Topwater time in the fresh
  |  First Published: December 2016

In the hot lead up to Christmas, anglers found more success in the mornings and afternoons. It’s not a bad idea to dodge the midday heat as the fish feel it too, especially in clear or shallower water. With the hot conditions often come storms and care needs to be taken to avoid getting caught out in these. The wind can whip up the dams and have waves rolling through when things turn nasty.

This I can deal with but the thought of getting hailed on or dodging lightning bolts is a bit scarier. In the middle of a dam you are the tallest thing and the perfect target for a lightning strike. If you can’t escape the storm maybe moving closer to the bank or nearer to a tree line would be a better option. Lightning is unpredictable, so we can only guess where we are safest – normally in the car or at home.

With the build up to afternoon storms, the fish can turn on. The change in barometric pressure may be the reason for this and it’s normal for most freshwater fish to get more active around these events. Watch the radar if you have internet service or otherwise plan enough time to bail out and get the boat back on the trailer before storms hit.

The hot weather can call for a change in approaches to catching fish. Surface luring is one of my favourite ways to fish at this time of year. Late arvo or very early morning sessions casting topwater offerings to barra, toga, sooties, cod and bass are hard to beat. Watching fish break that still lake or river surface as they inhale a surface lure just keeps you wanting more.

With the New Year here, I like to make some fishing resolutions. These may be plans to target a certain species or catch a fish in a particular waterway or even a first fish on a new technique. Give yourself something to strive for on the fishing scene. When you work to earn your fishing goals, it makes it a more rewarding experience. Until next month, buckled rods from The Colonel!

South East Queensland
Closest Town: Crows Nest
Closest Town: Crows Nest

Cressbrook bass have been playing the ‘tough to catch’ game. Smaller fish have been thick out from the ramp and across to the buoy line through Bass Bay. The bigger models have been harder to find with a few reported around Deer Island, and the toilet points up each end of the dam. The bigger bass tend to scatter through the warm months and can be found in the deep, cool water of the main basin.

Look for the thermocline on your sounder. This will show up as a cluttered mess at a particular depth in the water column. If you aren’t seeing any clutter on your sounder, crank up the sensitivity until it starts to appear. The fish will suspend in the deep water and the thermocline layer will be a key to pinpointing their comfort zone. Bass like to hold close to the clutter line so pay attention to the sounder to see if they are in, above or below it and chose a lure capable of reaching them.

Due to being spread out, lure trolling is a great option. Deep diving hardbodies like the Blitz Baga, Golden Child, Kezza Mud Mouse (with the bigger bib) and Little Ripper and JDK Ripper are all good choices. The strong action of these lures and their ability to reach 10m deep if necessary sets them apart from a lot of other hardbodies. Try trolling on 4-8lb braid and you will find you can send lures at least 3m deeper than when using heavy braid or even relatively light monofilament.

A lot of the trolled bass will come from water over 10m deep and within sight of the boat ramp and pump tower. A faster troll covers more water and really gets the lures vibrating and down to their maximum depth. Stick to using the outboard motor if you have one. Otherwise try to keep your troll speed at 3-5km/h, which is hard work with a paddle craft.

Lure casters will be able to whack the fish when they can be found. Reaction lures like Jets tail spinners, blade baits and Mask Vibes will fool them into biting. Most fish are often caught as soon as a new school of fish is found. The longer you sit on them, the tougher they can get.

Bait fishers may have trouble keeping the rat bass away. These undersized fish are usually first to steal a live shrimp. If you are plagued by smaller fish, try moving away from the schools and suspending a shrimp in the deep water. Bass will move in below the boat as you drift along and all you need to do is present the bait at the same depth they appear.

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. Tackle World 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 direct you to where the fish are biting and 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 will be extended this month to 6am until 8pm.

Closest Towns:
Esk, Kilcoy

Like last year at this time, the bass fishing has been tough for lure casters. When you sit on the schooling bass they become near impossible to catch. Luckily, it’s not all about casting and the fish can be fooled when trolling lures. With a lot of fish over 50cm in length on offer, working out Somerset is worth the effort.

Deep diving hardbodies are great for covering water and the speed they are presented prevents bass from schooling up below your boat. Even on the ridiculously tough casting days, a trolled lure can whack the fish one after another because it is always being shown to fresh and unsuspecting fish. The key to success is to choose a lure capable of reaching the fish. The Blitz Baga, Golden Child, Little Rippa and my favourite the JDK Ripper are perfect for exploring Somerset’s depths.

A mix of colours is also beneficial as some days the fish will go nuts on a particular colour. It pays to carry a mix of black, purple, brown, green, chrome and grey or lighter coloured offerings. We’ve seen it time and time again where a certain lure will shine and attract most of the bites. Bass will be the most common fish caught in the basin of the lake around Pelican Point and Bay 13 but the hot weather will have the golden perch keen as well.

Venturing further up the lake past Kirkleigh and into the timber will see the ratio swing the other way with more goldens taken than bass. This water to the north may also call for a shallower lure or the same lures worked on a shorter line to see them tracking higher in the water column.

Lure casters can still score some fish if they keep moving around, looking for willing biters. This time of year is great for tail spinners, spoons, blades and soft vibes. The reaction lures will usually outfish all other lures but when things are near impossible, don’t discount soft plastics and ice jigs. Slowing down with these presentations and annoying the bass into biting can sometimes be the only way to get any interest. Expect plenty of taps rather than committed bites when fishing these lures but persistence should eventually see you loaded up.

For the latest reports, check out Somerset Fishing Tackle online and on Facebook. The store has now closed in Kilcoy and moved to the dam. The trailer can be located in the day use area at Kirkeigh where it will be open every day over the school holidays. The opening days will be re-evaluated after the holidays but you can expect them to be there Friday, Saturday and Sunday each week.

Somerset Tackle has a great range of lures and gear suited to fishing the dam. They also have the knowledge and skills to help steer you in the right direction. Call in and see them or consider doing a phone or internet purchase as they mail order fishing gear all over the place. For some of the most competitive prices around visit the website www.somersetfishing.com.au.

Closet Towns: Boonah,

Maroon can be a tough lake to fish through the middle of the day in summer. The mornings and late afternoons will be best if you want to tangle with the lake’s bass. The fish tend to go deeper or hide more inside the weed as things heat up and get brighter so plan your day to attack at the prime times.

Surface luring should be at its best this month. Working walk the dog stickbaits, poppers, Bent Minnows and fizzers will all draw the attention of bass to the surface. The topwater bite will only last for a short time so pick your spot and try a variation of topwater offerings. The bass are pretty quick to let you know if they are interested or not. If nothing happens in the first 15 minutes to half hour, it’s time to either move or change techniques.

Outside the low light bite times for surface fishing, the weed beds can be explored with spinnerbaits. 3/8 to ½ ounce lures can be worked around the weed bed edges and into any deeper pockets. Another favourite lure I have for searching the weed is a 75mm plastic paddle tail rigged onto a ¼ ounce jighead fitted with a beetle spin wire and blade. These lure stop vibrating when they become fouled with weed and seem to self-clean well if you give a few hard rips to tear the weed free.

Maroon is well known for its average sized bass but again the big models are making an appearance. There have been a few over the magical 50cm mark in the last month so this could definitely be a place to visit this month.

Sunshine Coast Region
Closest Towns: Tewantin, Noosa
Closest Towns:
Tewantin, Noosa

First light has been the time to hit the water with surface lures tied on ready for action. Bass have been active around the weed beds early in the mornings. Stickbaits and poppers are most popular but it can also pay to work tighter to the weed beds and explore the pockets with weedless rigged plastics. This is a technique I had a lot of success on many years ago and now there are so many ways to rig plastics for this style of fishing it is insane. I prefer to use a weighted worm hook and paddle-tail plastic.

The bulkier shad profiles are much easier to cast than grubs. These lures can be paddled across the surface and paused. During the pause is when they are most likely to be eaten and why I like the weighted hook. This sinks the lure below the surface just as the fish strikes resulting in a much better hook-up rate. There are plenty of other topwater plastics out there and I have heard of anglers having success on frog styles when trying to pluck bass out of MacDonald’s vegetation.

As the day warms up and light level intensifies, make a switch to spinnerbaits and fish hard against the weed beds. The Three Ways and Bass Bay have been delivering the goods with quite a few bass around the 40cm mark.

Closest Towns:
Imbil, Noosa

The water level at Borumba had fallen making it harder to launch bigger boats. The boat ramp was closed due to the concrete ramp edge dropping away. A temporary ramp was put in place to allow boats to launch but I haven’t heard how well suited this is to bigger boats. With all the storms around over the last month, chances are the dam will rise soon and remove this problem all together.

Saratoga have been the most exciting target. Some big female fish have been caught after the breeding season finished. These impressive fish can be caught on spinnerbaits up the back of the dam. Look for lilies, weed beds and timber structure and the toga won’t be too far away. Bass have also been taken while fishing the same water.

For better numbers of bass, it would be worth trying closer to the start of the timber and the deeper points and flats in the main basin. Blades, tail spinners and soft plastics should all entice these bass. They can be tougher at this time of year so persistence and fishing the mornings and afternoons will increase your chances.

Davos at Noosaville has all the gear you’ll need to tackle the fish at Borumba and Lake MacDonald. The store caters well for fresh and saltwater anglers. They can be found in the Homemaker Centre on the corner of Mary and Thomas streets.

Darling Downs Granite Belt Region

The golden perch action has continued this month and the warmer weather seems to have fired them up another notch. Along with the goldens, there has also been an increase in the number of small Murray cod. There was one report of a big model over a metre long about a month and a half ago and every time you have a lure in the water, you stand a chance of something similar.

Trolling dark coloured lures in 4-5m of water has been very successful. The run outside the weedbed from the boat ramp down to the rock wall has held heaps of goldens. The action can be slow in the middle of the day but earlier in the morning and late in the arvo expect the fish to leave the shadows of the weed and come out and hunt.

A few goldens, eel-tailed catfish and undersized cod have been caught by shore-based anglers fishing from the rock wall. Live shrimps have been the top bait with saltwater yabbies a close second. Boaties have also had success on baits fished in over 6m of water. The bank across from the rock wall is always worth a go and last month produced the occasional small cod as well.

Cooby Dam’s proximity to Highfields and Toowoomba makes it a very popular fishery. If you are looking for somewhere close to home to drop the boat or kayak in Cooby is definitely worth a visit. The dam hours are now 6am until 8pm, which is perfect to fish into the dark for a late arvo cod. Just remember no outboard motors are allowed to be used on the dam.

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.

Closest Town: Warwick

Leslie is still the number one dam for the western species (cod and yellowbelly). The dam has gone through some slower periods over the last month but for the majority of the time, the fish have cooperated well. Golden perch are the most common culprits taking trolled lures. Fishing in 4-7m of water with lures running around 4m deep will see you in with a good chance.

If you slow things down and troll on an electric motor, it is hard to beat a TN60 Jackall. Trolling will also produce Murray cod and when these fish are moving, it’s not uncommon to catch more than one. Most have been small but there is a pretty good chance of hooking up to something decent.

Blade hoppers have been tangling with plenty of smaller golden perch in the main basin. ZX40 blades hopped around any structure are likely to be nailed quickly so make sure you are stocked up. Unfortunately, the better fishing is around the rougher bottom areas so you are likely to lose the occasional blade.

Bait fishers have managed a mixed bag of fish on live shrimp, saltwater yabbies and worms. Try positioning the boat in around 6-7m or look for structure on the sounder and fish on top of it.

Along with getting a fishing report, stock up on all your gear while at Warwick Outdoor and Sports 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.

Closest Town: Inglewood

Finally the dam has started to produce. With plenty of storms about this could all change in a flash if the dam has another runoff event like it did several months ago.

Lures and bait fishing are both starting to produce again. Live shrimp will be hard to beat and can normally be caught in traps placed along the rock wall. Sit on the edge of the old river and creek channels and you should be in with a good shot. Along with the golden perch caught last month, there was also a quality Murray cod.

Lure fishers should target the drop off to the river and creek channels in the main basin. Deeper lures like the 5m Poltergeist are ideal. There is a bit of structure along this edge so if you spot any put in a GPS mark or take some landmarks as these spots can be the home to big cod. Closer to the timber, stick to the deeper water inside the rivers when trolling the open expanse of the dam.

Again these edges are where you are most likely to find structure in the way of old submerged tree stumps. Venturing further upstream, you will reach the timbered arms where tossing spinnerbaits to the structure should produce Murray cod. Downsizing and using a TN60 Jackall can also be productive and more entertaining. These smaller lures are more likely to excite the golden perch and cod certainly like them too.

The Coolmunda Caravan Park is only around one kilometre away 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’s sleep. It offers camping sites, cabins, caravan facilities, tennis courts, a swimming pool, BBQ shelter and a camp kitchen. The park now has an extra two new wheelchair friendly cabins to add to their older ones.

Camping is also 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.

Wide Bay and Burnett Region
Closest Towns: Proston, Kingaroy

Trolling will start to excel at Boondooma this month. The bass will be scattered from the Barbers Pole, past The Junction and up to Pelican Point. Medium divers that reach 6m are perfect for these fish. Lighter colours like purples and blues have been very popular in the Golden Child and Brolga range. Mixed in with the bass will be quite a few golden perch. While trolling, it pays to have a tail spinner or blade rigged and ready to cast back over the spot where a fish is hooked. The excitement is often enough to encourage other fish in the area to switch on.

Lure casters were still managing to nail good fish in the dirtier waters of the Stuart River arm. Spinnerbaits cast around the timber were the key to success. Nathan from Bass to Barra Kingaroy suggested 1/2oz Smak spinnerbaits counted down for 3-4 seconds before bringing them back past the trees.

Boondooma is a great place to camp right near the water and sit by the fire while enjoying the view. You could also stay in more style and comfort by booking into one of the cabins overlooking the dam. The kiosk at the main office does hot food and other basic items including an excellent range of proven fishing tackle. For campsites, cabins and bunkhouse rooms call (07) 4168 9694.

Closest Towns: Murgon, Goomeri

Good numbers of fish are still being caught at Bjelke. These bass and golden perch are taking all types of lures but the stand outs have been spinnerbaits and tail-spinners. Bass Point is an area worth exploring with tail-spinners and blades. Other schools will be found on the flats and points of the lower part of the dam. Casting spinnerbaits around the schools can lure out the better quality fish.

Lure trollers will start to have better results as the fish will be more scattered. Trolling the lower half of the dam will produce bass and golden perch. Shallower lures can be used in Bjelke due to its overall depth being less than the surrounding dams. Lures like the Smak 12 and 50mm Poltergeist which dive around 4-5 metres will be ideal for working the schools of Bjelke.

For help catching Bjelke and Boondooma fish, call into Bass 2 Barra. The store stocks an awesome range of gear suited to chasing our freshwater fish and the boys have all the knowledge to guide you on how to use it. You’ll find the stores at 119 Youngman Street Kingaroy. Matthew Mott also runs fishing charters on the dams and you can reach him through the store for bookings and enquiries on (07) 41627555.

The Yallakool kiosk is all set up with a great range of tackle if you don’t happen to have the right lure or lose one. Be sure to call in and check it out. Give them a call for accommodation and camping bookings on (07)4168 4746.

Closest Town: Biloela, Monto

Cania has been a great spot for bass for the last few months. The fish are suckers for reaction style lures with tail-spinners and blade baits being the stand outs. More fish are now being found in the basin of the lake with bass schools starting within sight of the dam wall. From here they will also be found around the quarry corner and up to the next S bend. They love cast presentations but will also respond well to medium diving hard bodies.

Isis Balancing Storage
Closest Town: Bundaberg

The lake has cleared up a lot over the last few months. Weed beds are still looking a bit poor but the bass are lurking around them. This is a great surface fishery and this time of year is awesome for early morning topwater action. The bass can be found up in the shallows around the lilies which are often in behind the denser weed beds. Walking a Zip’n Ziggy stickbait past these lilies is almost guaranteed to be greeted with an explosive strike.

A tip when surface luring for bass is not to strike. A bass will continue to hit a lure several times after missing if you don’t pull it from the zone. After a missed surface bite, allow the bass time to turn around and come back to where it missed its prey. Once you think the bass has had time to do this, continue with the retrieve. One thing I’ve noticed over the years of bass fishing topwater has been the more violent and explosive the strike the less likely the fish will be to come back. If the full body of the fish comes out of the water on the strike, they rarely come back.

After the surface action dies off, switch to spinnerbaits and small blades around the weed beds. It will also be worth a look out in the deeper water of the basin where the three arms meet. This can be home to schooling bass which will love tail spinners, blades and soft vibes.

Capricorn Region
Awoonga Dam
Closest Towns: Gladstone,

After a good session on the lake last year, I have been watching the dam closely on social media. There have been mixed reports of fish with some anglers catching tiny barra and others getting into the quality fish. The smaller fish when found make up for their lack in size with numbers and willingness to bite. Often these rat barra around 50cm long are caught around the trees in the main basin of the lake. Side image is a very valuable tool to pick the barra out holding in the trees. Suspending hard bodies are perfect for extracting them. The dam is very clear so a suspended lure has the ability to draw a fish in from a long way.

The bigger model barra have been mixed in with the small ones as well as found patrolling the weed edges of the basin. Look for the healthier weed beds and pepper the points and bays being hammered by the wind. Soft plastics are a great option for this style of fishing but if you do find a spot which is holding barra, you could slow down the presentation and deliver a suspending hard body instead.

Mark from Awoonga Gateway Lodge has a few productive secret spots up New Zealand Gully. The Gateway lodge is on the way in to the dam after turning off at Benaraby. The accommodation is great with plenty of boat parking space right beside the comfortable air conditioned, self-contained cabins each with its own verandah. To book in a stay give Mark or Lyn a call on (07) 4975 0033.

Mackay Region
Closest Towns: Mackay, Mirani

There have been plenty of barra rolling through on the sounder but the fishing has been tough. It has been a tougher barra season in general this year at Kinchant and the fish are well overdue to bite more frequently. Unlike other years at this time, the barra haven’t been playing the game up in the weeds where they are often caught on weedless rigged plastics. If you put in the time, you are bound to pull a few but don’t expect big numbers.

The period either side of the full moon may get the fish more stirred up to move around and feed at night. Choose one of the major points in the dam and pepper it with casts. It is a good idea to choose your night time spot in daylight hours. This allows you to study the weed formation and see where any clumps may be separated from the main weed edge forming corridors for fish to swim through at night.

The old faithful black and gold 130mm Slick Rig is hard plastic to beat. Soft vibes like the Transam 95 are also great; giving off a little more vibration. These lures can be hopped and slow rolled. When they hit the weed, you will feel the vibration change and they can be ripped to free them of the weed to continue the retrieve.

Don’t be afraid to fish a bit faster over these warmer months. Most guys have seen the speed at which barra respond to a surface fished plastic frog, so there is no reason you can’t trigger the same reaction bite subsurface. If the fish do get excited over this faster presentation, you can almost guarantee better hook-ups as they need to commit to eating in a more violent manner when the lure is fished at speed.

If you are planning on fishing Kinchant, Teemburra or Eungella, be sure to call in and see Bruce and Ash at Nashy’s Compleat Angler on Harbour Road, North Mackay. Ash works in the store but also as a fishing guide on the lakes. Some firsthand information as to where they are biting always goes a long way. Nashy’s has a great range of tackle suited to the dams as well as all the other fishing options the Mackay area is blessed with. You can call the store for more information or to put some gear on hold on (07) 4957 2272.

Closest Towns: Pinnacle, Mackay

The water quality looks a little poor at Teemburra after the dam rolled a few month ago. Slowly it is returning to its usual clear colour, but the weed beds are still looking good and healthy. The fishing has been hit and miss each month with periods of tough fishing mixed with the occasional better action. Often there is an activity spike around the full moon when the fishing can be better through the night and late afternoon.

The edges of the lake can be fished all over the dam under electric motor power. Slowly moving along the fishy looking edges and working the weed beds and timber can produce bites but expect to put in plenty of casts. Lures like Transams, sot plastics and medium diving suspending hardbodies can all be worked outside the weed edges.

Up in the weed, switch to a weedless rigged paddle tail for exploring the deeper weed pockets or buzz a weedless rigged frog over the tops of the weed. Even surface luring with topwater lures like the Cultiva Tango Dancer or Rapala Skitterpop can be effective over the weed beds in the early morning and late afternoon.

Points and bays should receive extra attention. The points in particular are worth staking out and peppering with casts late in the afternoon and into the night. The windblown points will often hold more baitfish and the barra will follow. Keep an eye on the sounder and the side image will let you know when they arrive. Then it is just a case of trying to get them to bite.

Peter faust dam
Closest Towns: Proserpine,

The fishing has been inconsistent at Lake Proserpine with many of the fish moving deeper. The edges are still producing the occasional fish, but with so many of them, I would be looking for weed edges where the fish can move in and out easily transitioning from the deep to shallow areas.

Many of the fish will be found scattered throughout the timber on deeper humps. Keep an eye on the sounder for any signs of barra in 6-10m of water. If found in a school, the fish should eat heavier soft plastics and soft vibes well. If scattered, pick a clean trolling run with less trees like the powerline ally or 45 and work deep diving lures.

Outside the trees the basin can also hold concentrations of barra. These fish are often found out from the dam wall and in front of the picnic huts between the wall and boat ramp but can also turn up close to the main river edge throughout the entire basin. These fish are most often caught trolling deeper diving lures. The Scorpion Crazy Deep is hard to beat when the fish are holding deep. Coming from deeper water, these fish should be released pronto to give them a better chance of survival. If you do find a fresh floater, try venting the air bladder if you have a needle or sending the fish back down to over 10m of water on a release weight.

Lure casters are often able to catch these deeper suspended barra when they are found in better numbers. Hopping vibes around the boat or even vertically when the fish are underneath can be successful. Another option is to cast 3/4oz rigged soft plastics over the shows of fish. The Big Willy is a great plastic for this as its big profile pumps out plenty of water moving vibrations to attract the barra from a greater distance.

It can be tricky to master the presentation of any sinking lure to midwater holding fish. If you are too deep or too shallow, you will miss out on getting the bites. Trolling big plastics through better shows of fish can be the answer to this. Heavy plastics towed by the electric motor at a certain speed will maintain their depth. It is just up to you to work out how fast to travel and how much line to have out to reach the magic depth and strike a winning formula.

For all your fishing supplies or a guided trip on the lake call Lindsay or Dane at Barra World on (07) 49454641. The store has just ordered in heaps of new tackle and will stock a bigger range of gear from this month. Barra World is right on the highway in Proserpine and specializes in barra fishing tackle as well as catering to the needs of anglers fishing the nearby estuaries and offshore

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