You’ll be laughing like a drain
  |  First Published: September 2007

There is still going to be the odd chilly morning but the weather is slowly warming up and with it, growing expectations of more angling success.

Whether you’re working a sinking fly, spinnerbaits, soft plastics or lures, there’s not much point working them where the fish aren’t. If the fish aren’t coming to the surface to take your offerings, you need to get your presentation down to where the fish are.

This is where it pays to really know your stuff about what you’re using. How deep will your favourite diving lure go on your chosen leader? What’s the sink rate of your 1/16oz jig head in slowly flowing water? If you’re using a sinking fly line, what is its sink rate in still or flowing water?

These are questions you need to have the answers to if you want to get down to where the fish are.

I suspect that a lot of anglers miss out on fish simply because they mechanically cast and retrieve without fully understanding their lures and lines.

If the fish you’re targeting are in a sluggish mood, they’re not likely to go out of their way to chase something not close to them. Get it in their faces, and you’re more likely to get the desired reaction.


Humans are creatures of habit and many anglers are definitely so. Those I know who love their fishing are always looking for different ways to improve their results. Others simply love fishing the same way and that’s fine but to me and other obsessed anglers, that’s kind of like having McDonald’s for dinner every night.

So how to you fish differently? If you’re fishing from a boat for bass, how many anglers would you say fish the edges, no matter what time of the day? Most would.

Try techniques and areas not often worked by others, such as bridge pylons, deep weed beds, drop-offs and submerged boulders and timber. Everyone with a pair of polarised sunglasses can pick out some of these but what about these areas beyond even those with the best eyesight?

There’s lots of sunken timber that’s accumulated around bridges pylons and these are great to work over with lipless crankbaits, spinnerbaits and sinking flies.

If you’re familiar with how busy the boat ramp at Penrith can be in the warmer months, you wouldn’t be surprised at how shy the bass get after being subjected to thousands of lures and flies.

Look to do something different from everyone else. There are some deep boulders and huge lumps of sunken timber in the Penrith section of the Nepean, you just need to know the area you’re fishing.

Still like to cast your lures to the bank and find it a hard habit not the break? Want to do something that’s not a clear choice for many anglers? Think clear lures. Heavily fished water, clear skies and clear water all make for ideal conditions to reach for a clear lure.

Need proof that clear lures work? Towards the end of last Summer, I fished the Nepean past The Narrows at Penrith between 9am and noon with one clear surface lure. While other anglers were doing their best to pull a fish, I managed to boat 36 bass, had stacks of strikes and dropped a few as well.

It was a sensational session with just one lure and, given the amount of boat movement going on around me, the other guys we finding it hard to find bass. You don’t see a lot of boat movement going on when anglers are onto some fish.


When Dean Hayes and John Bethune released the Tidal Water Action DVD, they showed just how sensational fishing swamp drains can be.

With so much rain and dirty water flowing from these drains into our rivers, it’s a great time to target swamp drain bass. To find the best drains, get hold of some quality topographical maps.

After rain, swamps which have more watercourses feeding into them push into the rivers, pushing food into the major system.

If you haven’t tried drain fishing, now would be a great time for plastics. There is plenty of lure choice but Slider Bass Grubs or Atomic Fat Grubs with 1/8oz jig heads are excellent. Pick a colour that will offer suitable contrast to the dirty water; my favourite plastic would probably be a pearl 3” Slider.

A slow lift-and-drop retrieve is often the best to start with, and I mean slow, almost so slow that you’ll feel like having a snooze.

Stay in contact with your plastic as you retrieve and when you feel a tap, drop the lure back and let the fish take it.

Spinnerbaits in 1/4oz or 1/8oz in red/black have always been a favourite choice for pretty well anywhere on the Hawkesbury and this colour has probably taken more bass for me than any other combination. At the mouths of swamp drains, I prefer silver blades. A black and red skirt offers good contrast in dirty water and the silver blades offers better flash in discoloured water than gold blades.

I’m hanging on Berkley bringing back Nitro Whiz Bangers and if you’ve been following this column for any time, you’ll know I’m a huge fan. My favourite is the 1/4oz with a silver blade and pearl Slider 3” Bass Grub.

While spinnerbaits, Whiz Bangers and other similar lures are often touted as being snag-proof, nothing is snag-proof in some waters. Nevertheless, they are great to use around mouths of creeks and swamp drains where there always seems to be some type of lure-grabbing gremlin.

The start of the run-out tide is the prime time to hit the drains and creek mouths. While the actual mouths are excellent, work off the edges as well. There are often fish to be caught away from the main outflow.


I found an anonymous quote that should make you want to become a better angler. ‘Angling: Incessant expectations … and perpetual disappointment’. I don’t know about you, but I’ll do whatever I can to stop the latter occurring as little as possible.

Know your gear and know your target species, and you’ll increase your chances of experiencing the fulfilment of your expectations and reduce the chances of those disappointments. Sounds easy, but therein lies the challenge of fishing.

Black and red spinnerbaits (top) with silver blades are great to work around the murky mouths of swamp drains. So is the author’s battle-scarred 1/4oz Whiz Banger (bottom) with a silver blade and rigged with a 3” Pearl Slider. The Colorado blades fitted to both also provide better vibration in dirty water.

A stand up jig head with a 3” pearl Slider is great to hop along the bottom at the mouths of swamp drains and creek mouths. It’s amazing how fish in dirty water find something like this, which offers only subtle vibration and a reflection of available light.

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