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Choosing a sounder
  |  First Published: April 2016



Late last year, I introduced the Jets 18g tail-spinner to bass anglers. The lure was so effective it created a huge demand and I could no longer keep up supply. It’s likely that there won’t be too many hanging on tackle store shelves.

The good news is, I have finally sourced more lure bodies and placed a massive order. The next batch should arrive this month and I will fit the blades and hooks before distributing them to tackle stores. Keep an eye out for them at your local tackle sound or for more information shoot me an email to the address above or a message me on the Hot Bite Fishing Facebook page.

Choosing a Sounder

I often talk about looking for fish and spending plenty of time reading your sounder to locate them. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of water out there and the fish will only be in a small percentage of it. There’s no point fishing when the fish aren’t there.

One of the questions I often get asked is how much do I need to spend on a fish finder? Models vary from company to company but I’d suggest forking out around $500-$1000 if you only fish occasionally. For this money you can expect to pick up a quality unit. At the lower end of the scale, you may have a sounder with only normal 2D sonar and/or down imaging. At the upper end of that price bracket, you can expect to see side imaging and full GPS capabilities. If you have a bulging wallet or fish more regularly, don’t hold back. Bigger really is better when it comes to sounder screen size. Bigger screens allow you to split the sounder, side image and GPS into individual screens while still giving enough detail without needing a magnifying glass to read it. I love the extra detail on a big screen in side image mode too where the shadows of fish are much bigger, making them easier to identify. With the bigger-sized screens comes a bigger price tag. For 10” and 12” screens you will be forking out $2500+.

For freshwater fishing, a combo unit is certainly the way to go and the GPS and sounder working together will see you catch a lot more fish. I recall the days of lining up a tree with the hill behind and at right angles to that windmill and the spotted cow. This way of pinpointing a spot is surprisingly accurate – provided you remember your landmarks. This is almost a forgotten skill now, with the GPS doing all the work and dozens of waypoints doing the same job.

The next question is what brand to buy. There are certainly a few to choose from and the ones I recommend for freshwater use are Humminbird, Lowrance and Garmin. Sounder technology is improving all the time. With this in mind, a five-year-old sounder is still an awesome piece of fish finding equipment. Nothing beats technology and the new age sounders boast better side and down imaging capabilities and some of the new ones even produce a 3D image of the bottom.

Currently, I run a Humminbird 1198 and a 998 on my boats. These have done a great job over the last five years. With newer technology available, it’s time to upgrade. The sounders that have caught my eye are the new Humminbird Helix range. They come in widescreen display sizes from 5” right up to a whopping 12”. These units can be purchased with all the built-in features including GPS antenna and mapping. With up to $200 cash back and a three-year warranty when purchased through a Humminbird Pro Store, you can’t go wrong.

Until next month, buckled rods from The Colonel!
South East Queensland
Cressbrook
Closest Town: Crows Nest

The best action at Cressbrook seems to take place early in the morning. Bass are taking lures around the lake’s edges. Casting spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits to the edges of the weed is likely to produce some quality fish before they head for deeper water.

During the day, the fishing has been tougher. The bass are scattered and have been suspending out in the deeper water. Spend plenty of time with your eyes glued to the sounder to locate the better patches of fish. Once found in reasonable numbers, they should take blades, tail spinners or soft plastics.

Lure trolling with deeper hardbody lures like the Golden Child, Blitz Baga, Poltergeist Crazy Deep and locally made Little Rippa should produce a few fish. Trolling is a good way to locate the better patches of fish. Bass can usually be found in deeper water out from the boat ramps, around Deer Island and up towards Eagles Nest. Put out a good selection of lures in a range of colours to see what the fish prefer. When they are fussy, one particular lure style and colour can be a standout.

Due to the fish being spread out, bait fishing will be slow. If you can pinpoint a school of fish, live shrimp will certainly get plenty of bites.

For all your fishing supplies, and the latest reports on Cressbrook and the surrounding dams, call in to see the specialist tackle stores in Toowoomba. Tackleworld Toowoomba in Ruthven Street on the north side, and Fish’n Bits in Alderly Street closer to the south side have a great range of lures and fishing gear. Support these tackle stores because they will be able to offer invaluable advice.

Just remember, there is a speed limit of 8 knots and a restricted area at Cressbrook Dam. Check out the signage to ensure you stay out of trouble and abide by the rules. The gate hours for the boat ramps and day use area are 6am-8pm.

Somerset
Closest Towns: Esk, Kilcoy

Somerset fishing remains much the same. The schooling bass are easy to find and will bite well some days and on other days prove hard to tempt. Plenty of anglers have headed to the lake over the last month to report the same findings. The bass chew like crazy one day, while other days are ridiculously tough. It’s amazing what makes these fish tick.

The bass have been holding in good numbers around Pelican Point, Bay 13 and the bay adjacent to Eagles Nest. On my last trip, the best patch I found was at Spot X, which is on the southwestern side of Pelican Point. These fish have been a bit mobile but can usually be found if you put in a bit of time. Once found, they can be targeted with cast lure offerings. Lures like Jackall Masks, blade baits, tail-spinners and soft plastics will get the bites. When it’s tough, mix it up to see if they prefer one lure style over another. On the tough days, it will come down to picking the right lure and then refining the presentation to get more bites. A lot of success comes down to boat positioning around the schooling fish. If you sit on top of a school for too long, they become tougher to catch. If the boat is moving on the electric motor or with a wind assisted drift, you will often catch more fish.

Troll the same lures you would use for casting. The moving boat draws the fish in but they are left bunched up behind the boat and still somewhat active as the lure comes to them. My favourite way to fool Somerset fish is to troll at around 2km/h (or drift with the wind on a windy day) and hop tail-spinners behind the boat. Usually I’d hop the lure on the bottom for better quality fish, but if they are suspended I try to position it off the bottom using the same hopping method. This technique is deadly.

Trolling hardbodies has been very effective to catch schooling bass. Look for fish in 10-15m of water and run the lure at the depth they are holding. This is usually around 10m deep. Lures like the Blitz Baga, Poltergeist Crazy Deep and Little Rippa are perfect for the job. It is amazing how tough fish can be when you sit in one spot and cast – only to troll through similar areas and nail them one after another.

Maroon
Closest Towns: Boonah, Beaudesert

Maroon will continue to fish well for bass this month. Target the edges of the weed formations during the day with spinnerbaits. Small profile spinnerbaits around 1/2oz in weight are ideal to work down the faces of the weed beds and into deeper pockets. A soft plastic shad or T-tail rigged on a jighead fitted to a beetle spin frame is another great option for fishing Maroon’s weed. The vibration of the blade lets you know if the lure is fouled with weed. A few good rips will usually free the weed and have the lure working again.

Early in the morning and late in the afternoon is the time to break out surface lures. Poppers and walk-the-dog style stickbaits are perfect for Maroon. It pays to cover a bit of water between pauses. Move the lure 1-2m before each pause. If the spot looks fishy, slow it down and pause the lure more often. If fish strike the topwater bait and miss, don‘t strike but leave the lure sitting there until the fish has had time to spin back around and line it up for another go. If you move it too far from the zone after a strike, the fish may have trouble finding it again. There’s no better way to catch a bass than on a surface lure so make sure you give it a go.

Moogerah
Closest Towns: Boonah, Beaudesert

Schooling bass have been holding in the dam’s basin and up in the timber. These fish can be located in around 8m of water. The schooling fish should take soft plastics, soft vibes and tail-spinners.

When the schooling fish are hard to entice, there are other options. The edges can produce a few bass early in the morning. Cast spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits to the shallows and work them back following the contour of the bottom. During the day, the trees fish well on cast spinnerbaits. Heavier spinnerbaits around 5/8oz are ideal to work deeper into the tree tops where the bass are most likely to be holding.

Cooby
Closest Towns: Highfields, Toowoomba

Cooby Dam still produces a few golden perch, but they require a bit of work. Fish are falling to baits as well as trolled, cast and jigged lures. There hasn’t really been a standout approach. Some of the expert blade jiggers are able to rack up a good score on the fish but most anglers won’t reach their bag limit.

It seems the fish are scattered around the dam and holding in different depths. This probably explains why they are being caught on a mix of presentations. Baitfishers will achieve the best results using a combination of live shrimp and saltwater yabbies. If the boat is anchored well and not moving, it makes sense to crunch up some bait into mushy small pieces and throw in for berley.

The dam hours are 7am-8pm. Cooby is an electric motor only dam and is well suited to kayaks and canoes. The concrete boat ramp is on a shallow angle when the dam is full and can be slippery in places, but a big electric powered boat can still be launched with care. Outboard motors can be left on the boat but must not be used. Tackle, lures and saltwater yabbies can be purchased from Highfields Bait and Tackle on the New England Highway in Highfields. Call in and see Doug and check out the great range of fishing gear, kayaks and accessories he has on display. The action could pick up suddenly so drop in to any of the local tackle stores in the area to check how the fishing is going.

Leslie
Closest Town: Warwick

The golden perch have still been quiet at Leslie Dam. A few have taken trolled lures but most of the action has been on live shrimp or saltwater yabbies. There have been a few cod whacking trolled lures. One of the best lures to troll has been lipless crankbaits. These lures are best towed behind a kayak or boat using an electric motor.

Warwick Outdoor and Sports is located at 115 Palmerin Street Warwick. For a small store, it carries a great range at a very competitive price. Warwick is only a ten-minute drive from the dam and you can pick up any supplies you might need.

Coolmunda
Closest Town: Inglewood

The golden perch action is slow at Coolmunda, which has kept quite a few anglers away. The lake is still worth a visit, with Murray cod a worthy opponent to make a trip worthwhile. You can expect to find cod in the main basin of the lake. Trolling 5m divers close to the old creek beds will ensure you stand a good chance. Cod will be found close to submerged tree stumps on the drop-off when they are inactive. When they are out roaming, it isn’t uncommon to jag one well away from any form of structure.

The Poltergeist 80 is an excellent cod lure in this dam and will also account for quite a few golden perch – should they decide to fire up. This is how the fish feed when they are tough to entice. There will be a brief period where they fire up and feed and you will catch several in quick succession. It just goes to show you need to have a lure in the water at all times if you expect to catch fish.

Casting up in the timber may still be worth a shot. The falling lake level makes the timber a tougher place to fish. Stick to the old creek bed, as the cod aren’t likely to be too far away from the comfort of this deeper water. Big spinnerbaits like the Bassman Codman cast to the structure will put you in with a good chance. Night fishing is also worth a go. I have heard that massive cod explosions have been taking place when fishers brave the darkness and use surface lures at night.

The Coolmunda Caravan Park is only around 1km from the lake. The park is just off the Cunningham Highway but far enough away from the noise of trucks to get a good night sleep. It offers camping sites, cabins, caravan facilities, tennis courts, a swimming pool, BBQ shelter and a camp kitchen. Camping is available near the boat ramp with toilets and hot showers to make your stay more comfortable. To take advantage of this and the great fishing opportunities in the lake and the river below, give the park a call on (07) 4652 4171.
Cooby
Closest Towns: Highfields,Toowoomba

Cooby Dam still produces a few golden perch, but they require a bit of work. Fish are falling to baits as well as trolled, cast and jigged lures. There hasn’t really been a standout approach. Some of the expert blade jiggers are able to rack up a good score on the fish but most anglers won’t reach their bag limit.

It seems the fish are scattered around the dam and holding in different depths. This probably explains why they are being caught on a mix of presentations. Baitfishers will achieve the best results using a combination of live shrimp and saltwater yabbies. If the boat is anchored well and not moving, it makes sense to crunch up some bait into mushy small pieces and throw in for berley.

The dam hours are 7am-8pm. Cooby is an electric motor only dam and is well suited to kayaks and canoes. The concrete boat ramp is on a shallow angle when the dam is full and can be slippery in places, but a big electric powered boat can still be launched with care. Outboard motors can be left on the boat but must not be used. Tackle, lures and saltwater yabbies can be purchased from Highfields Bait and Tackle on the New England Highway in Highfields. Call in and see Doug and check out the great range of fishing gear, kayaks and accessories he has on display. The action could pick up suddenly so drop in to any of the local tackle stores in the area to check how the fishing is going.

Leslie
Closest Town: Warwick

The golden perch have still been quiet at Leslie Dam. A few have taken trolled lures but most of the action has been on live shrimp or saltwater yabbies. There have been a few cod whacking trolled lures. One of the best lures to troll has been lipless crankbaits. These lures are best towed behind a kayak or boat using an electric motor.

Warwick Outdoor and Sports is located at 115 Palmerin Street Warwick. For a small store, it carries a great range at a very competitive price. Warwick is only a ten-minute drive from the dam and you can pick up any supplies you might need.

Coolmunda
Closest Town: Inglewood

The golden perch action is slow at Coolmunda, which has kept quite a few anglers away. The lake is still worth a visit, with Murray cod a worthy opponent to make a trip worthwhile. You can expect to find cod in the main basin of the lake. Trolling 5m divers close to the old creek beds will ensure you stand a good chance. Cod will be found close to submerged tree stumps on the drop-off when they are inactive. When they are out roaming, it isn’t uncommon to jag one well away from any form of structure.

The Poltergeist 80 is an excellent cod lure in this dam and will also account for quite a few golden perch – should they decide to fire up. This is how the fish feed when they are tough to entice. There will be a brief period where they fire up and feed and you will catch several in quick succession. It just goes to show you need to have a lure in the water at all times if you expect to catch fish.

Casting up in the timber may still be worth a shot. The falling lake level makes the timber a tougher place to fish. Stick to the old creek bed, as the cod aren’t likely to be too far away from the comfort of this deeper water. Big spinnerbaits like the Bassman Codman cast to the structure will put you in with a good chance. Night fishing is also worth a go. I have heard that massive cod explosions have been taking place when fishers brave the darkness and use surface lures at night.

The Coolmunda Caravan Park is only around 1km from the lake. The park is just off the Cunningham Highway but far enough away from the noise of trucks to get a good night sleep. It offers camping sites, cabins, caravan facilities, tennis courts, a swimming pool, BBQ shelter and a camp kitchen. Camping is available near the boat ramp with toilets and hot showers to make your stay more comfortable. To take advantage of this and the great fishing opportunities in the lake and the river below, give the park a call on (07) 4652 4171.
Capricorn Region
Awoonga Dam
Closest Towns: Benaraby,Gladstone

The barra fishing has been slow in the dam. I’m thinking about biting the bullet and stepping up to the challenge to see if we can put a few in the boat this month. Mark from Awoonga Gateway managed a couple of fish recently in his favourite spot up the back of New Zealand Gully. The fish were caught just on dark with one taking the lure right beside the boat. When this happens, it makes you wonder how many fish actually follow your lure without eating it. The dam is still looking healthy and the fish are showing up on the sounder, so if you put in the time, you stand a chance.

A release of dam water cleaned out some of the weed below the wall in the Pikes Crossing area. These fish have taken all sorts of lures. When the weed was thicker, frogging was a good option. Soft plastics and surface lures have also scored smaller class barra. The upper side of Pikes crossing seems to fish well throughout the day and night while the lower section produces fish better late in the afternoon and at night. This less fished section of water is more open and is well suited to trolling with hardbodies once the sun goes down.

The water around Benaraby Bridge has been quite fresh, even after the bigger tides. This section has produced some better quality barra up to around a metre in length. Soft plastics and vibes are perfect for tossing to fish spotted on the sounder. Lure trolling is also an option, especially if you choose to use an electric motor or stealth of a kayak.

If you are keen to try and tackle some fish in the river or dam, give Lyn and Mark from Awoonga Gateway a call on (07) 4975 0033. At Awoonga Gateway you’ll find clean, modern cabins and your hosts will be full of useful advice to help you try to land that barra of a lifetime. Make sure you tell Mark I sent you and pump him for the secret spot.
Teemburra and Kinchant
Closest Towns: Marian, Mackay

Ash Sims has reported some awesome fishing over the last month. Big rain fell in the area making the dam levels rise and flood new ground. This water should still be healthy this month before any grass dies off and who’s to say the dams don’t continue to rise if the rain continues. The ground is wet now and can hold no more water, so a good downpour will make the creeks run.

Working weedless rigged frogs like the Zoom Horny Toad and Reflexion Frogs through the flooded areas has enticed plenty of barramundi during the day. These fish chase the frogs when they are fished fast across the surface of the water in the warmer hours. In the mornings and afternoons, topwater lures will still work, but you may need to slow down to suit the mood of the fish. Walk-the-dog baits like the Cultiva Tango Dancer are ideal for this time of day.

Soft plastics in the 5-7” size range score a few barra around the flooded edges but it’s the hard baits that get the more aggressive bites and bigger fish. Lures like Reidy’s Big B52 and the Rapala X-Rap 14 have produced the quality specimens.

At Kinchant Dam, there are still plenty of barra holding out in the deeper areas where they are suspending at 4-6m deep. Try trolling soft plastics at 4-5km/h with stacks of line out to keep the lures down. Heavy plastics are the go, or try running a sinker in front of the lure as the barra don’t seem to mind the odd add-on. On heavy barra tackle, you may need to place the lure 50-70m behind the boat just to get it tracking at the right depth. It pays to run through some shallower water at the same depth the fish are holding just to feel your lures touch the bottom and adjust them to get them swimming exactly at the depth you want. Jigging FLT Transams in the deeper water is also scoring well. Ash reports the black coloured Transams as a standout – possibly due to the noticeable increase in the redclaw crayfish population.

When the water is running in, the sooty grunter will be going off. If the water is pouring into the lakes and is quite clear, the sooties will be there in bulk numbers. For smaller fish these guys are tough customers, so lures need to be tough enough to handle the abuse. Lipless crankbaits will score plenty of bites. Try upsizing and you shouldn’t have any problems staying connected. Some good colours over the last month have been SC black red and blue gill. The edges can also fish well for sooties, especially around any smaller feeder creeks. It could pay to upsize leader size as barra will also find the same lures irresistible.

Ash Sims works at Nashys Compleat Angler in Mackay. You can call in to see him for tips or make a booking with his fishing charters. Ash operates on all four lakes in the Mackay area and his charter business is called Fishin’ Magician. Look him up on Facebook or try his mobile on 0478 720 781.

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