The next few months are some of my favourites to fish for bass, which seem to get more aggressive as they form into schools for the swim down to the brackish waters to spawn.
While not all bass make the big trip, those that do will be feeding up. When you think where some of these fish will be swimming from, it will require a lot of energy to get to the brackish waters from Sackville to Wisemans Ferry, where future generations will begin life.
With the increased aggression in the next few months, most lures will be taken with memorable ferocity than since the start of Spring. Soft plastics and deep fly are among the most successful ways of catching these fish but they will take a wide variety of lures.
You’ll need to get you presentations into deeper water and fine gelspun lines are ideal because they are stronger and finer than monofilament. Look for eddies and backwaters near corners which show a drop-off on the sounder.
To get you started, find a good topographical map of the section of the river you plan to fish and look for sharp bends and major deviations in the bank. A straight section followed by a major deviation is the type of spot you are looking for.
You’ll often find fish schooling in these deeper areas, sometimes deeper than you might expect. In one favourite hole of around 18 to 19 metres the fish often hold off the bottom around 12 metres.
To get down to these fish, try a spinnerbait or plastic of more than 1/4oz and heavy enough to combat the current.
I cast out as far as possible and work the lure through the school. It’s important to know the sink rate of your spinnerbaits and plastics in the conditions and count the lure down and work it back.
To keep the lure in the zone longer, I make three or more cranks on the reel and then allow the lure to sink back into the zone before continuing the retrieve. Simply retrieving keeps the lure in the zone for only a short time and reduces your chances.
To make longer casts, longer rods of 6’6” to 7’ make a difference. Fine lines make long casts easier.
Nitro spinnerbaits and Whiz Bangers are not in production for the time being but are excellent at this time of year. Heavier Betts Spins and spinnerbaits should work well, with red and black spinnerbaits being popular.
Surface lures that have should produce good catches this month include Taylor Made Fizz Bangers and Heddon Torpedoes, Kokoda Bugger Chugs, Rebel Crickhopper Poppers and Daiwa Cicadas.
While bass are the most targeted fish, estuary perch are increasing in popularity. You’ll catch them in the deeper water using similar methods to bass. EPs are often caught in the same areas as bass but look further from the bank or down stream from a snag or bend.
EPs often school in numbers so if you have showing of fish on you sounder, work the area thoroughly.
My favourite EP plastic is a 3” Slider Bass with three ribs trimmed from the front. Work the bottom with a slow lift-and-drop retrieve with the usual three or four cranks and then a fall to the bottom. With any slight tap felt through the line, I stop the retrieve and the fish will often take the lure on the drop.
Low-speed reels make this a lot easier, especially when most anglers tend to wind faster than they should in the first place. If you have a favourite reel that has a high retrieve ratio, keep this in mind while you fish.
One of my favourite rivers, the Colo, is a great place to fish this month. It has every conceivable type of bass haven you could imagine including stacks of rocks where bass feed on the crabs in the crevices. Cast close along the rocks and undercut ledges with darker, bulky lures.
Weed beds are everywhere in the Colo, which hold food for bass and shelter for them. Lipless crankers, plastics and spinnerbaits all do very well but you should also consider suspending lures. Worked across the faces of weed beds and in larger pockets, these lures can get a strike when others don’t.
Halco Sneaky Scorpions have been around for a while now and are perfect worked in a stop/start retrieve. The beauty of these types of lures is that they can be cranked down to their designated depth and kept in front of a bass until it can take no more.
These lures are very sensitive to changes in weight, so adding a clip or heavier rings or hooks can alter the performance. I find a loop knot is best, as it doesn’t interfere with the action.
Overhanging vegetation is plentiful in the Colo and the really dark holes between overhanging trees will fish well off the surface all day. Just be ready for solid strikes as it can be really hands-on trying to extract bass from here.
The upper reaches of the Nepean have been firing well with plenty of good fish. Similar tactics as those mentioned earlier will work for Nepean fish.
There are some good bankside places to fish here but the best option is a kayak or canoe. Launching is straightforward in many locations with no need for boat ramps.
Remember to reduce the amount of handling of any fish you catch. These bass are your fishing future and should be released in as good a condition as possible.
Other species continue to take mostly baits, especially in the Wisemans Ferry and Lower Portland region. Bait-soakers have been taking good numbers of bream, jewfish and flathead.
Best bait for the bream has been Hawkesbury prawns, especially live ones, and the jewies like fresh fish baits. It’s a good idea to make a few cuts in a fish bait to help disperse the bait juices and get the trail happening for the jewies to locate it.Reads: 603