Slow but steady in the dams
  |  First Published: August 2007

This can be one of the most enjoyable times to be out on the dams. The mornings are usually foggy followed by nice, warm days – unless the westerlies kick in and ruin everything!

I had been hoping for some decent rain to top up the dams and clean the rivers out and we have certainly got our fare share lately. But St Clair and Glenbawn received only enough to bring them up to their capacity back in late January but Glenbawn should receive some snowmelt this year because the Barrington Tops have been getting quite a bit.

Everything in the rivers should be looking good this Spring as the floods really moved cover around and made some nice new snags for the fish to hide among.

In this last month of Winter the dam water is usually at its coldest, down around 12°, which has the metabolism of the bass, goldens and silvers at their lowest. It makes for a very slow bite.

They fish usually feed for only a very short time but the best chance is usually from around 10am to 3pm, when air and water temperatures and the barometer are at their maximum.

I have found that it’s best to use a slow presentation, which means putting the lure or bait in the strike zone for as long as possible. This is where neutrally-buoyant lures, jerkbaits and delicately presented plastics are all worth trying.

With this very slow bite I have found that lures with a very tight action, rattle and bright colours to be the best. In plastics, the larger profile of a shad is more effective than the minnow styles. If not using Gulps then use plenty of scent.

Another important technique that I like to use this month is to ‘knock on wood’. Make the lure deflect off snags so this sudden change in direction can help entice a strike. Tight to the structure is where the fish like to hold because the timber transfers some warmth into the water, making it a good spot for bait and weed growth.

The fish can be very hard to locate this month because the wind usually mixes up the top 10m to 15m of the water column. It can also blow the warmer water to certain sides of the dam.

I like to look for a bay that can have some shelter from these winds and so much the better if it should face north, which will usually add a bit more warmth to the water.


Lake St Clair is still a very good dam to fish from the banks with lures, bait and fly. The rising water makes for some very good fishing along the eastern foreshore for bass, while up the arms there is good bait fishing around the trees with worms the best in this rising water.

The Carrowbrook Arm is still quite shallow but lures and spinnerbaits along the river channel amongst the timber is really productive if the water isn’t too discoloured. Last season I found that chartreuse Chatterbaits worked very slowly got some really nice bass for me.

At Glenbawn, the water is still very cold, around 13°, and the winds and recent rise in level have really stirred up the fishing but it will probably next month before they really come on the bite.

The best section for fishing this month, depending on the westerlies, is around the lower end in the main basin with the banks on the eastern foreshore a very good option. Trolling around the wall is also very productive with medium-depth lures run as slowly as possible. Some of the newer versions with rattles are even more productive. I like to use very bright colours, fluoro green or pink.

The other very productive area is around Yellow Buoy Bay where the water tends to be slightly warmer and is sheltered from the winds – if there is any place in Glenbawn to get out of it. It is the only dam that I know where the westerly blows from the north, south and east!

This is one dam that you must keep an eye on these strong westerlies because it is just about impossible to retrieve your boat from the ramp. This will be a lot better when the new ramp comes into service.

I recently have received some new surface lures made by Paul Kneller, formerly of Deception Lures, and I cannot wait until the Summer surface bite to hook up to some big bass.

I recently heard a little insight as to why a couple of indigenous chaps who fish Glenbawn quite regularly have such a high success rate. I always wondered why they carried a bucket of river gravel, handlines with 4/0 to 6/0 hooks and live bait.

They throw the gravel out over water and fish think it is raining. They use extremely large hooks because they rightly theorise that most freshwater species, especially bass and catties, inhale the bait and if it isn’t desirable, simply spit it back out. The bigger the hook, the better chance of this not occurring.

Given the size of a bass’s mouth, this is quite understandable. I have always felt that a bass has two distinct taps on a bait or plastic, first one and then, if you do not set the hook, the second when it spits it out!

Although the systems have been improved with recent rainfall, how long will it take to get back up to the levels of four years ago?

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