Summer time is bass time, and chasing wild bass in our coastal rivers and creeks is an extremely addictive pastime. The natural range of Australian bass includes coastal rivers and creeks stretching all the way from Bundaberg in Queensland to Wilsons Promontory in Victoria.
Recently, that range has been significantly extended, thanks to breeding and stocking of hatchery-spawned bass into man-made dams and impoundments. While there’s a lot of emphasis on fishing for stocked impoundment bass these days, there’s nothing quite like chasing these wonderful natives in the flowing waters where they evolved.
Wild bass need access to brackish, tidal waters in order to spawn. Their downstream, pre-spawn migration typically begins in late March or April and by May and June, a large percentage of the adult bass in any system will be concentrated in tidal waters. Under the right conditions, they’ll spawn here from June until September, before spreading back upriver into the fresh again.
The peak fishing times for most river bass extend from October until March, when most are upstream in the fresh and feeding actively.
Bass are rather cryptic predators. While aggressive and able to consume large prey (up to and including baby birds, lizards and small snakes), they’re also inherently cautious and even shy, especially in shallow, clear water during daylight hours. I know some small creeks which you’d swear were devoid of bass during the day, but which fire up and produce exceptional fishing after sunset.
The fact is, bass are very good at hiding and spend a heck of a lot of time lurking deep in the shadowy cover of snags, submerged boulders and undercut banks. They will race out and grab a hapless morsel that comes close enough. They don’t generally cruise around actively looking for meals until light levels fall.
Bear these habits in mind when targeting river bass. Cast your sinking or diving lures as close as you possibly can to cover during the day and keep them in the strike zone as long as practical. During low light periods, explore the more open areas of pools and holes with shallow runners or surface lures.
Four popular lure families will cover most river bass fishing scenarios. They are 5-8cm floating/diving plugs, compact spinnerbaits, soft plastic grubs or shads on 2-7g heads (with or without Beetle Spin arms attached) and surface lures. Of course, that last category is extensive – basically, fizzers, paddlers and poppers cover the bass bases.
You don’t need fancy gear, either. Simply beef up your bream or trout tackle with slightly heavier line and leaders and go for it! If you’ve never chased wild river bass before, do yourself a huge favour and have a crack before this summer ends. It’s a total blast!Reads: 2290