Warmer temperatures means it’s peak fishing time for Australian bass, the country’s favourite sportfish.

Story By Al McGlashan

The Australian bass is a favourite among anglers thanks to its highly aggressive nature and good looks. Like many other natives it all but shuts down during the cooler months with peak fishing time in spring when the increasing water temperatures spur it into action.
Restricted to Australia’s south-east, bass favour temperate waterways from eastern Victoria to southern Queensland. Despite being a freshwater species bass spawn in saltwater. As a result of this their home range is restricted to rivers flowing east, out of the Great Dividing Range, to reach the sea.
Despite this relatively restricted range the Aussie bass is common. The average sized bass varies greatly between locations and as a general rule those caught in lakes and impoundments, especially stocked waterways, appear to be the largest. A trophy bass is not rated by its weight but judged by length. Mick Latimer, proprietor of the Compleat Angler tackle shop in Sydney, says at 50 centimetres a bass is a pretty solid fish. “In good condition it could weigh as much as three kilograms,” he says.
Bass are certainly hindered with most of the major east-coast rivers dammed or blocked but they continue to thrive. Fisherman Pete Smith says even the Nepean River, on the outskirts of Sydney, holds good numbers of bass. When allowed to run their natural course bass migrate downstream to the estuarine waters in the late autumn early winter, driven by the urge to spawn. With spawning over by late winter and the weather starting to improve the fish start to migrate upstream to the fresh again. Pat Debattista, a Sydney angler who competes on the professional bass tournament circuit, says they are amazing creatures that can navigate waterfalls and rapids to get right up into the upper reaches of the rivers.
Bass are extremely aggressive and can be caught on a wide range of techniques although fishing artificials, both lure and fly, are widely considered the most popular. Regular angler James Yerbery says, “Working a deep diving plug away from a rock wall only to feel the electrifying strike of a bass nailing it is awesome. Better still you get to do it in pristine country, which just adds to the experience”.
Bass are ambush hunters, spending most of their time hiding in among the snags and lashing out at any prey that make the mistake of coming to close. With this in mind the key to successful bass fishing is about getting your lures right in the snags. It is best to focus your efforts around significant structures in deep water – the edge of a weedbed, drowned timber and rock ledges. Mick Lyons, a cattle station owner who spends far too much time fishing, says, “When fishing for bass it isn’t simply a matter of casting your lure about. Read the water and cast to specific spots where the fish may hide.

This story excerpt is from Issue #55

Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2007