Different Approaches Pay Off
  |  First Published: February 2003

FISHING with different anglers gives me the opportunity to observe their individual approaches to catching the same species. Some methods work better than others at various times, and having extra options can turn a dog day into a memorable one. Recent events at Teemburra Dam highlighted the need for me to be open-minded about the techniques I use.


Teemburra Dam was stocked relatively heavily with barra, and after 13 months they’d grown to over 580mm. Once found, the fish were relatively easy to score.

The barra were first found amongst drowned lantana and near or under lily pads, and they responded eagerly to cast shallow divers like Gold Bombers, B52s and similar offerings. The fish were sometimes so switched on that they’d strike at a lure hanging from the rod tip up to 300mm out of the water! It was fun while it lasted but, as more anglers started to target the fish, and as the barra grew bigger and more competitive for habitat and food, it became harder to score large numbers. This is probably typical of impoundment barra as they start to get up to around 800-900mm.


While the shallow diver approach will still work, anglers are selling themselves short if they don’t have other options up their sleeves. The approaches of a couple of visitors, including Warren Steptoe and Jason Ehrlich, has given me some extra techniques to add to my arsenal.

Steptoe is a thinking angler who rarely gets skunked, and he’s always willing to try something different. At Teemburra our party persisted with the shallow approach for a while. Then, after some advice from MAFSA member Kev Greer, we switched to deeper lures and then to trolling deep divers. This was down in the main impoundment area, because the dam is relatively low. Results were not exactly up, with the dam average of a fish per hour, but the change did make a difference.

When we moved more into the upper reaches of Teemburra Creek I managed to jump of a couple of fish on shallow divers and a popper, but the action was slow. It was too windy to break out the fly rods, so Warren and Chappy tried spinnerbaits. They got many follows and swipe, but no hook-ups.

Back down in the main body of water we tried the points, trolling a mixture of lure types. A couple of fish were caught and I managed to jump off a couple more. The results didn’t show which was the best method, but by varying the approach we were able to at least score some fish. Had we simply stuck to casting and retrieving Gold Bombers, it’s likely that we wouldn’t have scored a fish.


Jason Ehrlich arrived a few weeks after Warren, and despite having driven from Toowoomba that day he was anxious for a fish that afternoon. At about 5pm we started working the bays near the ramp, because quite a few barra had been taken there, but we weren’t in luck – despite finding fish on the sounder. Time to change tactics!

We motored over to Middle creek and decided to work a couple of trees near an old fence line (usually submerged). They were standing in about two metres of water which dropped off quickly to about five metres.

We used a variety of lures, including a popper on which I caught a very well-conditioned sooty and missed a barra strike. Jason tried various lures before scoring a couple of barra on pink Tilsan Barras. That’s not a colour I’d usually recommend for Teemburra, but Jason scored well on them over the couple of days he fished the dam.

The next day Jason and his wife Kerry fished the dam in a couple of sessions and caught a dozen fish between them, up to about 800mm. Jason reports that others were missed or jumped off. The pink Tilsan again proved to be the top lure, despite a number of lure changes during the session.

Jason and I fished the next day and found the fish not really on the job. We tried the trees again and noted several fish on the sounder. The fish would not hit the shallow divers, but Jason finally scored one on a pink Tilsan. I got one on a Bomber before losing two on a 7cm Fat Rap.


Jason then decided to try soft plastics. I have caught barra on plastics only during approved tagging trips at Dumbleton Weir, and was very interested in Jason’s approach. Jason had been to Teemburra a year earlier and had some success on plastics, but he had some extra you-beaut gear to try this time. He selected a 100mm shad with a light jighead and, by targeting fish shown on the sounder, he was able to catch barra when they were shut-down to hard-bodied lures. He did this too many times for it to be a coincidence, and the barra were hot to take the plastic shad.

Unfortunately, by their nature shads don’t stay hooked up too well because the hook is fairly well forward in the lure. Some of the new Aussie-made jigheads with longer shank hooks should have a positive effect on hooking ability, and will make these shad types more productive.

I watched Jason working the shads with a sink-and-draw type retrieve, and many times he got hit when the lure was directly under the boat and was being lifted and allowed to sink. From my observations, most of the hits were on the drop or just as the lure hit the bottom. After talking with Jason about using the shads on bass, it seems to me that many of the bass techniques will work on dam barra as well. Jason kindly left Lachlan and I some different plastics to try out, and I’m sure they’ll work on our sooties too.

One other thing that surprised me a little was the speed in which Jason moved around the spots. It has always been my tendency to work a spot over for anything up to 30-45 minutes before shifting, but on these trips we were almost constantly on the move – although once we got a fish we worked the area more. Jason has now had quite a few sessions at the dam, and has had good results using these methods.


Between Warren and Jason’s visit, editors Steve Morgan and Stephen Booth also had a brief stint at the dam. Just to throw all the theories out the window, they caught barra at the same spot on both deep divers and poppers at the same time. Interestingly, their fish were caught in areas where we couldn’t raise a fish on Warren’s or Jason’s trips.

The experience of these anglers, and that of others who regularly fish the dam, has proven that you need to keep all options open to be really successful at Teemburra – or indeed, anywhere! I certainly learned plenty from their varying methods, and am looking forward to using that knowledge to improve my enjoyment of our great pastime.

1) Steve Morgan with the results of fishing a deep diving Rapala Risto Rap around the light timber near the boat ramp.

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