At last the bass season is open but with the water still a little chilly, the fishing can still be a little slow.
It’s worth remembering that not every fishing session is smoking hot, no matter what you hear or read. There are days when a few fish is a good effort given the conditions. And fishing comp reports of gun anglers drawing a ‘donut’ for a comp show that even the best anglers occasionally have their bad days.
If you’re finding the fish are inactive, there are some things that can help.
You might find your casting accuracy astray after the lay-off but when fish are moody, you have to get your lures on target.
Switched-off fish won’t chase after a lure cast metres away but if you put the offering in front of their noses, they seldom refuse.
Slow-rolling soft plastics along the margins of weed beds and through timber can often tempt bass with the sulks.
I love using curly-tailed grubs in situations where the fish are shut down, rigged on the lightest jig heads I can get away with.
I then use what I can the slide-and-glide retrieve, allowing the plastic to glide and slide slowly beside weed and in and around the timber very slowly and with lots of pauses.
I also like what the Americans call creature baits – plastics that resemble lizards, yabbies and frogs and at other times don’t seem to resemble much at all. These lures often have long, slender tails, legs, or claws and when retrieved look like they’re doing some kind of seductive dance.
Another worthwhile tactic is to use bladed lures like spinnerbaits and Bett’s Spins in the timber. Some anglers who aren’t big fans of spinnerbaits any more but I think they have their place at times.
Braided line means bumping your lures into timber allows you to feel every sensation as your lure makes its way back to you. As the lure bumps into the timber, allow a brief pause in your retrieve – this often brings a strike.
Suspending lures are an excellent choice when fish are quiet and you want to work weed or timber. These are designed to stay at the depth they are retrieved when you stop cranking.
My wallet has been emptied a few times over for my favourite suspending lures, mainly Rapala Husky Jerks and Halco Sneaky Scorpions. There are a lot more suspenders available, but I’ve not found a need to change.
My last tip is to ensure your lures have seriously sharp hooks. Retro-fit quality hooks that keep a sharp point and change them out when they don’t. When you’ve gone to all the effort of getting a fish to strike your lure, it’s pretty sad you miss landing it because of a poor set of hooks.
While there’s nothing better than surface fishing, it pays to be able to get lures down deep when they need to. A lot of us are so used to working lures in the surface layers that the majority of the water we are on hasn’t seen our lures at all.
You can’t beat time to work over an area with a good sounder to truly appreciate what fish-holding structure can lies beneath the surface.
If the fish aren’t hitting the top, get down to where they are with sinking flylines, spinnerbaits, weighted soft plastics or deep-diving lures.
How deep will your favourite diving lure go on your chosen leader? What’s the approximate sink rate of your 1/16oz jig in slow-flowing water?
If you’re using a sinking fly line, what is its sink rate in still or flowing water? These questions need answers if you are to fish down deep correctly.
I’d be looking for drop-offs near big bends this month, especially where there are weed beds around the middle to upper sections of the Hawkesbury.
There are plenty of big bends and some serious time spent sounding them out is well worth the effort.
I’d be concentrating from Wisemans Ferry to Ebeneezer and even towards Windsor. Some of my best sessions at this time of year are between Cattai and Lower Portland.
I position my boat a little wider than I would normally in Summer and my soft plastics can account for bream, bass and estuary perch in one session.
While the bass are often caught in shallower water than EPs and bream, working wider from the bank helps make the fishing interesting and diverse.
I keep a close eye on my sounder and when I come across a concentration of fish, I spend some time trying to work them out.
I’ve found success with soft plastics and 1/8oz to 1/4oz stand-up jigs in these areas, slowly working them over the bottom. John Bethune and Dean Hayes’ Tidal Water Action DVD helped popularise stand-up jigs and dropshotting.
Bass lie in wait at the mouths of creeks and drains, especially on a run-out tide, for a feed to be flushed out.
There are more than enough creeks and drains to keep you busy, just check out a topo map. Try Cattai and Little Cattai creeks near Ebeneezer, Rickabys Creek at Windsor and Currency Creek at Sackville.
There are also creeks at Dargle, as well as Webb’s Creek and the MacDonald River and plenty more.
Some areas of interest won’t be marked on a map, such as farm drains and culverts.
I’d try small diving lures and if the water is muddy or discoloured, in a contrasting, dark colour or in an attracting fluoro or silver hue.
Soft plastics like 3” Slider grubs on 1/8oz or 1/4oz heads (depending on the current and depth) also work. I use a slow lift-and-drop retrieve and when I feel the bass take, I drop the plastic back before lifting for the weight and the strike.
Keep as little slack in the line as possible while you retrieve and you’ll feel more of what is happening. I prefer pearl Sliders in dirty water but purple or black have also produced at times. Just ensure your plastics offer contrast.Reads: 1366