SPRING has arrived, the temperature is rising and the bass and estuary perch are heading back upstream after their spawning.
This is when you will catch these fish in good numbers, because they travel in schools and will be concentrating in areas. I usually start looking around some drop-offs near large bends in the river where the water is eddying.
This is where a good sounder and knowing how to read it really pays off. My Humminbird Matrix 35 works like a charm it gives me wide coverage, allowing me to look over an area for fish quickly and move on to the next if there is none in that area. Believe it or not, I use my Matrix in auto with the fish ID on. I have found that when my Matrix shows me fish symbols these are fish.
On most other sounders I turn the ID off because they show any suspended object as fish.
When the sounder shows a concentration of fish, double back and give the area a good working over. I usually start with soft plastics worked deep, with a lift and drop of the rod tip keeping the lure in contact with the bottom.
Bass and perch will often hit on the drop so use highly visible line, such as a fluoro colour, so you can see the line move if the fish bites on the drop.
If I have a number of anglers on board I will use a variety lures to find what is working best and will change the others to the most successful.
I will have one angler using surface lures like the Taylor Made Surface Walker, the new East Coast lure pop and fizz Bass Burglar or Feralcatt surface lures.
Another angler will be casting small deep-diving crankbaits (my favourites are small Feralcatts, Taylor Made Nuggets and Halco Poltergeists.
Another angler might well be using soft plastics with a 1/8oz jig head with a small Beetle Spin blade added to put more flash and vibration in the water.
I find that spinner baits which the bass will eat might be a little large for estuary perch, so I like to use Beetle Spins, which will catch both.
Using a variety of lures maximises my chances of finding and catching more fish.
Keep your eye out for the new range of East Coast surface lures in five different models. Made and designed by Mick Munn and me to catch anything from bream to kingfish, they are being stocked in some Sydney shops including Ace Tackle, Australian Bass Angler, Blake's Marine, Blacktown Bait and Tackle, Compleat Angler and Windsor Bait and Tackle.
This is also the time when the first of our Spring and Summer pelagics turn up in Broken Bay, Sydney Harbour, Pittwater Cowan Creek and offshore.
Species such as mackerel tuna, striped tuna, bonito and kingfish mix with the salmon and tailor that have been here most of the Winter. There is nothing as exciting as high-speed spinning for these speedsters, especially when using tackle in the 2kg to 4kg class.
These fish will test your tackle to its limit so it's important that you service your reels, spool up with new line and check those guides for any cracks or damage.
If you are buying a new outfit to target these fish, buy quality rods and reels. I use Shimano Stradic and Sustain 4000 size threadlines spooled with 8lb and 12lb yellow Super Braid on 7’ Strudwick 4kg and 7"6" 6kg to 8kg rods. You can rely on gear like this to give you a fair chance when tangling with fast fish.
Spring is also when saltwater flies will outfish most other methods if the pelagics are feeding on small baitfish. Why? Because you can cast a fly that is the same size, shape and colour as the tiny 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.
It is also important to be able to cast your fly maximum distance with minimal false casts. 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 – the first time you are working the feeding schools you’ll feel it’s well worth the money.
I use a clear, fast-intermediate Airflo 40 Plus Shooting Head line which allows me to pick up the line, shoot, haul and cast long distances with little effort.
If I use a standard intermediate line, I will choose a line one size rating higher than the rod I use. For instance, on my Strudwick DBT 8wt I use a 9wt Airflo Saltwater Bonefish Taper.
I keep leaders simple, usually 10kg from 1.5 metres to two metres long, but you may need to go lighter if the fish are shy. Check out the East Coast saltwater flies as these are designed to catch Sydney pelagics.
Make sure you have plenty of backing on the fly reel – you never know when a big mack tuna or longtail might grab your fly and head for the horizon.
Remember to back off the drag further the more line the fish has out because there is a lot of water drag on a flyline. Try to match the bait with the size and shape of your flies and have look in the water at baitfish or check out those the fish spit out when you land them.
Get out there and give it a go; it’s one of most exciting ways to fish. Most 7wt and 8wt fly outfits will do the job on tailor, salmon, bonito and small kings.
You might need to carry a 9wt or 10wt with a fast-sinking shooting head with a heavy leader if the kings are hanging deep in the water around reef or structure. In these areas it’s hand-to-hand combat – lock up, point the rod and drag the fish out any way you can. Don’t be afraid to use the boat to drag them out to open water and even then they will drag you back to cover.Reads: 593