What a year! Southeast Queensland’s population is increasing and development is creeping further into bushlands alongside our rivers and creeks. While this may not be beneficial to our waterways in the long-term, it has improved the creek accessibility for land-based anglers in areas that used to be extremely difficult to get to.
To avoid lining up at boat ramps and negotiating waterways congested with boat traffic, my son Will and I have been targeting secluded backwaters to brush up on our topwater skills. In this article I’ll dare to share some of the successes, failures, and experiences that have given us enough confidence to continue with this very exciting form of angling.
For newcomers to lurefishing, topwater lures are a great place to start and for a couple of very good reasons. First of all, they don’t sink and are easily retrieved if miscast and snagged. Also, the visual aspect gives the angler a far better insight into the speed at which the lure is being retrieved, the way that a lure reacts to twitching, how a fish may react to a twitched, paused or steady retrieve, and locations where fish pay attention to the lure.
Our early attempts left us fishless and frustrated. Our retrieves were too fast, the lure wasn’t left in the strike zone long enough, we twitched the lures far too aggressively, the waters we fished were too discoloured and a general lack of experience and confidence contributed to these initial failures. But we persisted, and it certainly paid off.
Having decided to leave the saltwater alone for a while, we turned our attention to freshwater bass in a creek below the North Pine Dam wall. The area we fished was well protected from wind and noise, and we acquired access to the area with a canoe fitted with an electric motor – a totally quiet approach.
The fish responded aggressively to our topwater offerings. On some occasions the fish seemed to notice the lures before they hit the surface, and strikes came within a split second of the lure touching down on the shallow clear water. We fished late afternoon and an hour or so into the dark, and it wasn’t uncommon for us to catch two or three bass each.
These sessions gave us enough confidence to try new locations a little further west near Dayboro and surrounds. The creeks there had an abundance of scattered shallow rock pools, overhanging shrubs, submerged logs and clear water, and the fish needed some extra enticement. Regular lure changes and a lot more casts were required for results in most of these rock pools. They were far more challenging and what the fish lacked in size they made up for in fight. Our obsession for topwater bass fishing had begun!
We started to go even further afield and began to encounter heavy shrub, snakes, spiders, barbed wire and longer hikes to find the ultimate topwater bass fishing locations. All those ‘just one more’ casts late in the evenings had us stumbling over ourselves to find our way back to the car.
One of our most memorable topwater bass trips came about quite by accident. We’d fished for hours without so much as a bite. The batteries running the electric motor on the canoe were tired and we still had a kilometre or so to travel before getting back to our campsite. The wind was picking up and becoming turbulent, and we had called it quits for the day.
As I was watching the windblown leaves and small branches hit the water in front of us, I noticed a strike at the surface amongst the floating leaves and twigs… or was it just another twig hitting the water? For the first time it crossed my mind that along with falling twigs and leaves come bugs and grubs. Suddenly our flattening battery and the late hour seemed less significant. Our Bug-a-Chugs and Teeny Torpedoes got one hell of a workout on these kamikaze bass.
Too windy for bass in those narrow, shallow back block creeks? No way!
A bream’s body shape isn’t really designed for topwater feeding – it doesn’t possess the big bucket mouth of the bass or barra, nor does it have the big overshot bottom jaw similar to that of a saratoga. Get over it, Mick, you’ve spent too many years bait fishing for bream on the bottom; they are a versatile opportunistic feeder.
Give me 20 years experience topwater fishing for bream and I may consider myself some sort of expert on the subject, but at this stage, I have yet to get into double figures on any single topwater bream trip, so let's compare notes on this one.
My first few topwater bream came miles from any creek with shrubs or cicadas. Will and I had had an average afternoon fishing small deep-diving minnows around a Moreton Bay reef. The water was clear and shallow, and as the tide dropped away, whitewash began to form from the wave action against the exposed rocks. Heddon Tiny Torpedo lures twitched slowly through the whitewash produced three lumpy bream for us that afternoon.
The next venue we tried was Burpengary Creek, but after four or five attempts here we wrote the area off as nothing but a sludge pit with silt-laden water.
We needed somewhere quiet without much wind; a location where the water was clear and shallow with little run (I found fishing areas with a strong flow pushed the lure along too quickly). We were on a family holiday at Noosa when Will and his mate borrowed the boat to fish Kin Kin Creek in the upper reaches of the Noosa River. The boys came back all smiles after taking three different species on topwater: bream, tarpon and big-eye trevally. I teamed up with him the next day and caught two bream and a large-eye trevally. We must have covered 2-3km of creek and done hundreds of casts. It was an exciting and satisfying experience.
We've been regular visitors to both Coochin and Hussey creeks in Pumicestone Passage, and we have formulated what we find to be an exciting style of fishing. We select an area in the upper reaches where there are shallow sandbars, anchor the boat or canoe somewhere out of the way just before the run-in tide, and select a spot on the sandbar where we can comfortably stand to watch any fish swim by or feed over the bank.
Sometimes the bream seem very nervous and dart through the shallows, and at other times they will see us and make a dash for deeper water. When the time is right, the fish approaches stealthily, looking for food, ready to attack. As casting the lure directly at the fish may frighten it away, our best results have come from casting well in front of the fish so that the lure meets the path of the fish. Sometimes the strike is spontaneous, other times the fish will look to show interest and follow the lure. At this stage the only option is to concentrate directly on the fish and lure. I’ve often made the mistake here of continuing the retrieve and losing touch of the fish. A very fine twitch and pause of the lure at this stage will usually invoke a strike.
Topwater fishing really is an exciting and rewarding way to fish.
To all our readers - here’s wishing you all a Merry Poppin’ Christmas and a Striking New Year!