Top Water Tactics (fresh) – Clayton Nicholls – April 13

As a person working in the tackle industry I am often asked where I would go for a quick fishing session that doesn’t require too much fussing around. My answer is simple the freshwater lagoons around Rockhampton. Many of these lagoons and small freshwater creeks can be accessed by simply parking the car and getting out while other areas you have to hike a little to find that perfect snag.

Before you even get excited about the barra and thousands of tarpon in these areas, just note the right gear will make the job so much easier. It’s not uncommon to see people throwing shallow diving minnows off a bridge with a handline and I have to wonder how much they actually catch. The best choice of gear here is a light to medium graphite rod with a length exceeding seven foot to get some distance to tree lines and weed beds from the embankments. A reel with 6-10 pound braid is quite ideal, but 6 pound is exceptional fun.

My lures of choice for these afternoon freshwater fishing locations are topwater lures like poppers and stick baits, the Sebile Splasher  and Sebile Bonga Minnow being amongst my favourites. These lures have many different actions that can be applied, so here are the top few techniques in no particular order:

The Pop’N’Pause

This technique is great for using poppers around structures like trees and weed edges. The beauty of this is you can go slow and steady (try popping the lure, retrieving any slack, then pausing until all the ripples has dissipated). It gives the fish time to become aware of the lure and hunt it down over the next few pops.

The Twitch Tactic

This technique involves retrieving the popper with a slow, constant wind with an added pop every metre or so. It is great for covering patches of unexplored water or when the water is already pretty rippled from the wind. This technique can be varied, faster or slower, for lure size and fish species. This technique is also brilliant in the rain, although you want to make the pops more frequent and add bit more splash nothing stirs the freshwater species up like a good drizzle.

The Continual Twitch

This technique is great when you know the fish are active and around. Simply place your lure in the tree line and give it a medium-paced constant retrieve with lots of twitching. This makes the lure twitch violently and from underneath, where the fish lurk, it looks like a bug or lizard fell out of the tree and is frantically trying to make it to the edge or something to grasp onto.

The Double Pop

This is another successful technique, mainly just on dusk. You give the popper a big bloop to attract the fish then wait till the displacement settles before giving it a little tap.  This tells the fish it’s still there and distressed or scared and often triggers a powerful strike. This is a killer technique I picked up for tight structure when the fish are shutdown or inactive.

Walk the Dog

So this is the best known yet most underutilised surface technique out there. A lot of fish have been caught on this technique in the freshwater lagoons. For this technique a walker or stick bait surface lure is ideal and a slow retrieve with constant rod twitches will make the lure work side to side on the retrieve. This is a great technique for fishing next to lilies or weed beds and it is especially good when the system is full of little fish playing on the surface.

The Mullet Dash

This technique is similar to the ‘Walk the Dog’, however, you want to fish for a reaction strike when the fish are active. Look for barra boiling in the water around lilies, weed and other structure and the tarpon will leave a little wake with bubbles. Simply cast your surface walker into the area or on top of the boils and wakes, give it no time to settle, work it hastily over the top Walk the Dog style, then pause after you pass a metre over the boil area before continuing.

These techniques are best in the late afternoon or early morning when the fish are active on the surface feeding off smaller fish or insects. The reason fishing the freshwater lagoons around Rocky is such a great short fishing trip is because it generally fires up just after most people knock off work and is absolutely killer on dusk. This gives people the chance to finish up at work, set up their gear and get amongst them.

Walking around these areas exploring for the perfect sets of snags is pretty simple; just chuck a few surface lures in a backpack along with a spool of leader and plier/cutter combo tool. Keep in mind you will definitely need a spool of leader, because the barra and tarpon scuff it up good and when it’s at the lighter end of the scale you need to replace it regularly to ensure the next fish will be landed just as well as the first.

When releasing these fish, swim them a little, especially the barra, as the water isn’t as oxygenated as the salt and you want to make sure the fish is full of oxygen when you release them.

Fish light, get the bite!