After fishing on Kinchant Dam I now know the true meaning of exhilaration. It’s hard to fully describe the intensity of a barramundi mowing down and literally tearing apart a surface lure that is being retrieved as fast as humanly possible.
The prerequisite when throwing top water lures is usually to arrive at the dam just before sunrise. The subtle glow from the sun is just enough to avoid the need for artificial lighting. However, catching Kinchant’s barramundi is slightly more complicated than this. On the one hand it is great not having to get up at 3am to go fishing. On the other, I can’t think of anything more relaxing than watching the sunrise over a glassed out dam with not a sound to be heard above the local wild life.
Kinchant barra will hit top water lures day and night, moon or no moon, sun or no sun providing the conditions are correct. Ideal conditions would be an overcast stormy day, with a medium wind kicking up the surface that you’d struggle to see in but, more importantly, the barra won’t see out.
If you can get the overcast breezy conditions then gentlemen’s hours from 9 until 5 are perfect for a great day on the water.
Kinchant barra like to haunt the extremities of the dam sometimes holding in less than 2ft of water. This makes top water lures the only viable option, not to mention the most heart wrenching. Other styles of lure will foul in the shallow weed or snag on recently submerged grass roots and lily stems. Weedless rigging of plastics on worm hooks work but don’t draw the same dramatic reaction from the barra. Sub surface plastics tend to be taken a lot less ferociously. They are almost carefully plucked from the water opposed to the top water lure, which is ripped violently from the surface by energetic barramundi.
Most people I talk to about surface lures think of poppers. Top water poppers work well in their own right. Yet I feel that the surface walker or ‘walk the dog’ style lure has done incredible things in improving the numbers of fish caught on top water. A popper is good for drawing the attention of an already actively feeding fish and will be reactively slammed by any territorial fish.
The darting and flicking motion of a ‘walk the dog’ style lure will draw a strike from both territorial and actively feeding fish. The subtle sound of this lure is also less likely to spook wary fish whilst still sparking the curiosity of a less active fish. The ‘walk the dog’ action imparted on this lure does take some time to master but a super fast tapered rod and a little practice will soon have you walking like a pro.
The biggest of barramundi will use the smallest of items for camouflage and use these as vantage points to ambush prey. When you first pull up to a weedy bank it all looks very similar but as you start working your way along the weed edge you will begin to notice differences. An experienced angler will quickly key in on these small seemingly insignificant holes, pockets or even single lily pads making every cast count. Accuracy is definitely a key to success. Any lure fishing fanatic will know how important it is to hit those spots with the lure in order to tempt their wary counter parts. Barra fishing is no exception.
Frogs, frogs, frogs and then more frogs. Surface frogging is all the craze for barra all over Australia at the moment. It was now time to get with the times and use my first top water frog. I asked local angler and good friend Phil Lyons to journey to Kinchant so we could attempt to unravel this new fad. After several hours of frogging with no success we had both decided to change back to techniques we trust.
Within ten minutes of switching I hooked the first barra for the trip on a Mega Bass Giant Dog X. It was a healthy 76cm. Less than five casts later, Phil had hooked the second fish this time on his favourite jerk minnow. Figuring there were fish in the area, we both agreed it was time to try the frogs again, just as we started this technique the wind picked up and made the spot difficult to fish with top water offerings.
We relocated to a quiet bay that we had caught plenty of barra in recently. I was the first to have an inquiry. The inquisitive fish looked like one of the navy’s submarines chasing down my lure making huge bow waves only to turn away at the side of the boat without striking at the lure. With adrenalin rushing through my body my next cast was no less than the biggest over spool since I learned to use a bait caster.
Having retired from casting to untangle the mess I created, Phil had the opening to pepper the area with casts. It only took one for the fish to strike angrily at the lure but narrowly missed the hook. Knowing that there were active fish in the area, it was a matter of holding the boat out of this small bay with the electric motor and thrashing the water to foam with plastic frogs. Phil didn’t have to wait long before his lure was engulfed. The metre long fish was quick to leave the water leaping several times before racing across the bay. The barra had managed to entangle itself in piles of weed, which during the fight had now gathered on the line at the leader knot. The power of this huge fish and the added resistance of the weed on Phil’s line proved to be too much and the braid let go.
While Phil was re rigging I decided to leave my disgusting birds nest of a tangle alone. I picked up my lighter rod and threw the Giant Dog X surface walker. It was now starting to get dark so picking the gaps in the weed was going to be hard. Instead of my usual slow walk and pause in the weed pockets, I now had to modify my technique to suit the conditions. The main weed bed was less than six inches below the surface so it was important to move my lure fast to keep the tail hooks of the lure from falling down into the weed.
Due to lack of visibility, the landing of the lure had to be gentle as to not sink and catch in the weed. The trick to this was to click the reel into gear and start the retrieve before the lure hit the water. It was far from elegant but did the job. The quick retrieve was exhausting but proved valuable after a metre plus fish chased the lure just turning away shy of the boat. Taking in to consideration the size of that fish, my 16lb bass rod with 15lb braid seemed severely inadequate.
After that fish I told myself one last cast and I’ll go back to the heavy rod, one last cast turned into five or more as it always does. Phil and I were both casting with the wind to maximise distance. Phil had the weedless plastic and I persisted with my Giant Dog X. Phil was casually winding whilst I had to crank almost flat out to keep from fowling on weed. A bow wave started to appear behind Phil’s plastic getting larger and larger. Watching in amazement I forgot all about my lure, which was now positioned between the huge bow waves and the boat. As Phil ran out of range the huge bow waves dissipated. Just as my lure was about to be hoisted clear of the water a metre plus barra engulfed it at my feet and raced off across the surface tearing line from my poor bass reel. I thought the fight was going to be over as quick as it started the but as the fish buried itself in lily pads about 100m away, it gave me a lifeline.
Kicking the electric motor up to full speed, we headed over to where the fish had stopped. Phil hung over the front of the boat clearing the lily pads off my braid, he was careful not to pull tight on the line and spook the fish. So much so that without realising he now had leader in his hand. Shining his light a little to the left brought him face to face with a huge barra. As he stood up to grab the net the barra took off, amazingly into open water.
After at least twenty minutes the big fish had finally tired enough to have the Environet scoop it from the water. The lure was hooked on the side of the big barra’s gill plate allowing my light leader to survive the fight without a single scratch. I don’t recommend chasing large barra on light gear but landing a 113cm barra, my first over the magic metre mark was incredible. My body was shaking that much I was barely able to cradle the fish for a photo.
Chasing barra in Kinchant’s abundant weed beds can be easy one day and seem impossible the next. This has nothing to do with technique just a typical trait of impoundment fish. As with all fishing it is important to make every cast count, so don’t become complacent. I have been on Kinchant at sun up casting accurately, ‘walking the dog’ like a pro and by 11am had only landed one barra. However by midday I had put another 11 fish on the deck so it pays to stay focused.
The best but not necessarily the easiest way to fish the weed beds in Kinchant is to cast into the wind. The wind coming across the top of the weed will create a small calm patch at the perimeter highlighting the pockets and breaks in the weed line. You need to position the boat a cast length shy of the weed bed allowing you access to pick every pocket, putting the lure in the smallest of gaps.
Accuracy is definitely the key. If you’re aim is a little off, you will still catch barra positioning your boat hard against the weed, working your lure parallel to the edge of the weed. One flaw in this technique is that you are not in a good position to persuade the barra out of their weedy abode, but it is great fun trying.
‘Walking the dog’ takes practice but is well worth the effort once achieved and when you master it the action becomes second nature. As Adam Royter once said: it is like patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time.
The key is to have a fast tapered rod preferably six foot six or longer. You need to twitch the rod tip down making the lure dart to one side whilst slowly cranking your reel to keep the line taught. At the same time allow a little slack in your line to let the lure bounce back in the other direction causing the walking effect. A good dog walking lure has all the weight in the tail making it a great casting lure into the wind. The weight in the tail makes the lure hang almost vertically in the water giving a much better hook up rate than conventional top water hard bodies that lay flat on the surface. Most off the shelf lures won’t have hooks strong enough to withstand the power of a barramundi. I replace all my trebles with Gamakatsu treble 14 in either size 2 or 4 depending on the size of the lure.
Learning to ‘walk the dog’ will be entertaining, maybe not for you but I’m sure your fishing buddy will get a laugh. Think of it as something to pass the time until your first Kinchant barra hunts you down and capitalises on any weaknesses in your fishing outfit. You won’t be disappointed.
Rod Samurai Reaction Series 451 rod
Reel Daiwa Alphas Ito upgrade
Mainline 25lb Unitika Power Jigging Deluxe
Leader 50lb Unitika shock leader
Lures Megabass Giant Dog X in ‘hot shad’
Replacement hooks Gamakatsu treble 14 Size 2Reads: 6005