“A bad day’s fishing is better than a good day at work.” If this is a phrase that you’re all too familiar with, then chances are you have experienced a few of those dreadful doughnut days when you can’t catch a fish to save your life. They are so bloody frustrating that you even contemplate taking up golf! But rest easy, gain your composure, dust yourself off and learn from your experiences to improve your results for next time. Unfortunately you can’t predict what the fishing is going to be like each day, so getting out there and putting in some good time on the water is really the key to success. Australian bass are a species that are predictably unpredictable. Some days they are chewing their heads off, and others they are down right icebergs, ignoring everything you throw at them. But never fear, over the years we have mustered up a few tips and techniques that can help turn these fishless farces into great days on the water. Here’s how to maximise your chances on Australian bass if you find yourself on the verge of having “one of those days”…
Seek and Destroy
So you’ve been fishing for a few hours and you have resigned yourself to the fact that you can’t rely on fishing your usual spots. So where to from here? In this scenario, your greatest asset is your depth sounder and the old grey matter in that clunky head of yours. Some days it can take considerable time to find the area you want to fish, but the effort put in can be well worth the pay-off! Spending time sounding out areas you think will hold fish can save you precious time otherwise wasted by pulling up on random points and throwing hundreds of probing casts. Dirty water and low temps can cause a shutdown. So, if you can find better water hit these areas earlier in the day when the fish are active. Bass tend to be a schooling fish, so locating a school takes out half the guess work. It’s amazing how many times you pull up to the edge of structure (such as a tree line or weedy bank) to find it lifeless, only to drift away from the point disappointed before marking patches of fish on the drop off you didn’t see earlier. If you are lucky enough to have one of the newer technology sounders with down and side imaging, this setting is where they really come in to their own. Having the ability to not only identify fish but also see what type of structure they are living in can mean the difference between catching a fish, or continually snagging up and spooking the whole school.
Lure choice can make a significant impact on your catch rate when the fish are shutdown. Take a step back from your tackle box and think about it logically. You yourself know that when you aren’t particularly hungry and are feeling a little timid, you don’t particularly want to drive off to an all you can eat restaurant. Instead, you hunt around in the fridge for something small that will tide you over until your next main meal. Bass are the same, and when the drive to eat isn’t there – you’re backup plan is to trigger off other primal instincts.
That’s right, that primal instinct dwelling deep inside them that makes them aggressive and intent on defending their place of residence is what you want to make the most of. To do this, it helps to use a lure that is loud and annoying. The best two types of lures on the planet for bass, hands down, would have to be spinnerbaits and vibration baits. Bass are aggressive, and will react very well to the sound emitted from these lures.
Lure size is also important, and really large lures can sometimes intimidate bass. If this is the case, using a smaller lure can provide a much more vulnerable target to a bass, and produce a bite when your standard sized bass lures otherwise go ignored. If throwing some metal is your thing then blades, small spoons and even some celtas will certainly work well and allow you to cover all depths of your water column. Small hardbodies are great for your shallow to mid water fishing around big weed beds, but will need to be cleaned after a few casts as they do tend to pick up a bit of weed.
For less weedy options such as quarries or deep water jigging, small soft plastics are dynamite. When fishing with these smaller lures and leaders, drop your rod setup from your standard baitcaster to an ultralight spinning combination for more sensitivity and control.
In many cases, a slow retrieve down with some added long pauses can be just enough to get you positive results. However, fishing just wouldn’t be fishing if this worked every time. In times of need, it’s worth trialling one or both of these techniques: Tea Bagging “Jigging” or “tea bagging” schools of bass is a highly successful method in deep water when you have marked fish underneath you. The idea behind this is simple. Take your lure, whether it be a soft plastic, a blade or even a metal spoon and drop it down to the depth of the school. Once at the required depth, slowly twitch the rod tip up and down thus moving the lure up through the school and back down again which will hopefully eventuate into an aggressive reaction from one of these fish. Tic Toc “Tic Toc” is a method of fishing a suspending hardbody or vibration bait along the flats. A long cast is sent along the bank followed by a couple of rips to make sure it’s sitting on the bottom. Wait 10 seconds, give it quick violent rip of the rod, wind up some slack, then wait another 10 seconds. Continue until your lure returns to you. This action essentially makes your lure shimmy off the bottom in a quick erratic motion, before settling again on the bottom. These techniques are both very simple and when the fish are shut down – it’s a perfect opportunity to really experiment with your retrieves to find something that can entice a bite.
When fishing heavy structure, it’s only common sense to fish heavier leader to deal with the harsh conditions you are faced with. However, when dealing with finicky fishies, you are best to drop your leader to as light as you dare. I also suggest you purchase yourself a tackle retriever as well or ultra light bassing can become a very expensive exercise. For ultralight, running a 4-6lb fluorocarbon leader should help improve your results. The benefit of the fluorocarbon is that it has a significantly better abrasion resistance and better invisibility in the water. Flurocarbon also tends to be a little stiffer so when using hard bodied lures it should give you a little more control and direction of the lure thus better action. A rod length or more of leader should also be used when fishing with the lighter leader. This is basically taking out any element of potentially spooking these fish, and also allows you to have a bit more strength boatside to control the fish for the net as you have a few turns of your leader, that is heavier than your main line on the reel.
We all know that bass are incessant gossips, so if you do find you are fishing a shutdown school of bass do not release the fish straight away or you run the fear of them telling all their mates about their little adventure. As long as you have adequate room in your livewell and keep the water cycled and freshly oxygenated there is no reason you can’t release the fish after you leave the school. So guys if you are on the verge of a quiet day, then take a step back and really think about the way you are approaching these fish. It’s time for a tactic change, and now you know exactly where to begin. Happy fishing