After a very quick and disappointing end to my Macleay River trip with Troopy I decided to head off on a local adventure chasing a few big bruising bass! SEQ and The Northern Rivers have a diverse range of river systems that all offer different experiences both in the surrounding natural environment and also in their resident bass populations. Some rivers may have huge numbers of bass that are relatively small in size whilst others have populations of bass that are smaller in number but the chance of those bass being 40cmFL plus is quite high. So after the heart wrenching decision to can our southern adventure I needed a good fix of heart pumping, drag peeling bass action.
As always I headed off early to try and find a pre-twilight bite and I was on the river just after 4am. The first pool had always been a bit of a mixed result for me as it was the largest pool in the waterway that had easy access from a roadside causeway. High fishing pressure, especially after the Christmas holidays, didn’t lead itself to some hot action and as expected the majority of the pool was very quiet. That, and the fact that the lightened skies revealed a dirty river that had not recovered from the previous weeks storms did not add any confidence to my chance of finding a few fish. It wasn’t until I neared the top end of the pool that a solid bass smashed my lure , missed, and did not return for another shot! The rest of the pool was similarly quiet even though it is one of the “bassiest” sections of water I have ever seen.
I reached some extensive portage and with the water higher than usual there were a few shallow pools that now provided an opportunity for bass to hold as they moved upstream. One cast at a Lomandra sedge sitting below a section of running water had a bass smash it in half a foot of water, very briefly hook up and again disappear never to return.
It wasn’t until I reached the next major pool that I started to find a few fish. A cast into some deep shade beneath a Melaleuca (once called Callistemon) that was growing off a steep bank saw a solid bass smash my lure and put on a solid fight before being netted, photographed and released. At 36cmFL it wasn’t huge but it was a welcome sight considering my visions of a donut and potentially the need to move to a new location.
A short distance up the pool I had a platypus almost point out the location of another bass. As I drifted up the river a platypus popped up in front of me and swam towards a stand of timber before diving below the surface. I sent a cast into the area moments later when another good bass smashed my lure and the fight was on. Like all the bass in this system he put on a cracking fight and eventually I had my second bass for the day at 39cmFL.
With renewed confidence I continued fishing and although the bass were not throwing themselves at my lure, there were a few hungry fish around, and that potential for a big bass appearing kept me casting. It wasn’t long before I managed another bass off another Lomandra sedge at 28cmFL, and then I managed to get bricked by another bass when I cast across a number of submerged lay downs and he fit and dived before I could high stick him across the surface.
I continued upstream and the fishing went quiet yet again. The only highlight was a small Spangled Perch that hit my Luckycraft Sammy 65 and I’m fairly sure was not even hooked he just refused to let go and I simply poled him into the kayak.
The next big pool was very quiet as well although I did miss a couple of good hits from a couple more solid bass. At the top of this pool I had to make a decision to head back to the launch and try another system or to continue on through some gruelling portage to a pool that is rarely fished due to its hard to get to location. In the end I decided to poke up the river “just a little bit” to see if the high water might have made some of the intermittent pools a little more fishable.
I was surprised to find the first stretch of water quite easy to paddle and after I managed another 28cmFL bass at the foot of another set of rapids I decided to commit to the “hell”of the journey to get there.
This involved four serious log jams through thick rainforest and a physically destroying drag of the kayak just to get to the pool.
The only highlight of the journey was a pool that just screamed bass. It was only small partly shaded by a fig and had a massive lay down directly opposite the top of the pool which forced the running water to hit it and run along its length. It was the perfect ambush site for a solid bass and lucky for me there was one hiding there. Casting to the top of the run I allowed the lure to gently drift along its length and I gently twitched it as it floated along. Eventually the water exploded around it and I was onto a solid bass that pulled drag and raced around the pool. Luckily he kept out of the structure and eventually I managed to net a well conditioned 40cmFL bass.
Sadly this was the only reward for my hard work. Upon reaching my destination pool I found it absolutely crowded with mullet all gulping air at the surface and I could not raise a single fish. Even a favourite little creek mouth that had yielded me some good fish in the past was covered in leaf litter and had a dead kangaroo at its head and was virtually unfishable. It was definitely not worth the journey. Luckily the return journey was a little easier as I tucked the rods into the kayaks cockpit and ran large sections of the river either side of the log jams.
The return journey to the launch was uneventful and even though I threw a few casts at the snaggiest and darkest of structure, no bass came out to play. Reaching the launch I had an hour to kill and so I decided to explore below the launch as it was an area I had not fished before although I had paddled it on another trip when we had run late for fishing upstream.
The first pool I fished had a long rock wall that looked awesome and although I could not find a bass I did find a solid Spangled Perch that smashed my Duel Hardcore Shad in the current. At 23cm it was the biggest Perch I have caught in SEQ although I have caught bigger up North.
I was surprised to find some quite large unexplored pools downstream of the causeway and they all had some very fishable structure even though the bas were still not keen to come out and play. I did get the interest of one rat that smashed my lure multiple times before feeling the trebles and shying away! I then managed my final fish of the morning that rocketed from beneath a raft of floating weed to hit my lure and once netted measures a respectable 40cmFL even though it was very skinny and lacked any conditioning.
It was then time to go and although I had managed a few fish it wasn’t as good as my previous trips. Hopefully with schools going back and the finish of holidays the bass will get a bit of a reprieve and they will fire again as the season hits its back end!n