Home Locations & Maps Fish species Fishing Guides Products Accomodation
Australian Fishing Shop

Picture Gallery

Weather page & links

Fishing Competition Calender

Articles & information

Fishing Rules & Regs

Fish Stocking

Chat Page





Heavy Metal on Bass by Garry Fitzgerald

It wasn't that long ago that many a fishing writer was claiming lake bass (Australian) were a "summer only" prospect and that they would never be found much deeper than 30 feet. Recent years have seen feet pried from some mouths and previous theories blown out of the water, pardon the pun.
Probably the first bass waters to prove the pundits wrong were the twin lakes of Wivenhoe and Somerset in southeast Queensland.

Large bodies of water and healthy food webs with literally tons of bony bream, bait fish, shrimps etc have seen bass growth rates among the best going. The proof is most certainly in the pudding with Somerset in the past and more recently Wivenhoe being record setting lakes for bass style competitions. In fact, winter is the best time to be out on the bigger lakes if big bass is what you are after.

Often the key to successfully crossing paths with a trophy bass is having an idea on a bass' life cycle.
In wild situations, all small bass are males. At around 30 centimeters in length they change into females.
Come mid to late winter, bass usually move downstream into brackish water to spawn. While bass stocked into lakes cannot get over the dam wall to go spawn, instinct drives the females to go through the process of making eggs in preparation for spawning. All of this egg production requires food and lots of it.
This in mind, it doesn't take a rocket surgeon to work out that this is why big bass feed heavily coming into and during the winter months.

Now that we're over that hurdle, how the hell do we find them? Another advantage for anglers is the fact that many bass form schools, often of roughly the same size fish. Schools can vary in size from a half dozen fish to hundreds and even thousands. Throughout any given day bass will school up and break apart to actively hunt around break lines, on flats areas and in shallow margins, depending on the food within that lake.

A good quality sounder is essential to finding schools of bass, the better the sounder, the better your results can be. It is even more important to track down fish that are out on their own actively hunting for a feed.
Sounders with high pixel counts, ease of use and multi beam transducers are the things to look for; Humminbird Matrix units are leaders in field.

Assuming you've found some fish on your sounder, how do you catch them? A proven method for catching both schooled up and scattered bass in winter is jigging for them. Jigs, in reality, can be any lure that sinks and can be worked across the bottom or worked in a vertically way. Soft plastics, bibless lures, slugs, blades, spoons, tail spinners, spinner baits, ice jigs; the list goes on and on. You can spend $20 - $30 on the latest bibless lures eg Jackal, Team Daiwa or you can spend $6 - $7 on slugs like Halco Twisties and Raiders and often get the same success. Yes, your typical tuna or tailor style slugs do work! Often the hardest thing to do is to get a jig to stay where the fish are.

Bass schooled up on flats
This Matrix 97 screen shot shows an active bass school on flats country. Click on pic for larger view

Its all well and good in optimal weather conditions with no wind or waves to contend with, but Murphy usually plays his part in any fishing trip.A general rule is that the windier it is, the heavier your jig will need to be to get to where the bass are, usually at or close to the bottom. Clever anglers can use wind to their advantage.
Instead of fighting the wind and waves, set yourself up doing drifts across the areas you just found fish or suspect there will be fish holding. In this situation you can free spool a jig to the bottom and work it with high rod lifts. For example, using a seven foot rod you can lift from the rod tip touching the water to almost vertical.
This can give close to a 10 foot rise in a jig, don't let that bother you cause it commonly wont bother big bass.
After the rod has been lifted, drop the rod tip at a speed where you are just staying in contact with the jig.
Heavier jigs will sink faster, larger or lighter jigs will sink slower. This will allow you to feel any strikes on the drop (a common occurrence) and react accordingly. At other times all that is required is a lift of only a few inches, especially when bass are holding close to the bottom. The best method can vary from day to day so if you know you have fish under the boat, experiment to find out what the fish prefer on that day.
If you are having trouble reaching the bottom while drifting, either let more line out or change to a heavier jig.
Wall to wall bass. Its hard to miss when they're like this.
Another M97 Screenshot showing a bass anglers dream screen. There a litterally 1000s of bass here from 12 feet of water to the bottom in 68 feet.

What gear to use?

Your average light bream or bass rods aren't usually the best for jigging, particularly heavy jigs like 50 or 55 gram Twisties or Raiders etc.
A stiffer, high modulus rod is ideal for effective jigging, if you have a favorite barra over head rod, this will usually suffice.
The reason a stiffer is better is that sometimes you only need to move your jig a few inches at a time.
If a light rod is used, a lift of a few inches at the rod can mean little or no lift at the jig end.

Braided lines are not mandatory, but they will vastly improve jigging results. Braided lines, or GSPs, are thinner and have far less stretch than monofilament lines. These attributes can and will allow you to fish deeper, faster and feel a lot more of those timid taps that can often be the only clue that you have an interested bass.

Not all bass lakes are going to be good locations for jigging bass in winter. Some of the better ones to try, water levels depending, are Somerset, Wivenhoe, Moogerah, Boondooma and Barambah.
Places within these lakes to begin looking are:
- Large flat areas of bottom with anywhere from 20 - 40 feet depth.
- Break Lines. Areas where some feature breaks the bottom eg river channel, submerged hilltop or ridge.

Jigging for big bass is certainly one of my favorite styles of fishing being right up there with surface luring for bass and barramundi. With a little effort to work out some of your own tricks on catching big winter bass, I'm sure it can be one of yours as well.
Give it a try.

Fitzy with one of the biggest Bass caught at the 2005 BASS Convention
Fitzy with one of his winning Bass at the 2005 BASS Electric Convention
Armed with the right advice, even beginners can quickly get onto big bass
Big Bass should be supported properly when being held. Lip lifting will kill them.
Click on images for larger version

Garry Fitzgerald

Related Topics:
2005 Bass Electric Grand Final. Lake Wivenhoe Results.
Surface Luring for Australian Bass - Garry Fitzgerald
Big Bass at Big W - Garry Fitzgerald
Top Water Fishing - Roger Lee Brown

Copyright© 2005 Garry Fitzgerald. Sweetwater Fishing Australia