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URBAN BASS FISHING

Cameron Cronin

Cameron takes us on a mission chasing one of his favourite species, bass, in the skinny backwaters around his local area. If you don't have bass in your local creeks, it may still be worth a mission because, depending on where you are in the country, similar techniques could produce bream, redfin, trout, saratoga, sooty grunter jungle perch and other species.

After peppering a large pool with our weedless rigged ZMan GrubZ, it was clear that with only a few tentative strikes, the bass were definitely not out to play here. We moved downstream along the edge of the creek until we came across another, this time much smaller pool of around 1.5 x 3m and littered with thick aquatic vegetation. Although it was only a metre or so deep, it was still worth a shot, so we both scrambled down the crumbly banks and prepared to make the cast.

Standing on a raised mound of dirt, I placed my rod tip over a promising under cut on the opposite bank (remember this pool is only one and a half metres wide!) and free spooled my ZMan down through the water column. Just then, I was interrupted by a call from my friend Marcus, fishing the other end of the pool... I'm on! As he fought out his newfound opponent, I turned my attention back to my lure, only to find that it had already been engulfed by a hungry bass on the drop! Double hook up!

After a quick tussle we managed to land both of our fish, with mine going 34cm and Marcus' 36. Although they weren't massive fish, it was still awesome to land them both from such skinny water and it made for a great start to an even better day. We then continued to fish the pool landing four more fish, including another double hook up on similar sized bass and plenty of missed opportunities. By the time we decided to pull the pin and head home, we had landed eight more bass and eight redfin from another area of the creek. Redfin are just one of the other species that you may encounter when using these techniques.

Looking around a place like this really makes you realise how well our native fish have adapted to living side by side with humans. This particular spot is flanked by apartments, a main road and a golf course. However, fishing for these 'urban' bass isn't as simple as it seems, with the fish often shutting down to conventional bass techniques and requiring a more specialised approach than what is normally required. In this article, I hope to inspire you to check out some of your local small creeks that you may have overlooked, as well as give you a few helpful tips and tricks to get you well on your way to catching a couple.

So first things first, where do you choose to fish? No matter where you live, if you're on the east coast of Australia, it is extremely likely that somewhere near you is one or possibly many small creeks winding through suburbia, just begging to be fished. But before you rush off, there are a few factors that you need to consider. The first and probably most important question you need to ask yourself is this: Is it connected to salt water, or at least sometimes connected? This is because if there is no access to at least brackish areas, bass can no longer breed and therefore it is extremely unlikely for there to be a natural population of bass in the area. Apart from this, the areas you fish should have at least 80cm deep water, (although bass will still hold in as little as 30 cm if there is enough cover) with plenty of structure / cover for bass to shelter in. On a sidenote, if you are struggling to find some suitable water, Google Earth and Nearmap are almost invaluable as they allow you to scour your entire area from a bird's eye view, quickly tracking down any suitable water. So, now you have a suitable creek in mind, it's time to go fishing!

For this style of fishing I prefer to just bring along my favourite bream rod. For me, this consists of a 1-2 kg rod, a 2000 size spinning reel and some 3 pound braid, although you may want to scale up your tackle if you are expecting big fish or you're fishing heavy structure. Baitcast gear can be utilised in some circumstances, but in many areas, like the ones I fish, the bass will often prefer a smaller finesse presentation which cannot be easily cast on a baitcast setup due to the light lure weight.

So now you have arrived at your destination, it's time to rig up.

As these bass live in such close proximity to people, they often become very timid compared to an isolated population and require very small and lifelike lures to fool them into striking. This is when I turn to my all-time favourite, the ZMan 2.5" GrubZ. I'm not sure why, but there is just something about this cool little lure that urban bass cannot resist and these days it's what you're going to find on the end of my line 90% of the time. Match this with a suitable TT Lures Hidden Weight System (HWS) jighead and you have a deadly presentation that you can skip cast into the tightest of spaces, drawing strikes from even the most shutdown of fish. Sometimes however, there are too many dense snags in the area to use a conventional jighead, without massive lure losses and this is when I opt to tie on either a weedless hook or one of TT Lures' Jig Spinners. I find that both of these options drastically reduce the snag up rate and the blade on the Jig Spinner also seems to help trigger aggressive strikes when the fish just aren't in the mood to hit a standard presentation.

Once you're rigged up, all you have to do now is work out where to cast. Most of the time this is a fairly simple process that can be made even easier by giving each area a score out of 5 in your head. This may sound weird to some, but for me personally this has paid dividends and definitely helped me catch more fish. For example, my perfect snag that I would score a 5 would consist of: a large snag sitting next to a deep, shady undercut bank positioned in a calm area out of the current. Also, there would be no obvious branches that predators like cormorants and other predatory birds could use as an ambush place nearby. On the other hand I would score a spindly snag, placed in shallow water offering no protection from the sun and predators a 1 and not even bother placing a cast. Once you have nailed down this system, (and it's pretty easy to master) you can easily and quickly place the first casts in the most likely areas to produce fish.

Also worth noting is that because the waters urban bass reside in are often so tight, it is worth learning to bow and arrow cast. To do this simply flick the bail arm over, pinch line against the rod and allow the lure to drop 80cm or so from the tip, grab the lure by the bend of the hook and then pull back  until the rod is completely loaded up. All that's left to do then is aim and release.  This comes in handy when you want to achieve pinpoint short distance casts, but have no room to make a standard cast. Without it I'd be lost!

So what are you waiting for! Grab a pack of GrubZ and get down to one of your local creeks. Just don't be too surprised when your lure gets slammed in that creek that you always thought couldn't possibly hold any fish!

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FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2017