With the successful stocking of our local impoundments, there are more and more saltwater anglers turning their attention to the freshwater scene. This has given rise to an increased desire to learn more about the species which live in these dams and in particular, how to catch Australian bass and the mighty barramundi.
To assist the large number of anglers who are looking to come to grips with the impoundment scene, the Monduran Anglers and Stocking Association (MASA) recently hosted a Bass and Barra Coaching Clinic at the association’s clubrooms at Lake Monduran.
The presenters at the clinic were Gary Leather (Gaz), Gary Bartholdt (Bart) and Matt Costar from Salty’s tackle store in Bundaberg. Like most good tackle stores, Salty’s is staffed by experienced anglers, and it was obvious that these guys knew what they were talking about.
It was also great to see a local business supporting the event. Matt, Gaz and Bart not only gave up their own time to come and share their knowledge with everyone, they even organised some prizes to be raffled off to help raise more funds for stocking the lake.
The clinic was well attended, with around 80 keen participants sitting in and trying to learn as much as they could. The class ran smoothly and there was plenty of useful information passed on to the ‘students’. There was also lots of equipment on display, so that everyone could get a look at the sort of gear you need to effectively target these developing fisheries.
The clinic covered all the basics, from lines, leaders, knots, lures and terminal tackle, right through to sounders, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and electric motors. They also gave advice about selecting the most likely places to find barra and identifying the best conditions in which to chase them.
Although the information on bass fishing and the latest techniques for soft plastics and spinnerbaits was well received by the audience, it was the stuff about catching barra in these dams that most anglers had come to find out. For those of you not fortunate enough to make it to the classes, the following summary covers the most important points. While some deal specifically with Lake Monduran, most of the following advice should help newcomers when trying to fool dam barra under less than ideal conditions in any southeast Queensland dam.
According to Gaz, when chasing barra in impoundments, the first mistake made by many inexperienced anglers is to look for a sheltered bay out of the wind. In fact, you need to do the complete opposite and find a bay that the wind is blowing into. This is because the wind will actually push the warmer surface water into these bays, making them warmer than the surrounding areas. As anglers chasing impoundment barra over winter have discovered, the water doesn’t necessarily have to be warm for barra to feed, just warmer than the rest of the impoundment to concentrate the fish.
Most southeast Queensland impoundments have no shortage of structure. In fact, many of them have too much! Some of them are so full of trees that finding one which has a barra nearby can be very difficult. While impoundment barra will hang around standing trees, fallen timber and rocky banks, the key to Monduran barra is lantana.
For those unfamiliar with lantana, it is a spindly, bushy plant, which leaves a spiky crown when drowned. The barra love to sit in the hollowed out centre of the lantana bushes, launching out to attack baitfish as they pass.
Most of the barra caught in Monduran have come from these lantana ‘caves’ and targeting these bushes certainly reduces unnecessary casts and allows more effort to be placed on potential hotspots.
Surprisingly, the best lantana bushes seem to be the ones located in shallow water close to shore. Many of Monduran’s barra are actually caught by anglers who get out of the boat and walk the banks, firing short casts into bankside bushes. Conversely, if fishing from a boat, you may need to cast your lures right up into the shallows and almost onto the bank, because many fish will hit within 2m of the water’s edge.
With the fish sitting in the shallows close to shore, stealth on the part of the angler is important. Don’t rush up to the edge and fire out heavy-handed casts because you will spook the fish. If you are in a boat, you’ll need your electric motor to manoeuvre amongst the timber without alerting the fish.
As Bart pointed out, because most of the fishing happens in the shallows, with a good pair of Polaroid glasses, much of the action at Monduran is very visual. If you are lucky, you might even see a barra sunning itself near the surface, allowing you to sight cast to them.
Long slender barra minnows remain the weapon of choice for these land-locked barra. Reidy’s B52s, the locally-made Pristine Lures’ Pilchards and the ever-popular Gold Bombers seemed to be the most common choice. Surface lures are worth trying early and late in the day, and I have seen several barra taken on topwater lures of the ‘walk the dog’ variety.
It seems that many barra hit lures within the first couple of turns of the reel handle, so actual lure choice may not be as critical as the ability to cast accurately. That said, the snaggy nature of the environment lends itself to single hooked lures with soft plastics and even Halco’s new Whiptail Jigs are worth trying. In my experience, when conditions are less than ideal in the tropics, soft plastics are better at fooling barra than hard-bodied lures. The challenge is to find a lightweight head with a barra-strength hook.
Monduran’s barra currently average around 60-80cm, but due to the amount of tucker in the dam, they are incredibly deep-bodied and heavy for their length. Even so, fish of this size are usually manageable on a standard 6kg baitcasting outfit. Spool the reel up with 15kg braid and a leader of 15-20kg mono and you are ready for action.
Be warned however, some bigger barra from the original stocking around nine years ago still inhabit the lake. These fish could now top 24kg and are almost unlandable in the timber on any tackle.
Lures are not the only way to catch Monduran barra: a live garfish fished under a float is another proven method. Gar can be berleyed up with bread in the quiet bays and caught with a tiny hook (size 14 or smaller). Hook the gar through the back and let it float around and you will be in the running for a big barra hook-up.
Catching barra in our large freshwater impoundments is not as difficult as it sounds. With the right information and some practice, success should soon come your way.
I spoke to a couple of anglers who attended the clinic and then went out on the lake and caught two barra straight away. They simply followed the advice they had been given and, in less than perfect conditions, scored two nice fish in the 70cm class from some drowned lantana bushes. If catching barra is possible on cool, windy days, imagine how good the fishing is going to be come summer. I can’t wait!
1. Over 80 participants turned up to learn about the finer points of bass and barra fishing in our impoundments.
2. Everyone had the opportunity to check out the essential bits and pieces.
3. Lantana bushes like this provide ideal cover for Monduran’s barra and are a great place to lob a lure. When combined with the submerged timber you can see here, it makes for a real hotspot.
4. Matt Costar from Salty’s tackle store in Bundaberg with a Monduran barra taken straight after the coaching clinic. (Photo by Ben Shorten)
5. Gary ‘Bart’ Bartholdy from Salty’s tackle store showing that he practises what he preaches when barra fishing. (Photo by Ben Shorten)
6. Gary ‘Gaz’ Leather from Salty’s tackle store with a Monduran barra that ate a Reidy’s B52 cast beside a lantana bush. (Photo by Ben Shorten)
7. Class is in! Gary Leather explains some of the equipment needed to chase barra and bass while Gary Bartholdt looks on.
This diagram shows what to look for when selecting a barra fishing spot in Lake Monduran.Reads: 1990