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Paul Chew

With the chills of winter subsiding and the first of the warmer Northerly winds imminent, I would like to just give a brief rundown on the species I like to chase during spring and the tackle and techniques that I use to try to tempt them. Lucky for me the range of species I have to target here varies widely... it's just a matter of getting time to chase them all.

Freshwater Barramundi

Only a 25 minute drive from me is the picturesque Lake Lenthalls, home of some cracking bass and golden backed barramundi. The backwaters here are where I love to chase these fish come spring. Any afternoon that has a little, or a lot, of northerly blowing is worth a go, targeting shallow weedy points in the creeks and lake proper, that the wind is blowing onto. All of the normal surface lures work ok, but the ZMan 5" Pop ShadZ certainly attracts some attention. One of my little video clips can be seen hereabouts, catching a nice barra out of the yak on one. Hardbodies do work, however the amount of weed in the areas that we fish makes using them painful.

Our go-to for barramundi fishing the weed is the ZMan 4" Diezel MinnowZ, rigged weedless on a 4/0 size weighted or unweighted TT Lures ChinlockZ. Hopefully this season we will also snare a few on the newly released SnakelockZ jigheads. No special retrieve is needed, just a slow roll along the weed edges and between the lily pads. Any big lay down timber is also worth a throw. Early morning seems to work best for me, though coming out of winter and into spring, good bites regularly occur up until 11am so keep at it. Working your lure super slow, with lots of pauses, should see you in the money. There is nothing better than seeing a plastic get smashed off the top, with a golden chrome slab launching clear of the water.

Bass and Sooty Grunter

Primarily species I chase in the kayak, bass and sooty grunter in skinny water is some of the most fun I have while fishing. Coming into spring I find the better sized bass when working the edges, near deep water, while higher numbers of smaller fish are found still schooling in the deeper sections of the creek. Again, as the warmer winds blow, the bass will start feeding hard, with cricket scores of good fish fairly common.

I'll have two rods rigged on the yak, one with a #3 TT Lures Jig Spinners and TT Lures 1/4oz 3/0 jighead, with a ZMan 3" MinnowZ stuck on it. The other rod, as always will have a forward facing, weightless rigged ZMan 4" CrawdadZ in any colour attached. This underrated and underused offering accounts for a lot of my bass and is a really easy and reliable fish producer. Toss it into any undercut on the bankside or deep into the cover of a big laydown tree and let it sit until it gets eaten. Less is definitely more when fishing the CrawdadZ and sometimes I'll wait two minutes before twitching it ever so slightly. Invariably it gets eaten as soon as it moves, so it pays to be attentive.

Normally most of the local waterways will be getting quite low coming out of winter and one hotspot to look for is the tangled root balls of wattle and paperbark trees that are still living on the bank edges and are being exposed by the dropping water level. I am unsure as to why they are a fish magnet, but most root balls will hold fish so give them a thorough working over. Sooty grunter can turn up anywhere, but where you find running water is a good place to start. The same lures work for these and it's always worth throwing a small blade into the mix where there are some steep banks, just to work through the entire water column. I normally use 6lb braid and 12lb leader to avoid getting busted by the sooties, though sometimes that isn't enough.

The Estuary

The new moon in September is one of the triggers for the big breeding female flathead to move up into the shallows and they will be accompanied by cricket scores of smaller male fish. It can be amazing to watch on a rising tide. Three or four fish around 90cm drift out of the depths to lay in just a few centimetres of water and then a swarm of smaller ones arrive buzzing all around. Keep in mind that if you do decide to chase a flatty that the bigger ones should be handled with the utmost care. Just take a couple smaller ones for a feed and release the bigger ones.

All of the usual suspects work ok, but the most consistent producer for me is the ZMan 5" StreakZ matched with a TT Lures 1/4oz 5/0 HeadlockZ HD jighead, with Pearl or Electric Chicken being good starting colours.

Up the rivers the barra and jacks will make an appearance. Working the lay down timber and deeper rock bars should see fish caught, with the new SnakelockZ and 3" MinnowZ and 4" DiezelZ being the first I'll tie on once it warms up. Again working these lures slowly through the water column is the key.

Grunter and threadfin will also start moving again in the shallows and the ever reliable ZMan 2.5" GrubZ and Slim SwimZ will account for more than their fair share of fish. These little guys always bat well above their weight and are probably the easiest of the soft baits to use in my opinion as everything eats them. Look for creek mouths on the start of the outgoing tide, cast into the shallows and hop the plastic down the drop off. If you aren't getting bites then you are probably fishing too fast. I cannot stress enough the importance of fishing slow. Ninety percent of bites come on the drop, so having slack line to enable freefall in the lure is essential, as is a quick hook set when you see a twitch in the line. Fishing like this will account for more fish than you can imagine.

Pelagic Action

During September and into October huge schools of tuna, mackerel and hopefully mini marlin will start making their way into the top end of the bay, providing anglers with hours of arm stretching fun. Tackle is simple here, with a good quality medium spin rod all you will need, teamed up with some 20lb leader and 5" StreakZ to throw. Catching fish is generally easy, with the best approach once a school of fish is spotted being to sit back and watch which way they are travelling, position the boat in front of where they are, turn off the motor and wait for them to come to you. This way you will get much more time casting at the school.

There isn't much up this way that won't eat the StreakZ, so stock up before heading out. If you are finding the fish finicky, which sometimes happens, rig a ZMan 3.75" StreakZ on a TT HeadlockZ in 3/8oz 4/0 and throw that into the mix. Most of the time you will not get a chance to turn a handle before it's eaten by some speedster. For a change of pace, throw on a ZMan 5" GrubZ and fish deep around the bait schools for a marauding cobia, golden trevally or queenfish. Just remember a few manners when chasing the bait schools. Try not to run through a school someone is already fishing as tempers can flare quickly.

I hope this helps give a few people a bit of an idea on where to start and how to chase some quality fish now that it's starting to warm up a little. If you see me out and about in the Poly or the Freak yak, don't be shy, come say g'day. Until next time...

Tight Lines... Chewy...

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