Sunshine Coast Bassin
This school holidays I headed up to Noosa heads and had the opportunity to chase some bass in a local sunshine coast river. I had managed to catch a few in this system while bank bashing and was keen to explore the hard to reach pools via kayak. The day before the trip I scoped out as many launch locations as I could as potential points of entry.
The following day I was up relatively early and launched the kayak. The river had very little flow from previous trips and the water seemed a little stagnant. The rocks in the shallow sections between the various pools were covered in a slimy green and brown algae that made portage a challenge and by the end of the day I managed to put myself into the water twice.
The first pool was very long and I began casting straight away. As the light began to penetrate the depths of the water I realised that the first pool was very shallow. As I paddled upstream the water depth improved but the river passed through a wakening city which began to bustle with activity. A train passed over a railway bridge and then I passed under a main road. This was far from the tranquillity of some of the other systems I usually fish. As I moved further into the mountains the river began to evolve into the forest fringed water I was used to. The only thing missing were the bass that seemed to be unusually shy.
I eventually reached a pool lined with thick grass on one bank and timber and paperbarks on the other. The bottom of the pool was also thick with what must have once been a broad patch of lily pads. The top leaf of the lily pads was missing but the stems were clearly visible below the water line. I decided to target the bank lined with timber first as it was this side that head the darkest shade in the late morning light. About three casts in the Sammy was hit and I was onto my first bass. The bass quickly darted in to the patch of lilies and using the thick stems managed to rid itself of the trebles much to my disappointment. I was still happy to have finally found a fish.
I cast to the opposite bank to pack the line onto my baitcaster a little tighter and retrieved the lure through the lily pad stalks. After a quick walk the Sammy was smashed again by a good bass which fought hard through the lily stems but unlike the previous fish could not dislodge the lure. When netted the fish was a really chunky 34cm fish and looked like a bass more suited to a dam than a river.
With the bass coming near to the grassy bank of the river I switched sides and began casting in the shaded pockets of the grass. I was soon rewarded by another solid strike that pulled the Sammy well below the surface but my subsequent strike managed to pull the lure out of the fish’s mouth without it feeling the trebles. I eagerly sent a few more casts out and managed a another surface hit that missed before the follow up hit connected and I managed to net a 36cm bass.
I continued to cast at the grassy bank before moving on up the pool. At this point I put on my HD video sunglasses and continued casting away. Towards the top of the pool I cast into yet another potential bass ambush site. I cast the Sammy in and managed to get it caught up in some foliage so I left it in free spool and picked up my other rod. This rod had a Yo-zuri Hardcore 60mm Ghost shad tied on which is a lure I have been having good success on this season. I cast in and the lure hit a springy leaf which then flicked the lure into the water. A couple of twitches into the retrieve and I connected with a feisty little bass in the twenties.
The bass quietened down a bit for the next few pools, with only another rat that took the Sammy off the surface between the bank and a large boulder providing any excitement. The pools looked awesome but the water was still quite stagnant with little flow. The wind had also come up and there was a lot of leafy debris over the surface. This isn’t ideal with lure fishing especially from the surface but I found that if I cast in really tight to structure and gently flicked my rod tip in the zone in would entice willing fish.
The local water dragon population was also prolific with every large piece of timber containing a resident water dragon basking in the heat. A number of times they launched themselves from branches when I was unaware and hit the water with an almighty splash that I would almost jump out of the kayak!
I then reached a pool that looked no different to any of the others I had been fishing. Halfway up the pool I cast towards the bank where a rock wall dropped into the water. This is again one of my favourite structures especially when debris had been pushed up against the wall provided shade for hunting bass and a likely location of fallen insects to congregate. The Sammy went in and when I the lure started the walk the dog phase of the retrieve another feisty rat climbed over the lure.
A couple of minutes later I reached a deep recess in the rock wall that was heavily shaded and was full of substantial timber. I usually begin casting the fringes of such structure, in the hope that a bass will come out to hit the lure and not disturb other fish that may be lurking in deeper. Casting about a foot into the shade near the rock wall the Sammy was slurped off the surface as though a small bas had hit the lure. The rod loaded up and I realised that a decent fish was connected and thankfully playing fair and came out from the wall. The bass was desperate to avoid the net and managed to avoid being landed twice before succumbing. The fish went 37cm to the fork and was a very solid fish.
Towards the end of the pool was another rock wall lined with timber. It looked awesome and if there was a reasonable flow in the river would also have running water at one end. It was perfect bass habitat in ideal conditions and although there was only a trickle of water entering the pool it still looked like it should hold a bass. Numerous casts drew no strikes until eventually a small bass took pity on my desperate casts and took the lure. Unlike the previous bass it gave in really quickly and slid into the net.
Looking through the paperbarks up the small set of raids at the top of the pool I could see that the river rose sharply up a cascade of boulders that I would have to drag the kayak up. The river elevated about 6m and had a pitch of about 40 degrees that looked like it would be a mission to traverse. The river made its way around the huge jumble of boulders and timber and ran down a cascade of smaller rocks to the side. When the rains flooded this river it would possible hold a good number of bass as they attempted to push upstream after their spawning run.
After a “Solo Man” effort of dragging the kayak to the large pool at the top of the rapids I was again rewarded with some structure with huge bass holding potential. A large tree shaded an undercut bank just above where the water trickled down the cascade and slightly upstream of this was a huge submerged tree also covered in shade. The first few speculative casts with the Sammy yielded nothing but eventually another rat bass jumped on the lure to again provide some intermittent entertainment. Numerous casts around the area with the Sammy had no interest shown and so because the timber looked like it should hold a fish I switched to the Yo-zuri. First cast in and the lure got caught up on a branch but with a deft flick of the wrist the lure flicked off the branch and into the water. I began my retrieve and within moments it was hit hard deep in the timber and the bass quickly had me amongst the sticks. The braid sang like a note from an out of tune violin as the bass strained to get deeper in the timber. The noise is horrific to any angler’s ears as you just don’t know whether the line is going to part before you can extricate the fish. I initially called the fish for a good bass as the pressure exerted by the fish with the line wrapped around the submerged branch was significant. However eventually the bass swam clear and slid easily into the net as a 34cm bass was landed.
At this point the Video sunglasses went flat and I continued to cast and all the likely bass looking structure. The next fish came from yet another grass lined bank in the tiniest pocket of shade. The lure had barely hit the water before it was engulfed and I was fighting another powerful bass. These fish hit hard and then strained against the line to get away. With no structure in the near vicinity I patiently put pressure on the fish until he slid into the net. This fish was again much smaller than anticipated length wise (38cm) but its girth was huge. A number of the larger bass had huge girths and must have been land-locked during spawning. It’s amazing to think they were still hungry when they have so much fat to live off!!
Small bass continued to harry the Sammy until I eventually spied a large submerged tree trunk lying parallel to the bank. Between it and the bank were a number of smaller branches as well as a plastic drum connected to an irrigation pipe. It had all the hall marks of a great bass holding structure. I cast the peripheral fringes first hoping to entice an eager bass to hit the lure from a position that I had a chance of getting it into open water. When no bass complied I was forced to cast into tiger country!! The first cast landed a metre to the left of the plastic drum and after a couple of twitches the water exploded as my first serious bass engulfed the lure. All I could think was “Oh Crap how the hell am I going to get it out of there!!”. Initially the bass swam down the length of the trunk next to the bank and managed to avoid any structure but I had absolutely no control of the fish. He eventually turned and headed back towards to the drum and I watched in horror as the fish wrapped the line around whatever irrigation equipment was below the drum. The “off tune violin” began to sing and eventually the 16lb Mono leader gave up and fish and lure swam off. My insides turned to liquid as potentially my best fish of the season disappeared!
I continued up the river with a few smaller fish keeping me entertained until it was time to turn around and head home. I continued casting the Sammy at structure that had become shaded int the afternoon sun. It is one of the advantages of spending a full day bassing and having to go back over old ground. Often the afternoon sun opens up a whole new range of structures to cast at that were previously exposed to the full sun in the morning.
I cast the Sammy at new structures and picked up a few small fish the biggest going 30cm. I also cast my diver at structures that had yielded no fish on the upstream run but just screamed that a bass should be in residence.
At one set of timber, a branch with thick limbs had upturned to create a tripod on a steep dropping bank. I cast the Yo-zuri amongst the three limbs and a couple of twitches had me straining on a good bass. The rod buckled under the strain as a potentially season’s best fish struggled on the 8lb braid. Eventually another bass of huge girth but only 40cm in length came yakside. I was still amazed at the size of these fish. They were so healthy and virtually obese!!
Time was getting on so I picked up the pace. I cast the diver a little and managed some more rats and eventually I arrived back at the launch point. As I hauled the kayak from the water I was sickened to discover that my backpack had opened on the return journey somewhere and the bumbag containing my HD video sunglasses had fallen out of the bag. I was devastated and it was too late in the day to travel the length of the river to find them. With a heavy heart I packed my gear and headed back to Noosa. It had been a good day fishing but it was spoilt by the potential loss of the glasses and the footage they contained.
Arriving back at the house I couldn’t let go of the loss of my HD video sunglasses and so after some quick negotiating and with the help of my younger brother I headed back to the river the following day. The plan was a one way trip dropping in upstream near my turning point and having a good look at the portage points where a branch may have snagged the zip of my backpack and potentially the glasses. It was a long shot but I just couldn’t handle the possibility that they may be sitting somewhere perfectly intact and I hadn’t bothered to look.
I launched upstream and paddled the length of the river and searched every portage point as well as the surface of the pools in the hope they were floating. As I got closer and closer to the exit point my heart sank as I came closer to the realisation that they were gone. I decided to pull out early at a closer exit point and pulled the yak under a local bridge. While I waited for my brother to come and pick me up and did a final search of the final portage point before my exit point from the following day.
I couldn’t believe it! There sitting high and dry was my bumbag, fully intact without a drop of water. It was the second last portage point before I had exited the day before. I was ecstatic and must have used up a gazillion karma points to have found them without a scratch!