For a lot of anglers, this month marks the start of a self-imposed end to a ‘bass season’ that starts around September and ends in May at the latest.
These anglers believe that bass should be left to breed in peace and, while their thoughts are noble, they aren’t shared by everybody. For others bass are never off-limits and remain viable targets. These people might love and respect bass every bit as much as those who have chosen to leave the fish alone and they truly believe that targeting spawning bass has no effect on a fish’s ability to spawn once it has been caught and released.
John Bethune knows more about bass than probably any of us and listening to him on the subject is amazing. It would be fantastic if he were to write an article on his thoughts on the subject.
There is a lot of sometimes heated debate, especially on some of the fishing websites, over targeting spawning bass. Whatever your views, one issue that should get both camps really angry is the blatant targeting of bass with no regard to regulations simply to fill a freezer with them. I have heard about one river north of Sydney that is targeted by one group of individuals who never chase bass except at spawning. On the off-chance that inspectors might stop their boats to check bag limits, they have eskies hidden along the banks.
If you still want to chase bass but you want to leave the breeders alone, fish in waters not considered to be breeding areas. Not all bass make the swim to the spawning areas, which many consider to be downstream from Sackville.
You can always target fish away from where they are spawning. I’ve enjoyed fishing in May on the Nepean around Penrith, the Breakaway near Windsor and in the Colo.
You might find these fish difficult to catch and some days you can make a lot of casts for little result. Working lures, flies and plastics slowly and really covering the water with a lot of casts is often the difference between catching fish and simply on-water casting practice.
Favourite ways to catch bass in May are with soft plastics and suspending lures. Slowly-worked plastics appeal to bass which aren’t in the mood to chase down quick lures. There are plenty of great plastics to choose from such as products by Berkley, Atomic and Slider.
Scents are an important additive and if you use them regularly, you may have noticed that when things are quiet some of the overspray of the scent which finds its way to the water seems to get surface activity happening. While there might still be some who are sceptical about scent is, I think there is little doubt that it does seem to get fish interested.
This is a great time to work a soft plastic very slowly over the bottom. I rig them weedless and work them so slowly that I’ve almost fallen asleep. You’ll often feel a tap on the lure and a lot of anglers tend to strike and pull the plastic away from the fish. Dropping the rod tip and allowing a brief pause usually works best.
Suspending lures are a lot of fun to work, especially when you can watch the lure bring a bass out of hiding. Suspending lures that have proven successful are Australia’s Halco Sneaky Scorpion and Rapala’s Husky Jerk.
Suspending lures work best when fish feeding levels are low, when fish comfort levels are less than ideal, when fish have been targeted heavily and when barometric pressure or water temps are low.
Crank them down to their operating depth and let them sit for as long as you can stand it.
At the February meeting of Western Sydney Bream and Bass, John Bethune gave his usual terrific talk, speaking for some time on suspending lures. He recommended to listeners to let them sit for five to 15 seconds and for as long as 30 seconds. Time it while you read this, then imagine spending five to 30 seconds not turning a reel handle while your suspending lure drives bass absolutely nuts.
When you can’t stand it any more, give your lure a twitch, then pause, before giving the lure another twitch. A lure sitting in front of a lethargic bass can really drive them crazy and if you have a shallow-diving suspending lure, it’s not uncommon to see a bass cover a lot of water to smack it. On a cool day, when bass aren’t to keen, turning to a suspending lure can be a saviour.
I love using suspending lures around timber and especially on the remaining weed beds. Apart from surface fishing with lures or fly, sight fishing with a suspending lure along a weed bed is one sure way of getting your heart pounding.
When a bass races out and eyeballs your lure while you anticipate the hook-up, there’s no feeling like it.Reads: 576