Barra season is now in full swing, and the rivers and headlands will be full of fishers soaking livies, trolling and casting lures around all the usual spots.
It has been great to see that the majority of people have been doing the right thing over the closure and not targeting them. Obviously, no one can help the by-cacth and we have incidentally hooked barra in some of the most unexpected areas on some of the most ridiculous sized lures imaginable over the last few months.
The opening was a ball when we did start to target them. All of the local rivers should be producing, and the only uncertainty at the moment is the rain and the amount of it we may get. So far, we have missed out on the Cyclones, but that could happen any time, and as far as I'm concerned, bring it on! The barra need this influx of freshwater to help with spawning, but there are so many other species that rely on the floods to set up for a healthy season, namely prawns and crabs.
Slow trolling steep timbered banks is just one technique for getting amongst some serious sized barra, and even though it’s not my preferred technique to catch a barra, there is no doubt it’s very effective.
Rock bars and undulating bottom contours are a prime spot for some big fish to hold during times of tide movement, and as they sit down below the main water flow, any food item that comes within striking distance and hangs around for a second too long will be pushing its luck.
Deeper water holds bigger fish, but reaching them can be the challenge if your lures aren’t up to the task. It’s no secret that I'm a fan of the Halco 125 Scorpion 5m, and not far behind that is the Halco Poltergiest and 4m 90mm Scorpion, but the difference in where I prefer to use each one is quite contrasting. Scattered timber and snags, deep mud banks, rock bars and drop-offs, I use the 125 Scorpians, and troll them on a fairly stiff rod to allow a solid hook set on the strike. Bouncing the bib into the bottom structure every now and then means that you are in the right spot. Constantly ploughing the bottom isn’t going to be ideal though, and if this happens just wind some line in until you only touch down every now and then.
With any trolling in rivers, a sounder is going to be a very important tool, and apart from finding fish to start with, it will also allow you to estimate the distance between your lure and your boat. The gives the angler the exact timing on when to slow the speed and start the twitching and tapping of the rod tip to walk the lure in an injured way as close to the snags as you can get. If you have side scan in your boat, you already have a head start on other anglers, and keeping an eye on your sounder will help you discover snags that would be otherwise undetectable.
The lone snags often hold the mother load, and the one old tree in the paddock theory once again rings true. For those who haven’t heard of this analogy, it basically relates to cattle in open expanses of cleared paddocks, and the irresistible appeal one tree has to them in that area.
Being structure oriented, barra have the same compulsion, and a snag out on its own will be a holding point for travelling fish during certain stages of the tide, and some will often hold fish at all stages of the tide if they’re deep enough.
Trolling at high tide is the best approach for the reachable snags, but as the water recedes, coming back, holding on the electric and casting the same snag may be the better approach. There are a couple of reasons for the change in tactic, and obviously with less water over the snags, the more inclined fish will spook more as the boat passes overhead.
I now have a Lowrance HDS 7 in the old Polycraft, and boy, hasn’t it opened up a whole new world for me. If I am looking at a snag from 10-20 meters away I’m not spooking fish, but I can also split the screen to GPS to monitor both snag location and fish, so I can hold very precisely while I work the snag thoroughly. Add in the Minn Kota iPilot with Spot Lock ability, and all of a sudden it’s an effortless task to fish otherwise difficult structure.
This is one technique that will always stay the same, and my preferred way to catch barra if conditions are right. Putting a lure next to structure and waddling and twitching it out, and then getting it eaten right in front of your eyes before then trying like hell to get that thing out of there gets me so excited.
I like slowly floating or almost neutrally buoyant lures for casting and use the lure speed and water current to manoeuvre the lure to the best depth and position of a snag. I try to get as close as possible without the treble grabbing timber and hanging up.
The old and new Laser Pro 120 is ideal for this approach, as is the 105 and 123mm Halco Hammas, but when the snag is suspended over deeper water, the 90mm Scorpion with the 4m bib is just perfect for diving back up and underneath structure when the fish are holding down further.
So that’s it for the traditional type scenarios, next month I’ll cover soft vibes and soft plastic rigs and styles for those who want to add another technique to their bag of tricks if they aren’t already doing it.
If you’re around South Townsville or Proserpine you can also call into the Akwa Marine stores and we can show you anything you need to see between now and then. Being and independent store, we can make our own rules, and enjoy being able to spend the one on one time with customers. We’re constantly showing people rigs, knots, lures and techniques and even some of the more well known locations to start the hunt, so it’d be great to see you and we encourage you to bring in your pictures of your latest catch to put up on our wall.Reads: 654