Bass season looks a bottler
  |  First Published: September 2004

SEPTEMBER: The wattles are already flowering and I know the Callistemon (bottlebrush) will be starting to blush their bright-red blossoms further down the range along the Macleay River and its tributaries.

The moment I think of callistemon, I think of bass. The thought of vibrant green foliage and red sprays of blossom hanging low over glassy, secluded backwaters gets my casting arm twitching like a pro pitcher with tendonitis.

It’s no secret that bass are my favourite sport fish. Don’t get me wrong, I love cod and barra are a blast but, for me, bass fishing is the whole religious experience.

A lot has to do with the places my quests for these ‘bronzed Aussie battlers’ take me. It’s trudging deep into the gorges where my true passion lies but I can be just as happy paddling a canoe between rapids or lazing on a pedestal seat as the electric motor does all the work.

To begin with, the best chances of picking up a nice fish will be to get right down the river below The Big Hill and intercept them as they head upstream. Not only do the long, deep pools with few rapids allow the bass to move up quickly, they also let my lazy body gently ease back into the swing of things after the Winter lay-off.

This is where the boat with the electric comes in. Traditionally, we cruise along the deep pools, firing casts in under the bankside cover and around rocky outcrops.

Lures of choice used to be deep-diving crankbaits such as Mann’s 5+ and 10+, Merlins, Knol’s Natives and Serges. As for colours, what did Henry Ford say? ‘Any colour as long as it’s black’.

Seriously, my entire bass box is full of black lures with a few chartreuse ones thrown in to put the ‘nosey-pokes’ off the scent.

However, the past few seasons we’ve been experimenting, and producing, with small spinnerbaits and soft plastics. The plastics, in particular, can often make the difference when the fish are a tad depressed and locked down. A slow-rolled Crappie Spider or 2” double-tail in clear or pumpkinseed will often produce the goods, just when you’re wondering whether any bass are home at all.

As the water warms (and hopefully after a few good flushes) and the bass get further up, it’s time to drag the canoe out and do a few overnight jaunts. The best way is to put in upstream and get picked up a few days further down.

If you’re not up for the logistics then doing a trip with an outfitter such as Matt’s Sport Safaris (shameless plug!) can be very rewarding. There are few things in life better than spending the day dawdling between rapids and knocking up cricket scores of hard-hitting fish.

A few ales and progressively taller stories around the campfire, easing into your swag for a good sleep under the stars, then getting up with the birds and getting a few early casts in with the surface lures makes for a great time out.

During the day, deep-divers, spinnerbaits and plastics are still on the hot list but warmer temperatures also mean that a bit of early-morning and late-afternoon surface action with small fizzers (Heddon Tiny Torpedoes are a sure bet) and Heddon Jitterbug type lures is on the cards.

If you’re a fly nut like me, this is as good a time as any to break out the little Dahlbergs and gurglers on a floating line.

When it comes to fly-fishing, it’s Summer that I really hang out for. From December onwards, every second weekend becomes a long weekend and I’ll slip the hiking boots on and disappear into the deep headwater gorges.

By this time the cicada hatch is usually in full swing and the bass will feed on the surface all day. In the down-river reaches it’s a little-known fact that the same thing is happening – the fish are just a bit more timid due to the extra fishing pressure.

You just need to be extra quiet and get your casts deep into cover. If the fish are fired up, I’ll fish small Dahlbergs plus a host of other small surface flies (Muddler Minnows are another standout) right through the day.

If the fish are shut down, I’ll switch to my new emergency back-up – soft plastics. Though not as much fun as fishing fly (for me, anyway), the spin gear can mean the difference between a few fish and none. And we all know there’s no choice, is there?

As for the other fish, hopefully Matt will be back next month to let you know what’s happening there. Mind you, the trout season won’t reopen until next month and the closed season on cod has just begun and won’t end until December, so you might as well go bass fishing, anyway.

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