Prime North Coast bass habitat.
North Coast Bassing

Last night I returned home from the Copmanhurst Bass Invitational and after such an awesome weekend of fishing I felt encouraged to put finger to key board and try to inspire you all about just how great our NSW bass fishery really is. Copmanhurst is on the Clarence River to the West of Grafton, down stream it's still boat territory, whereas upstream it's more suited to canoes or small punts that can be man handled over sand or rock bars.

At this time of the year (Oct/Nov) the bass are, or have just moved through this brackish section of the river and are fast making their way upstream into the famous Clarence River Gorge country, where they'll join their summer room mate, the eastern cod. Over the weekend, with my fishing partner Mike Colless, we spent most of our time fishing the lower sections, down river from Copmanhurst, travelling as far down as Rogan's Bridge, as well as heading up into the Orara River. On the first day of fishing we found the fish very hard to pin down, sure there was the odd fish in usual places, but finding the big schools of travelling fish was a difficult proposition.

In the end we resorted to deep jigging with spinner baits and rattling jigs and after a fairly fishless first three hours of casting, we finally started to score consistent amounts of good fish to 44 cm, but still not in the concentrations or sort of numbers we felt were needed to do well in a competition situation. Interestingly it was during our lunch break that we started to pick the pattern as to where the fish were holding up. It seemed that although we were casting at all the best fish holding structure we could find, the majority of our successes, or near successes, had come on the bends in the river.

The sorts of bends that proved the most productive were usually deep on the outside and shallow on the inside and although in the past I've had success fishing deep spinner baits on the shallow banks, over the weekend nearly all our fish came from either the deeper corners, or the first 20 or so metres of straight, leading out from bends. In the final washup Mike and myself caught and released 47 bass to 44 cm in a day and a half of champagne fishing, the fish were caught on a mixture of spinner baits and shallow diving crank and stick baits, with green, yellow and white our most successful colour mixture.

The Author Phill Atkinson with a great North Coast Bass. This fish topped 50 centimeters in length, and was caught on a small diving minnow.

The North Coast of NSW is well renowned for its "big time" bass fisheries, rivers such as the Manning, Macleay and the mightiest of all, the Clarence; are legendary in bass fishing folklore. But in between these big delta systems are an amazing amount of smaller creeks and waterways, each with their own salt, brackish and freshwater zones; and all with enough access points for the enterprising small boat, or canoe based anglers to do some serious exploring. If you've never fished the North Coast of NSW for wild bass, then you've got some exciting times ahead of you, all those sub 35 cm specimens that are considered a good fish in parts further south, barely raise an eyelid on the North Coast, up here "perch" aren't worth mentioning until they're over 40cm!

When first fishing unfamiliar and often skinny water, one of the first things I attempt to find out is where the consistently freshwater section of the system starts. If the creek has an operating weir, then this area is usually easy to track down, without a weir the demarcation is not so obvious and in these cases looking for the use of irrigation pumps by farmers, is the next best tell tale sign of a consistently fresh section of river. Other indicators such as water lily, bull rush or freshwater weed growth, will also indicate bass habitats, but are only worthwhile indicators of brackish water and not the full fresh that bass feel most comfortable in during the height of summer.

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Last updated: November 27, 2000©1999-2000 Sportsfish. All rights reserved.
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