Well the day had finally arrived and Bass Season 2012-2013 was finally here. Tristan and I had decided to make the opening day another epic adventure and so our plan was to launch lower down in one of our favourite systems to see if we could find a few bass that had pushed up into the fresh early and any resident bass that might have missed the spawning run.
All week I must have watched the weather multiple times every day hoping that the weather would be perfect for the season opener. On the eve of our first bass adventure for the season the winds looked a little average, with no rain and sunny conditions with a cool morning leading into a warm day. Now to the “epic” part of our session!
Unlike past opening days that have typically involved paddling and fishing massive distances in a single day, this year we had decided to hit the water at midnight and fish through til the dawn targeting bass on the surface in the dark. I managed to get about 2 hours sleep prior to the drive to the launch point but Tristan had decided to watch the Broncos game before heading to the river and setting up the kayak.
By the time I had arrived Tristan was already there and his kayak was ready to go. In fifteen minutes my yak was also rigged up and at 12:16AM we were ready to launch. As always we had a few speculative casts into the first pool before launching in the hope that we would start the season perfectly with a bass on the first cast but it was not meant to be. Launching the yaks we hit a mist covered river that was quite eerie as it was really still and the mist was only at waste height when standing but above head height in the kayak. It was also a full moon and with the low lying mist dispersing the light on the water it was almost like fishing at daytime. At times I would have to squint as the moonlight reflecting off the water’s surface made it impossible to penetrate the inky blackness of some bends in the river.
The first bass of the night went to Tristan at 12:46PM. The night was so quiet you could distinctly hear the “bloop, bloop, bloop” of our black jointed jitterbugs as they crawled along the surface of the polished inky water. Tristan was on the opposite bank and casting perpendicular to an eroded bank. The river had experienced some major flooding at the start of the year and some of the banks were up to 10m of vertical soil that appeared as cliff faces in the dark. The “bloop bloop” of Tristan’s Jitterbug was interrupted by a splash in the dark and the call of “I’m on!” drifted across the river as the first bass of the season was being fought to the kayak. Woohoo! At 32cmFL it was only a small bass but it was a start and only 30 minutes after our first casts.
We were extremely optimistic and excited about the night’s potential but the action was dead for the next hour and a bit and hundred as of casts crawled back to the kayak without any interest. It wasn’t until 2:10AM that the next bass made an appearance. I cast my black jitterbug at a pine sapling that I could see draping across the waterline in the moonlight. A couple of twitches and the lure was “boofed” off the surface and I was onto my first bass of the season. It was a solid fish and as a attempted to fight him back to the yak he managed to find some timber down deep. All I could think was “Please, please, please let the leader hold and let me get my first fish to the kayak!”! After some gentle persuasion I felt the fish free from the timber and I netted my first bass for the season.
It was a good fish to and at over 40cm it was a cracking fish to open the season with. I quickly took a photo of the jitterbug in the bass’s mouth and then removed the lure with my pliers. Unfortunately in the process of removing the trebles they managed to get caught in one of the bungy cords of my kayak, effectively stitching the landing net to the kayak. As I tried to remove the lure, the bass decided to have a fit and flip out the landing net and gain its freedom before I could get a good photo of it and accurately measure its size. Bugger!
At this point we headed back to the launch site as our intention was to head back upstream and fish the upper pools just prior to the sun coming up. What we hadn’t anticipated was the drop in temperature. We knew that it was going to be cold but the temperature just kept dropping!! God it was cold and it was only 3:30AM and we knew it was going to get colder!!
The next bass was caught by Tristan in a similar fashion to his first. On another eroded bend in the river a massive cliff loomed in the darkness. Like previously Tristan cast perpendicular to the bank and after a couple of twitches the jitterbug was slurped off the surface by another low thirties bass. Moments later I replicated Tristan’s technique and attracted another bass that slurped once at the lure before disappearing into the darkness and then had a similar result casting at some structure in the middle of the river
The bass went quiet again for the next stretch of river until I cast at a log running parallel to the river bank and after sending the jitterbug into a short crawl it was picked off the surface by another bass in the thirties.
As we travelled up the river it got colder and colder and I was colder than I have ever felt in a long time. I was even wearing thermal underwear and that could barely hold out the cold. Between the three layers I had on as well as a beanie, explorer socks and head scarf the cold was still finding its way into my bones. My hands being the only part of me exposed could barely hold the rod and I was worried that if a decent bass hit hard enough it might rip the rod straight out of my hands. Tristan was struggling with the cold worse than I was so he decided to head back to the car and throw on his spare clothes in an attempt to stay warm.
I decided to continue fishing as I was warm enough and knew that dawn was only an hour away and I would be able to warm up when the run rose. Eventually I found another interested bass in the dark and managed another bass in the thirties on the jitterbug. A follow up cast into the same area found a bass keen to engulf the lure and he hit it four times on the retrieve without finding the trebles. I then cast into an area that was covered in timber and was hit by another bass with a little more tenacity. He missed the lure and hit it again on the second cast with a similar result. The third cast the bass smacked the lure and managed to hook up for a brief moment before the hooks pulled. Bugger!
Tristan then returned after rugging himself up and we continued upstream. At this point we reached a favourite bank of mine that had consistently produced bass in the past. It was covered in grass and bass seemed to move into the area at dawn to feed on insects rising with the sun. With the light starting to appear in the sky, I packed up my spinning reel and jitterbug and switched over to my baitcaster and the ever reliable Luckycraft Sammy 65 in Archer Bee.
It wasn’t long before the bass moving amongst the grass started to chase my lure and gentle hit it on the surface. Although we were managing to get a lot of surface action the bass were either not hitting the lure with any vigour or were missing the lure altogether on their surface assaults. It was frustrating but still awesome to watch.
The next 30 minutes saw multiple bass hitting the Sammy along the grassy bank and a number of bass netted and released. The biggest went 37cmFL and the smallest in the high twenties. As the grassy bank ended Tristan managed another good bass of 38cm on the opposite bank as he targeted the myriad of timber structures that lined the river edge. Soon after he managed his biggest bass for the day of 40cm off some serious structure before the bass went quiet again.
We continued to the end of the pool and I managed another bass of 35cmFL off the top on the Sammy before we were able to stretch our legs and warm ourselves in the early morning sun while we had some brekkie. It had been a good morning and we decided to head to the next pool to see if any bass had made it up further. The plan was to continue from pool to pool and to head back when we caught no bass in a pool.
After a quick bite to eat we were off again and the first few structures in the next pool yielded no bass. We were starting to get a little pessimistic until Tristan managed a good bass on a Ecogear SX60 in the middle of the creek. At 39cm, it was another solid fish that appeared as though it was a fish that had missed the spawning run.
We continued upstream and I managed another bass in the thirties on the Sammy and missed multiple fish that kept hitting the lure and missing the trebles. It was a good sign and entertaining but frustrating at the same time. Most of the hits were very subtle but one at least absolutely smacked the lure like it was the peak of Summer.
We reached the top of the pool that had a deep section with a nice bit of structure at the back of it. Casting the Sammy in multiple times there was no interest and I had just started to comment that a bass had to live in there when one hit a couple of metres from the snag. It was a good fish and I had to work hard to net him. At 37cmFL it was another good fish to add to my season opener tally!
At the next set of portage we paused again for a drink, something to eat and a bit of a chin wag. Tristan decided to lie down on the warm rocks and have a rest as the “all nighter” started to take its toll! Eventually we hit the next pool and Tristan managed another bass in the thirties on a Jackall Aragon. The bass had started to go quiet, the wind had picked up and had started to blow us around the water, and after we reached the next pool and did not manage a fish we stuck to our plan and headed back to the launch point.
I switched to a new Duel 60mmHardcore Shad, which now come in some awesome new colours, to try and entice a few fish that had taken no interest in the surface lures. We reached the pool where I had previously caught a 37cmFL bass and we had a few casts. At this point I was going through the motions and chatting with Tristan when the lure was slammed by a bass down deep. This bass fought hard and I knew it was a good fish. Eventually I netted a nice fat 40cmFL bass and was very happy with this bonus fish.
We continued downstream and managed to pick up a few more bass in the thirties on sub-surface lures before exiting the water at 1pm. The wind that had come up during the day helped push us downstream which was great as we were both exhausted. The final tally was 13 bass to me and 9 to Tristan although we must have missed close to double this number off the surface. It was a great way to open the season but I think neither of us want to feel that cold ever again, it still gives me goose bumps thinking about it, Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!