Basically this is going to be a reprint of an article I wrote for the Tournament Angler Guide (TAG) this year but it’s come to the front of my mind again since the kayak bass round held at St Clair a few weeks ago. I started thinking about getting crankbaits for Bream down deeper than anyone really puts them but it turns out it works just as well on Australian Bass as it does it does on US Bass.
The eventual second place getter was casting his crankbait behind the kayak, leaving the bail arm open and peddling the kayak about 150 metres before engaging the reel and sticking the rod in the water down to the stripper guide and cranking the lure through suspended fish at 15ft. It was a tough day for most competitors but he managed to catch and release over 20 Bass for the session.
It is a long read but hopefully it gives you some ideas for impoundment fishing and deep still water Bream fishing at places like St Georges Basin or Lake Mac. Keep in mind this should be another string in your bow rather than your go to technique everyday. Chances are if you went to St Clair today the bite may be totally different and this might not work at all.
For a few years now tournament Bream anglers have been using bibbed, hard bodied lures with great success but historically they are considered a “shallow” bite pattern and as soon as the deep bite started they were stowed in lieu of plastics and blades. This is in part due to the sheer physics of getting a bream lure down deep but with sophisticated new systems to help and some different ideas in rigging, the idea of the crankbait being used in the deep is catching on.
First off, size is important ,as for general use there is a size limit how big a lure you want to be using. There are lures that will dive to 8 metres (26ft for people like me who just don’t get metres when it comes to fishing for some reason) but these are more suited to Barra or Cod being half the length of a tournament legal Bream. Lures need to have a body that is between 35 and 50 millimetres in length to be considered a “normal” size Bream crankbait. Every angler on the water would love to be ploughing a 70mm plug through the depths of St Georges Basin and be throwing kilo fish out of the well and upgrading them but tournament angling is about playing the percentages and being consistent and the truth is there is more chance of being struck by lightning than that scenario happening. So the size of the lure has been a limiting factor in how deep they can dive because realistically the bib of the lure can only be so big on a small lure and the bib is what give a lure it’s diving ability. Also, simply making the bib larger can make casting a problem with with the wind resistance it causes and the shorter a retrieve the less depth you can achieve.
The last few years have seen some advancements in ideas for solving these problems. Things like weight transfer systems to make casting easier, smaller lures made to be suspending in saltwater (rather than many old school lures that were tuned to suspend in freshwater making them buoyant in salt) and more creative hydrodynamic designs. Add to this the growing popularity of using the heavier than water properties of fluorocarbon monofiliment lines rather than fused or braided lines that tend to float and tournament anglers are opening up deeper areas than before.
So what are tournament anglers taking about when they say “deep”? In days gone by two metres or around about seven feet would have been the range of most lures Bream sized that were labeled as a deep diver. Which means that at best you might expect to get fish from about ten feet below the surface to have a go (again we are playing the percentages as I’m sure it’s possible to use a lure that dives to three feet in forty feet of water and catch Bream, just not probable). What we are are talking about is that three to six metre range and even beyond that with a few different rigging methods and techniques.
one ting that needs to be covered is the “Why?” factor. Why would a tournament angler want to target the depths with crankbaits and not something more standard like a plastic or metal blade. Firstly, I would rate a bibbed hardbodied lure as one of the best styles of reaction bait for Bream. The fish is not necessarily always looking to eat a hardbody when they hit it. A lot of the time they may just be giving it a whack to see what happens which is why many fish are hooked in the lips rather than having the lure down the back of their throat. Think about all those frustrating days when Bream are only tail biting plastics and you are just not getting the hook up. The fish are probably just pecking at it to see what happens or to check it out. When fish are feeding they tend to really eat the lure and get the hooks but unfortunately they just don’t eat it like that all the time. Metal blades have been the go-between lure for a few seasons now but their one major draw back is the speed they need to get working which is why they tend to be hopped like a plastic but when they get that reaction nudge from a Bream they have a lot more hook points to find home. Used at slow speeds they just don’t tend to have the same vibration as the zzzz…..zzzzzz of a hopped retrieve. Then there is also the sound that crankbaits can make. The sonic signature of a lure can certainly draw reactions from fish as any Bass fisherman who has used a TN60 can tell you and there is no other Bream lure that can make that kind of sound. It’s pertinent at this point to mention that sinking lipless crankbaits like the Cranka Vibe are under utilised type of lures for Bream so far. So the short answer is that crankbait have the potential to be the “it” lure for a tournament if used in the deep where the fish happen to be at that time and on their day will out fish blades or plastics. The only way to know this though is adding the deep cranking string to your bow and if you feel the conditions may suit it, give it a run during your prefish.
To start with we will cover what you might refer to as a “straight dive” meaning a lure that can be simply cast and retrieved as normal and gets down deep. One of the originals when it comes to getting deep is that Smith Camion Magnum Dredge which can easily make the three metre barrier on and average twenty metre cast and with a bit of help can get to that down to about four. The Camion has caught it’s fair share of fish over the years but being a single lure for a specific purpose meant it has stayed around the fringes compared to other lures. There are however new kids on the block like the Jackall DD Chubby and the Atomic Hardz Cranks 38 Double Deep both of which will push around that three metre depths but with a few tricks cash get even deeper. All three that have been mentioned are true Bream stalwart lures with no doubt they have caught fish and won tournaments and they can do the same from the depths.
So what are the tricks to getting them really deep? Well, as mentioned before, the line you throw them on can make a big difference and the king is fluorocarbon monofiliment in 2 or 3 pound. This is partly because you can launch huge casts with it being being softer than braid, not having the need for leader knots, and most importantly because it’s “specific gravity” is roughly double that of Nylon which is only just more dense than water and leaves braided lines for dead as they have a specific gravity of less than water which means they float. Longer casts and line willing to go deep with the lure will make a big difference and can add that extra metre of depth.
Obviously trolling is against rules in ABT tournaments the same as it is in US Bass comps but one of the 2012 series was won using a deep cranking method that has it’s uses in Australia too. It’s called “Long Lining” and involves positioning the boat on one side of a fish holding position and casting directly away from it and leaving the bail arm open and motoring up to a hundred metres to the other side of the fish holding position before beginning the retrieve meaning the retrieve can be much longer than it is possible to cast and the lure drive deeper than any other “straight dive” way. Add to this method the good old “kneel and reel” method where you are on one knee with the rod tip a few feet under the water and you are starting to get deeper than any straight dive has before with Bream lure. Even that two feet of rod tip in the water helps because every little bit of extra depth can count and make your effective working depth capability bigger.
Some of these methods for depth on a straight dive are not always viable whether because of the sheer depth or things like windy conditions. From there anglers have started to truly dabble in the Black Arts with things like what the Yanks would call Carolina rigging only with a shallow diving, sticky weighted to be only slightly more buoyant or suspending, on a metre or more of trace after the swivel and weight. As always the trick is using the right amount of weight which is just enough to keep it on or very close to the bottom. This kind of technique feels very strange at first because the normal feel of a bite just isn’t there because it’s deadened by the weight in front of the swivel and the angle created from the rod tip down and having the leader trail back. Fish tend to come feeling like dead weight, but you just keep slow rolling until you’re sure its a fish. This technique is definitely not something you want try for the first time on prefish or tournament day and takes confidence to know that it works. The next time the fish are on the chew in the deep give it a try and see just what it feels like. It should also be mentioned that this is not the technique for snaggy areas. Arenas like Lake Macquarie or St Georges Basin where there are large open expanses that hold fish.
Last but not least is the sinking bibbed hardbody. Again there have been a lot of advancements in this type of lure in the last few years. Years ago they tended to sink like a stone and needed a fair bit of speed to get them to work which limited their use with Bream but the ever trusty Japanese Trout and Light SW Game market has spawned a few useful lures that work well in the deep. One of note is the Daiwa Wise Minnow that has the balance of sink and slow speed to get it to work that makes it useful. As mentioned before a lure that sinks too fast tends not to work at slow speed so working lures like the Wise Minnow takes some patience but the results are certainly worth it. The same as Russell Babakuhl used an almost weightless plastic and Steve Morgan a stick minnow in the deep water and super calm conditions of this years St Georges Basin ABT round, Lures like the Wise Minnow take patience but ultimately can bring the rewards.
Cranking the deep is by no means a cracked code but most people will agree that Bream seem to be wising up during tournaments and showing them something different can be the key. The tools are now available to unlock this potential and it’s only a matter of time before the podium finishes are going to open minded anglers pushing the boundaries of hardbodies down deep.