Clarrie confounds the experts
  |  First Published: June 2004

THE AUSTRALIAN Bass Association’s Bass Classic on Clarrie Hall Dam in early May saw a set of circumstances present themselves that had all the experts scratching their heads.

The most difficult fishing conditions I have ever experienced prevailed for the weekend. Many teams were lucky to catch a few fish, proving that even those in the industry are not a shoe-in where catching fish is concerned.

By the end of day one, if you had registered a fish at all you were in with a shot at the trophies. Team Environet, led by Dave Irvine, headed the field with just six legal fish.

The Saturday night had many competitors throwing up ideas as to what had caused the fishery to be so difficult. The sudden drop in temperature on the preceding Thursday and Friday, two of the coldest days of the year so far, and a big drop in the barometer didn’t help. But the Saturday saw perfect conditions with a slow rising barometer.

There were two other obvious factors not present in previous weeks. The first, and most notable to me, was the turbidity of the water. We had a stratification unit installed in the dam some years ago whose job is to mix oxygen into the water and dissipate the thermocline, the break between cold bottom water and the warmer layer above.

The water, however, becomes very turbid – something I raised recently with the Australian Bass Association. In my articles over the past few months I have noted that the lower reaches of the dam have not held the schools of bigger fish they have in the past.

The second most noticeable change has been the explosion in the Gambusia (mosquito fish) population. I don’t know for sure whether there has been a sudden explosion or whether the baitfish have just been pushed into the upper reaches of the dam by the ever-encroaching turbid water. In the lower reaches of the dam they seem to exist mostly tight to the shoreline in very small schools.

By Sunday lunchtime it was all over, with Team Environet (Dave Irvine and Rob Blakeby) cementing the teams event with Dave taking out runner-up champion. Shane Gartner and Shane Brown did the casters proud by taking the event out on surface lures, with Shane Gartner winning the Bass Master title and his team the runner-up champions.

Despite the fact the fishing was difficult for most, there is always someone who can perfect a pattern and catch fish. Whether it occurs by chance or by deliberate action, a good angler can adapt quickly.

The guys from Team Environet did just that. Dave forgot his sunglasses on the first morning and turned back smartly. Ever-optimistic, he deployed a Rapala Shad Rap to troll the last 100m back to the ramp and had two hook-ups! Catching their fish mostly by trolling made things a little more comfortable for Rob, who had a couple of broken ribs.

Bass Master Shane Gartner won the tournament with surface lures.

Conditions similar to those at Clarrie Hall caused Toonumbar Dam, just over the ranges near Kyogle, to roll over, causing the deaths of many fish. The only upside was the drought-breaking rain just two months ago, when the dam lost many of its fish into the Richmond River.

If you’re planning a trip to Clarrie Hall Dam this month, I can tell you with confidence that trolling Rapala Shad Raps at the Crams Farm end will produce good numbers of bass. Farther downstream, surface lures fished close to the banks will see better quality bass well into the morning and throughout the day. Without doubt, early winter is a beautiful time to fish this dam.


1) Team Environet, Dave Irvine at the helm and Rob Blakeby about to hook up, trolling through the Clarrie Hall mist.

2) When the going gets tough, the tough get going: The winners at the Australian Bass Association Bass Classic in early May.

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