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Plenty of willing targets
  |  First Published: September 2009



Bass and estuary perch are the two species targeted more regularly over coming months, but plenty of other fish which will be active as well.

Bass have a varied diet, including insects from the water's surface and other organisms from the entire water column and the bottom, including aquatic insects, shrimps and other freshwater crustaceans, tadpoles and small fish.

Insects are about in numbers during the warmer months and for bass anglers, that means one thing: surface fishing.

Surface activity of bass is more consistent and any insect in overhanging trees will have bass drooling below.

Some of my long-time favourite surface lures are the Heddon Hula Popper and Zara Puppy and the Lucky Craft Bevy Popper and Sammy 65.

Another surface favourite, not one you hear mentioned much these days, is Heddon’s Dying Flutter. In John Bethune’s book Bethune on Bass, released in the mid-1990’s, many anglers were introduced to the Dying Flutter for the first time.

While it might be comparable with using a cruise missile to sink an aluminium boat, there’s no denying bass love a Dying Flutter.

Dreamfish buzzbaits, which my brother-in-law and I produce, naturally get used a lot on my boat and they are the most exciting surface lures in my tackle collection.

So where can you use surface lures?

In pockets of weed and along the faces of weed beds, around timber, watery corridors between trees, undercut cliffs, submerged rocks, under jetties and around timber. The list goes on.

I work surface lures early morning and late afternoon and along banks in shade or shadow I’ll score bass all day long.

If diving lures are your thing, cast a buoyant deep-diver hard and low under overhanging foliage and try and get it in as close to the bank as possible.

If you're new to bass fishing, don't be too concerned about snagging your lure on trees. If any bass angler tells you they don't get snagged, they’re either playing with your head or their own!

CHEAP CASTS

However,you might be braver if you’re casting into lure-hungry structure with lures that don’t cost an arm and a leg. Andrew at Trollcraft sent me a few different lures to try then I went out and bought some more of them.

The Trollcraft Shrimp and Lighting Minnows have been fantastic, claiming a number of EPs and bass. I changed the split rings and trebles, (I do on nearly every lure I buy, anyway) and at $6.95 each I could afford to become a lot gamer with my casting.

Concentrate on the best-looking cover, particularly where the water is deep and in shade.

Bass won't be battling current and in bright sun looking for a feed. Look around overhanging trees, submerged logs, edges of lily pads, snags jutting into deeper water, steep rock or clay walls, weed beds, drop-offs and dogleg river bends.

With a falling tide, you’ll find concentrations of bass mainly in the deep holes along steep banks, particularly around underwater caves and undercut banks.

When casting room gets too tight, skip-cast a soft plastic in as far as you can. I find fat-bodied grubs the best for skipping along the surface like a flat pebble.

A lot of anglers don’t like bottom of the tide for bass yet still pepper the banks. Look for steep, rocky banks with rock falls below and choose deep lures such as soft plastics, spinnerbaits and vibes.

You can feel buoyant deep-divers striking submerged rocks; let them rise by stopping the retrieve briefly.

You’ll find deep fallen rocks at many points along the local systems. The Colo River has plenty.

On the Hawkesbury, Cumberland Reach, Clifton Vale, above Sackville at Portland Head and along the Portland Reach, Lower Portland, Dads Corner, Leets Vale, and Walkers Beach, among others, have plenty of deep rock.

The top of The Skeletons, just down from the Bridge to Nowhere, has a lot of submerged rock evident at low tide and worthy of attention.

The upper reaches of the Hawkesbury has fewer rocky cliffs but at The Terraces at North Richmond, there are high cliffs. During warmer months dense weed covers much of the area here, making fishing pretty difficult unless you work the pockets of weed or along the weed faces.

Along to Penrith there are rocky cliffs begging to be targeted, again covered in weed over the warmer months. Through The Narrows and into the Nepean Gorge, you could spend hours working submerged boulders and timber.

PENRITH WEIR

Ongoing work on the weir at Penrith may affect bass migration back to the upper Nepean so above the weir may not be as productive as normal during the warmer months. This adds extra reasons to carefully release bass here. And, according to scientists who studied water quality, you wouldn’t want to eat the fish, anyway.

Kayak and canoe anglers find Yarramundi and up through Devlins Lane and beyond perfect to fish in the next few months. Weed beds are starting to form and Beetle Spins, spinnerbaits and surface lures work well.

Some anglers here use these single-hook lures while others remove the forward-facing hook on trebles to limit snagging on sunken timber wedged in the rocks.

SMORGASBORD

With 168 species of finned fish in the Hawkesbury Nepean, there are plenty of possibilities. Flathead, bream, estuary perch, bass, tailor, mullet, jewfish, blackfish, and sharks are found in the system.

Sometimes they’ll be by-catch while at other times you can refine tackle and techniques to target them.

Estuary perch fight as well as they look and are often found wider from the bank than bass and in deeper water. They are typically caught on soft plastics like Berkley 3” Gulp Grubs, Berkley Minnows and 3” Sliders.

At times when I’ve been targeting bass and EPs I’ve hooked onto something simply unstoppable on my bass gear.

There have been a few flathead in the Hawkesbury below Lower Portland, with some specimens nudging 2kg and they don’t just bite on bait. They like crankbaits, spinnerbaits, plastics and blades.

Flathead will also hit lures higher in the water column and in areas that don’t have much sand. I’ve had flathead hit lures worked near the surface in more than 2m of water and have seen them caught off an almost entirely rocky bottom.

They love soft plastics on the drift with a lift-and-drop retrieve, while live poddy mullet and live Hawkesbury prawns are top baits, especially from Lower Portland downstream.

Bream, estuary perch and bass can all be caught in the same areas at times on similar tackle and techniques, with tailor and flathead by-catch.

Top-order predators, apart from the sharks, are the mulloway with spots like in front of Souths Juniors at Lower Portland prominent habitat. It has excellent snags, drop-offs and reefs where jewfish which can be caught trolling, live-baiting and casting lures. You can score bass, EPs and flathead here as well.

Jewies are also caught at the mouth of Webbs Creek towards Wisemans Ferry, around snags and rocky foreshores.

The Macdonald River is lovely to explore and at the river mouth on a run-out tide you can score bream, bass, estuary perch, flathead and jewfish.

If you’ve caught fish you’d like to brag about, email me medium or high-res images and we’ll get them published for all the world to see.

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