Bass fishing continues to grow in popularity across the globe and information shared across continents allows anglers to learn new techniques. Australia is no different as bass fishing there is thriving. Lure design, large tournament trails, professional anglers and nationally-televised competitions have made it more popular than ever. There is one difference however between American and Australian bass fishing which comes down to the fish itself. A unique species found only there, the Australian bass has captured the attention of bass anglers Down Under due to its aggressiveness and hard fighting nature. Much like the largemouth bass in America, the Australian bass has become the most popular freshwater game fish in that country.
Carl Jocumsen is one angler who has competed in bass tournaments on both hemispheres. A three time Australian Bass Trail Angler of the Year and Australian Bassmaster Classic champion, Jocumsen has recently toured the United States in an attempt to qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series. He believes that the techniques he learned in Australia will work as well while he’s tournament fishing for largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass in America.
The Australian bass is a fish native to the coastal rivers, streams and estuaries along the east coast of Australia. While fishing in these riverine waters is a popular pastime, most of the sport fishing and the entire tournament angling for this species is done in manmade lakes. The fish are stocked in these impoundments through a series of programs designed to create a sport fishery for Australians. Since the fish need the tidal water and current to spawn, the fish that are stocked do not breed in the impoundments and spend their whole lives feeding.
Australian bass do not grow as big as largemouth bass. A two pound fish would be considered average while a four pound fish would be considered large. The Australian record, caught last year from a body of water known as Somerset Dam, weighed close to eight pounds.
Despite their smaller build, the Australian bass are known for their fighting ability. Jocumsen believes that, “Pound for pound, they are the best fighting fish around. They look and fight like a mix of smallmouth and white bass in their shape and temperament. They hit hard and fight hard, and it’s nothing for them to peel off 20 yards of line on a run.”
The Australian bass is very aggressive and will literally eat anything they can get in their mouths, which is part of their appeal to sport fishermen. While their main diet consists of insects, crustaceans and small fish, they are known to eat lizards, mice and frogs. One of their favorite meals are bony bream, which are similar to American shad or shiners.
Tackle and Techniques
Due to the aggressive nature of the fish, Australian bass fishing is done almost exclusively with reaction baits. The fish are known to chase baitfish at high speeds so a fast retrieve is required to fool them into biting.
Any soft plastic swimbait with a paddle tail will produce and topwater lures, spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits are frequently used to catch these fish.
In Australia, lures like skirted jigs, plastic worms, and other lures fished on the bottom of the water column are not heavily used.
The typical line sizes used range from 4-10 lb test due to the clear water and typically smaller-sized bass. Jocumsen says, “Everything we use in Australia is just a smaller version of what is used in the States. The Australian bass do not have big mouths, but they are about the size of a smallmouth bass.” Light line techniques prevail and Jocumsen believes that, “Fishing in Australia is much like fishing the deep, clear lakes of the Western United States.”
Seasonal Patterns and Cover
During the summer, the Australian bass school in deeper water and chase schools of bony bream or other small fish. They are typically caught in open water that is 20-30ft deep. During the winter they are along the edges of the shoreline, ambushing prey near standing timber, rocks or riprap walls. Like largemouth bass, the Australian bass relate to cover for both protection and for feeding.
There are numerous lakes that are popular for Australian bass fishing. The biggest difference between U.S. lakes compared to Australia is, “They are much smaller than in America, we have nothing that compares to the size of the lakes that are found in the States,” states Jocumsen.\Somerset Dam is one of the most popular and productive impoundments. Carl Jocumsen feels it would be equivalent to Alabama’s Lake Guntersville due to its lore and the excitement it brings to Australian bass anglers. Somerset has steep banks, riprap walls, deep water, standing timber and laydowns and harbors some of the biggest bass in the country.
Popularity and the American Influence
Tournament bass fishing has become very popular and there are now several different levels of tournaments Australians can compete in. Starting with the lower level, there are team tournaments designed to get people involved in the sport. One of the most popular is the Bassin’ New South Wales tournament trail. From there, anglers can step up to the Australian Bass Trail and the nationally-televised Australian Fishing Championship. Jocumsen has succeeded at each level as he has watched the tournament scene continue to grow. He notes, “It keeps growing bigger and 80 boats in a tournament are not uncommon.” Bass fishing in Australia is done from typical bass boats and brands like Skeeter, Legend and Ranger are all seen on Australian lakes.
The American influence has always been there and Jocumsen says, “We all watch Bassmaster on ESPN TV and we follow the events online. The big name bass fishermen from the United States are all well known to Australia bass fishermen.” Australia’s fishing fans gather information and techniques from America and put their own spin on it to target the Australian bass.
Bass fishing “Down Under” is a spin on American bass fishing that continues to innovate and grow in popularity. With most of the information traveling from the States to Australia, it will only be a matter of time until a technique travels back to the USA.