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BASS ADDICTION

By Dave Brace

Having targeted Australian bass upon the opening of each season since a youngster, the 2016 season was no different. There is a passion only Australian bass anglers appreciate and comprehend when targeting these fish, an addiction that stems from fishing wild rivers and creeks. Unmistakably there is also the euphoria that surrounds their hard hitting strikes and dirty fighting antics among tight structure.

The attraction and splendour about this style of fishing is that it is very basic and yet extremely rewarding. Many anglers prefer to explore small tributaries where these fish reside via kayaking the upper reaches within the freshwater, however it is something else to push further up these creeks in the real skinny water. This is where the angler's ability in terms of catching and subduing these iconic fish is truly tested. It is one thing to lure these fish to strike, but it is another to extract these belligerent brutes from the dense structure. Beneath the surface lies a labyrinth of intertwined fallen trees where they wait in an ambush mode, ready to feed on any morsels being pushed downstream with the current. Targeting these fish land based comes with its challenges, when fighting bass, so positioning yourself within the creek to optimise your catch rates is paramount. Precision casting is also imperative as there is not much room for error when landing lures within strike zones.

Choosing a balmy afternoon, upon the season opening in early September, visions of insects filled pockets of sky between the shade of the trees as we arrived at our destination. I was joined by Erinn Ball, another Tackle Tactics team member, whereby we formed a partnership to methodically fish and target a local waterway at our door step north of Brisbane. Erinn decided to fish the topwater first, casting the new TT Lures BuzzlockZ which was rigged with a ZMan 3" MinnowZ. Receiving several strikes in consecutive casts, from a particular snag at the head waters of a large pool, she soon discovered that the fish were timid in hitting a surface presentation.

I on the other hand was casting a ZMan Original ChatterBait, which was also rigged with a 3" MinnowZ in the colour of Bad Shad. Casting adjacent to the same timber as Erinn and allowing the lure to sink slightly, prior to a slow rolling retrieval pattern, I was also receiving timid strikes. Within the first ten minutes of fishing this particular skinny water section of the river, we covered all levels of the water column. From experience with the sun still high in the sky a decision was made to change lure presentations, downsizing our lures to options with more subtle action.

Erinn opted to use a 3" MinnowZ in the colour of Opening Night, which was rigged weedless on a TTLures SnakelockZ Finesse jighead, while I was more adventurous opting to tie on a 4" StreakZ Curly TailZ rigged on a 3/0 HeadlockZ jighead. The hook on the HeadlockZ is more exposed than a weedless presentation and I was hopeful for a better hook up rate as the bass had been apprehensive in striking our artificial baits. The downside of fishing this style of presentation within this type of structure is that the lure has potentially more chance of being fouled and or snagged on submerged structure. This occurred on several occasions and I found myself swimming to retrieve my lure more than once. This however is the trade-off that I was more than happy to risk and one which proved a rewarding gamble.

Casting our lures at length up a narrow corridor between the overhanging foliage of the riparian zone, it was Erinn who landed the first fish, followed by myself momentarily afterwards. Both bass were of a significant length for wild bass endemic to this region. Being involved in managing fish stocks within two of my local fisheries, the size of the bass that we had just caught and released was very encouraging for the wellbeing of future fish stocks in this particular system.

It wasn't long before a pattern emerged and the fish became less timid and more frequent in hitting our lures. We decided to change and mix up our lure presentations, with varying colours and profiles between curly and paddle tailed lures, with remarkable results. Colours such as Motor Oil, Houdini and the newer ZMan Green Lantern colour in the 3" MinnowZ range all being productive.

Pushing upstream and exhausting all options in every small pool we fished, we came to a gnarly tree, half submerged which just screamed fish. Upon casting my lure at this particular snag I received several short strikes, which is sometimes common. One thing that I have learned over the years when targeting these fish is that when this occurs try varying the lure, either colour and or profile. Immediately I encouraged Erinn to fish in my pocket, casting the same line and length, using a different lure to my presentation. On cue, briefly after her soft plastic hit the water, a feisty bass smashed the lure close to the surface. Witnessing the fish strike, my head soon turned sideways to get a glimpse of her rod buckling over and line being stripped through the water as the fish took up the slack line. No wonder this style of bass fishing is so addictive, it doesn't get much better than that when targeting these wild fish in skinny water country.

After subduing an adequate number of fish for the session using a variety of soft plastic presentations, I couldn't resist retying the ZMan ChatterBait on my short leader, still rigged with a 3" MinnowZ trailer which I smeared liberally with some Pro-Cure Mullet flavoured bait scent for an extra attractant. Within moments consecutive bass were caught and released, which completed my session on a high.

Released at AFTA 2016 was ZMan's EZ ShrimpZ and Erinn couldn't resist casting this lure presentation adjacent to a large fallen tree which was well submerged. This particular lure didn't disappoint as Erinn hauled several bass from this individual snag. We lost count of the bass we caught within a three hour period and were also elated at the calibre of fish landed, reflecting on the fishing as we walked out of the river... the sun beginning to set on what had been an extremely productive session.

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FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2017