GETTING OFF THE BEATEN TRACK IN SEARCH OF BASS
Catching Bass is not the hard part of becoming a Bass fisho. Most people with a light outfit and a bit of perseverance can take one or two Bass every now and then. But to regularly haul them in, or to find the real goliaths you want your picture taken with, you need to have a good Bass-hunting head on your shoulders and an adventurous spirit.
Big Bass don’t reach the trophy sizes by jumping into fishos nets. I wanted to take home the real prize fish, so I packed my tackle up and headed to New South Wales to the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park to try my luck in the headwaters of the Macleay.
FINDING THE MONSTERS
I had heard from several reliable fisho sources, that those who make the effort to get to this heartland will find the real monsters. Apparently, the upper reaches of the Macleay in the early season is the place to be. The fish that stay there and don’t head downstream to mate grow huge because they have spent the winter in the headlands with their pick of the food and no competition. I had to get over there and see it for myself.
But to quote my native New Zealand’s favourite film trilogy, “one does not simply walk into the upper reaches of the Macleay”. I would need to Kayak into position. I thought I could do the whole trip in around 4 nights. So I assembled my ultra-light camping setup with a groundsheet and swag, packed enough rice, ramen noodles and trail mix to last the four days and assembled my tackle.
The good thing about Bass is you can take them with almost any setup. I know a lot of fishos are turning to fly tackle for taking Bass but I prefer to keep things simple with a lightly-weighted or unweighted lure or even some soft plastics. For this, I don’t need anything more than a 1.5-3kg spin rod with a 2000 reel and 4.5kg braid. You can go even lighter but I was hoping to haul in some monsters.
You can leave your ute in one of the campsites within Oxley Rivers Wild National Park and set off upriver. I started off in some of the pools a few kilometres after setting off, trying my luck with some soft plastics. Nothing. So I switched to surface lures, giving them a 20-30 second rest period after landing before going for a flick. Still nothing. They weren’t interested. I had nothing to show for my first day out and found a secluded spot on the bank at a bend in the river to get some kip for the night.
The next morning, annoyed by my lack of success the previous day, I was determined to get a good day of fishing in. I started off on the surface lures again but got nowhere. The night before I had remained quite optimistic. I knew it was early in the trip and there were some good days of fishing ahead but now I was beginning to lose heart.
I moved spots and could see some action in the clear waters. I felt like they were just teasing me, showing me they were there. I moved onto soft plastics and took some small Bass. It was an improvement but I hadn’t come all this way for small Bass.
My favourite time to fish Bass is at night. They loosen up and strike harder, decreasing the chance of a miss. I had read online that these Bass can be skittish in the daytime and fishos who fish into the night are rewarded.
I found a nice spot towards the end of the day to try my luck that evening. It was a nice deep pool with some structure near the bank, perfect Bass habitat. I started on some large black surface lures as the sun went down but still had no luck. I was cursing Bass and questioning my decision to come here at all.
Then, when the sun went down and I had moved onto some larger dark lures, they started striking. Initially, as the light dimmed just enough to require head torches, they were cautious. They weren’t striking that hard and I missed several in a row but I could feel my spirits lifting. Then boom! One struck the lure with some serious ferocity and I heard the long-awaited sound of my drag. At last.
Over the next few nights, I took several Bass over 40cm and one over 50cm. All in all, it was a great trip. I went away beaming from ear to ear and blabbing about the Macleay to all my fisho mates back home.
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