Big bass are biting
  |  First Published: September 2014

It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down to whip together my freshwater reports and been as excited as what I am right now! I have the fishing bug back big time and this is due to some awesome bass fishing experienced last month.

Spring is usually the time the bass school up on the dams and the time they turn it on and bite. I guess it could be due to a fairly mild winter but last month some dams started producing good results. Once those schooled fish are found, they can be caught in big numbers.

There are plenty of options when it comes to catching schooling bass. The fish will soon let you know what will work best after you offer them a few lure styles and mix up the presentations. You’ll need to have an assortment of blades, plastics, jigheads, ice jigs and lipless crankbaits in your box of tricks at a bare minimum. These lures cover most situations and retrieve styles.

A sounder is also a must unless you know exactly where the fish are. I rely a lot on my sounder and spend plenty of time driving around looking for fish before I even put a lure in the water. It could take up to a couple of hours to find them if you have no idea where to start searching. Look across points, flats and near drop-offs exploring different depths of water until you find the depth the fish are favouring. It is all worthwhile spending time searching as often when the fish are stacked below, you’ll catch them one after the other. It certainly beats fishing to barren water.

The rivers and creeks are open to bass fishing again. With the closed season finished at the end of August, we can hit the natural habitat of our prized sportfish and have some fun. These areas are ideal for kayaks, small boats and some are so skinny you may need to tackle them on foot. While creek fishing tactics with poppers and small hardbodies flicked around snags and overhanging banks and vegetation can produce, it will also be worth sounding up a few fish in the bigger, deeper systems.

The fish will still have a bit of that breeding instinct happening and this could have them packed into fairly tight schools. Try the deep parts and the lower end of the holes and you may be surprised at just how many bass you can catch. Soft plastics and smaller hopped blades are ideal for chasing the wild schooling fish. If you don’t have a sounder on your kayak or boat, chuck a lure out the back and troll it through the deeper water while you are on the move and this may help you locate the schooling bass.

You may think that I’m a bit bass crazy this month and you are right. The fish are big, fat and angry and pulling harder than ever. It is the best time of year to catch them and due to the dryer winter and autumn; they should bite their heads off. Some of the lakes hold trophy specimens over 50cm in length and these fish can be well over 3kg at this time of year.

The Bass Challenge

I put a challenge out there to the readers. If you catch a bass in September over 50cm or the magic 3kg I’d love to see a photo. I will have some of the biggest bass published in next month’s Queensland Fishing Monthly. Just send your quality image to me at --e-mail address hidden-- along with the angler’s name, where the fish was caught and what lure or bait was used to fool the fish.

There are of course plenty of other freshwater options right around the state and these fish will also be starting to fire up. Golden perch will be quick to fire up as they have continued to bite well right through winter at some locations. Barra will be close to follow. You can expect the action to pick up this month and continue to get better towards the end of the year. Other species like sooty grunter, cod, silver perch and saratoga will also get more active as the lake and river temperatures warm.

If your rods are sitting in the corner gathering cobwebs and dust, it’s time to pull them out and put them to work. There is just too much happening on the freshwater scene. With so many options, there are too many days to work and not enough to fish. Until next month, buckled rods from the Colonel!

South East Queensland
Closest Towns: Toowoomba, Crows Nest

Last reports indicate the bass are still quite scattered. Lure trollers have had success using pink Little Rippers. These are a locally made lure that dives to around 6m. Trolling the toilet point up Bull Creek and the point opposite the Eagles Nest up Cressbrook Creek has produced some exceptional quality bass.

Keep an eye out for schooling bass this month. The bass should bunch up into a tight school and be easier to target with soft plastics and 1/4oz blades. There were also quite a few golden perch caught jigging blades up the Cressbrook Creek arm last month. It will be great if these fish continue to bite as the goldens have been scarce over the past few years.

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 7am to 6pm over the winter months. For all your supplies, expert advice and to check on the boating restrictions, 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

This is big bass month at Somerset. The 3kg monsters will be out there somewhere and anglers who put in the time to explore the flats and drop-offs will find them somewhere in the middle of the lake. The big bass are likely to be holding across the 7-11m flat areas around Pelican Point, Bay 13, Queen Street and South of Kirkleigh. Once you find these big fish, you’ll be able to catch them in numbers.

The fishing at Somerset has been really tough for the past few months. This isn’t unusual for Somerset bass at this time of year. The schools can break up and even when you find a few, they are near impossible to tempt. At some stage this month, previous years suggest they will turn it on. The bass will school up in a few areas around the dam on the deeper flats and start responding well to lures. Soft plastics are one of the first lures they will love to eat. Paddle-tail shads like the Powerbait 7cm Ripple Shad and 70mm Squidgy Fish rigged on a 1/2oz Nitro Dam Deep jighead will have you ready for action. These lures should be cast over the schooling fish and allowed to sink all the way to the bottom. Wind the lure slowly for up to a dozen turns of the reel before free-spooling it back to the bottom. This process is repeated all the way back to the boat. Mix up the speed a little going from dead slow to a medium pace. Usually a very slow retrieve will fool the bigger fish.

Blade baits and lipless crankbaits hopped across the bottom may also be worth a try. The bass would normally respond better to these offerings later in the year but you never know when a reaction style presentation will tick the right boxes and get them excited.

Based on the bulk amount of golden perch around prior to winter, they should start showing up in good numbers towards the end of the month. Goldens can be caught by vertically jigging blades on top of hard structure. Finding old stumps on the drop-offs is one way to find prime golden country but that can be tricky. Look for standing timber and hop blades around the tree trunks and heavy timber. If you are able to find a submerged tree in deep water, the goldens will often hold in the top branches. Trolling the old creek bed in the dam’s middle reaches and venturing into the river channel up in the timber can also produce good numbers of yellowbelly.

Closest Towns: Esk, Fernvale

The bass that have been holding around the lake edges are likely to form schools this month. The lower part of the lake from Logan’s Inlet to the buoyed off area up towards the dam wall will be worth a look. With the dam so high in capacity, there are miles of water to cover and explore.

Trolling and watching the sounder will be the best way to locate the bass on the flats. To narrow down the search, concentrate on staying close to the drop off to deeper areas with the boat in 8-11m of water. Don’t mistake the big schools of fork-tailed catfish for bass. These fish have been holding in deep water over 15m close to the bottom and the bass are more likely to be found in less than 11m of water.

The edges were producing good numbers of bass and goldens for lure casters over the last few months. It is likely quite a few of these fish will remain in 3-5m of water close to the steep banks. Casting lipless crankbaits and spinnerbaits in to the edges and letting them sink down to the fish before retrieving can be quite productive. The bass will swim out and sit under your boat if they are in the area and once there are quite hard to catch. If this happens, rest them for half an hour by leaving the area. Return to the fishy spot and sit wide of it using long casts.

Wivenhoe has been opened to powerboats. Only 4-stroke outboards or low emission 2-strokes are allowed to be used on the lake and boats must not exceed the 6 knot speed limit. Even with these restrictions in place it is much faster to get around the lake than using just your electric and you don't have the fear of running out of battery power.

Closest Towns: Boonah, Aratula

The fishing at Moogerah is shaping up to be awesome. The dam has received a lot of pressure with quite a few fishing competitions over the past month. Once these are all over, the pressure will ease and the bite period will last a lot longer. Schooling bass are holding on the flats and points in water over 8m deep. There are a few at the start of the timber way out in the middle, good numbers on the flats just before the timber within 500m of the ramp west of the camp grounds (out from the palms) and piles of fish inside the bay to the east of the dam wall. With all the boating pressure, these fish are likely to move around so it will pay to sound around for them. Places, like the Spit, that runs out towards the dam wall from the northern boat ramp have had a few bass schooling but may start to see much better numbers as the fish move about.

Hopping lures across the bottom, jigging and slow winding soft plastics are all catching fish. The trickiest part seems to be finding an active school. After that all you need to do is put the lures in front of them.

Hopping 1/4oz and 3/8oz blades across the bottom can be dynamite on Moogerah bass. It is really worthwhile alternating between this approach and slow winding 1/2oz jighead rigged soft plastics. When the fish are thick on the sounder, keep lures fairly close to the boat and spend a bit of time working them vertically. By alternating these two methods you are likely to get results. Ice jigs are another good option especially if the bass are hugging the bottom right below the boat.

If you are looking to catch the larger bass, the bigger profile of a Jackall Mask Vibe 60 (19g) is the ideal lure to explore the bottom. These lures can be cast over the fish and hopped back along the lake floor. Make sure the lure touches bottom after it falls with each lift. When hopping change the size of the lifts and the amount of aggression to see how the bass will respond best.

Tail-spinners have made a comeback and Moogerah is one of the lakes where they are performing well. These lures are great for searching. If fish are in your area, you can move the boat around while watching the sounder and fishing at the same time. Long casts can be made as these lures punch out like bullets. Let them sink to the bottom or even midwater if fish are suspended. From here use a long draw of the rod to lift the lure up and then let it sink while recovering some slack. This is repeated as the lure reaches the bottom or the required depth.

If fishing suspended fish for the first time, head to a flat where the bottom is the same depth as the fish and count how long the lure takes to hit the bottom after the cast and how long to return after each hop. This should then be repeated to the suspended fish and you will be able to keep the lure close to the target area.

Closest Towns: Boonah, Beaudesert

Maroon Dam had been quiet with a few bass being landed in around the weed pockets, but just as I write has also started to fire up. This month we may see some of the better quality bass move out from the weed and school up on the major points. The points and drop-offs below Pointro, across the bay at the boat ramp and up at The Nursery will all be worth exploring. Try soft plastics rigged on 3/8oz or 1/2oz jigheads.

Plastics that perform well with a very slow retrieve are definitely the go. Some paddle-tail soft plastics take a bit of speed to get their tails going and you should be looking for ones, which kick in with a dead slow wind. It’s pretty hard to beat the 7cm Powerbait Ripple Shad. I cut or bite about 10mm off the head of mine to get rid of the eyes before rigging. This doesn’t change the action and places the hook point closer to the tail where the bites will be.

Darling Downs Granite Belt Region
Closet Towns: Highfields, Toowoomba

Surprisingly golden perch were caught right through winter at Cooby. Bait fishers were able to keep hauling them in on saltwater yabbies and lure fishers had success with small blades rigged with assist hooks. Not much should change this month apart from even better numbers being caught. The fishing will slowly improve towards the end of the year as the water warms back up.

The deeper water seems to be holding some of the better numbers of fish. Baits should be dropped straight over the side of the boat and fished on a tight or almost tight line to help with bite detection. The saltwater yabbies will keep doing the trick and action on live shrimps may also pick up. At times the bites are quite timid and you can turn these into hook-ups with the right approach. Fish a pea-sized running ball sinker on top of the hook or on the bottom of the rig with the hook 40cm above tied to a dropper loop. The hook should be a size 1 wide gape pattern like the Owner K Hook. When the bites come, simply lower the rod’s tip 15cm to give the fish some slack and lift at a medium pace about 30cm to set the hook. This method will hook heaps of fish that you could miss with any other setup or approach.

The Ecogear ZX blades are perfect for Cooby’s golden perch. They are ready to go straight out of the packet. A lot of guys will also buy their own assist hooks and fit them to other brands of blades. I love the 40mm and 44mm Berkley Powerblades in the midnight colour fitted with my homemade assist hooks.

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. 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 fishing gear, kayaks and accessories he has on display.

Closest Town: Warwick

Last month the fishing slowed down at Leslie but as water temperatures begin to rise this month the action will quickly improve. Golden perch will be found in good numbers in the upper half of the dam. Look for fish around the drop-offs and concentrate on fishing structure. There are plenty of granite rock formations below the surface which show up well on the sounder. Parking the boat on top of these and hopping blades and lipless crankbaits are a good way to pick up numbers of golden perch and the occasional Murray cod.

Bait anglers should have plenty of success when using saltwater yabbies and live shrimp. Try targeting fish around the rocks or drop-offs to the creeks running into the main basin of the dam.

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 bait and freshwater gear which is well suited to catching our Australian natives.

Sunshine Coast Region
Closest Towns: Imbil, Gympie

It had been quite a while since I fished Borumba. Last month I teamed up with local bass guru, Callum Munroe and we filmed a segment for AFN Fishing TV and Sportfish DVD. The bass didn’t disappoint and based on what I saw the action should be similar this month as well.

There are plenty of schooling bass in the main basin before the timber. These fish are favouring the deeper water with quite a few of them suspended there. The better concentrations seem to be around the points, which jut out into the dam quite often near the yellow buoys.

Plenty of these fish are smaller specimens below 40cm but the numbers ensure you will have heaps of fun. Casting soft plastics to the suspended fish can get plenty of interest. If the bass school up below the boat, try winding and dropping soft plastics vertically, jigging smaller blades and ice jigs.

Some better quality bass are found across the flats in around 10m of water. These fish can be harder to tempt but if you locate them and put in the time you should be rewarded. The better quality bass are between 45-50cm long and quite fat at this time of year. I always say if you put a Borumba bass head-to-head with the bass from any other dam, they would out-pull it in a fight. These fish go off!

Closest Towns: Cooroy, Noosa

The bass at MacDonald have woken early from their winter spell and are chewing all types of lures. The trick is to locate the schooling fish. The Botanical Gardens and 3 Ways areas have been holding good-sized schools. The fish can be found by sounding across the flats and paying particular attention to the drop-offs.

I had a cracker of a session last month after spending the day filming a Spiderwire Promotion. The water looked too inviting not to throw a cast so I finished the day by heading out to the Botanical Gardens. The bass were schooled up and I started hopping a 40mm Powerblade in assassin colour. After 10 casts, I had landed 10 fish and managed to hook another 4, which fell off. The action continued and the Powerblade produced 20 fish in under an hour before I headed the boat back to the ramp as the light was fading.

It has been a long time since I have experienced such a hot bass bite and I wonder how long the action can continue.

The lake is certainly worth a visit if you want to nail some hard fighting bass. Most of the fish are under 40cm but there are some big fat 45cm models out there. Hopping smaller blades across the bottom seems to be a dynamite technique. Soft plastics rigged on 3/8 or 1/2oz jigheads also work well. As the weed beds start to take hold again in the warmer months the fish will spread out through the dam but in the meantime look for the schools in the lower half of the lake and have some fun.

Wide Bay and Burnett Region
Closest Towns: Proston, Kingaroy

The bass were a bit lure shy last month due to a fair amount of fishing pressure over the winter period. Golden perch continued to please with some anglers managing big hauls on lures fished in the timber.

With the warming water and less fishing pressure, the fishing will be much better this month. Bass numbers will return and schools will be found in areas like Pelican Point, Leisegangs Ledge, Barbers Pole and The Junction. It may also be worth trying some of the major points on the way up the dam from the boat ramp.

Bass should be fired up and they will take soft plastics, blades and hopped lipless crankbaits. There were plenty of quality ones around last month with bass over 2kg being landed. With the golden perch being so active, you can expect to nail a few while casting lures for bass. The start of the timber in both arms will also hold a mix of bass and golden perch. Take care in the Stuart Arm as the falling dam level will have a few new trees sitting just below the surface.

Boondooma is a great place to camp right near the water and sit by the fire when it’s cold. You could also do it in more style and book into one of the cabins overlooking the dam. The kiosk at the main office does hot food and other basic items. For campsites, cabins and bunkhouse rooms call Corey and Niki on (07) 4168 9694.

Closest Towns: Murgon, Goomeri

There will be heaps of goldens around this month with plenty of big females mixed in. Trolling lures is one of the best ways to catch these fish and the smaller bass will also get into the action. Fishing around The Islands, Bass Point and the first kilometre of the timber should produce the desired results. Lures that dive 5-7m are ideal. The Golden Child, Smak 16 and Brolga in darker colours like purple, brown, gold and green can all perform well.

Lure casters can get into the action. Hopping 1/4oz and 3/8oz blades across the bottom or the bigger profiled lures will see you connected to plenty of small bass and some big golden perch.

Bait anglers can catch a mixed bag on live shrimp or target the big golden perch on saltwater yabbies. The same areas mentioned for lure trolling are worth a try.

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.

Isis Balancing Storage
Closest Town: Bundaberg

The weed beds of Isis are where the best action is taking place. Bass have been whacking a range of offerings. Suspending lures fished around the outside of the weed edge are taking some of the better quality bass. Deeper diving models capable of diving to 3m are ideal. Soft plastics, spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits and blades are also tempting the bass. The fish are as lot of fun and it pays to carry a good selection of lures in the box to see what they want to eat most on the day.

Surface fishing on the calmer mornings and afternoons should also pick up this month. The popular Cultiva Zip’n Ziggy topwater lure should always get a run across this lake. You can also show them something different that stays in the zone longer in the way of a 60mm Halco Roosta Popper. Try popping or walking these lures over the top of the weed beds and in between the lily pads early and late in the day when the light level is low.

The boys at Bundaberg’s Saltys Tackleworld fish the dam on a regular basis. Being so passionate about their bass fishing, they are the ones to talk to if you are heading to the lake for a fish. Saltys stock a great range of lures for both fresh and saltwater fishing and the Bundaberg area has plenty to offer.

Closest Town: Gin Gin

There were a few barra caught by those putting in the hard yards over the winter months. This is a good indication things will pick up quickly as the water warms up. The action won’t be furious this month but there should be a definite increase in the numbers of barra caught.

Casting suspending lures around the bushy trees standing in the water is a good way to find a few fish. You can cover a lot of water to locate good numbers but always go by the theory where you find one there will be more. Bays and points are always worth a look and the water past White Rock seems to be where the better action starts. There are now plenty of barra around the 80cm size and these fish around the timber provide plenty of thrills.

Monduran is a massive lake so it pays to get some advice from Foxies Tackle in Gin Gin, the caretakers at the campground or even book a charter with one of the guides. You can’t beat local knowledge so if they are willing to share a few secrets take advantage of this.

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. I usually stay at the Gin Gin Hotel that is about 20 minutes from the boat ramp. The rooms are very affordable and pretty basic but you can get a great feed and cold beer. To make a booking call (07) 4157 2106.

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 .

Capricorn Region
Closest Towns: Benaraby, Gladstone

I haven’t heard a fishing report from Awoonga for the last few months. The fishing below the dam was still okay considering we have just gone through winter.

Barra were caught above and below Pike Crossing in the Boyne River. This area is home to small boats or kayaks. The barra cop an absolute flogging but most are released and they continue to bite. There are plenty of 70cm sized fish with some bigger and smaller models to be caught from this freshwater section of the river. I haven’t heard much on the section of the Boyne River around Benaraby but imagine some fish will have dodged the nets and be in the area shaking off their winter blues and starting to cruise around looking for a feed.

Soft plastics and hard bodies are very effective in these parts of the Boyne River. The Transam 95 is another great lure to use in the saltwater stretches of the river. There are now plenty of copies and similar lure styles to the Transam available but I haven’t used them so can’t comment on just how effective they are. It’s hard to make change when you know something works so well. These soft lipless crankbaits can be cast over fish and hopped back to the boat. It is great to have a side image sounder to show the barra cruising past to the side of the boat. It takes a lot of guesswork out of the process of finding fish and placing lures in front of them.

If you are keen to try to tackle some fish in the river or 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

As the northerly winds begin to kick in this month the action at the back of the dam should improve. Already last month, barra were being caught by those battling the colder water temperatures. Being so far north, the water will warm quicker than some of the more southern barra lakes and therefore the action should be pretty good.

There will be barra to catch around the trees lining the creek beds as well as closer to the tea tree points. Up the main creek will also be worth a shot around some of the shallower areas especially if they have laying down timber. Hard bodies like the Halco Hamma, X-Rap and B52 are ideal around the shallower spots. If you can locate some healthy weed beds, surface lures are definitely worth throwing for some explosive barra strikes.

With most barra over a metre long, Proserpine Dam has a huge appeal and when the fish turn on can provide some amazing thrills. Be sure to bring a couple of outfits to give you a chance at stopping these monster barra. In more open areas and around the weed, you can get away with 20lb braid. If you venture into the thicker trees, you may need to bring out the big gear; a 50lb outfit and lures with trebles upgraded to the Owner ST66.

If you are heading out to the dam make sure you call in at Proserpine Bait and Tackle. The store is on the highway through Proserpine and stocks all the barra gear you could possibly need. The guys will be able to send you in the right direction and help with nailing the lake’s big fish. The store owner Lindsay Dobe runs charters on the lake and bookings can be made through the store on (07) 4945 4641.

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