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STAYING ON TOP

By Paul Chew

Squinting in the pre-dawn glow, I slowly make out the lily edge, rod loading as I launch the little ZMan 4" Pop ShadZ far over the back, landing with a plop in a narrow laneway through the pads. I wait until the ripples subside, then as they disappear completely I slowly take up the slack in the braid and gently give the line a twitch, watching as the little lure disappears in a flurry of foam.

It doesn't matter how many times I see this, the anticipation is there every cast, imagining the fish, senses tingling as it feels something break the water's surface nearby, eyes looking upward as it takes position under this potential meal, pectoral fins gently wafting back and forth, tension building... 'it looks like something I could eat', not moving, might be a stick, wait... twitch.. Bang! Gotcha! This is livin'...

Surface fishing is addictive, of that there is no doubt, and not much gets the heart pumping more than a topwater take from any of the Australian natives. Follow a few simple points and it can be one of the easiest ways to fish. Generally when fishing off the yak I try and stick to single TT ChinlockZ SWS style hook, more from a safety point of view than anything else. There is no more uncomfortable feeling than sitting in your yak while a sooty, barra or bass thrashes around your legs with a couple of trebles attached, unless of course you also end up attached to those trebles!

Mostly I employ two types of strategies when surface fishing, depending on whether the fish are actively hunting on the surface or they are a little more shut down.

While targeting active fish, I'll use something like the ZMan 4" Hard Leg FrogZ, or one of the new BuzzlockZ from TT, rigged with a paddle tail or my new favourite for either circumstance, the ZMan 4" Turbo CrawZ. The retrieve for all of these in this situation is simple. Make big long casts and start winding just as the lure hits the water to get the most out of each cast. The strikes when they come will be explosive. You just have to keep your nerve if the fish misses the hooks and keep on a steady retrieve. More often than not they will come back for more, as seen in the attached video, and as you can see they will chase it right to the yak.

Fishing slower, for fish that aren't quite as switched on, is also pretty easy, with patience being the key. Whatever top water lure you choose, you need to work it slow. Cast into little back pockets in the weed, hard up against big lay down logs, in laneways between weed edges and WAIT... always, until all of the ripples have dissipated before moving the lure at all. More often than not the bite will come on the first movement of the lure. I'll often rattle the rod after 30 seconds or so. Not actually moving the lure any distance, just shaking it in the one spot and this is deadly.

As with most fishing, conditions play a part in lure choice when I'm surface fishing. If it is mirror calm I'll choose something with a little finesse, like the Turbo CrawZ or a 5" StreakZ, rigged on a 4/0 TT ChinlockZ and walked on or just under the surface. This is a deadly presentation when targeting impoundment bass and barra.

If there is a little breeze, as is often the case if fishing afternoons, something with more splash often gets the bites. The ZMan 4" and 5" Pop ShadZ being the winners in these conditions and more recently the Bagley Rattlin' Finger Mullet has been kicking some goals, with its loud rattle attracting fish regularly. I just fish it in short walks, with a good pause in between, varying the retrieve until I crack a pattern. It's easy, fun and very, very visual.

Prime times for chasing fish are normally from first light until an hour after sunup and from sundown until dark. I have a preference for early mornings as there is a better chance of it being calm, which I find favourable for surface fishing. Fishing these times I find the fish are out and about and it's normally just a matter of working your way along whatever bank or weed edge you have picked and a bite can come from anywhere.

River bass are probably a bit of an exception to this, with surface bites still common at 11am. Just target the shade pockets, leave the lure sit and most times the hit will come as soon as you move the lure. I'm not sure whether it's because the water is warmer later in the morning, or something else, but these fish later in the day hit ridiculously hard and fight well above their weight. People often ask about whether scent is of use when surface fishing and the answer for me is always yes. It's a twofold win for me; firstly it's a confidence thing and secondly, fishing the little shade pockets for bass, I am sure repeated casts spread the scent in the confined space and fires up the fish.

As mentioned above, there is no style of fishing I enjoy more than surface fishing, so grab a few of the lures that work for me and get out and give them a try. There's one tip I almost forgot to mention and that is if you are having trouble with your leader sinking and making it hard to work your lure, wipe the leader with a Vaseline infused rag, it'll help keep it floating.

Summer means early rises, misty mornings, with the yak or boat drifting along slowly, ripples slowly subsiding from your lure, a sip on your coffee... shake the rod...and crash...

Making Surface Easy~ Chewy's Top 5 Tips.

* Fish super slow first up- make sure all ripples have subsided before moving your lure after casting

* Use stealth to your advantage~ long casts minimise spooking the fish

* Persistence is key~ if an area looks fishy, change presentations until you get a bite eg pop shadz(more splash) turbo crawz ( reaction bite)

* Timing is key~ make the effort to get up early and be on the water by first light.

* Weather is important~ light North- North East winds  are generally my favourite. Nice stable warm conditions make the fish hungry.

Tight lines.

Chewy

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FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2017