As we move through summer it's not only the weather that will heat up. The end of spring represents the prime time of year to target Australian bass in our NSW impoundments. As the temperature rises the fish become more active and move up into the shallower margins of lakes, particularly where there is weed present.
Weed beds hold an abundance of attributes that the bass find appealing; most important is the food. Weed beds are at the start of the food chain in our impoundments, they absorb light and produce food for the tiniest aquatic life. From there the food web begins and a range of species will be present. The bass are at the top of this aquatic food chain and their best chance of sourcing a full belly is in these areas.
The weed also offers significant protection and habitat small invertebrates, small fish and crustaceans, and also the bass. They use this habitat as cover to hunt throughout the day and at night. The cover gives them the confidence to ambush prey without being recognised by larger terrestrial predators such as birds. Add some wind to distort the water's surface and impoundment bass will venture right up into the shallowest margins of the lake.
For long periods throughout the year, impoundment bass school up in temperature thermoclines and can be frustratingly hard to entice. Fishing the edges is a more active approach and a lot more rewarding. You are searching for fish that are aggressively feeding and pound for pound they would go close to being the best fighting fish around.
Although fishing the edges at the start of summer can be productive throughout the entire day, low light periods present the best time to tangle with some of these steam trains. Like a lot of fishing scenarios, the low light is the prime time to be on the water, because the fish are more eager to move into the shallows and often feeding frenzies can occur.
Early summer can throw up some interesting weather including large afternoon storm systems that build up and often don't last long. Don't be shy if these conditions are forecasted, as the build-up before a storm can produce some of the most dynamite bass sessions. The fish can really turn it on as the barometric pressure rapidly fluctuates, and often once the storm has passed the fish will shut down.
I remember one late November afternoon last year where a large storm system was rolling in right on dusk. The fish lost their marbles and the surface action of the impoundment exploded right across the lake. As this system triggered many bug hatches, the abundance of food brought the fish to the surface.
It was a very surreal feeling watching the dark clouds roll in from the northeast as the sun faded in the west, sitting in the middle of the lake as it bubbled from the surface bass explosions. It was one of the most amazing fishing experiences I have had and a fish a cast was achieved for a good 30 minutes.
MATCH THE HATCH
The biggest cliché in fishing 'match the hatch' is very applicable when bass fishing, no matter the terrain. I've found it quite productive when fishing new water to go over a weed patch and scope the bait with a quality pair of sunnies.
The most important feature of the bait you want to mimic is the size and profile. Colour isn't as important, although the better you imitate the bait, the more success you'll have. It isn't uncommon for bass to regurgitate their lunch after being caught, and looking through the 'puke' will give you first-hand vital information about what the fish are doing.
There is a large variety of soft plastics on the market and you will generally find one that will match the bait in your system. Soft baits in the 3" range are popular amongst the bass fraternity and they can be cut down to better mimic the size of the bait present. It's important that your plastic is matched with a jighead weight relevant to the water you are fishing.
You want to be able to slow roll your plastic through or just above the weed without it plummeting to the bottom too quick or rising to the upper water column on your retrieve. I've often found jigheads of 1/8-1/4oz are the most effective for fishing weed edges.
The same goes for other lures - if you find a lot of bug activity on the surface then give the surface fishing a go, especially in low light conditions. Small shad profile baits like bony bream can be mimicked best with lipless crankbaits. Sometimes you will find the fish are feeding so aggressively that no matter what you throw, the fish will eat it. When bites like this occur, fishing fast with lipless crankbaits and spinnerbaits can be really fun as the bass hit these like freight trains.
If there has been little rain throughout early spring, you can expect to find relatively clear waters within the impoundments. This clear water requires an adjustment for a successful session. Light lines come into their own in this water and, like most fishing scenarios, the lighter you go the more bites you will get. The terrain you are fishing in is also important.
A lot of timber and other obstacles can be present along impoundment edges and if this is the case then line compensation is needed. I like to fish braid with a long leader of around 12-14ft starting with leaders of around 8-10lb and moving down to 4-6lb if my presentation isn't getting any attention.
Around heavy structure 8lb line is a minimum, but with some calmness and good angling fish can be retrieved and wrestled to the net with lighter lines. As a general guide fishing the edges, start with 8lb leader and move down from there if the fishing is quiet.
Rods and reels aren't as important as line class and spin or baitcast tackle is a common debate among bass anglers. For me, slow rolling plastics, vibes and hardbodies are better suited to spin gear, while slow rolling lipless crankbaits and spinnerbaits (heavier lures) is more suited to the baitcast tackle. Each to their own, but baitcast tackle is better for handling fish on heavy lines in deeper cover and playing a fish on the lighter line is much easier with spin tackle.
GET OUT THERE
November can be one of the most rewarding months of year to be on the water, especially on our freshwater impoundments. The days are warm and the nights are still crisp - perfect conditions to camp or just head out for a morning or afternoon session.
To top it off, the bass fishing can be electric. Get out there this summer and enjoy these feisty freshwater natives, and also the beautiful New South Wales impoundments they call home.