It is the time of year that Bassboy and I normally travel north for a Barra or Bass trip. With only a short summer holiday break we recognised we did not have time to drive to Queensland to chase Barra so we decided on chasing Bass for 6 days at Lake St Clair near Singleton. This would also enable me to further test my new boat and work through any issues closer to home.
We travelled up to Lake St Clair early morning Monday 6 January and established our camp for the week. The dam was glassed out and it was sweltering hot, however we knew this would not last as a low was approaching with a weather prediction of moderate winds and cooler weather.......both of which we knew would challenge our skills.
As with all trips Bassboy and I decided we would compete against each other, with each session being decided on who had the biggest bag of two Bass. This would also allow me to test out the live well in the new boat. We also had the donut hat ready to be awarded, however it was not used due to the success enjoyed throughout the trip.
After setting up the camp we set out for the first afternoon session, which was designated our ‘pre-fish’ for the competition as we were mainly searching Bass and trying to identify their bite patterns. We started working weed points adjacent to deep water where we had sounded out schools of fish. This was where we caught our first Bass of 34cm using a soft plastic rigged with a Betts Jig Spin. However we could not coax any other Bass from this weed point and we went in search of other schools. During this pre-fish we identified that the bite was a reaction style bite with many fishing seemingly side swiping our lures which meant many bumps for few hook-ups. I finally got onto another fish later in the afternoon whilst casting a suspending Jerkbait onto a rocky point surrounded by weed. Unfortunately these were the only two fish landed in the session, leaving us scratching our heads on what to do next!
Day 2. Tuesday morning was by far the most productive session; it also marked the start of our “friendly” competition. We decided that we needed to work hard for a reaction bite along the many weedy points adjacent to deeper water. I was using a Jackall TN50 and Bassboy a new Tiemco Spinnerbait. I dropped a fish within 5 casts, and then while Bassboy was rolling and ripping his Spinnerbait through the weed he was jammed by a nice fish which took some line from a locked up drag as the fish dove straight into the weed. Consequently I had to push the boat up to the face of the weed walls to prise him out of the weeds, rewarded Bassboy with a nice 48cm Yellowbelly.
We continued this pattern for the remainder of the morning session. I landed the next two bass (along with 1 big bust up) while tickling the top of weeds with my Jackall. The Bass were nice fish at 38cm and 35cm and both gave a good account of themselves.
Bassboy continued to work his Tiemco Spinnerbait onto the weed and allowing it to flutter down the face of the wall. This persistence enabled him to boat his first Bass of the trip. He tried to make his way into the weed but Bassboy managed to turn his head before he could brick him in the weed.
We were able to stay on the fish, however the reaction bite meant that we were only converting every second or third strike into a hook-up. However I was able to get an upgrade fish of 36cm, while Bassboy could only muster a 35cm fish to fill his bag. This meant that I won the first session and Bassboy was in catch-up mode.
That afternoon the predicted strong winds arrived so we headed up the Fallbrook Arm to seek some respite from the wind whilst also searching for some more spots and further work out the bite patterns. I was the first again to strike landing a nice 36cm Bass by rolling my Jackall TN50 over the weed. Still using his Tiemco Spinnerbait, Bassboy sent a cast wide of the weed and while rolling it slowly back it got hit three times before the fish finally committed and smashed his lure. This time he scored a nice 37cm bass temporarily giving him the lead.
As with the morning session we continued to get hits on our lures, with scales on our hooks indicated they were side swiping the lures. Nonetheless I was able to land 2 more Bass, going 37cm and 33cm, thereby resulting in another session to me.
Wednesday dawned grey and windy and resulted in the toughest day we spent on the dam. Changes in the weather and barometric pressure seemed to have affected the fish negatively; therefore there was only a short bite period in the morning. Bassboy got one bass going 35cm and dropped a slightly bigger one boat side after he buried his lure deep in a wall of weed. It was a tough morning with a only a couple more undersized fish being boated before we called it quits for the morning with Bassboy recording his first win of the trip.
By the commencement of the afternoon session the wind had picked up, which made our productive weed points very difficult to fish. As a consequence we moved to a small bay that provided some protection from the strong winds and also showed schooling fish in 20ft of water. This changed location required us to change our techniques – I started to roll a small soft plastic through the school while Bassboy switched over to a small blade that he slowly rolled through the school. Fortunately this change of tactic seemed to work, before long Bassboy started getting hits caught about 15 small Bass before we moved off this school to work a nearby weedy point. This move paid dividends for me (I was on the electric so decided to move) finally hooking a legal fish of 30.5cm by copying Bassboy’s technique. At this point we decided to employ our new Powerpole to hold our position on top of the weed bed and work the area harder. Bassboy then had a hot streak by casting into deep water and rolling the blade back up onto the weed wall, thereby catching in succession a 35cm, 33cm and a 36cm Bass. The final fish was a nice 37cm Bass caught by rolling my Jackall slowly from deep water past a couple of tall towers of submerged weed. Unfortunately this did not give me enough to defeat Bassboy who took the honours for the day. Wednesday taught us to remain flexible and change techniques to suit the prevailing conditions.
Thursday morning was still cool and windy, as a consequence we headed off to the Fallbrook Arm to work a few spots that were less affected by the wind. We found a somewhat protected point with fish again sitting at the 15-20ft mark. Whilst Bassboy rolled his blade deep amongst the fish I decided to roll my Jackall past a couple of tall weed towers immediately catching a 35cm Bass. Continuing this same pattern we scored a double hook up resulting in a 37cm (me) and 35cm Bass....we were ecstatic. Later on the same point I managed an upgrade fish of 36cm, convincingly beating Bassboy for the morning session.
As the afternoon came around the weather glassed off a little, with the sun coming out to warm the water a little. With this weather change we switched back over to the shallower water adjacent to the weed beds, which immediately paid dividends as I dropped 5 Bass before I landed a fat 38cm girl. Next cast Bassboy was rewarded with a 35cm Bass, which once again whacked the Tiemco Spinnerbait. Just before the wind picked up and shut down the bite I managed a nice 42cm Yellowbelly. After that change only rats were caught and a few dropped by both of us. The 38cm Bass enabled me to take the honours again.
Friday was the last day of our competition; fortunately the weather had greatly improved over night, with smooth conditions and the sun shining. With lifted spirits we hit the main basin for a few hits but called it quits quickly and headed around to some more successful ground. I was rewarded handsomely with a nice 36cm bass. Unfortunately this was the only fish of the session, ultimately giving me the overall victory of the week. Whilst I won both the session and the overall competition I did lose the net over the side while trying to recover one of Jackall TN50s which was snagged in a deep weed bed.....I was unwilling to dive into the weed bed to save the net.
Unfortunately the wind had picked back up for the afternoon session, so once again we searched a few spots. We worked the boat against the wind, slowly creeping up the bank peppering both the weed edges and deeper water. It wasn’t long before Bassboy was rewarded with a 35cm bass, caught rolling and ripping his blade adjacent to the weed edge. A couple of casts later he got busted off by a bigger fish boat side (losing his blade and his confidence). The action went quiet for a bit after this, so after two moves and a dropped fish we were back on some productive water. It only took one pass along this point for both of us to pick-up some fish, with Bassboy well in the lead for this session. Fortunately with just 3 minutes to go (before our agreed finishing time) I got onto another fish beating Bassboy’s 35cm and 36cm Bass with a bag of 36cm and 37cm Bass.
Saturday, the final morning dawned calm and warm; consequently we felt confident that our weedy point from Friday afternoon would pay-off for our short morning session. Thankfully, it didn’t take long before a solid 36cm bass slammed Bassboy’s blade. I also hooked up here getting one of those average 35cm fish again. Not long after we called it quits so that we could pack up the camp and head home.
Overall it was an excellent trip with many lessons learnt, numerous lures sacrificed to the fishing god, a net given a watery grave and lessons learnt for our next competition. We also had the opportunity to learn more about the new boat, which is now being fitted with rod lockers to clear our casting space.