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Summer in the snags
  |  First Published: December 2009



I knew I was in trouble even before I took up the slack. The little deep-diving minnow had travelled 60cm further than I intended it to, landing just past the branches of the snag.

I let the lure sit there as I started to manoeuvre the boat with the electric motor to clear the branches.

The bass gave me no chance. It materialised under the lure just as I was thinking I would be OK, eyeing the lure for a split second before making its mind up.

The minnow disappeared in a large swirl and I hung on, dangerously high-sticking the rod to try to clear the leader. It was to no avail and the rod tip flicked up as I felt the sickening feeling of slack line.

My mate just about split his sides laughing at my expense – another lure donated to the Snag Fishing Foundation!

With full Summer clearly on us, the hinterland creeks and far upper reaches of our rivers fire for Australian bass.

One of the key ingredients when chasing these feisty fish on lures is usually some sort of structure, with snags being No 1 on the list. Find a good-looking snag in a reasonable depth of water and you should find a bass.

Persuading the bass out of the snag can often be another story but if you try to stick to certain key pointers, your success rate will improve significantly.

When I use the word snag, I use it loosely, referring to some sort of timber that has fallen into the creek or river system.

These snags are home to myriad little baitfish and various forms of insects that the bass feed on. They can also retreat deeper into the snags to use the shade to shield them from the sun in the hotter periods of the day.

So we can assume that snags are very popular places for bass to hang around.

Early mornings and late afternoons are generally the best times to be on the water during the hotter months and that’s when the fish can be prowling the shallows for a feed.

But if you are fishing junkie like me then you tend to spend the entire day on the water and deeper snags are good places to look for the bass when the shallows fail to produce.

THE APPROACH

Boat positioning is very important and it is a good idea not to cast until you are level with the tree you intend fishing.

Try not to cast across or over the limbs. Instead, work your lures parallel to them.

That way, you have a clear alleyway between you and your fish, giving you a better chance at getting your fish out.

Start by working the outside branches. If you do catch a fish, it shouldn’t disturb the other fish sitting deeper in the snag and they can be caught later.

Try to make a few casts at likely-looking ambush points before moving on.

Current often plays a role as to where the fish sit. The stronger the current, the deeper in the fish will generally lie to get out of it.

If this is the case, it will often require more casts to get the fish to commit. They will move a bit further out on each cast until they are in striking range of the lure.

If you do fish a snag and there is just too much current, it may pay to return to it later, on the change of the tide or once the current has slowed down.

If you find a snag that produces a few good fish then it is often a good idea to leave it for a while and let it rest. This way, you will be able to come back to it several times and catch a few more fish off it.

If there aren’t many snags in a system then the few that there are will keep on attracting new fish as you catch them off it.

LURES

Small deep-diving hardbodies, spinnerbaits, soft plastics and topwater lures all catch bass up rivers and creeks.

The right lure on the day will depend on the fishes’ mood and what they have been feeding on.

My fist choice is a deep-diving crankbait simply because it gets down to where the fish are, has a small profile and can be retrieved through snags relatively well.

On their day, topwater lures like poppers or small surface walkers will outperform others but they are generally limited to early morning and late afternoon sessions.

Spinnerbaits catch their fair share of bass but due to their larger profile, don’t often perform as well as the hardbodies but they can catch the bigger fish if you persevere with them.

Spinnerbaits are also very snag resistant and the big single hook is a major plus when you have to put the hurt on a good bass to move it out of the structure.

Soft plastics are top lures and are really good when rigged weedlessly with small bullet weights and worm hooks – Texas rigs.

With fairly light hands they can then be fished through the thickest structure and not get hung up.

Weedless plastics are great follow up lures to use once you have fished the outer edges of the trees. The other plus is that if you do get bust-off, at least it doesn’t hurt the pocket as much.

STEALTH

If you do all of the above things right but make a lot of noise as you approach the spot you want to fish, it will all be pretty pointless.

Bass can be extremely wary creatures, especially in waterways that are heavily fished.

Keeping quiet and limiting your boat’s movement will always help you to catch more fish.

Additionally, if your electric motor is noisy enough to be heard in operation some distance away, you should limit excessive use when close to your desired snag.

Timber structure is not the only thing that will hold fish up the creeks, so don’t overlook other likely-looking spots. Weed beds, rock bars or rock walls and bankside vegetation are all things that fish will hang around.

These structures can be fished with subtle differences to the way you fish snags but the basic principles will remain the same.

Bass up the creeks and rivers will often choose one type of structure and then seem to prefer hanging around it for the day.

For instance, if you catch a bass off a weed bed then it may pay to check out a few more weed beds. Similarly, if you catch one off a pile of rocks then cruise up the creek and see if you can find more rocks.

Always ask yourself why you caught a fish. Some people often think it was a fluke but you had the right lure or bait in the right place at the right time.

If you can duplicate the situation then there is a very good chance that you will be able to repeat it.

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