by Jamie Robley •
I love traditional small creek bassing in the natural habitat of our beloved Aussie battlers. The tight water of the upper reaches and branches of larger coastal rivers, where water dragons, kingfishers, platypus and the crisp sound of freshwater trickling over rocky runs between shaded pools is the arena. Throw in some lush bush surroundings, a few distant farmhouses, barbed wire fences, cow dung and the odd wallaby or kangaroo. This is true bass country.
Some of these spots are way up amongst the ranges, 100km or more from the coast, while others can be found quite close to populated urban areas. Even our largest city has some nice little pockets of natural bass habitat within a short drive of the CBD. It’s quite remarkable really, but I’ve enjoyed some first rate small creek bass fishing in a number of different places around Sydney.
Still though, it’s hard to beat places that are further afield or off the beaten track. The South and North Coasts, Hawkesbury and Hunter regions all have plenty of wonderful spots worth exploring that all house fish. While a 4WD is certainly beneficial, there’s no problem accessing many of these creeks with a standard car.
In most cases, small creek bass fishing comes good from early November, peaking during the hottest part of summer and drops off by the end of March. In very dry times bass may not be able to migrate too far upstream due to water levels being too low. However, the general theory is that more fish will be found in the far upper reaches right in the middle of summer.
Plenty of nice bass spots can be accessed by foot and some of the very best actually require long treks in, with backpacks and preferably a mate or two. This can certainly be a test of fitness and despite the remoteness and beauty of some of these places, it doesn’t always mean more fish live there than spots closer to home.
To get the most out of small creek bassing though, a kayak is an essential part of the equation. Forget those big, fully kitted out peddle craft. This is where smaller, lighter and very basic vessels have the edge. Most modern polyethylene kayaks are very robust and that’s also important as this sort of fishing and exploration often requires a lot of lifting, portaging and dragging over unforgiving boulders, logs and steep embankments. So it’s definitely a case of less is more.
ON THE TOP
Most keen bass anglers just love using surface lures and some refuse to ever tie anything else on the end of their line. From what I’ve seen over the years, the hotter the weather and the shallower the water, the better surface lure fishing becomes. A lot of my favourite spots are no more than knee deep and a small topwater offering is by far the most practical and effective thing to cast.
Every keen bass angler will have their own favourite surface lures and I’m no different. My short list, in no particular order includes the Maria Pencil 55, Ecogear PX55, Viking Lures Pop’n’Crank and both the small and large Megabass Sigletts. Some other quite popular models are the older Heddon Torpedoes, Arbogast Jitterbugs and the more modern Lucky Craft Sammy, but the list does keep going!
Surface lures will entice fish even when sitting completely motionless on the water, as well as during the retrieve. Sometimes are faster, erratic retrieve scores hits, while other days a more subtle approach works best. Overall though, surface lures tend to do better early in the morning, later in the afternoon or after sunset.
When fishing slows right up and hits are hard to come by, it’s often better to go deeper and slower. Spinnerbaits and similar sinking types such as chatterbaits can be irresistible to bass even when they’re in a sulky mood, but soft plastics and deep diving lures are other options worth considering.
Some rivers are full of fallen or drowned timber, so successfully working a lure near the bottom could be problematic, with snags and lure losses. In areas where the bottom is mainly hard rock, sand or gravel you can get away with bouncing a lure down amongst it.
Slowly retrieving a spinnerbait along the edges of weedbeds or in clear pockets between dense weed is another deadly option, in creeks where this sort of scenario exists. Casting hard up against a deep, shaded rock face and allowing the spinnerbait to casually ‘helicopter’ down is another good idea.
Of course, traditional diving hardbody lures have long been a standard in the bass angler’s tackle box. While I don’t use them so much these days, I always have a few on hand as they do work very well in a variety of situations. I generally prefer the slimmer models that also double up as bream lures, although the more rounded body shaped lures tend to have a strong wobbling action that often bring bass undone.
As mentioned earlier, a very basic kayak set up is more user friendly when fishing small bass creeks. The more ‘clutter’, the more problematic things become. This is definitely the type of fishing where cutting back on what gets hauled along is a very good idea.
A small landing net or lip grips, head torch, suitable footwear, wet rag to handle fish, basic first aid kit, drink and snacks as well as a phone are all important items that don’t take up much space in the yak or backpack. Only a very small tackle box housing a dozen of your favourite lures is generally a much better alternative to a large box with 50 or 100 lures in it, as the majority of these won’t be needed anyway.
Small creek bass fishing isn’t about scoring a trophy that will be the envy of all your mates. Sure, some big fish may be encountered in some creeks, but the majority are small, feisty specimens that are lean, hungry and full of fight. This sort of fishing is all about the environment, experience and memories. That’s my kind of bass fishing.