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A Beginner’s Guide to Fishing Impoundments
  |  First Published: April 2007



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Each month I produce a detailed report on what fish are biting and where the action is happening. This month however, I’ll be covering four techniques that will produce fish over the coming weeks. Included for each technique are the lakes that will yield the best, lures available and a beginner’s guide to presenting the lures to maximise your chances of success. The lakes will provide some great fishing opportunities so be sure to have a go.

At the end of February, I fished in the first round of the Bassin’ Qld Series held on Lake Somerset. There were around 150 competitors and almost 80 boats participated. It has been some time since I went to one of these events and they have come a long way. The competitions are friendly and the goal is to help everyone catch more fish. The weekend is laid back and fun and you still have the chance of winning stacks of prizes – even if you don’t catch a fish. Dave Hislop and his team of helpers have done a great job in bringing this style of competition to Queensland.

Until next month, buckled rods from The Colonel.

Casting Lipless Crankbaits
Species:Australian bass and golden perch
Lure Types:TN60 Jackall, TN60 Silent Jackall, TN70 Jackall, Daiwa Jackall, Eco Gear VT65
Locations:Hinze, Maroon, MacDonald, Borumba, Lenthalls, Isis Balancing Storage, Cooby, Cressbrook, Bjelke Petersen and Boondooma
Fishing Technique

The lipless crankbait is a very effective lure. It can explore water quickly and be used at a range of depths. Most of South-East Queensland’s lakes will have fish willing to eat a lipless crankbait presented in the right manner. Although used mainly for bass, golden perch are a common by-catch. This is so often the case that lipless crankbaits are a good option to use when targeting golden perch in the western lakes without bass.

Being sinking lures, lipless crankbaits can be fished at various depths. The longer the lure is allowed to sink and the slower it is retrieved, the deeper it will run. Therefore, if you plan to fish shallow, start the retrieve soon after the lure has landed. If you’re looking at a deeper presentation you might even let the lure sink all the way to the bottom of the lake. This can be done several times during the retrieve.

The main idea when fishing lipless crankbaits is to keep them in front of fish. This usually means keeping them close to the bottom of the lake or close to structure. Despite being armed with a pair of treble hooks, they are reasonably snag proof. The lipless crankbait is therefore useful around submerged timber and weed beds.

Bass and golden perch can be targeted around weedy edges. Pay particular attention to areas that have tapered or broken weed. These formations tend to hold more fish than weed edges that drop vertically to the lake’s bottom. Broken and tapered weed provide fish with plenty of ambush spots. Try rolling the lure close to weed, concentrating on the better looking areas. If this fails, guide the lure along the contour of the weed into deeper water then let it fall down the face of the weed to the bottom. When fish are inactive, they will often hold here rather than on top of the shallower parts of the weed beds. When retrieving lipless crankbaits the vibrating action of the lure is transmitted right back to the angler through the rod. Any change in action can be detected when the lure becomes fouled; a sharp jerk of the rod will often dislodge any trailing weed or slime without having to wind the lure all the way back in.

Not all lakes have weed. If this is the case, the edges may still hold fish and need to be explored with plenty of casts. The areas most likely to hold fish will be small bays, points and any changes in bottom contour. In such areas, try working the lure mid-water and close to the bottom to cover the area thoroughly to see if there are any fish there.

Gear Selection

A graphite rod between 6’6” and 7’ is certainly handy when fishing lipless crankbaits. These rods transmit vibrations giving you a better feel for what’s happening on the other end. Both spin and baitcast outfits can be used. Line selection is also quite important. Light mono of 4-6kg could be used but this line has a lot of stretch, making it hard to feel when your lure is weeded and even harder to shake it free. Braided or fused line is a better option. Some 6-10lb Berkley Fireline is ideal for spinning reels. For baitcasters try using some 10-20lb Stren Braid or Spiderwire Stealth.

Trolling Plastics
Species:Australian bass
Lure Types:Jackall Mask Vib 60 (19g), 3” paddle-tailed plastics (eg. Slider Grub), 2 1/2” to 3” shads (eg. 65mm Squidgy Fish), 3” grubs (e.g. Gulp Minnow Grub). A range of 1/4oz, 1/2oz and 3/4oz Nitro Dam Deep jigheads
Locations:Deeper water in all bass lakes
Fishing Technique

Trolling plastics has really taken off in the past couple of years. Not only plastics but all kinds of casting lures are being trolled to catch bass. Trolling is a very effective way to keep the lure in the right zone for as long as possible, giving the fish more chances to eat it. Trolling can work particularly well when bass are scattered, not holding together in schools.

The most useful tool for soft plastic trolling would have to be an electric motor. An electric can alter the speed of the boat to make the lures run at the desired depth. As a general rule, the boat should be travelling at a slow walking pace – a speed too hard to achieve with a petrol motor. There are times, however, when bass will suspend quite shallow (eg. Bjelke Petersen) and the faster pace of the outboard motor will still produce the goods.

Choosing the correct weight jighead will see your lure swimming at the right depth. To work out how deep your lure is running you could venture into shallower water until you can feel it rubbing and bouncing along the bottom. The following can be used as a rough guideline for estimating the depth of your lure when using different weight jigheads. This graph is based on the boat travelling at a slow walking pace.

Once you master depth control, it’s just a matter of time until you start to see results. Even if you are not familiar with a lake, you’ll soon see where other boats are trolling or casting. Working these areas with trolled plastics or finding your own areas using your fish finder will soon straighten any kinks in your line.

Gear Selection

I feel there are two essentials when trolling soft plastics. One is the use of light braided or fused line and the other is a reel with a smooth drag to prevent the line from breaking.

Berkley Fireline between 4lb and 8lb breaking strain is ideal. It has a fine diameter that slices through the water, ensuring the lure reaches the desired depth. It’s a good idea to tie on a metre or so of monofilament to the end of the braid. You can use a full blood knot or an Albright knot to do this. Knot diagrams can be found on the internet. You could try visiting www.ausfish.com.au/knots/ to get started.

When using such light lines, a spinning reel is the ideal choice. Just ensure it is one with a smooth drag so the line peels off the reel without jerking when a fish makes a run. Rod choice is least important but endeavour to use one that is rated for 2-4kg lines.

Casting Surface Lures

Species:Australian bass and barramundi

Lure Types (bass):Berkley Popper, Eddy’s Surface Buster, Zara Puppy, Rapala Skitterpop (small).

Lure Types (barra):C’ultiva Tango Dancer, Bill’s Bug, Stiffy Fizzer, Rapala Skitter Pop (medium and large)

Locations (bass):Hinze, Maroon, Cressbrook, MacDonald, Borumba, Lenthalls, Cania.

Locations (barra):Lenthalls, Monduran, Awoonga, Teemburra, Proserpine.

Fishing Technique

There’s a huge size difference between bass and barramundi. Despite this, the fish will respond to a surface lure worked in much the same way. All that’s needed are smaller lures up to 8cm in length for bass and the 9cm plus models for barra.

There are three main types of surface lures - cupped-face poppers, fizzers and stick baits. Let’s take a look at their differences.

The cupped-face popper is used with sharp twitches of the rod tip. These twitches create splashes from the concave lip on the front of the lure. These lures should be worked in a series of bloops until the lure has travelled about 1-2m before allowing a pause.

The fizzer can be worked in a similar way to the cupped face popper and should be paused every metre or so. As the rod is twitched to pull the lure along, the blades start to spin, creating a bubble trail and splashing sound. Fizzers are great for beginners or kids. Rather than twitching the rod, they can just take 3-4 winds of the reel and allow a pause.

The stick bait requires a little more skill to master. The textbook retrieve with these lures is called walking the dog. When walking the dog the lure zigzags across the water’s surface. This creates a lot of subtle side-to-side movement without the lure travelling any great distance. The zigzagging action is applied by twitching the lure in a downwards direction. Each twitch should be carried out with some slack line between the rod tip and the lure to gain the desired effect. A small amount of line is retrieved between each twitch. I’ve witnessed a lot of beginners learning the art of walking the dog. Nearly all of them caught fish before they had mastered the art of zigzagging the lure across the surface. I guess this just goes to show that the retrieve doesn’t have to be perfect and the lures are very effective. As with other surface lures, the stick bait should be paused every metre or two.

With all surface lures, it is during the pause or in the first movement after that most strikes will occur. Stopping the lure allows the fish to travel over to it and see what’s making all the noise and splash. The pause also gives the fish a chance to eyeball the lure and check it out. This is why so many strikes happen as soon as the lure is moved again. The length of the pause really depends on the mood of the fish. If they are active, you may only let it sit for a couple of seconds. When the action is slow, you can let a lure rest for 20 seconds. During this time, give it a few tiny twitches to make it move a fraction and show signs of life.

Surface lures are best fished close to the banks of a lake or around structure. During periods of low light, fish move into shallower water in search of food. This is where surface lures come into play. Topwater lures can also be used in deeper water where fish are likely to hold around structure such as submerged timber or just outside weed edges.

The best time for surface fishing is during times of low light. Starting the morning off at dawn with a surface lure is a good option. Sometimes the bite will extend well into the day. Fishing surface lures late in the afternoon and through the night can also work well. Night-time sessions can be scary with fish inhaling your lure in an almighty splash. The barra lakes usually fish well at night, as does Maroon Dam for bass.

Gear Selection

Due to the difference in size between bass and barramundi, you need different gear to target them. For bass a 6’6” rod is quite suitable. The reel should hold some light line (no heavier than 10lb). Light line will allow longer and more accurate casts when using light bass lures.

When chasing barra, there’s every possibility that you could hook a 25kg+ fish. This being the case, some heavier gear is necessary. Both spin or baitcast set-ups can be used but I prefer the latter. Spool the reel with some 30-50lb braided line to ensure that you give yourself a good chance of boating big fish. A one metre length of 50-80lb mono or fluorocarbon leader should be attached to the end of the braid to prevent losing fish to leader failure. This leader can be attached using an albright knot (www.ausfish.com.au/knots/ ).

There’s no need to go into rod and reel specifics. There are certainly suitable ones for the job but the emphasis is placed on drag smoothness. The other thing to take into consideration is the size of barra. They are demanding fish that require a well built reel. If you’re in the market for a new reel look at the 4000 sized spinning reels or for baitcasters you can’t go wrong with the new Abu Revo. It’s simply brilliant.

Deep Barra Trolling
Species:Barramundi
Lure Types:Classic Barra 10+, 15+ and F18, Storm Deep Thunder, Bandit Prowler 12+ and 20+, RMG Scorpion 7m and 8m, Rapala X-Rap 15+ and 20+, River Rat 12+ and 20+
Locations:Monduran, Awoonga, Callide, Proserpine, Tinaroo, Moondarra, Lake Julius
Fishing Technique

How lucky are we to have so many lakes stocked with barramundi right on our doorstep? These stocked lakes have made it easy for anyone to catch the fish of a lifetime. Barramundi over a metre long and in excess of 20kg are common captures on these lakes and trolling deep diving lures is just one of many successful techniques that will produce fish.

The premier big barra lake for lure trollers would have to be Lake Awoonga. It has been stocked with millions of barra fingerlings that have grown to immense proportions. The other lakes on the list shouldn’t be discounted because they also produce some massive fish on deep trolled lures throughout the year. Barramundi will feed in the shallow or deep water but let’s take a look at targeting them by towing some lures in water over five metres deep.

Once barra reach legal size, they often leave the protection of snags, weed edges and other forms of cover and take up residence in the open water of lakes. Sometimes they will congregate around deep submerged snags or drop-offs to old creek and river beds. At other times, they can be found cruising and suspended high off the bottom in deeper water. The fact is that when they move to such areas, they make themselves prime candidates for deep trolled lures.

I’ve found that there are a few secrets to barra trolling. When working the open water where the barra are suspended, I like to troll fast. This means the boat should be travelling at around 5km/h. In most cases this faster speed seems to excite the barra more. The other trick is to fish with a lot of line out behind the boat. Leave around 40-50m of line trail from the rod tip. This extra line puts the lure well behind the noise of the boat and allows the lure to reach its maximum depth.

In the deep open water, a sounder is a valuable asset. A quality sounder like a Humminbird Matrix will locate fish (as well as mark them on GPS) and pinpoint the depth at which they are holding. If the fish are shallow a lure suited to the suspension depth should be chosen. When they are deep, opt for a deeper swimming model. The trick is to keep the lure at the same depth or just above where the fish are holding as they will rise to take it.

When working your lure around structure like submerged trees or even close to drop offs, you can run the line a bit shorter (35-40m) and slow the boat speed down to a normal idle. Slowing the boat gives the fish more chance to take the lure that has invaded their homes. The idea when fishing such locations is to get the lure swimming as close as possible to the bottom or structure.

No matter where you are fishing it’s highly recommended that you upgrade the hooks and rings on your lures. Most lures have hooks that will straighten and believe me, barra can easily do this. Upgrade to heavy-duty split rings and replace hooks for the stainless steel Owner variety. Most barra lures will require a no.2 size and others that sport larger trebles may require Owners in a similar size.

Gear Selection

I see a lot of people when I’m out on the lake using all manner of gear. The fact is that everyone can have a go and you don’t need to have the best gear available. As with the other techniques I’ve described, a smooth drag on the reel is essential. A reel that can hold at least 100m of the chosen line will help prevent spooling if you hook a big barra. Both spin and baitcast setups can be used.

If I had to choose a combo I’d go for a Berkley Dropshot baitcast rod around 6’ in length. I’d then fit this with a little Abu Revo baitcast reel. Don’t be disillusioned by this tiny reel. It is packed with strength and power and I have yet to destroy one even though I’m doing my best.

For trolling use a 30lb braided line like Spiderwire or Stren Braid. This line has a thin diameter and allows the lure to work deeper. If you know you’ll be fishing around heavy structure then choose a heavier braided line like 50lb. A mono or fluorocarbon leader between 60-80lb should be attached to the end of the braid. You can do this using an albright knot (www.ausfish.com.au/knots/ ).

Facts

TROLLING PLASTICS

Distance Behind Boat20m30m40m
1/4oz Nitro Dam Deep12ft15ft17ft
1/2oz Nitro Dam Deep18ft20ft22ft
3/4oz Nitro Dam Deep22ft25ft27ft
Jackall Mask Vib 6018ft20ft22ft

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