Bring on the bass and barra beasts
  |  First Published: March 2017

Already we can see and feel the days getting shorter. As a fisher I enjoy this time of year as you can start to have a bit of a sleep in and still manage to get on the water at first light.

The shorter days can work in our favour. Many freshwater fish prefer to feed during daylight hours and the best lure fishing experienced is usually around this time. Shorter days mean the feeding window is smaller, so you will be likely to experience some hot action. A hardcore session at this time of year will see you fishing from daylight to dark without burning yourself out.

While a lot of fish feed during the day, don’t rule out a night time session for barramundi and Murray cod. These fish are quite happy to dine after the lights go out. A bit of moon certainly helps and allows the angler and fish to see well. Some lakes are closed to fishing overnight, but you will find most cod and barra impoundments don’t have these restrictions in place.

All of our freshwater natives will be on the hit list this month. With cooler times ahead, make the most of what is on offer over the next couple of months before things start to slow down. Until next month, buckled rods from The Colonel!

South East Queensland
Closest Town: Crows Nest

Plenty of smaller bass have been willing to play at Cressbrook. The bigger fish seem harder to find with only a few falling to cast and trolled lures when fishing and the schools. Better quality fish may be found out in the deeper water of the main basin. Around the edges of the lake, smaller bass will be found in schools in 4-8m of water. These fish are suckers for blade baits and trolled hardbodies.

When fishing the blades, cast them over the fish and sink them all the way to the bottom before hopping them back. Each hop should lift the lure 30cm to 1m off the bottom. Smaller blades around 1/4oz are best suited to this style of presentation. Hardbodies can be trolled and should be selected on their diving depth. Choose a lure that swims close to the bottom in the depth you are fishing. If the lure is swimming too deep, just shorten the amount of line you have out until it stops hitting the bottom.

Out in the deeper part of the lake in over 10m of water, schooling bass will be harder to find. Spread out concentrations of quality bass will be lurking around the thermocline. Crank up your sensitivity or gain on your sounder until you start to see clutter on the screen. This clutter will be made up of algae growth and smaller fish, which will suspend around a particular depth. The thermocline will indicate a temperature change and a change in saturated oxygen levels. Bigger fish will be seen holding around this portion of water and lures should be chosen to reach the area in which they are residing.

Trollers will need a selection of lures capable of diving from 7-10m. To achieve these depths, opt for lighter braided lines under 8lb. The thin line will cut through the water with less resistance than thicker fishing lines. An alternative, and almost a lost art, is to use a downrigger. A lure can be placed at any depth when winding it down attached to the lead ball on these devices. When a fish hits, it will pull the line free of the lead weight’s release clip and you can fight the fish as per normal. Downriggers offer the ability to place any lure at the chosen depth and keep it there. Lures like spoons, tail spinners, blades and lipless crankbaits are just some of the alternate offerings you could use.

Most anglers just stick to shallow or medium diving crankbaits. These are fished 5-10m behind the lead weight and the depth they dive taken into the equation when winding the downrigger ball into position. A change I have made to my downriggers is to replace the wire they come with to a braided fishing line of 250lb breaking strain. This eliminates a lot of the humming noise associated with them. The wire hummed like a vibrating guitar string and this sound could even be amplified by an aluminium boat.

For all your fishing supplies and the latest reports on Cressbrook and the surrounding dams, go to the specialist tackle shop. In Toowoomba, Fish’n’Bits in Alderly Street have a great range of lures and fishing gear. At Highfields you will find Highfields Bait and Tackle at the Coles Shopping Centre. Doug has a top range of freshwater gear and plenty of hand-crafted timber lures. 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

Some exceptional catches have taken place in Somerset Dam over the past month. With many double figure tallies of bass, one could easily be tempted to hit the lake for a hot session. Things change quickly from one day to the next. Somerset bass can turn on the action one day and be almost impossible to fool the next. Keep this in mind, as you may need to remain open-minded and prepared to mix things up if you want to catch fish. Between casting and trolling, you can nearly guarantee some good action.

Pelican Point and the flats north of Kirkleigh are the best spots to chase bass. Use these areas as starting locations and fan your search out from there concentrating on the flats out in the middle of the dam in around 7-10m of water. A good sounder is the most important asset when fishing for bass in the open areas.

A GPS can make the job of locating them much easier. Some newer sounders have the ability to create their own underwater maps. In the case of Lowrance and Simrad you can even download a full map of the underwater contours through their Insight Genesis. If you are unfamiliar with a lake’s underwater topography, this knowledge is invaluable. Even after 20 years of fishing the lake and remembering the layout, I find it very useful for the finer details.

Once schooling bass have been found, tail spinners and spoons have been the most likely presentations to fool them. For all the techniques on using these lures, jump on YouTube and search “Hot Bite Tail Spinner” or “Hot Bite Spoon.” Videos will show how to work these lures through the fish to get the desired response.

At times the bass will be hard to fool and moving away can allow them to get back into their normal groove of doing what bass do. A boat sitting on top of the fish can see them swarm to the boat and school up below it where they are very hard to entice. When you return to the area, keep your distance and use long casts to reach the fish before they react to the boat’s presence.

Trolling is another way to keep the fish more active. At speeds over 2.5km/h, the bass don’t follow the boat. The faster the troll, the more active the bass should remain. Hardbody lure trolling allows the boat to travel up to 5km/h and this will have the lures darting through the schooling fish before they have even have a chance to chase after the boat. Keeping on the move when trolling and straight after catching a fish will see the bite continue.

It’s not just a simple matter of flicking out a lure and hoping for the best to troll Somerset Dam effectively. Deep lures are the key. Being able to drag your lure at 10m+ is often critical to getting bite. Bigger lures can achieve these depths but more bites will come on smaller profile offerings.

If using the Aussie made timber lures, look for ones with bigger bibs and depth capabilities of 7 or 8m. With the use of lighter braid, you can gain a few extra metres out of them. Some of the lures to keep an eye out for are the JDK Rippa, Little Rippa, Blitz Baga and 50mm Poltergeist Crazy Deep. There are also plenty of Japanese lures built for casting which have huge bibs and can reach these depths on the troll.

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 Kirkleigh. The opening days could change to include more weekdays, 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.

Sunshine Coast Region
Closest Towns: Tewantin, Noosa

The lower water levels in MacDonald and hotter weather over the past few months have forced the fish into the deeper sections of the lake. Look for weed edges that drop away into these deeper areas and the action shouldn’t be too far away. Mornings and afternoons will be the prime bite times.

Reaction style lures should produce the best results. Small blade baits like the Evergreen Little Max 1/4oz will be ideal when hopped down the weed face or through any schooling bass in the open water. Earlier and later in the day, casting small hardbodies around the weed can tempt a few fish. Lures like the Jackall Chubby are perfect, but once the sun gets brighter, the fish will drop deeper into the water column. Here they can be extracted with the blades or even a lipless crankbait rolled deep and close to the weed edge.

Closest Towns: Imbil, Noosa

Early morning is a great time to head to the back of the dam for some topwater toga and bass action. These fish are fond of lures like the Cultiva Tango Dancer, Lucky Craft Sammy 65 and Strada Dancer.

The schooling bass have been hard at times. Look for them around the points in the main basin, Borumba flat and the start of the trees at the Junction. These bass will eat plastics and blade baits. I was told several weeks ago that Jets tail spinners saved the day, turning a fruitless trip into a great one where the boys managed to boat heaps of bass and a healthy golden perch.

Keep this in mind. One day it could be tail spinners, the next soft vibes. The fact bass change their preferred feeding habits so often is part of the fun and challenge to catching them. Fishing really is a never-ending puzzle with changing pieces.

Bait fishers will catch golden perch and bass from the main basin points and also up in the timber. Live shrimps are a great bait and small crays have also accounted for fish. Take the time to get these baits and you will outperform frozen baits or worms.

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
Closest Towns: Highfields, Toowoomba

The water level has fallen at Cooby to reveal the tops of the weed beds. This will give boating and kayaking anglers a better understanding of the weed beds and how far they extend into the lake. There are still some hidden weed formations so a sounder is the ultimate way to follow the weed contours. This drop in level will have forced fish to the outer edge of the weed. Here they will be more concentrated and chances of catching should therefore improve.

Trolling small diving lures that reach 4-5m will put you right on the edge of the weed where it meets the bottom. Black lures are my personal favourite with the Poltergeist 3m blood nut and StumpJumper number 3 in black and white the best.

Quite a few local lure makers produce similarly sized lures, so be sure to check out what is available. When trolling, run the lure just above the bottom or just clear of the weed edge. The water in the lake is very clear, so fish as tight as possible to the weed. The fish will use this for cover and shade during the day. Late in the afternoon, the action can improve as the fish venture out of the weed and hunt more.

Murray cod have been very common this year with plenty of small fish mixed in with the golden perch captures. If these fish are undersized, they must be returned to the water quickly and in good health. The fact there are so many smaller models being caught is a good sign for the future. We need to do the right thing to ensure they survive and keep growing.

Bait fishers will find the better action close to the weed edge late in the day or early in the morning when the fish are moving about. Live shrimp and saltwater yabbies are the best baits. From the shore, head to the rock wall. The deeper water here will give you a good chance of boating golden perch, eel-tailed catfish and possibly a small cod.

Cooby Dam’s proximity to Highfields and Toowoomba make 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. 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 the tackle shop 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 still remains one of the best lakes to fish for a mix of golden perch and Murray cod. A lot of the fish have been smaller this year. They are in good numbers and the occasional bigger model has been mixed in. Lure trollers have found the better quality fish up the back of the lake in the run past the Black Boys. With the golden perch, there have been quite a few smaller cod up to 60cm mixed in. Lures which dive 4-6m are ideal here.

Lure casters have managed to catch fish all over the lake. The fish are coming from shallower water with a good depth being around 4m. Even from this depth, fish can be taken by flicking lures up into shallower areas. Lipless crankbaits are popular and soft versions like the Jackall Mask Vibe often excel. Another top offering has been the smaller blade baits. The ZX40 has been the pick of these and has fooled plenty of golden perch and even a few cod when hopped along the bottom around structure.

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

The Murray cod fishing was great last month and the lake is still producing these fish on a regular basis. The action slowed last month and this could be put down to the extra fishing pressure.

The timbered arms have produced most of the cod. The key depth to target is 2-3m deep. Spinnerbaits have caught nearly all of the fish when cast around the trees and there are plenty of trees to cast at. Some of the better fishing comes from what cannot be seen. A side imaging sounder will reveal sunken logs and branches, which the cod call home. The occasional fish may come from vertically standing timber as well. To consistently catch, you will need to find the laydowns.

Even this hidden timber can cop a fair flogging. If it fails, the next option is to head to the creeks running out of the timber into the lake’s basin. These creek beds have old undercut tree stumps lining their banks. Again you will need the sounder to pinpoint this structure. Being out in the open, this structure is much harder to fish with few reference points to hold position. The easiest way is to troll diving lures along the edges of it. The most effective way is to position the boat a cast away and roll a spinnerbait through it.

The Coolmunda Caravan Park is only a 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

The lake has been fishing well for bass and golden perch. Lure trollers, bait fishers and casters are all getting into the action. With work being carried out at the dam wall the level won’t change too much, even if there is a significant amount of rain. Expect the fish to remain in the same areas.

The fish are quite spread out with the lower water level. The hot conditions have heated the water and made the fish suspend at 5-10m deep throughout the deeper parts of the lake. Most can be found from the dam wall down to the Junction. Lure trolling is the easiest way to get into them. Covering water is important and so is placing a lure right in front of the fish.

Hardbodies like the Brolga, Smak 16 and Golden Child swim at the ideal depths for Boondooma fish. Slowing the troll down and towing a spinnerbait can also be effective. Small spinnerbaits will receive a lot more attention and downsized models like the Smako are ideal. The same lures can also be cast to the fish when they are located in better numbers.

Lure casters have nailed quite a few bass on soft plastics. The standout lure has been the 3” curl-tailed Gulp. These grubs can be fished around the boat on 1/2oz jigheads or vertically when rigged lighter on 1/4 or even 1/8oz heads. A few bass and golden perch are still being caught up in the Stuart arm. Spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits are often used to fool these fish. Unpressured, they can also be caught on blades, spoons and tail spinners.

Bait fishers will whack the fish when using live shrimp. The trick will be to fish at the same depth the fish are suspending. A good sounder will reveal this depth and just how many fish are below the boat. The action can be hot when you find the right school so remember your bag limits.

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

Despite the low level, there is still plenty of water and lots of fish to be caught. If you haven’t visited the lake for a while, take it easy when navigating until you find your way around. Lightening Ridge is just below the surface and has already claimed a few boaties. The islands are now just sticking out, so take it easy until you find where you can go fast and where it is too shallow.

Bjelke is a shallower lake and therefore lures which work shallower will perform best. Trollers have had plenty of success catching bass and golden perch on spinnerbaits trolled behind the boat using the outboard. Hardbodies like the number 3 StumpJumper, 3m Poltergeist and Smak 12 are ideal for working the same water. Most of the action will be found in the lower half of the lake where the water is a bit deeper.

Bait fishers will also do well in the bottom end of the lake. Live shrimp fished in 5m of water should produce a mixed bag of fish. If the action is slow, be prepared to move. When you are on fish, the bites should be coming fairly often.

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) 4162 7555.

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: Maryborough

The barra have continued to please at Lenthalls. These smaller fish around 60cm have been plentiful on the weed beds and lilies in the dam’s middle reaches. Several kayak anglers have been busy paddling and casting up these fish on topwater lures over the last month. Walking the dog is the common term given to the action imparted on these surface lures and seems to be the best way to entice Lenthalls smaller barra population. The bigger fish have been quiet with a few bigger fish encounters taking place on soft plastic frogs worked on the surface over the weed beds.

With the focus so much on the barra, little has been reported about the bass. I know when anglers chasing them have managed to find a good school they have caught plenty on lipless crankbaits and blade baits. If you are targeting the bass and haven’t found a school of fish, opt for the medium to steep tapering banks and work a spinnerbait following the contour and bouncing off any snags as you retrieve it back.

Lenthalls Dam has boating restrictions in place. Only four-stroke or direct injection two-strokes (not carburetted) up to 60hp can be launched on the lake. A speed limit of 6 knots applies when on the move. The gates to the boat ramp and campgrounds are locked between 8pm and 6am each day.

Capricorn Region
Awoonga Dam
Closest Towns: Gladstone, Benaraby

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

The barra fishing has been a bit tough over the past month. A bloom of algae has coloured the water and the weed around the edges has died off a bit. This seems to have slowed the edge bite down. The fish are still in there, so it may be just a matter of taking a different approach. If the edges are quiet this month, look to deeper water.

Trolling in the basin will cover plenty of water. While on the move keep a close eye on your sounder looking for concentrations of barra. If they fail to respond to the trolled lures, you can come back to the fish holding areas around the peak bite times. Early morning, dusk and around tide changes in the salt can see the barra fire up and feed. This would be the time to try hopping vibes or rolling soft plastics through them.

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 and 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 barra have been willing to play provided you are prepared to look for them. Often the best way to target impoundment barra is to stake out a fishy looking spot and wait for them to swim past. This approach has been a bit slow and more fish seem to be coming when boats are moving around exploring water.

Quietly sneaking around the edges of the lake on electric power has been the way to get the bites. The barra have been taking a range of offerings including surface lures, soft plastics and big lipless crankbaits like the Jackall Doozer. Spots which scream fish can be fruitless while less productive looking water often holds fish. As always, once one fish is found, give the area a thorough working over to see if it has some hungry mates.

A secondary weed edge exists in some areas of the lake. This weed growth is in around 3m of water and is prime fish holding country. If you find healthy patches of this it is definitely worth putting in some time on it.

Closest Towns: Proserpine, Airlie Beach

The lake has been fishing quite well through the warmer weather for barramundi. Trollers are still nailing fish around the basin of the lake and casters will do well if they can find numbers of fish. Sounding around in 6-7m of water has revealed some good shows of fish and this depth of water should continue to produce this coming month. When these fish are spotted, try casting soft plastics and hard and soft vibes at them.

The water up the back of the dam in the Proserpine River was still dirty and running last month. If it still has some run in it, it will also be worth a look and casting hardbodies and soft plastics should produce barra. In this area, the shallows and deeper trees along the old river course can hold good fish.

For all your fishing supplies or a guided trip on the lake, call Lindsay or Dane at Barra World on (07) 4945 4641. 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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