The 2021 Barra Bash is on this year over the dates of October 22nd to 24th, again running a catch and release format. This is a fantastic development and great to see embraced by anglers last year while encouraging the greater fishing community towards sustainable fishing and educating appropriate fish care to safely remove, measure, take a picture and release a fish back to its environment. Although the lake has always been a stock and take fishery, new stocking methods with larger fingerlings have seen the fishery improve ten fold over the last decade.
Impoundment fishing can be a tricky past time, and most occasional fisherman are unaware that there is a lot happening behind the scenes that make certain fisherman more successful that others in their pursuit of the ultimate 1m+ barra.
Tinaroo is full of these trophy fish with last year’s gigantic 141 cm fish landed by Dillon Jones during the tournament really being the lofty summit that the drives all keen anglers to put the hours of work in.
Talented angler Ben Tunstead really showed the true potential of what this dam can do with his 14 barra total catch (averaging just under a meter). By utilising his immense knowledge of when and where the barra would bite best, Ben was able to capitalise and ensure he was always fishing on active fish. What will surprise most is the hours total he put in was minimal in comparison to most of the other fisherman.
The following information is some of what I have personally picked up over the years of completing in various Impoundment casting tournaments, although it doesn’t capture bait fishing or trolling, the same concepts will help when preforming your preferred method. Hopefully you will pick up something helpful and thus place you one step ahead in catching one of these monsters during this year’s Barra Bash!
The tackle industry is a constantly changing beast, immense amounts of new techniques and equipment flood the market every year and it can be hard to keep from being engulfed. You can buy lures and tackle till the cows come home, however there is a simple way of approaching this and keeping the cost down.
Look at your lures with regards to depths of water you fish. Having a range of lures which covers the upper surface range to the silty bottom reaches will ensure you have something to throw at them whatever the mood they may be in. The following is a good range of lures to start with that covers these different depths and are proven performers in Lake Tinaroo and other impoundments.
Surface: Cultiva Tango Dancer, Lucky Craft Sammy, Storm Arashi Topwalkers, Reidy’s
Mid depth: Readies B52, Lucky Craft Pointers, Rapala X-raps, various swimbaits such as the Lucky Craft Real Ayu, Real California and Jackal Gantia are also red hot at the moment. Deep diving hard bodies: Lucky Craft 100XD and DD’s, Leads Shads, Barra Classic 15+, Plastics: Any hollow bellied plastic such as the old Berkley Hollow Bellies, 6th Sence, Basstrix, Z-man Swimmers with a range of jig hooks and sizes to suit the plastic size. Generally, 1⁄2 to 1 ounce weights cover most Impoundment situations, with hook sizes relative to the length of the plastic you throw (eg. 5/0 – 3 inch, 7/0 – 6inch, 10/0 – 8 inch plus).
Other plastics such as Squidgy Slick rigs, Storm suspending shads, Castaic Jerky J’s, hard and soft plastic vibes and any large pre-rigged or unrigged paddle tailed plastics will cover most situations. Don’t be afraid to throw plastics in excess of 30 cm if you have the gear to, these fish wont knock a sizable feedback! Ensure your lures are equipped with upgraded trebles and rings, Decoy YS81’s are my current favourite treble with the new EX Split rings the strongest ring on the market (and the most value!).
Rods and reels:
As discussed, the tackle industry has evolved a great deal, and with that so have rods and reels. Please look past the traditional 5’6-6 foot baitcaster “rut” of which most of the far north (including the Territory) seems to be stuck in. This is outdated and pretty much the worst gear to work lures effectively for the big Impoundment barra.
A 10-25lb baitcaster of 6’8 to 7 foot plus with a decent 200 size overhead reel and a good quality 20-50lb braid, running a minimum of 50-80lb quality fluorocarbon leader is a must. Don’t skimp on you fluorocarbon leader as this is usually the part that will give way when hooked up to your trophy (as long as your knots are sound!). Sunline in my opinion make the best leader and braid on the market so I use a range of 50-80 lb Sunline FC100 leaders and Sunline Castaway and Super PE for my dam applications.
For the spin rod fans, run a crisp 7 foot plus, 10-30 lb stick also with a decent 4000 size reel (Shimano sizing), and also the same quality braid and leader set up as above.
These two setups are the basics of a consistent impoundment Barra fisho’s arsenal, and will allow you to cast most of the lures discussed above. If you would like to get involved into the swim baiting rage currently sweeping the country, ensure you have a decent set up for this (they are quite specific set ups, 8 foot rods, large 300 six plus reels, 80lb braid plus and 20-50lb rods). These lures aren’t suited to the standard set ups and will break your gear if you attempt it.
Ok you have your equipment set up, what’s next?
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of successful dam fisherman out there using basic sounders or none at all, however to be consistence I will guarantee you that having a decent SI Imaging sounder and knowing how to analyse and use this unit has been the most ground-breaking advancement in Impoundment fishing in the last 10-15 years.
A quality set up such as a Hummingbird Helix or Lowrance HDS which has a HD multi beam capable transducer will ensure you are fishing on fish every time. In my opinion Hummingbird has always been ahead of the rest with regards to clarity in its SI (they were the first to bring SI to the recreational market), however you can’t got wrong with Lowrance’s down imaging and mapping being also featuring advanced technology. Ether brand unit you will be head of anyone still not embracing this now relatively old technology.
Some simple tips for sounder set up is to ensure you do not extend your SI screen too far (loss of detail is the result) and ensure you have a clear colour pallet which shows the fish and bait clearly. A good starting setting is to have your SI set to around 20-30 meters, only increasing this if you enter deep waters (greater than 30 foot). Your sensitivity and contrast settings are best started at mid-point settings (most units are default to this) and tweak upwards and downwards to find the best clarity. The best images will be while you sit stationary and when a fish passes perfectly through the beam, there will be no mistaking what you have seen! The quality sounders will also show impressive images when idling around.
Where to look?
Tinaroo when full has quite a large body of water, and for most people, finding some active fish is like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack. Kayak fishing has been a popular and productive past time for anglers and rightly so, plenty of cracking fish and large numbers can be caught using this method. Certain things ensure kayaker’s success including the sheer amount of water covered, silent and the almost fish attention attraction from the methodical movement of the paddles in the water. With this in mind, I believe there is a much more consistent approach than the trolling like approach of the kayak fisherman and this can be done out of any humble tinny.
The benefit of fishing out of a tinny in comparison is due to the static and pinpoint methods which can be utilised, it can be easier to establish higher catch rates, quicker fight times and better bite to landing ratio’s when the conditions suit. Impoundment fishing is about timing and being on the right fish at the right times.
The basics to finding fish rich areas are well documented, however to throw a simple spin on this, start look for the following: current, bait present, structure and feeding zones.
Current: apart from seasonal deluges or inflows, most impoundments rely on wind sheer to stimulate water flow. Windward facing locations are the basic starting points.
Bait: this is quite easy to establish and can be seen by the movement on the surface of the water or presence on a sounder.
Structure and feeding zones: This is the basic tie in of all the concepts. Barra are ambush predators, the presence of structure allows this behaviour to be expressed, this is an important concept for any barra purist. Structure can be anything from logs, trees, rocks, grass, weed or even bank transitions (ledges, composition changes etc). Feeding zones is a broad reference to a specific area which Barra are present at when feeding. These are generally associated to all of above and can include gradual points, open flats, creek channel swings, tapered ridges etc. With the use of the quality SI sounder this can usually be established quickly, and will provide clues to where the next possible location in the dam may hold more fish.
Getting them to bite…
Now you’ve got your gear sorted, the right lures and tackle and found some fish on your sounder in an area that displays all the right attributes of a feeding zone. The million dollar question, how do I get them to bite?
As with saltwater barra, the impoundments also have optimal times when the fish are more active and will accept your offerings more readily.
These also relate around solar/luna movements, weather changes and various other factors which essentially open and close the pantry door. The key is to find those times with attention to these factors and predict when and where you should be in relation to them.
Getting these consistent isn’t easy and is what separates the good fisherman from the best. Don’t be disheartened if you just cannot get a bite, this happens quite regularly. Re-evaluate what you are doing, try somewhere different and try the spot again at a different time.
The end result…
I have been lucky enough to fish a range of different Impoundments and Tinaroo ranks very high on my favourite list. We are incredibly lucky to have such a historical, quite beautiful and quality fishing impoundment such as Tinaroo right on our doorstep. The hard work done by the local stocking association is the reason why this dam continually takes its mantle as a fishing Mecca for anglers Australia wide. When the right conditions evolve, the fishing can be as red hot as any of the other more publicised southern dams.
I hope some of this information is handy for your personal pursuits, keep up the work, love the resource and enjoy the Barra Bash for 2021!