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Australian Boomer Bass
by Garry Goldate, Galco Sportfishing Consultants

The pre dawn mist hung heavily as we motored silently towards the trees.  I cast my lure into the brush and a second later the reel was spinning rapidly with line crackling off it as the rod tip lunged wildly towards the water.  Before I could take a stunned breath, I’d lost five or six metres of line and Des Charles (the guide) was swiveling in the front seat of the canoe to see why the stern was slewing sideways towards the bank.

“Got’im! A beauty!” I grunted, as I thumbed the spool to stem the flow of Spiderwire before wrestling the rod tip up.  I pulled it away from the snag and started to recover some line.  Just as I begun to relax and enjoy myself, the fish put it’s head down and spurted away again with renewed vigor on the hottest run I’ve ever seen from a Bass.  Eight to ten metres of the gelspun roared from the reel and up through the guides with that characteristic whistling, hissing sound that makes my pulse race whenever I hear it.  I soon felt an ominous grating sensation as the Bass took me back into it’s snag and sickeningly everything went solid and I was now fighting a submerged tree as well as a rampaging “Boomer Bass”.  A moment later, the fish was gone and I was left holding my line minus lure.  I shook my head in wonder as I looked at the end of the dramatically shortened leader.  A Bass that can pull metres of line against a tight drag set?  A Bass that can pull a fully laden Canadian canoe and two big men sideways through the water?  A Bass that can snap eight kilo mono leader in a direct pull?  Now that’s what Clarrie Hall Dam in Northern New South Wales is all about.  Come to think of it, that’s what Bass fishing is Australia is all about.

The Australian Bass, known scientifically as Macquaria Novemaculeata, is a species surrounded by myth and legend.  “BASS” is a simple word but one that amongst a breed of Australia's east coast anglers, conjures up visions of heart stopping strikes, secret pristine places, memorable fishing days and a mixture of feeling with battles won and lost that only another fisherman can appreciate.

The Australian Bass lives most of it’s life in a freshwater environment, travelling down to the brackish and saltwaters of estuaries for spawning purposes, usually in the winter months of July and October.  They inhabit most of the streams and rivers that flow into the ocean along the east coast of Australia.  With much of it’s habitat degraded by human habitation (the Bass likes to live in the same area as humans) many of our best Bass are now found in our freshwater dams and impoundments along the East Coast.  The Australian Bass is a fish, which, during daylight hours, seeks cover wherever it is available.  Look for it under submerged trees, around rocks, under ledges, in and near weed beds and around water lily gardens.

At night, it roams far and wide and is often taken by using surface poppers in mid water.  It prefers a clearwater habitat and a temperature range of between of between 15 degrees to 23 degrees Centigrade, although it is often taken outside these limits.

 In Bass we are blessed with a unique freshwater game fish and, in fact, Australia’s only freshwater native that is designated “sport fish only” which means they are not to be fished or farmed by pro fishermen.  They are very similar in habits and sporting qualities to the large mouth and small mouth Bass of the United States.  Australian Bass have all the characteristic traits, to make it Australia’s most popular sports fish, fast growth rates, heart stopping attacks, good looks, great fighting qualities, temperature tolerances and it tastes great as well.

Many years of fishing never prepared me for the ferocity of a Bass attack.  The absolute slam of the hit.  The torrid boatside battle.  The pure magic of these fat little fighters left me craving for more.  Most Australian Bass are between one and two pounds.  Some monsters have been caught, but anything over ten pounds is considered a trophy fish and that was what I was after here in Clarrie Hall Dam.  The tour had been organised through Kangaroo Tours Australia and my guide was the famous Des Charles of Fishin’ Freshwater.  Des is the best guide in the areas as he was soon to prove.  Clarrie Hall is a beautiful placid lake, only a few hours from the Gold Coast (Australia’s answer to Rio).  The Dam features many drowned trees, weed and lily banks, rocky outcrops as well as thick bush growing right down to the water’s edge.  It is a very pretty setting to hunt “Mega Bass”.

Once I lost that first lunker Bass, things went quiet for a while, but we continued chucking lures at timber and I finally had my lure viciously attacked.  Never in freshwater had I fought a fish with such energy, capable of peeling line so fast.  With the rod straining, I pulled the fish into open water and backed off the drag, fearing that the hooks would pull.  Eventually, several strong runs later, I had the fish at the canoe and comfort lifted it in.  At 6lb 11oz, it was a monster, the biggest I have ever caught.  A quick photo and she was released back into the drink to fight another day.  We continued like this until it started to get dark and we headed back to shore.  It had been a terrific day.  I had caught my biggest Bass ever.  Still deep inside, I was a little disappointed that the elusive 10 lb. fish had eluded me again.  But Des was not finished yet, “Grab your rod, reel and a couple of surface lures and follow me.”  I did his bidding without question as we headed off through the bush.  The bright moonlight made the going easy and we soon reached a glass smooth moonlight pool in an arm of the dam we hadn’t fished yet.

 My very first cast was a beauty, close in to the opposite shore.  Allowing time for the ripples to subside, I gently twitched the plug a couple of times, then after a reasonable pause began a slow, steady retrieve.  The lure appeared from the shadows, I fished, twitched and wished that fizzer until it returned to the shores almost at my feet – but to no avail.  Then as I was actually lifting the lure out of the water for the next cast – there was an almighty explosion of water that left me a shaking quivering mess.  I can only thank god that the big fish didn’t connect, for I fear that I might have had the rod ripped from my hands so shaky was my grip.  On my very next cast, a similar explosion, and I was tight into a solid fish.  It roared around the pool with me hanging on, trying to keep it out of the snags.  It was a beautiful Bass that when landed and released, turned out to be just over 10lb.  I was stoked.  What a day.  I had lost count at 20 fish released.  Then in that moonlight, magic gorge with it’s surrounding forested mountains, my Holy Grail, a 10 lb. Bass.  To me this was the absolute epitome of what amateur fishing is all about.  Adventure, exploring new places, excitement and the mateship that can only be appreciated by those who truly love and respect both the fish and environment.

I invite all my overseas fishing cousins to come to Australia to catch a “Mega Bass”.  It won’t be easy.  Not everyone is successful.  No guarantees.  But they are there and if you are after a bit of adventure, I invite you to give it go!


This story profiles Tour Operator Des Charles of Fish'n Freshwater Tours.

Des is one of Australia's foremost guides in South East Queensland. He has been a guide for many years and appears regularly on a national television fishing show. He specializes in freshwater fish species, especially Australian Bass.

Please contact:

Des Charles
Fish'n Freshwater Tours
Gilston, Queensland, Australia
Ph.: +61-7-5533 2238 Mobile: 0414-673 939

For more information on fishing holidays in Australia, contact:

Garry Goldate
PO Box 287
Victoria 3185
ph: + 61-3-9783 1104
fax:   61 3 9783 1017


Clarrie Hall Dam map

Clarrie Hall Dam
is situated in the North East corner of the state of New South Wales. It is located in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, between the mountains and the east coast of Australia. Nearby stands Mount Warning which is the first spot to receive the sun on the Australian mainland.

The area around it is mainly agricultural with the main crop being sugar cane. The sweet smell from the sugar cane and the flaming skies at dusk are the winter and spring impressions of this picturesque area. The major town in the region is Murwillumbah whose name came from the Aboriginals and means “place of many possums”. Patchwork canefields line the lazy Tweed river which curls around the township on it’s way  to the sea.

Description: The major fish species in Clarrie Hall are Australian Bass, Golden Perch, and Catfish. The Bass is an Australian native fish with moderately large scales, large dark eyes, a scooped forehead and a large mouth. Coloration depends on it’s environment. It can be almost black on the back, with a creamy  belly tinged with yellow , to a bright coppery gold and silver belly. 

oz_bass.gif (6882 bytes)Size: Most fish caught are between 500 grams to 2 kg. Maximun growth potential is around 5kg. 

Distribution: The Australian Bass is found in fresh to brackish water. It is unique to Australia's East Coast. 

How to Catch: Australian Bass respond enthusiastically to all types of fishing. Bait fishing, lure fishing, trolling and fly fishing. The most popular method in Australia is to cast and retrieve lures of a light, singlehanded baitcaster outfit. Best lures are diving plugs such as those used for the North American Bass. Surface lures work well on Bass especially in summer. This type of fishing is usually best at, around and after dusk, and provides much excitement, especially if one has tried to keep cool with a few tinnies.

Eating Qualities: Australian Bass are superb, rated as one of our best freshwater species. However, all fish are under great pressure these days. We practise and recommend catch and release.

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