Bream vs bass for autumn title fight
  |  First Published: March 2017

It might be now over, but I think most of us welcomed that reasonably hot summer with plenty of fine days to keep all anglers happy. The next few autumn months usually provide the best stable weather of the whole year, and the fish are seemingly always on the bite.

The one species that has dominated the banter between most anglers over the last three months is the mighty Australian bass. These aggressive sportfish are now in all of the Gippy Lakes rivers, and it’s hard to believe the incredible numbers being caught. Bream are also really starting to fire up as well and I’ve been sent pictures of some cracking fish over 45cm. But first up, I want to take some time to talk about bass.

Gippsland bass

Gippsland is now well and truly on its way to being a bass fishery equal to those in the northern states of Australia. Since 2002, more than 800,000 bass have been stocked throughout Gippsland. A lot of those bass are now over 40cm and this year, I’m quite sure the first few 45cm stocked bass will start showing up.

Right now, reports are coming in thick and fast about bass taking a whole range of lures. Anglers are finding plenty of bass biting in the following streams that feed into the Gippy Lakes; the Macalister, Thomson, Avon and Mitchell rivers and also quite a few the creeks that flow into them, too many to name. The Tambo and Nicho rivers also hold a lot of bass, and their upper reaches are hardly fished, but that will change soon!

Locations for each stream do not seem to matter, because they are being caught wherever anglers are trying! It’s hard to believe, but this is due to the huge numbers of bass now stocked. In years to come, we will find intrepid anglers pushing up into the far reaches of these catchments and returning with epic stories of champagne lure sport.

To target bass during the day, use sinking soft plastics around the snags or close to the shaded deep edges. Small but deep diving hardbodies are also deadly, with one angler in the Mitchell recently landing over 20 bass for an afternoon session. Spinnerbait lures are also working a treat, just make sure you use the smallest and lightest you can, with 1/8oz lures the best for searching snags. Beetle spins with a soft plastic the most popular lure as well.

Try surface lures in the early morning and into the night using lures like cicadas, poppers and bent minnow style offerings.

Most of the stocked bass are between 28-38cm. There is also still a resident natural bass population of much older fish, and although only a handful of them have turned up, you expect some of them to exceed 50cm. I’m thinking we will hear more about these trophy fish over the next few months.

Bass stocking

Just recently, another 122,000 Australian bass fingerlings were once again stocked across Gippsland and a large portion of them into the Gippy Lakes rivers I mentioned above. A lot of anglers and quite a few fisheries officers I’ve spoken to recently all agree on one thing; this stocking program has been one of the most successful liberation of native fish anywhere in Victoria and possibly the country.

You have to experience it to believe it, and over the last few months I’ve joined the ‘bass army’ and searched a few of my local streams. The results have shocked me, and even a hack newbie bass angler like me can land 5-10 fish for an outing. Vast areas of these massive streams are so far unexplored. It’s only a matter of time before anglers crack their secrets, because there’s a huge number of bass in all the streams and they are feeding flat out right now.

Bream reports

Right on cue, the bream are also firing on all cylinders. Shallow water edges and high up on the jetty pylons are all the go right now. Not surprisingly, a lot big fish between 40-45cm are fairly common and they can be caught right throughout the whole day.

Bait anglers are reporting that frozen prawn is proving one of the best baits and lure anglers are catching heaps on crab patterns, soft plastics, shallow running hardbodies and a few on bent minnows.

The stand out feature for now and especially into the next few months will be the big number of truck bream feeding out in the shallow clean water margins around all the lakes. It makes for excellent sight fishing, so try working the areas of the Mitchell River flats right down to the Tambo River mouth and the hot spot for now is in Lake Victoria on either the Loch Sport side or the Wattle Point area. Big bream are also hugging the jetties around Metung and Paynesville and are sitting just below the surface. They make your jaw drop with their numbers and sizes but good luck hooking these spooky brutes and if you do, make sure your locked drag can beat the pylon barnacles!

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