The bass and estuary perch are starting to school up for their run down to the saltwater to breed and they will take most lures that you throw at them.
Most people believe that all the bass and perch move downstream at the same time. I think that bass move down in different schools any time from mid-March through to late October or even early November. I have caught fish that have spent their eggs as early as June and also have found fish still in roe as late as November.
We start to target the bass and perch in deeper water this time of the year with soft plastics and deep fly. It’s common to catch and release 20 to 30 fish a day when you find them fish schooled up
This is where a good sounder and knowing how to read it really pays off. My Matrix37 has a 90° transducer to allow me to cover an area quickly and pinpoint the fish and at whatever depth they are. And I can move on to the next area if I see none on the screen.
We find these fish in backwaters and eddies up to 15 metres deep near drop-offs after a corner or near structure that is out of the flow. I find most hang around three metres to seven metres and sometimes the best of these fish will hang out in the running water as the tide slows.
Bass and estuary perch can be caught in the same areas but I have found that bass tend to sit tighter to cover while perch will be wider or a little downstream from a snag or corner. The EPs will often school up in large numbers so if you have a good showing of fish on your sounder, give the area a good working over.
I start by casting a soft plastic, usually a 3” Slider Bass Grub with 10mm trimmed off the front, mounted on a 1/4oz to 3/8oz stand-up jig head. I let the jig hit bottom and work it back with a lift-and-fall retrieve .
Often the only indication of a fish is a bump. Drop your rod tip give it a twitch and the perch will often inhale the jig and your line will come up tight with a fat EP on the end.
We use light spin and baitcast outfits with 1kg to 3kg line. Over the past couple of years we have been using longer spinning rods to cast light lures and soft plastics.
Most of the baitcasters were too short and stiff to cast and to feel the plastic working. Over the past three months I have found that the new Strudwick Hardbaits Elite 6’ baitcaster with REC guides that casts and works small crankbaits and plastics really well – as well as most spin tackle.
And there is nothing like using a baitcaster, especially when you hook up with a monster Bream, Bass or E.P. I use 4kg to 6kg yellow Super Braid on bait casters and 6lb mist green Fireline on my threadline reel for Bass and Estuary Perch.
March is also a great month for pelagics, with schools of kingfish, bonito, salmon and tailor around the lower Hawkesbury and Broken Bay.
Saltwater fly can outfish most other methods when these pelagics are hunting small baitfish because you can cast a small fly the same size, shape and colour as the bait the fish are feeding on.
You can also work a fly a lot slower than most lures or you can let the fly just sit in the middle of a feeding school of fish.
The best way to work a school of feeding fish is to position your boat in front of the fish and let them come to you. Most schools work into the wind . Always cast your fly ahead of the school.
It is also important to be able to cast your line maximum distance with minimum false casting. This is the most important part of saltwater fly-fishing – getting the fly to the feeding fish as fast you can. So get out on the lawn and practise your pickup, haul and shoot in one motion.
If you are new to fly-casting or can’t double haul, spend a few dollars and get some lessons. It will give the advantage when you are working the feeding schools
I usually start my retrieve with a double-hand strip, which works very well when the fish are active. If this does not work, try a long, slow strip or fast, short strips with pauses. Every now and then you will find the fish will hit you on the pause.
If the fish go down, don’t rush off because often the fish will pop up after a short while and sometimes they will work to a pattern.
If the fish go down and don’t pop up or you can’t find them on top, use your sounder to locate them and a fast-sinking line to get down to them.
Most eight-weight fly outfits will do the job on tailor, salmon, bonito and small kings. You might need to carry a nine-weight or 10-weight if some big kings turn up or if you are using shooting heads to get down deep.
I use a clear, fast intermediate fly line, usually one line size above the rod size. I have just put a new 9wt Airflo 40 Plus shooting head on my Strudwick DBT 9wt and have found this line the best I have used.Reads: 515