With the weather warming daily, pleasant thoughts of solid bass actively boofing surface lures spring to mind.
There’s just something about a warm evening full of buzzing insects being blasted by hungry bass that gets the casting arm twitching. And with cool months finally behind us, it’s time to think sweet water bassin’.
Over the past few years I’ve been actively chasing bass during the cooler months. It’s surprising just how many fish, and big fish at that, are actively feeding in the brackish waterway below their regular haunts.
It’s definitely a fun fishery, based more on deep-water jigging than actually casting to specific snags but, I must admit, the warm-weather fishery from Spring to Autumn is the most pleasant time to chase bass.
You’ve just got to love those warm balmy evenings filled with buzzing insect and loads of promise. And if you like using surface lures, the springtime bass run will see plenty of action head your way.
Over the years bass have been looked upon as a bit of an elitist fish, with some anglers having you believe you need super-expensive boats, rods, reels and lures to get among the fish.
Some feel designer clothes – even cravats or bandanas! – are critical attire for success, but at the end of the day the old bass is a pretty co-operative customer and will take your $5 popper cast from a handline off the bank just as quick as a $28 model propelled from a $500 baitcaster from a $30,000 bass boat.
Bass are surprisingly common, usually very co-operative and well and truly a species anyone with a desire to catch can consistently target.
During the warmer months most bass are well and truly back in the freshwater sections of the rivers and creeks. Depending on where you live, that could still be a dauntingly wide expanse of water, or just a more manageable feeder arm into the main system.
Most of my warm weather bassin’ takes place in smallish holes, quite a few kilometres above the last traces of brackish water. I like to fish sections of river that are realistic for the craft I choose to fish from and I prefer a waterway to be fairly protected from the prevailing coastal winds.
It’s ideal to have the whole pool to yourself so you can enjoy every crashing surface strike, watch the water dragons lie on the overhanging grevilleas and listen the soothing sounds of distant whip birds. Not to mention that you’ll be fishing ‘new’ water rather than second-hand stuff that is usually pretty unproductive.
It’s been said that fishing is a sum of many parts, and this saying is particularly accurate when referring to bass fishing.
Bass are more readily available than many people think. Virtually every river and creek that has a reasonable section of freshwater above the salt is likely to house a resident population of bass.
I know some branches off the Hawkesbury River that are virtually salt right to the end and even they contain a few tenacious fish.
Many of the Central Coast creeks I regularly fished had quite small freshwater sections, often fairly polluted and with busy highway bridges spanning them, yet they all produced bass regularly.
Basically, any river or creek with a freshwater section between the Victorian border and Noosa is likely to house a few bass. It’s all a matter of putting some time in flicking small lures to see how healthy the population is.
There are many different lures that will tempt bass; it’s usually a case of tying on models that best suit the water depth, colour, time of day and expectant bait supplies for each system.
For example, slow, deep, running pools are usually best-suited for spinner baits and weighted soft plastics. Fish on or near the bottom, especially during daylight hours.
Once the sun begins to drop, the bass will usually slowly head higher in the water column, perhaps chasing small minnows or herring near the surface.
With the sun low you can confidently break out a surface plug and work over any obvious bait schools or simply fish the timbered and weedy edges.
Bass, like most predatory fish, are very structure-oriented, particularly during daylight hours, so it pays to concentrate your efforts around bankside timber, rock bars, and weed beds until the sun has nearly set.
There’s no need to wind your lures quickly. Slow, staggered retrieves work well with everything from surface lures to deep-fished plastics.
Proven lures I wouldn’t head bass fishing without are Berkley Bass Minnows, AusSpin spinnerbaits and jigs, Viking Talisman crankbaits and a range of small cup faced plastic or foam poppers. With just half a dozen lures you can fish water depths from 50cm to 10 metres.
But, like most bass fishos, I end up taking far too many lures and simply end up fishing with one or two firm favourites.
I must admit to being a big fan of canoe-fishing in general, with a particular soft spot for my ageing one-man Perception Minnow. My kayak is nearly 13 years old and has been everywhere from the high country up around Walcha to crocodile-infested creeks in the Top End (this ain’t recommended!) and has passed every test with flying colours.
I bought the Minnow for bass and bream spinning on the Central Coast and it’s proven the ideal craft for my particular needs all over the country.
While canoes are the ideal small watercraft for bassin’ they do have a few limitations. Perhaps the most noticeable is the lack of distance that can be covered during any particular session.
They’re really ideal for locations where you’ll end up fishing only a kilometre or so from where you put in. I find they’re simply too slow to effectively fish larger expanses during the often limited time frame you have on the water.
Don’t get me wrong, you can still fish the bigger waterways very effectively but you need to have a really good working knowledge of where the fish are likely to be at any given time to avoid wasting time paddling around on dead water.
If your chosen bass haunts are quite extensive, you may be better off looking at a small boat set up for lure fishing. Ideally, a punt around 3.5 metres with an 8hp to 15 hp motor and a small electric motor for stealthy positioning will allow you to fish bigger systems with a degree of comfort and speed. Second-hand, such an outfit will cost at least a few grand. New, you can pay anywhere from $6000 up.
With the weather warming daily it’s time to start thinking bass in the freshwater reaches of our coastal rivers. To my way of thinking there’s few better ways to spend a balmy spring evening than flicking lures around some of my favourite creeks for bass. If you’re new to bass fishing, or just keen to chase them again, get out now and enjoy the fun – they’re usually very co-operative from now until Autumn.
(5A and B) 5
Bass just love surface poppers and when in the right mood will hit them freely all day, though late evening and early morning usually sees the best results.
While most serious bass anglers own more lures than they’ll ever use, you really need only half a dozen proven favourites most days on the water.Reads: 761