• by Toby Grundy
I spend a lot of time walking the edges of South Coast rivers and creeks in search of one of my favourite freshwater sport fish, Australian bass. These fish captured my imagination very early on in my angling career because I live in Canberra and the idea of crystal clear water, surface explosions and screaming drags was a long way from my reality of targeting golden perch in turbid urban lakes.
Nowadays, I am willing to go to great lengths to find new spots and ways of targeting bass and it was on one of these recent trips out in the middle of nowhere that I stumbled across a new way (well, new for me at least) of working particular types of soft plastics to elicit a strike from skittish bass in clear water pools. I like to think of it as a mix of ‘walk-the-dog’ and ‘burn-and-kill’ but for this article I’ll refer to it as ‘twitching’. Outlined below is everything you need to know to get started.
Up until stumbling across this technique, I used to work big, clear pools (with limited flow) quite slowly and would spend a lot of time crawling my plastic along the bottom. I caught fish by doing this, but I always had more luck in shallower runs with more snags.
However, on my last trip, my plastic became snagged on the bottom and, instinctually, I yanked the lure off the snag (and thinking it was covered in weed), started ripping the lure back to my position while using a walk-the-dog retrieve, which is often used with surface lures. Just before the lure reached my feet, I saw a bass chasing and I killed (stopped) the retrieve, the bass scoffed the lure and bolted back to the middle of the pool. I ended up landing the bass and then I cast out again and repeated the process. This time I started ripping the lure back using a walk-the-dog retrieve but I killed the lure halfway back and another bass picked up the lure. I ended up with five fish from the pool and moved to the next deep pool with similar results.
The trick with this method is to start with a walk-the-dog, which is twitching the rod tip up and down while winding at the same time. This is a short, sharp retrieve and kicks the lure from side to side. Then once the lure nears the bank, pause the lure for several seconds. Bass are built for speed and therefore this retrieve appeals to their natural inclination to run down prey. By killing the lure near the bank, it makes it a no brainer for the fish as they can then simply pick up what they think is not only a fleeing bait but also a wounded bait.
The other real bonus with this twitch, aside from the visual aspect of watching a bass chase down the lure at a furious pace, is that lure comes back relatively weed and debris free despite the fact that this is a technique centred on fishing the bottom of a pool. This is because the lure is being retrieved at such a speed that anything the jighead does pick up tends to come off as the lure rips through the water.
I use soft plastics for this method because they are suitably ambiguous for the situation. I like plastics that can mimic more than one piece of forage because if the bass aren’t keen on baitfish, they are usually keen on worms or small crustaceans. Therefore, I use Dragon Maggot 2” plastics in natural colours. These are a particularly tough plastic that look like a small baitfish in profile but have a unique tail that when worked resembles a free-swimming worm in the water.
I mention tough because the plastic has to stay attached to the jighead and not slip despite the fast retrieve. The lure is going to hit a lot of rocks, sticks and weeds on the way back so needs to be hardy. I recommend testing out a few brands to find the one that suits the tough conditions. Also, it is important to check out the way the plastic moves in the water, as the plastic should dart from side to side on the retrieve. Not all plastics have the capability to move in this manner.
This method will elicit a strike wherever a hungry bass is holding, but is particularly effective when fishing the wider slower pools along a likely stretch of river. The twitch draws bass in because they sense the intruder through their lateral line and will go into a frenzy. The twitch also covers a lot of deep water, which is often skipped by anglers looking for mid water and surface feeding bass. So, in high traffic areas, with deep pools, this method really comes into its own.
I have also had a lot of success with the twitch in really fast water. Where a surface lure or diver can be hard to fish in these situations, the twitch works well. The plastic perfectly mimics a baitfish running the rapids and by holding the rod tip low and performing the retrieve, it is possible to keep the lure deep. When the lure is paused in the rapid, the tail keeps moving in the current providing extra incentive for the bass to hit.
I use a 7’ fast action light spin rod matched to a 2000 sized spin reel spooled with 6lb braid and 8lb leader. I recommend a rod with a stiffer blank because the twitch is all about getting the plastic to jerk from side to side and this is better accomplished with a fast action stick.
The rivers and creeks that run through areas of the South Coast provide exciting sport fishing but are also a haven for a variety of animals, some of which can be problematic. I always carry a snake bite kit, wear long pants and long sleeve shirts and pack plenty of water, along with mosquito repellent.
The other thing to remember is to pack a lot of plastics and extra jigheads, as overhangs, submerged logs and even large bass will claim the odd lure or two.
I think the most important item in my bass fishing arsenal (aside from rod, reel, line and lure) are my sunglasses. A good set of polaroids is a must when fishing for bass, especially when the bass chase the lure in and you can see the fish and watch how it reacts. I use Spotters Grit with gold leaf lenses because they are designed for peering through snags during high glare periods, but really any polaroids will do provided you can see a metre or so into the water column.
Twitchin for bass in the deeper, slower pools of a likely creek or river has very quickly become one of my favourite methods to use when targeting bronze brawlers. This technique triggers an aggressive response from the fish because the lure is travelling at speed and the plastic resembles several prey items high on the bass’ list of favourite foods. It is a retrieve that brings the fish to the angler and it is possible to catch several fish in a likely pool, which makes it a must try!