft plastic grubs with a resin head have been a good choice when other techniques haven’t been doing much to fool bass. Softies have certainly been known to turn an ordinary session into one with some more excitement.

I’ve always thought of plastics are being somewhere between fly fishing and dunking bait. A plastic, just like a well-tied fly, is as close to the real thing as you are likely to get. Soft plastics have a much more lifelike feel than a hard body, can have scent added (either during manufacture or by the angler later) and can perform just like the real thing.

While bass have a reputation for belting lures, soft plastics seem to turn bass into softies. Well, initially anyway! It’s amazing to watch a bass come out to investigate the soft, almost ripple-free landings of the plastics, and then seemingly let it go, before you realise you have weight.

I’ve been fishing with mates Rod Cumming and Brendan Keogh recently, and there have been moments when we’ve seen bass, thought the soft plastic had been ignored, only to see the line tighten and the fun begin. Having good size bass daintily taking a soft plastic, like they thought they were at a high-class dinner party, was a new experience for us. It was definitely not what we were used to seeing with bass!

The other thing with fat plastic grubs is their ability to skip under low lying hazards. With practice, skipping soft plastics is highly effective, and reduces the chance of hanging up in the greenery or coming up short. Just like skipping flat stones across water, soft plastics will skip along and end up dropping softly into the water, which is a definite advantage.

You’ll find other styles of soft plastics also will skip reasonably well if you prefer them. Thinner grubs and minnows can be made to skip nicely. Even plastic lizards can be made to skip. Plastic tubes can be made to skip as well, although they’re not my first choice for skipping.

Colo Rocks

The Colo should be a great place to fish this month, providing we don’t get too much rain further west. If we do and the Colo turns to chocolate, I’d be looking elsewhere.

I prefer the last of the run-in and the first of the run-out in the Colo, and especially love that slack water time at the change at the top of the tide.

There are some mighty good snags in the Colo at the moment, and the weedbeds are extensive as well. The rocky cliffs – which start a few kilometres from the Bridge to Nowhere and continue all the way upstream to the Putty bridge – as always worth a shot with dark coloured short hard-bodies. Small crabs inhabit these areas and make for exciting fishing if the bass are in the mood. Any undercut areas along the cliffs are good places to try, and accurate casts into the back of these areas will often get the attention you’re looking for.

These same undercut cliffs are perfect for skipping soft plastics. As the tide rises, some of these undercut sections are so tight that a cast is near impossible, so being able to skip cast well can be a valuable skill.

Nepean Nonsense

The usual summertime waterway madness on the Nepean at Penrith has driven a lot of people, not just anglers, to wonder just how seriously the authorities take public safety. Those who kayak or row are as just as frustrated as anglers. I know that deaths have occurred on the Nepean, but that doesn’t seem to worry the people who are responsible for looking after all water users.

On the angling front, the fishing has ranged from red hot excitement to slow and boring. This month with bass getting their hormonal rush, the excitement should be more consistent. However, with the weather still warm I’d be looking for a mid week fish, or very early in the morning.

The water will still be warm and the usual spots will be choked with weed. Devlins Lane will certainly be very weedy, but if you’re persistent you will make it to clear water if you’re not afraid of some extra effort.

Hawkesbury Mayhem

While bass and estuary perch will always be the main targets at the Hawkesbury, there’s always the possibility that something else will find your lure, bait or fly appealing.

It’s well known that John Bethune and Dean Hayes love for fishing swamp drains after rain. However, these same drains have been doing well even without the rain we so desperately need. On the run-out tides the swamp drains and large water pipes draining into the river are prime spots to try.

Look for colour changes in the water around these spots, and if you can see a major change in the bank’s contour where there are eddies present, dedicate some time to these areas. An added bonus is where there are some weeds, sunken timber or reeds. Get a combination of these and you’re right in the game.

If you’re a lover of bass, you’ll no doubt have watched Dean and JB’s Tidal Water Action DVD. (If you haven’t got a copy of this DVD, you should!) Soft plastics and sinking flies are the perfect option for these areas, but I’ve also found spinnerbaits and other bladed lures have also been excellent, with pearl and white plastics and spinnerbaits being very productive in the muddy coloured water.

In other areas, bass at this time of the year are not too fussy about what they will take. Spots where there are backwater eddies and drop-offs are perfect places to try, and working a little deeper than you have been used to is what you’ll need to do.

Deep-diving lures, sinking flies and plastics worked deep should bring you results. If you’re fishing from a boat, look at your sounder and see where the fish are and get your presentations down to where they are. Don’t assume the bass will hold into the bank. Sit your boat out wider and work your presentations deep all the way back to the boat. You might start to notice that some of your hook-ups are close to the boat and not as close to the bank as you might have thought.

Longer rods make for easy long casts when your reels are spooled with the appropriate braid. A lot of anglers have been downsizing their braid from 4lb or 6lb to the 3lb Berkley Fireline Crystal. Keep in mind that Berkley braid is often around two and a half times stronger than what is stated.

A spin outfit is very versatile for a wide range of presentations, and watching a competent angler cast accurately with a spin outfit is poetry in motion. If you’ve ever seen John Bethune give casting demonstrations at a tackle or boat show with a spin outfit, you’ll have seen an amazing demonstration. Thanks to John’s presentations and advice, I’m sure there have been many anglers who have gone back to using their spinning outfits – and who have been all the better for it.

Why Not?

Very little is mentioned about using clear lures, but I’ve been having a ball with them. I’ve bought both diving lures and surface lures in clear or near clear, and the results have been very pleasing when the conditions have been right.

In my search for clear lures amongst lure makers’ websites, it seems pretty clear that there are more clear lures available than ever before. From purely clear, to clear with a little colour to clear/white, you can find soft plastics, lipless, surface and sub-surface models. I’ve had good success with the Tiemco Pencil, Heddon’s Torpedos, Lucky Craft Sammy 65, Daiwa Presso Cicada Pencil and Heddon’s Zara Puppy.

The Tiemco Pencil was a standout on one session when I used it for only three hours up until 12.30pm. I got a total of 36 fish in the boat, with a number of strikes and lost fish to make it a very interesting session.

Clear surface lures have worked best for me in clear water on sunny days. When it’s been cloudy or the water has been slightly murky, they haven’t done so well. They’ve been especially successful in heavily-fished waters. My 36 fish session was through the Narrows at Penrith, and there probably isn’t a more heavily fished area in Western Sydney than there.

The Daiwa Presso Cicada in white/clear isn’t wide available yet (I could only find it in online stores), but this lure has been brilliant when conditions have been right. It’s often been the first surface lure I’ve gone to, and on many surface sessions it has been the only surface lure I’ve used.

In sub-surface clear lures, there are more clear to clear/white varieties than ever before. I’ve done well using various Jackall Chubby 38s (ranging from clear to clear with a slight pattern), Tiemco Crank 45SR, Rapala Husky Jerk HJ6s and HJ 8s, and an old clear Storm Wee Wart.

There are also some lipless lures which, while not clear, have a clear/white appearance. If you’re looking for some of these, there’s a Kokoda with a clear/white base, with a tinge of pink, a Jackall in the Aussy Shrimp pattern and even some Jackall Mask Vibs.

Talking to Dave Butfield at Tackle World in St Mary’s, he couldn’t explain the sudden increase in sales of clear lures. The word’s out about clear lures it seems, and not just locally. Give them a try in clear water, on days when the skies are clear, and see what happens.

Warning On The Nepean

In late January an alert was publicised for the upper reaches of the Nepean. The water quality was so poor that it was recommended that people not swim in it or come into contact with it.

Having fished the upper Nepean a few weeks before the alert was made public, it was surprising that it took so long for the alert to be given.

While good rainfall would provide a much longed-for flush, if you’ve been following some of the info at ausbass.com.au and wsbb.com.au, you’ll probably have noticed a guy called Skinny outlining some of the problems of the upper Nepean. Think about what you can do to help the upper Nepean, because it needs a lot more than just a flush of water to get things looking better.

All lures and any other products mentioned in this column were entirely paid for by myself.

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