by Chris Frith
With winter behind us, albeit a very mild one, you cannot help but feel at least a little excited about the next couple of months of targeting yellowbelly in our western waterways. Spring certainly is the season that memorable yellowbelly catches are made, with the spawning activity making these gems of the west incredibly aggressive, hungry and happy to eat any number of offerings you present to them. While the best of spring fishing is still probably over a month away, with the recent warm weather experienced across much of the inland, a smart approach to early season yellas will still prove fruitful.
In September, goldens will utilise the increasing water temperature and proliferation of bait sources to suss out the latest real estate (a result of most dams usually being at a considerably different water level than the previous spring) to identify spawning areas. These areas could be any number of different structures, such as prominent points, boulder gardens, particular rocky walls or creek channels. An efficient way to decide where to start looking for schooling fish is to consider what changes the waterway has undergone; if the water level has increased then the fish are likely to be checking out newly flooded land, while if there has been a considerable drop in level then the fish are likely to sink back to creek or river beds, or hang off steeper banks for the security blanket these areas present.
Early in the season, taking a more conservative approach is worthwhile, as larger, louder lures have the tendency to spook fish that aren’t completely switched on, particularly in pressured waterways such as Windamere Dam. In this situation I find silent, smaller lures hard to beat. Atomic Semi-Hardz Vibs in the 50mm range, Atomic Metalz, Megabass Blading-X’s and power bombs hard to beat. The use of soft plastics is also highly rewarding in early spring, 2.5” Atomic paddle tails, or 3” fat grubs rigged on 1/4oz Atomic Seekerz heads are always a reliable option. I’ve found that opting for natural colours is the best bet for early season, the likes of ghost wakasagi, smoke yellow core, and gill in the respective lure ranges. An important technique point is to slow down retrieve speeds, with long pauses incorporated into your retrieve often the triggering factor to draw a bite.
As we start to move into October and the mercury starts hitting the 30’s, your options really increase. As the fish become increasingly aggressive and their metabolism increases, I tend to increase my lure size and employ a more aggressive action. This can often be necessary to draw the attention of fish that have other things on their mind (propagation that is!) Choosing lures with strong water displacement such as Atomic shiners, or Megabass Smartra / Vibration X junior vibration lures will certainly attract a lot of attention.
One of the biggest draw cards of targeting spring yellowbelly is the frequency of trophy catches, with renowned ‘big fish dams’ such as Copeton, Burrendong and Windamere producing quality fish in good numbers, if you want to beat the 60cm mark, then mark one of these locations on your calendar. On this note, one must be conscious of the gear they use to pull these potential P.B’s, and bring out some heavy artillery if you’re fishing around heavy structure. I opt for my Samurai Reaction B351, it also comes in handy if you happen to hook a cod, remember that cod are off-limits during spring for breeding, so you don’t want to hook one and spend 30 minutes trying to land it on light gear as the stress could impair their ability to spawn and restock our fisheries.