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Paul Chew

With the first wisp of high winter cloud in the air, and no plans or decky available, I pushed the Poly into the calm waters of the Mary River, fired up Suzuki and headed out into the Great Sandy Straights, intent on doing battle with some early season cool water species.

The Lowrance showed that the water temp had dropped dramatically, only 23.7 Degrees, so I decided to fish a little deeper and slower as a starting point. Using only light gear, 6lb braid and 10lb fc leader, with the ever reliable ZMan 2.5" GrubZ chosen as the first cab off the rank and a bit of Pro-Cure Garlic Plus Super Gel Scent completing the deal.

With little run in the tide the deep water was proving pretty barren of any baitfish, so after a bit of a snack, I decided to start working the drain drop-offs up towards the top of the creek. The action started warming up, with a few small trevally breaking up the boredom. Then, as the tide rose, a few small threadfin salmon started herding the small jelly prawn along the mud. I cast the Watermelon Red 2.5" ZMan out, hopping it off the edge of the drain with a couple of high lifts of the rod, then drop as the lure plummets into the creek bed proper.

 As is the case most of the time, the plastic was inhaled on the drop, with the tell-tale thump and stop of a little thready. A few dull winds on the reel handle, then chaos as the little fish realises the error of its way and lights up the afterburners into the shallow water to try and escape. One of the biggest benefits of fishing the low rising tide is that these denizens of the deep can't disappear at a rate of knots, up through the flooded mangrove forests leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. A few more blistering runs, with the little spin reel screaming and the fish was in the net. I love this style of fishing, it's easy, not requiring lots of technique and normally quite productive.

As far as technique goes, it's as simple as positioning the boat to drift around fifteen metres off the bank, making big long casts at 45 degrees upstream and letting the plastic free fall to the bottom, before commencing a slow hop back to the boat. As mentioned earlier, nearly all bites will come on the drop, apart from the odd blue salmon that will rocket after a plastic that is being burned back in.

Something I will touch on as part of the Solo Sessions breakdown is netting of fish solo and the importance of taking your time. I have the largest size Environet, which while giving a fair size target, is practically impossible to move through the water. This means the only option is to sit the net half in the water and attempt to swim the fish in. Timing is paramount, as when the fish's head pops out of the water a quick wind and drop of the rod results in you having a chance at controlling where the fish swims. Too much line and it will swim away from the net, too little and it won't have enough freedom to get there. If it lunges, pull the net out and have another go, as swiping at the target will certainly result in many lost fish.

Once the tide started running a bit harder I saw some fish deeper, cast the lure in that direction and immediately the braid moved so I struck. Nothing... it was shredded. I grabbed another rod and launched out a ZMan 4" StreakZ Curly TailZ, which got hit hard again, rod loading up fast as a metre of black tip shark launched and spiralled out of the water, busting me off again. Mystery solved, the river was again alive with sharks. Throughout the day I lost over a dozen of the bitey critters as they were rubbing and biting through the light leader with ease.

I pushed up onto a small gravel bar, where I had had success before and pulled a small flathead almost straight away. Then noticed a slight current line forming and so proceeded to work this over slowly, bumping the soft bait along the bottom and then down the drop-off on the outside. It was on the fourth or fifth cast, as the line went slack on the drop that it stopped and I thought it had hit bottom. But, no, a nice slab of chrome, cool water barra slashed through the water surface, trying to dislodge the little TT 1/4oz 1/0 HeadlockZ HD jighead.

Time and again it leapt clear, with me backing off so the light leader didn't rub through. A couple of minutes into the fight, after a long run along the mangrove edge and with me applying as much pressure as I dared, the fish decided to slug deep, diving into the deeper hole that I was fishing. It then became a slow and steady lift and wind, with some chaotic moments around the electric motor thrown in. Finally, the fish tired, its head popping clear of the water. I dipped the net and swam it in first go (that's my story and I'm sticking to it).

Ok, in reality the hook got stuck in the net and required a deal of luck to jiggle the fish in. A few happy snaps and another SEQ barra was sent on its way. Happy days. A few more small trevally completed the deal for the day, with no grunter still to be found.

By the time you read this the cool winds will have kicked in. In the Sandy Straights at Hervey Bay, when using the techniques described here, you should encounter jew, tailor, trevally, queenfish and grunter, as well as the larger quarry, barra and threadfin salmon. Work the low tide margins, all the way up to the high tide and this should find you tangling with plenty of different species. Get out there and get amongst 'em.

Tip of the day... If you are finding bites hard to come by, you are probably fishing the plastics too fast - fish light, fish slow, and the pics will tell the story.

Tight lines... Chewy

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