Getting Acquainted with Old Yella
  |  First Published: December 2002

WHETHER you’re an experienced impoundment angler or a beginner, it pays to keep your options open when fishing one of South East Queensland’s impoundments. Bass are our premier southern impoundment species and there are many ways to target them. However, there’s another species that grows bigger and is just as keen to take a lure – the humble yellowbelly!

Yellowbelly have been very active throughout the southern dams this Spring, and the action should continue right through Summer. These fish are very keen on trolled lures, and they also take spinnerbaits, soft plastics and even fly when they’re in the mood! Yellowbelly are well known for slamming lures particularly hard, but some of the big female yellas do give up the fight pretty quickly. The eating quality of the bigger fish is fairly poor, but they’re a worthy adversary and good fun for kids and beginners.

If you’re taking friends or the kids out for a day of fun fishing, it’s hard to go past trolling for yellowbelly on lures as a great social way to fish. Even keen bass anglers experience frustrating days when the bass are spread out and fussy, and days like these are a great for trying something different. As an example, let me tell you about a trip I made to Somerset a couple of weeks back with my workmates Stan and Dan.


Stan is a mad-keen lure fisherman who recently moved to Brisbane from Darwin. Dan is also a mad fisherman, who’s relatively new to impoundment fishing. The trip came about after I offered to show Stan how to catch bass and yellowbelly on lures, and Dan was keen to come along.

Launching at the Spit, we headed up to Red Rock to fish for bass on soft plastics. I soon located some decent showings of bass on the sounder, but they weren’t really on the chew. Over the first couple of hours the fishing was very patchy. Dan had the most success, landing several bass on Sliders.

As the day warmed up the bass shut down even further, and we were having difficulty locating a decent show of bass on the sounder. To break the boredom, I suggested a change to lure trolling for yellowbelly. Neither Stan nor Dan had done this type of fishing before, and both were keen to give it a go.

We headed over to the nearest rocky bank, set out a spread of deep diving lures and commenced trolling. My lure had barely reached optimal depth when I hooked and landed the first yellowbelly for the day. Another followed shortly after, and Stan started seriously eying off my lure. The next half hour yielded only a small bass and several snags, so we moved up the dam to banks across from Bay 13.

Over the next hour we landed half a dozen more good yellas, including a double hookup for Dan and myself on 49cm and 43cm yellowbellies. Stan caught his first ever yellowbelly and was pretty happy. The most successful lures were gold and purple Busy Moments, and an old favourite green Fysshe Somerset. We trolled on for a little while longer but the yellas went quiet, so we decided to have another go at the bass.

Heading back out into open water, we used the sounder to search for bass holding on the flats and the edges of the old creek line. This time we were more successful and found hungry bass sitting on the bottom in around 30 foot of water. The late afternoon session was much more enjoyable, with bites coming on each pass over the patch of fish. Although solid hookups were a little harder to come by, we all landed good fish before the school dispersed or we lost them. Stan capped off the day by pulling a nice 47cm fork-length bass on a 3-inch Atomic Shad.

It had been a successful day. By breaking up the bass jigging with a few hours of yellowbelly trolling, we were able to stay fresh and focused. Dan caught the most bass and the biggest yella for the day, while Stan caught his first yella and biggest bass. He learnt a lot and really enjoyed the day. So much so that a week later he headed back with his family and camped for a week. With his newfound knowledge he caught a heap more yellas to 53cm.

Yellowbelly Trolling Techniques

Trolling for yellowbelly is a fairly simple matter of clipping on a deep diving lure and towing it along slowly behind the boat. A depth sounder and driving skills are required to tow your lures along the banks at optimal depths. It’s important to swim your lures within a few feet of the bottom, and it doesn’t hurt to bump them along at times, so you need to know the swim depth of your lures and troll in that depth accordingly. If you go too shallow your lures will dig into the bottom too hard and you’ll increase the risk of getting snagged up. If you are too deep, your lures will be out of the strike zone.

When trolling several lures at once, ensure that the deeper divers are on the outside rod and the shallower ones on the inside.


You cant go past the Australian made lures, such as Brolgas, Blitz Baggas, Voodoos, Vipers, Cobras, SKs, Smak 16s and 19s and Busy Moments. These locally-produced models are all designed to target our impoundment species.

These lures swim down to 14 to 25 feet, and all work very well. If you can’t find them at your local tackle shop, you might have to hunt around in your travels. Yallakool Cafe and Tackle at Bjelke-Petersen Dam, the Kiosk at Boondooma Dam and Mullet Gut Marine in Toowoomba all stock a good range of locally-made impoundment lures. You can also check out the Lures Direct website (luresdirect.com.au) to find the Busy Moments.


Any light to medium baitcast or threadline outfit is suitable for this type of fishing. I recommend using 3-4kg mono line or 6 to 12lb braid. A 1.5-metre leader of 10-12lb mono is recommended, and is best attached by using a double uni knot.

I also strongly recommend using a coastlock-style snap swivel. This allows for easy lure changing and provides something for a tackleback to lock onto. A tackleback is an essential piece of equipment when trolling, and will save you a lot of money in lost lures.


Yellowbelly like to sit in amongst rocks and structure on the bottom, so it’s more productive to work the steeper rocky banks, especially points. These fish can also be found on the edges of creek lines and drop offs in open water, so don’t be afraid to explore.

Without a depth sounder you’re fishing blind. Because yellowbelly sit right on the bottom, you’ll generally pick them up only on a top quality sounder. However, as long as you are able to work your lures in the zone (bumping the bottom or just off it), you’re in with a good chance.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a newcomer to impoundment fishing, a keen basser or family fisherman, it’s well worthwhile to slip a few deep divers into your tackle box for your next trip to the dams. Good luck!

1. Stan’s first yellowbelly ate a purple Busy Moment.

2. Dan Stead’s 49cm yellowbelly chowed a gold Busy Moment.

3. John Stanfield caught this 47cm bass at Somerset Dam on a soft plastic lure.

4. The results of a Somerset Dam double hookup – a couple of fat Somerset yellowbelly.

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