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Sussing out structure in freshwater
  |  First Published: August 2016



You may have heard the saying ‘location, location, location’ in fishing circles. For those of you who haven’t, it basically means that the location is extremely important in finding success. You need to be in the right location to find fish. What is the right location? It’s a very open question and that’s what I’m going to cover in this article.

I’ll be talking more about the specifics of different ‘locations’, or more accurately, ‘structures’. Not just that you need to be fishing ‘this spot’ in ‘this waterway’, but more so I’ll be talking about ways to help you analyse specific sections of water to help you figure out where the fish will be located. Once you know where the fish are hiding out and how to approach each piece of structure, you’ll be a more successful angler.

For the sake of the article, we are going to skip the broad meaning of ‘location’. By this, I mean we will assume we are already fishing in a waterway that has fish. I want to cover a few different and common styles of freshwater fishing in which location choice is important.

Casting Structure for river cod

Casting spinnerbaits along outback Aussie rivers is becoming ever more popular. It’s a great way to consistently catch fish if you know where the fish are positioned. Murray Cod love structure! They will hide tight up against the tangled timber in wait for their food. These locations not only form the perfect home, but they are vital for the cod’s feeding pattern. The structure aids as a prop in their ambush, which keeps them hidden from their target.

You know that you need to target structure – but where exactly on the piece of timber are they hiding? This will help answer the question of where to cast. There are three key features in snags that I look for.

Root balls

These are the number one location to target when fishing for Murray cod and golden perch. Many large to medium sized snags will consist of the main tree branch, limbs and a root ball. The reason why we target the root ball is because when a snag falls on its side the tree roots hold the bottom end of the tree up off the bottom. This creates an arc underneath the snag right up against the root ball, which makes for the perfect native home. It provides the fish with room between the riverbed and the structure above them. If the snag was lying flat on the river bed, then it would most likely not hold any fish.

When targeting this feature on the snag, the majority of the time you want to be casting tight in against the top of the root ball. One other tip is to ensure you repeat your cast to this location a number of times, as it is the most likely location for a feeding cod to hide.

Crossovers

This is a term used for when (at minimum two) snags lay over the top of each other. The more crossovers you have in the one location, the better. A cross over basically does the same thing as the root ball by providing cover and an ambush location for the fish. Most times you will find numerous crossovers from a number of snags in one pile. Make sure you cast to every crossover in the snag pile, as they are all great ambush locations for Murray cod.

Vs or forks

These are the last of the three types of structure you need to be looking for. A ‘V’ or fork is where the branches on a fallen tree split into two and run out at different directions. The best and biggest form of this is where the main branch on a log breaks off from the main truck of the tree. Why is it a location you want to concentrate on? Because this break in the log creates cover either side for the fish. This not only makes the fish feel more protected but also provides the fish with more cover from its prey, which is the same principles as the above two features.

These spots are even better when you have floating scum pushed up in the fork creating a little veranda for the fish. This provides more cover, but even better, it means the food flows down with the current and funnels into the fork. All the fish has to do is wait for the food to come to it. These are the spots that you are most likely to find a hungry fish.

Casting for stream trout

Trout can sometimes be a difficult fish to find, as unlike Murray cod will swim around throughout the entire waterway. They won’t be sitting on the same snag every time you come back, they are an active fish and could be hiding in a different location to what they did last time.

So how do you know where to fish? Trout still have characteristics, which means we can still predict with a high chance of success where they will be feeding. If you want to catch trout successfully, you need to target the locations in which they will be feeding.

Rapids are the number one feeding ground for trout and should always be the location where you spend most of your time. By rapid, I don’t just mean the super-fast white water rapids you find in rivers. A small flow over some stones, which creates a slight ripple on the surface in a small creek works just the same!

I want to cover a few characteristics that you need to look for in rapids and where you should be concentrating your efforts on.

Edge of the fast water

This is the place you want to target first. It’s the best spot and this is where you should concentrate most of your efforts on. These locations I’m talking about are tight in amongst the rapids, so usually to fish them you need to be casting into and across the entire rapid.

In a stream or river, you will always find what they call an ‘eddy’, which is a backwards flow or swirling water next to the fast current. The fish hold in this water because this is where the food ends up after floating through the rapids – it’s like a sushi train bringing the food right to your face. The fish save energy by resting in this still water in wait for passing food.

Like previously mentioned, to fish these locations, you want to cast across the rapid and work your lure through the still patches of water. You may hook up to the fish in the fast water, but the trout will chase it from these still patches. If possible, running a cast right along the edge of the fast and slow water is perfect. That way it will hang in the zone for a longer period. This can be difficult to achieve in some situations, unless you wade out into the water.

Bottom of the fast water

The bottom of rapids is the next best location to fish. What you have is the fast running water in the rapids and then below this the water should start to slow and pool up. This is where you will usually find the larger fish sitting in wait for the food to come to them.

These locations are easier to work with any style of lure. Plastics, hardbodies and bladed spinners rolled through these locations will bring trout undone. The most important part is making sure you find these fish holding locations. Once you find them this is where your attention should be spent.

Still back waters

These are more of a forgotten location when it comes to trout. But if you ask me, I believe these are the locations that hold the monster trout. They may be harder locations to fish, and by that I mean you need to really work the lure and cover the water you are fishing, but the results are well worth that extra effort.

You may ask why you have to work harder in these locations. It’s because the fish aren’t necessarily in a feeding mood, they may just be patrolling along a weedy edge and in this still water, you need to work your lure really well. You can’t just rip it through and get a reaction strike. You have to impart action and work your lure at a slower speed. Match the bait that would be in the area. The baitfish would be under extreme stealth and you need to match these characteristics.

Golden Perch in Dams

This is the last style of fishing I want to cover, and it’s becoming ever more popular among the freshwater fraternity. When they are in the full springtime run, they can be great fun on light spin gear! Especially when you hook into a pig that strips a heap of line, and even better is watching them inhale your lure right at your feet!

Soft options in the trees

If you said to a golden perch angler two years ago that soft plastics are the best lure to use, they would have laughed at you. But now soft plastics are a must! They have become the number one lure for golden perch and there is a good reason for it – they work!

First of all, I believe soft plastics are the best lure for catching any fish, but, the conditions need to be suitable. By this I mean the water needs to be clear enough for the fish to see the plastic. The problem is many freshwater environments are dirty, which puts plastics to the back.

In terms of the structure, there are two different styles of standing trees – the twiggy balls of young dead sapling trees and the more common heavy forests of flooded red gums. Both are excellent forms of structure.

The most common technique is to slow roll small plastics up the trees. In simple terms, you come up tight to the tree, use your sounder to locate a school, drop the plastics to the bottom and slow roll them to the top. It is a very successful technique, but can sometime feel like bait fishing. I prefer to fish the twiggy standing trees by holding the boat off the trees and casting to them. Let the plastic sink and slow roll it back to the boat. It’s a great technique that is super exciting and great fun!

Hopping Rocky Points

If you have read a few articles on targeting golden perch, you will know all about fishing rocky banks for yellas. It’s a tried, tested and extremely proven technique. Golden perch are a fish of habit and love to school up on rocky points within every dam in the country. Especially points that are affected by windy weather, as the food will be pushed into the area making it a perfect feeding ground.

Your best bet will be to hop a lipless crankbait down the face of the point. Cast in, let it sink to the bottom, lift up off the bottom and then let it sink back down.

Structure your approach

I know that’s a lot of information, but these tips will help you succeed on the water. Just remember you need to target the spots where the fish are hiding. Don’t waste your time in dead water – put in the effort where it counts.

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