Have a look around the far upper reaches
  |  First Published: May 2017

With summer well and truly gone and the days getting noticeably shorter, the temperatures are starting to freshen up and the cool southerlies are blowing off Mount Warning. You could expect the odd morning fog. It’s a perfect time for chasing one of my favourite sportfish – the mighty Australian bass.

There are many different views regarding targeting bass at this time of year. From the start of May they are a no-take species in NSW and must be returned to the water unharmed. Targeting them in the brackish waters is unethical during winter, however the far upper reaches well away from any spawning fish can produce some exciting sessions on a range of lures.

Keep in mind that not all fish spawn each year. Like most styles of lure fishing in freshwater, you will have to adapt to the conditions presented to you in order to have success when the bite is a bit tough.

With the amount of rain we received in March and April, and the temperatures hovering above average, many fish will have continued upstream and found new holes to reside in until it really starts to cool down in June. That’s not to say some wouldn’t have hitched an early ride down to the middle reaches, but right up the top will remain a viable option this month.

The gear required is very simple. I prefer a light spin outfit for this type of fishing – 6ft long or shorter running 6lb braid and 6-12lb leader, depending on conditions. Only go light when the fish won’t play the game. Lure selection is pretty basic. Try half a dozen options including small spinnerbaits, soft plastic and jig spin or rev head combos, small suspending hardbodies and crankbaits.

Contrary to popular belief, Australian bass will still smash surface lures in the cooler months. I like the Megabass Grand Siglet and my second go-to would be a Bent Minnow in 76mm or 86mm. For the longer, slower moving pools, a searchbait like an Atomic Lipless Crank or Jackall TN50 can help you find some fish.

Google Earth is your best friend here as the Tweed Valley is littered with these waterways. Some are only quite small, and land-based is the only option. Access can be difficult, but even small holes can hold big, green territorial bass that will destroy any offering on the right day. The slightly larger systems lend themselves to a small kayak, which allows you to cover more water, which can take a fair bit of effort when you take portages and log jams into consideration.

Look for the shady pools with a good amount of flow, preferably an eddy toward the head of the pool next to an ambush point like a rock ledge or fallen tree. Then you are definitely in the right spot. A certain amount of stealth is required to not spook the wary fish, and accurate casting will increase your results.

I can still remember my first bass capture. It was in one of these tiny backwaters during May, on a River2Sea Rover Surface lure, and from there I was well and truly hooked.

It’s super important that we look after these areas, so try to have minimal impact on river banks. Take all your rubbish and perhaps even pick up someone else’s. Be safe and courteous to all on the water and enjoy taking the time to explore some new waterways. It’s just lovely being out there!

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