Pelagic action in January is usually pretty good with plenty of kingfish, salmon and tailor around and everyone hopes some bonito will turn up in Sydney waters.
In the past few seasons we have caught all of these fish on large soft stickbaits and poppers and I must admit that I use these two types of lures the most.
I always have at least one rod rigged with a stickbaits like a Slug-Go. I start with an unweighted model worked across the surface with plenty of rod action to imitate an injured and fleeing baitfish and kings and salmon love them.
If the fish are working the water hard and fast, I rip the lure across the surface like a popper and then pause it, which will often trigger a strike.
Both of these lure types can be cast or trolled. I find that a popper trolled a long way back with weighted and unweighted stickbaits staggered on either side creates one of the most effective lure patterns for finding and catching fish.
Poppers work well cast close to marker poles, moored boats and any other structure where king are found. I often use poppers to locate fish, casting and retrieving a number of times over an area where I suspect kings will be.
The best times are dawn and dusk – before and after the wakeboarders and skiers are active on the water.
Bass like smooth, undisturbed water because they often look for ripples caused by insects or other living things falling into water. This is the prime time to cast surface lures and flies at them.
As the boat traffic starts to mess up the water, change over to diving lures, spinnerbaits and soft plastics.
Or you can head to water where there is less boat movement. Some of the areas in the Hawkesbury-Nepean where you can find a little peace from all the boat traffic are up the smaller rivers and creeks, especially those with a 4- or 8-knot speed zone or are too tight or shallow for ski boats to operate.
Some of the lures that work well in these upper reaches and smaller waterways include small spinnerbaits and Beetle Spins. These can be worked over shallow weed beds and dropped into any pockets in the weeds.
Small shallow-diving lures that can be worked over the weed beds are also very effective.
The Taylor Made Nippy Shrimp and Teeny Nugget are deadly. These two lures are floaters so they can double as surface lures when you let them sit on top of the water and give them a couple twitches before you start winding them down to depth. You will be surprised how often they get hammered by surface-feeding bass.
Fly fishing for bass in these quieter areas is also deadly and surface and sinking flies both work well.
Surface flies are the most exciting, with explosive strikes from attacking fish. You can often cast a fly into areas that you will find difficult cast a lure into.
Some of the other advantages of using a fly are: You can match the size of the insects the bass are feeding on; it can allow a more delicate presentation; when you miss a strike you can pick up your fly and drop it back on the spot with out having to retrieve all the way back; ‘pot-holing’ gaps in the weeds and working the clear areas between the inside edge of the weed beds and shore.
A sinking fly can be used in front of the weed beds. Cast parallel, let it sink to depth and retrieve with short, fast strips with a second’s pause every third or fourth strip. I use a sinking Striper 4 line with a 2m leader of 6kg line.
You can also fish subsurface using floating line and weighted flies across the top of weed beds. Good flies for this include the Clouser and shrimp and baitfish patterns.
The Colo and Macdonald rivers have been on fire with plenty bass and estuary perch being caught on small crankbaits and smaller spinnerbaits.
Bass have been in the shallow areas close to weed beds while the perch are holding in deeper water near drop-offs.
Flathead and bream should be in good numbers right through the system and willing to take a lure or fly. The bass and perch upstream will also be on the chew and will smash surface lures all night. I love this time of the year because you have so many options to fish.
Offshore, the mahi mahi should be around the FADs and can be great fun on light tackle. The best way to find out if the dollies are around is to chuck some pieces of pillies in the water and float an unweighted bait back into the berley trailReads: 435