High water and soft plastics
  |  First Published: April 2004

FINALLY, after more than two years of extreme drought we can see the rivers of this area getting back to normal.

I have been waiting for this day a long time – when all of the rivers, on both sides of the Divide, are flowing clear and high and not so prone to dropping back to their sub-normal levels during the worst of the drought.

The fish certainly seem to be revelling in these conditions and catch reports in all directions are all positive. Perhaps it has come a little too late for this season but at least we still have a month or more of really good fishing before the cold weather takes a grip on the high country.

My mate big Gordo just got back from a gorge-country bass hike, buzzing about the great conditions and some pretty decent fish that they found. However, in the crystal-clear water, about the only thing that would work were soft plastics. Gene Larew’s Crappie Spiders in clear and gold colour did the best of all. These are funny little squiddy things that look plain deadly in the water and it’s little wonder the bass just wolf them down – they just look so natural.

I think Gordo was fishing a ‘low’ part of the month and the fish just weren’t really on the go, but the Crappie Spiders saved the day for him and his fishing partner, Dean. On this trip, hard-bodied lures and spinnerbaits failed and flies attracted only limited interest close to dark, but the good soft plastics got the fish excited no matter what the time of day or what the bass were doing.

I first saw the Crappie Spiders (what a great name!) do their deadly work when I was up in the NT freshwater – my mate Bluey was getting smashed left, right and centre by saratoga, tarpon, archer fish and sooty grunter on them. It seems they have the same effect on our local fishy friends.

Like a lot of people, I am only just beginning to understand just how deadly soft plastics can be and I’m the first to admit that I’ve still got a lot to learn. What it means for me is I can turn around a slow fishing day for my clients and we can still pick up a few fish. It may not be the most exciting fishing in the world but it sure as hell works!

The trick with the softies seems to be working them slowly and twitching them off the bottom when the curious bass come to inspect. Even if they are not really feeding hard, what red-blooded bass could resist that?


On the western side of the range the reports are excellent, particularly from around Copeton, where the cod catches have been terrific. Lake Copeton has been reinforced in the last few years as the premier big-cod impoundment in this country, with numerous metre-plus fish being taken regularly. No other location can make this claim.

It is not surprising, considering the beautiful clean and clear water that flows in from upstream in the Gwydir River and, to a lesser extent, Copes Creek. Most of this catchment is in prime grazing country or bush with little or no cropping involved and no large cities in the catchment area. If you’ve got good water, you’ll get good fish – it’s as simple as that. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for downstream of the dam, although the situation is slowly improving.

Like most fishing scenarios, it is certainly not easy but if you go to a place like Copeton at the right time of the year with the right equipment, a will to succeed and an open mind, the rewards will be forthcoming.

The small-boat angler is in the best position to take advantage of the wonderful fishing that Copeton has to offer. That way you can access the more difficult-to-reach bays, rocky shorelines and up into the Gwydir arm itself. Trolling persistence pays off and when you find a good patch of ground or fishy structure, work it over and over again until you are sure it is fruitless – then maybe come back again later.

Try all different types of lures at different depths and colours until you find the right combination. With persistence, the big ones will come your way.

Gordon Low with a wild bass taken in good water conditions but with little fish activity. Would he have caught it if he didn’t have the soft plastics?

Clear-water gorge country is a perfect situation for using soft plastics, especially when the fish are off the bite and spooky

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