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WEEDLESS PRESENTATIONS

Ryan Dixon

Recently I was lucky enough to escape the hustle and bustle for three weeks and embark on a fishing adventure to far north Queensland. After being spoilt with unbelievable shallow reef fishing, covered in a previous article titled 'PaddlerZ Shine on Batt Reef', it was time to focus on fishing the estuaries and freshwater creeks that are situated around Cooktown.

Although the weather whilst we were in Cooktown wasn't favourable, we had plenty of fishing options, with two main rivers at our disposal and a one hour drive south to the Bloomfield River, situated at the Aboriginal community of Wujal Wujal.

Both the Endeavour and Anan Rivers are situated in Cooktown and offer excellent lure fishing for barramundi, mangrove jack and fingermark in the saltwater reaches, and jungle perch, sooty grunter and mangrove jack in the fresh. After a quick debrief on the rivers with the local tackle shop owner, we had a brief walk along the wharf where the local indigenous folk were catching metre long barramundi on hand lines. This made us as eager as ever to get on the water, with the Endeavour River being our first river to target.

Being such a big river, we started at the mouth and travelled many kilometres upstream in search of likely looking snags that we could cast our weedless soft plastic presentations into. We found it rather easy, locating plenty of good looking snags and with expectations very high after the sight of metre long barramundi being caught on hand lines, we didn't need much convincing to drop the electric motor into the water and start fishing. We found the fishing rather tough early on in the session but as the tide dropped out of the flooded mangrove banks the fish started becoming more active and we boated enough fish to keep us interested for the following day's fishing.

Day two in Cooktown saw us launch our boat into the Anan River, which was by far one of the best looking rivers I have fished. Rock bars, deep snags, shallow flats with gin clear water and easy access into the freshwater reaches, where the mangroves gave way to a rainforest style backdrop. Mangrove jack were a common sight in the freshwater, along with small barramundi, archer fish, tarpon and a number of different types of trevally.

The fishing in the Anan River was far more impressive than the Endeavour River, with healthy sized fingermark, mangrove jack, queenfish and barramundi all finding our weedless rigged plastics inviting. We found the best tide was the last of the run out and most of the fish were caught whilst holding in deep snags that we located using our sounder.

The presentation that I found most successful was using a TT Lures 1/4oz 4/0 Snake Head jighead, rigged with a ZMan 4" SwimmerZ and locked in place with a Big Game Bait Button to stop the plastic sliding off the Snake Head. I would make a long cast, up current past the snag by at least 3-4 metres and retrieve the lure with the current through the snag at quite a rapid speed. By retrieving at a faster pace I believe the fish makes a spur of the moment decision to eat the lure and boy did they smash it!

Using a weedless rigged soft plastic was imperative for the type of structure we were fishing, as traditional style jigheads were finding themselves buried into the timber snags more often than not. ZMan 3" MinnowZ were just as effective as the SwimmerZ and again were fished weedless. These were rigged on a TT Lures ChinlockZ jighead, with a small ball sinker tied to the front with a simple loop knot.

A brilliant days fishing was had on the Anan River and with a few beers whilst eating the fruits of the ocean, including mud crabs that were caught that day, life couldn't get much better. 

The next day saw us taking a different approach as we left the boat at the caravan park and decided to go on foot in search of some jungle perch, in the small freshwater streams that were situated on the outskirts of Cooktown. Filling a backpack each with a selection of lures and food for the day, we didn't have to travel too far until we found likely looking jungle perch country. Although our experiences of catching jungle perch were limited, we didn't find it too hard, and with two trophy sized fish caught we were more than satisfied.  With the added bonus of sooty grunter thrown in for good measure, a good day's fishing was had by all.

The following days in Cooktown saw us fishing both rivers again and also heading south to the Bloomfield River. The Bloomfield River almost looked untouched, with little to no lure fishing pressure. Whilst fishing there we witnessed the locals spearfishing as they stood on the front of their small boats, looking for any type of marine life that they could take back for their food. It truly was an unbelievable experience, witnessing the locals catching fish the way they have been for hundreds of years.

Mangrove jack and trevally were common catches for us in the Bloomfield with barramundi a rare but rewarding catch. Extremely large crocodiles were abundant in the river, which kept us on our toes at all times. You can't possibly drive back to Cooktown without stopping in at the historical Lion's Den Hotel for a cheeky beer and homemade pizza. A brilliant reward for a hard day's fishing.

Cooktown truly is a remarkable town, with plenty of fishing options to suit all types of fishing. Although the weather wasn't kind to us while we were there, we found more than enough water out of the wind and were only left to wonder what the offshore fishing would have had in store for us. Hopefully one day I can return, as I believe there is plenty more exploring to be done in and around this historical part of the world. One thing for sure is that when I do return I will have a large supply of ZMan soft plastics rigged on weedless jigheads.

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FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2017