The Mulwala Classic was an outstanding success. The 2500 anglers fishing Australia’s biggest freshwater event boated over nine hundred Murray cod in the annual season opening extravaganza.
The results bode well for the future of the Murray cod mecca, yet buried within catch and release stats lays a revealing statistic. The biggest fish were taken from the slowest craft. Yep, the kayaks did well!
The silent running of paddle power spearheads a new wave that flies in the face of old time greenfish lore. Old habits die hard and there are still plenty believing in the practice of waking the fish up before wetting a lure; bumping into and shaking snags, slapping the water with paddles, that sort of thing. I remember those days; a kid out on the Darling when the river ran clear, a tipsy boat made from a pair of welded FJ Holden bonnets pushed along by a contraption of a motor made from a Victa lawnmower doctored with a commercially available conversion kit. Every snag held greenfish, so it seemed. Some resembled dressed sheep hanging in the meat house of western river sheep stations where my working life began.
Those days are gone forever, however it must be said that the combination of responsible angler attitudes, restocking, riverine reparations, bag limits and the closed season are facilitating a recovery. The resource is in better shape nowadays. However a parallel timeframe sees an unprecedented expansion in intelligent techniques. Greenfish have become finned icons, a box everyone wants to tick.
Today’s state of play gives rise to a trend that wasn’t around in grandpa’s time. There are few, if any, locations that haven’t seen plenty of lures. That kind of exposure makes for smarter fish, although sooner or later the most resistant cod has the blood rush that is its undoing. Meantime codfishers can make the most of the situation by not announcing their presence. The element of surprise is priceless.
Make that first cast count; and if that doesn’t connect quickly, follow up with another before the fish settles down. The odds compound thereafter. Troubleshooting? Try something smaller and work on the basis that not enough is better than too much. A colour change may be in order but isn’t as important as downsizing. Colours aren’t as important as marketing people would have you think. Successful lures are offered in extensive colour ranges but who can say it wasn’t hot to trot fish that may have taken a different hue? Lure colours all appear pretty much the same four metres down in typical cod water.
A retrieve path from a different angle can be a game-changer. In rivers where there’s movement in the water, cod will invariably face into the current. Moving waters inevitably position the big end of snags so as to face upstream. Where there’s a roots buttress the probability is the largest fish will position there. The most successful retrieve paths are those to address the spot from upstream and parallel the cover with a retrieve path rather than one intersecting at right angles. Ditto the heads of rocky pools in gorge country.
At times when my bag of tricks is exhausted, I’ll earmark the spot for later. However, there’s always the risk of someone else coming along. Having said that, let me digress to a much missed pipe smoking mate. Gordon Winter was a stickler for not leaving fish to find fish. He’d pound a spot for hours from his bond-wood car topper. I’ve seen his pipe erupt like Mt. Vesuvius enough times to believe there are limits to the number of intruding casts needed to piss off a hunkered down cod.
Stillwaters are a different challenge. In lakes cod position on strategic cover in the 3m-6m depth range. Steep rocky banks, sprawly and laydown snags and especially points where there’s associate cover provide ambush positions. Side scan narrows the search.
The September through November closed season now applies. December through May are popular months but neither should those through the dead of winter be overlooked, especially for big fish. Water temperatures aren’t as big a factor as weather. The settled weather accompanying a rising or stable barometer provides the best conditions, day and night. Cod are highly nocturnal.
Lures and Retrieves
Crash Divers, Spinnerbaits, Paddlers and Vibes offer a top to bottom coverage and as such make up the Big 4 of the lureist’s arsenal.
The cod genre of big bib diving lures work best when addressing sloping or subsurface cover. An effective retrieve begins with a couple of quick cranks then a slower wind as the lure continues to dive. Pauses can be important; contact with timber and/or rock can be a strike trigger and allows the lure to rise thus avoiding any potential hangups.
Spinnerbaits do best on an uninterrupted slow roll. Rod movement has a destabilizing effect. Heavy spinnerbaits are becoming popular with trollers but are less versatile than floating / diving bibbed types.
There’s no more exciting way to fish than with surface lures. Calm nights are best, however I’d not overlook broad daylight on snag strewn rivers. Paddlers are the best all-round choice. These are characterised by oversize lobes that make the lure waddle like a drunk duckling while throwing out an inviting wake. A steady retrieve with no input from the rod is the way to go.
Vibes have come a-ways since the Heddon Sonic and Sonar of the late 1950s. The big thing the type has going is a capacity to effectively address the water column. The routine is to allow the lure to sink to a desired depth then use the rod to work the lure. This opens a repertoire of staggered retrieves that extend from a steady sink and draw to a faster frequency shake and rattle. Golden perch, bass and redfin become common by-catches in shared water.
My opinions on bibless flat sided vibrating lures, and those with builtin rattles in general, have changed. I’m no longer a fan! Hooks and rings throw off enough noise without the lure announcing itself.