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Bass gobbling gudgeons
  |  First Published: September 2014



With the arrival of spring we can hopefully say goodbye to those rotten, cold westerly winds that can easily put an end to a nice day’s fishing. The days will start to get longer and with the air temperatures rising the water temperature should follow. Both Glenbawn and St Clair fell during winter and if we get some spring rains they will be looking good for the next couple of months.

Over recent weeks the fishing on both Glenbawn and St Clair has been in tandem, providing no wind, with good numbers of fish coming off the banks with plastics and blades and the school fish on ice jigs and blades.

With spring arriving and the water temperature starting to hit 16-17°C it starts the breeding cycle of two of the bass’ favourite food sources in both Glenbawn and St Clair.

The first is the firetail gudgeon, which is a small native Australian fish. It has a grey to bronze body with black scale margins. During the breeding season the males are almost black with orange-red fins. The males grow to about 5.5cm and the females to about 4cm. This can be very helpful when selecting colour patterns for ice jigs and plastics.

When the gudgeons are breeding they are usually found in deep water and can be easily seen on a good sounder. Once they have finished breeding they head to the shallower edges where they can be seen swimming amongst the weed where they feed on aquatic invertebrates.

The second favourite on the bass’ dinner plate is the Australian smelt, which is a pelagic species that grows to about 75cm and is often found in great numbers in schools of several thousands. It is not uncommon when you catch a bass to see several hanging out of its mouth.

These smelt feed on a variety of planktonic organisms, micro crustaceans and small aquatic insects. These can be readily seen on a good sounder holding in the middle of the water column and resemble a large, dark cloud.

When we do a bass stocking in our local impoundments we try to have it coincide with the hatching of these two baitfish as it is an ideal food source for the fingerlings.

Now with the end of the closed season it will be great to get out on the rivers and check out some snags and new areas to chase the fish. There has not been much rainfall over winter so the bass will still be down in the lower reaches as they don’t normally go back up the systems until some fresh comes down.

In the early part of spring in the rivers I have found the fish to be very active and in reasonable condition. I like to use small lipless crankbaits, spinnerbaits and hardbodies, all in very bright patterns as they tend to trigger more strikes.

Lake St Clair

Lake St Clair should continue to fish very well in September, especially as the water temperature rises and the weed continues to grow around certain edges.

Over past years the dam has had more water and there was some good fishing up both the back of the Fallbrook and Carrowbrook. However, unless it gets some rainfall the fish might be holding up around the river channels lower down.

With the water very clear the fish will be very sensitive and so working the banks should best be done in the low light periods or when there is some wind blowing onto the edges. This should also be a good time for surface lures and jerkbaits as the weed is about 2-3ft below the surface. Do not hesitate to walk the banks casting blades and small hardbody lures. Neutral buoyant jerkbaits work really well around the banks over this weed as they can be paused before quite often being engulfed when you recommence the retrieve. My favourite lure for this is the Jackall Squirrel in NF ayu pattern as it closely resembles the smelt in this dam.

With the dam at its current level there is not much cover in the form of trees adjacent to the banks, so as the sun rises the fish will move out into the 15-20ft depth where they can be targeted with blades and plastics.

The beginning of spring sees the bass moving around the dam a lot so you may need to take plenty of time finding the fish, especially with the deeper school fish. These deep fish always like the deep plastics and blades and you’ll usually find them not too far from some form of deep structure. A very handy tool to help find these fish is to use Insight Genesis mapping from Lowrance. An advantage when using this tool is when you upload it and scan it on your PC you will quite often see fish or structure that you missed out on the water.

Another very good feature with this program is you can also check the trends for this dam where it tells you the water temp, air temp, barometer and wind direction on the day of your mapping. Whilst you are mapping an area it can also be helpful to put out a lure that runs down around 5m in a dark pattern.

Baitfishing should also begin to pick up this month, especially if the dam receives some rainfall and rises a couple of feet.

Glenbawn

Glenbawn is very clear, especially down around the main basin, which usually is a sign that the bass will be around cover and deep structure.

Up the back of the dam where there is some usual snow melt influx from the Barringtons, the fish move onto the banks, especially near some form of cover and around the rock walls and drop-offs.

This dam takes a little longer for the water temperature to rise and so working spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits along the long sloping banks is quite often a very good option. I have found in September that very bright patterns and even fluoro colours can be very helpful.

There will still be some good deep schools of bass up around the back in the 40-60ft depths as this is where you will see some big schools of gudgeons and smelt appearing. Ice jigs and plastics, along with blades, are the go here.

When using plastics I like to dip the tail in pink Spike It, and if I’m using ice jigs I like red eyes and a black body. For lipless crankbaits, the black-gold pattern has worked well for me. With spinnerbaits, the Bassman colour 42 is a winner.

Trolling will also help in locating the fish with lures that run down around 5-7m and in solid patterns.

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