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THE SOOTY HUNTER

Wayne Harvey

I'm sure many people will agree with me that going fishing is one of the best ways to unwind and what better way to do this than to go and target sooty grunter in mountain stream run off. There is something about fishing mountain streams that almost takes me back to when I was a kid. The smell of nature's fresh air, the vibrant colours of the plant life, the cool animals that you don't see every day and the crystal clear water that flows through the ranges all help to make up the complete package of fishing in harmony with nature.

When fishing for sooty grunter the first thing to learn is which creeks and rivers they inhabit. The easiest way to find this out is to ask one of the local tackle shops. They can let you know which creeks and rivers hold sooties and give you a good idea of where to start looking for these hard fighting, lure crunching thugs!

These fish are great fun to catch; they are strong and very aggressive at times and fishing for these guys can be very similar to chasing jacks. When fishing for sooty grunter, I have witnessed mates getting stitched up on 20lb braided line in the blink of an eye, so choosing the right rods, reels, lures and terminals can mean the difference between a bruised and battered ego and landing a 50cm plus 'Football'! 

Rods: When looking for a rod I like a fast action, somewhere between 2-6kg or 4-14lb.

Reels: As far as reels go, somewhere between a 1500-3000 size should do the job nicely.

Line class / Leader: Line class and leader is a personal choice; I mainly fish 4-10lb main line, but have had to resort to 15lb on the odd occasion. I usually fish a leader from about 12-20lb.

Choosing the right lure to tie on comes down to the time of day, season and appetite. As a general rule of thumb, surface and sub-surface lures around 50-75mm fish very well early morning and late afternoon and leading well into the night. During the heat of the day, even though the water temperature doesn't drop that much, sootyiess tend to seek out deeper water or a dark shady bank. This is the prime time to tie on a spinnerbait, soft plastic, blade or deep diver around 50-75mmin length.

TT Lures make great spinnerbaits and two to include in your tacklebox when chasing sooties would be the Striker and Vortex models. Sooties just can't help themselves when a TT Spinnerbait is retrieved past their nose! They are my 'go-to' lure when the fishing slows a bit. Another one of my 'go-to' lures for sooties are the TT Switchblades. If there is a Switchblade in the vicinity of a sooty, there is no doubt in my mind that this lure will get slammed! They are available in 5 different sizes 1/8, 1/6, 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2oz with the 1/4oz being one of my favourites. There are many colours to choose from, so it's just a matter of matching the conditions and country to your choice. The Switchblades are incredible and can be used in many different ways; 'hopping', 'twitching', 'jigging' or a steady retrieve just off the bottom have proven to be very effective.

The middle of the day is also a prime time to fish shadow lines and dark shady banks. Look for overhanging trees, log jams and shrubs that provide shade along a bank, flick a popper or sub-surface lure right up in and under the overhang... 9 times out of 10 if there is a sooty lurking in there your lure will get belted! Upgrading lures with heavier terminals may also be a requirement, especially trebles, as sooty grunter are renowned for turning trebles and split rings inside out!

Looking for fish in numbers doesn't require too much skill, the more country you cover the better the chances are of finding quality fish. Deep bends hold comfort zones, flowing water into deeper holes can be used as ambush points, log jams and snags offer shelter, overhanging trees and shrubs provide shade, roots in and along banks give protection. These are all great places to start looking for sooties and it won't take long before you start to 'cotton on' to where the fish are holding.

Fishing for sooty grunter can be very exciting at times, whether it's getting smashed off the surface, extracting big fish out of thick cover or pulling fish out of fast flowing water... they always seem to keep you on your toes! Not to mention the quality of by-catch that comes with them at times... barramundi, mangrove jack and jungle perch to name a few. So when you get a chance, or better still, make some time to trek up into our magical mountains and hills, find a creek or river that has good numbers of sooty grunter and have a crack at these balls of muscle! You won't be disappointed!

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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2017