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A little deep thinking
  |  First Published: December 2006



The little Megabass deep-diving minnow landed a metre away from the snag.

“Scotty, you have to get it closer than that, mate, try to get it right against the branches so that when you retrieve it, it dives down among them,” I said. “You won’t get a hit unless you get it in the right spot. Don’t worry about getting the lure too close, we can always move the boat in and loosen it if it gets stuck.”

Scotty made another cast and this time was right on the money. He managed only to turn the handle a few times when the little lure came to a crunching halt. The rod buckled over as the bass tried to head back into its lair but there was no line to take because the drag had already been screwed right up before the cast was made.

Scotty gave the feisty fish plenty of stick and manhandled it away from the timber and into open water. I got the net ready and a minute later we netted a beautiful wild river bass.

We had captured everything on camera: The cast, the hook-up and eventually the netting of the fish. It was a beautiful morning with some tough river bass that were happy to play the game – it didn’t get much better.

Have you ever had one of those days when everything just falls into place? That doesn’t often happen when fishing trips are planned in advance but, for once, this had been a cracker of a session.

The guys from the Brisbane Channel 7 Creek to Coast program had phoned a few weeks before and set a date to head out on the river and chase some bass. Now, as we all know, just picking a day off the calendar is not always the best way to catch fish. I was a bit sceptical to say the least, but planned to do my best and hopefully get a few fish for them.

I headed out on Wednesday morning to try to find the fish because they tend to move up and down the river during Spring. We found fish in three spots that looked like they would produce the goods.

Using the usual techniques of chucking spinnerbaits, soft plastics and surface lures, we pinned a few fish but one technique stood out way above the rest – casting small deep-diving minnows around the snags and undercut banks.

It was imperative to get the lure in the right place, as tight up against the bank as possible, to get the bites. Righto, that was the pre-fish out the way. I had my game plan organised and now all that I needed was the elements to play their part.

THE TEST

Friday dawned and as I watched the amazing sunrise from the boat ramp I started to feel more confident. The tide was pretty good, there wasn’t much wind and we were all ready to go right on daybreak.

We hit our first spot, which was a large snag nicely tucked away under the water. Unless you actually drove into it you wouldn’t know it was there – makes you wonder how I found it! We started with surface lures to try to get a topwater bite but had no takers.

I grabbed another rod that had a little deep diver on it and after explaining to presenter Scotty what to expect, the fish described at the beginning of this article hit the net.

We moved out into the main river to spot number two, a short, undercut bank with deep water right up against it. Once again the minnows did the job.

We had one more spot to hit before we pulled the pin, another section of bank that ran adjacent to the main channel. It had three large downed trees sitting on it and had produced some good fish for me before.

We headed down-river to the snags and I stopped a short distance from the spot so that I could approach it with the electric. I selected a Smith Camion that I rigged on 10lb leader, while Scotty still had the Megabass on. I couldn’t pry it out of his hands after the first fish.

Scotty made the first cast but he was short of the mark. I followed it up and my lure landed on the spot. As I started to crank the little minnow down, it got smashed and I didn’t even have a chance to lift the rod up before I was stitched up by the fish.

I reeled in the limp line and tied on another lure. “Man, that felt like a good fish,” I muttered to myself as I selected another lure. I made another cast and this time I pulled the fish clear of the snag, only to have it pull the rod flat once again and dust me up for the second time in two casts. Bloody Hell!

It was a fitting end to a red-hot session with the fish getting some back on me. It had been an excellent example of how effective fishing around structure with small diving minnows can be. Here are a few tips to help you to get the most out of this technique.

THE LURES

I like to choose a lure for this type of fishing that dives as deep as possible. There are a few on the shelves that do the job extremely well. Lively Lures’ Micro Mullet (although they are very difficult to cast accurately with a bit of wind around), Smith Camions, Jackall Chubbies and the Megabass Smolt are a few of the really good ones.

The older Rebel Wee R or Rapala Fat Rap will also do the job but the newer models that are hitting the market these days have a smaller profile and somehow the older lures always seem to slide down to the bottom shelves of our lure boxes. But if it can dive fairly deep and has a small profile, give it a go.

ACCURACY

When fishing these little lures the most important thing to remember is where to put them. You want the lure to dive down the edge of the snag right in front of the bass’s nose. If the lure lands a few feet short it won’t have enough time to get down to the depth that the fish are normally at before it is out of the strike zone.

Bass sitting tight in structure are not normally actively feeding and therefore won’t swim out to eat your lure. You want to force feed it to them.

If you can, try to cast the lure past the target to allow it to get down to the strike zone. This is sometimes difficult because most snags stick out from the bank. This can be overcome by casting along the bank and bringing the lure past the outer edges of the snag.

If you have to cast back towards the bank, try to make sure that the lure lands right up against your target.

BOAT POSITIONING

One needs to practice a bit of patience when approaching a snag. Wait until the boat is in the best possible position to extract a hooked fish before you cast. Surprisingly enough, I look at it from that aspect rather than from making a cast.

I have been done over too many times by making a long cast or casting over branches instead of along them. For example, if there is a forked tree pointing out towards me, I wait until I am directly in front of the outstretched limbs before I cast. I then bring my lure along the length of the limbs instead of over them.

If I get a hit, I know that my chances of landing the fish are much better.

Have a look at how the snag lies in the water and try to hit the outer edges first. That way you can always catch the active fish on the outer edges and then try for the inactive fish sitting right up tight in the rough stuff later.

TACKLE

Everyone has their favourite rod lengths, be it long or short, for fishing minnows. I enjoy a 6’10” 2kg to 4 kg stick. This gives me enough whip in the tip to cast the small lures and enough grunt to wrestle out the bass. I use a 1500 size reel spooled with 6lb braid.

When selecting a leader, I try not to go under 10lb because of the country that the fish inhabit. Heavier leader is quite often necessary but it does tend to inhibit the action of the light lures a bit.

Unfortunately, with the price of some of the top lures today it hurts quite a bit when you bust off a few so try to use a fairly thick leader to start with and then scale down if you aren’t getting the hits.

I try to upgrade the hooks on the majority of my small minnows. The ones that they come with are generally not up to the task of wrestling a good size bass or bream away from structure. I normally use the Gamakatsu round bends or the Owner Stingers but there are a few models out there that will do the job, just remember to keep a few spare on the boat. You might have to replace bent or broken hooks through the days fishing.

So next time you hit your favourite spot and can’t get a hit on a spinnerbait or a topwater then tie on a small deep-diver and give it a go. It might just be the difference between catching a few and returning home empty-handed.

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