Australian Boomer Bass
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.
by Garry Goldate, Galco Sportfishing
“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
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
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
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!