How to

How to catch Lake Barra


Success on impoundment barra doesn’t usually come easy – they are definitely not a simple fish to crack! – but the tips and advice detailed here by champion lure anglers CY & KERRIN TAYLOR will help you in your quest for big fish action.

IT’S easy to have high expectations when arriving at a barramundi impoundment for the first time. Incredible stories of multiple fish caught in single sessions, reports of great fishing only two weeks ago and images from fishing magazines of metre-plus monsters add up to create an illusion of a magical fishing Mecca.

In reality, these fish are a tough nut to crack. The truth is that you don’t often hear about the no fish trips or know how many hours it took to hook that fish in the magazine. If you want to be successful on the freshwater lakes and land more barra next time you visit, then read on as we try to steer you on the path to success.

Most barramundi impoundments are large bodies of water and arriving at a new lake for the first time can seem quite daunting. The decision of choosing where to start is often a difficult one. The vast amount of open water with its countless bays and edges makes the challenge seem even more harrowing. Fortunately, there are ways of narrowing down your search and finding the best spots to fish. To start with, it’s a good idea to carry out what’s known as a “pre-fish” when you first venture out on the lake.

What’s a pre-fish?
The term “pre-fish” comes from fishing tournaments where anglers search for fish before an event. The majority of the time is spent motoring around the lake, exploring
and investigating water for likely fish-holding locations. Impoundment barra prefer certain types of areas and these are what you’re looking for in the pre-fish. If you concentrate on finding these areas you’ll eliminate a lot
of unproductive water and waste less time
on fishless grounds.

What do I look for?
Here are some key things to look for when having a pre-fish and the reasons why they attract barramundi. Find areas on the lake which combine a few of the following features. The more of these likely fish-holding areas
you find in the pre-fish, the easier it will be to choose where to start fishing later on.

Weed growth: Aquatic weed grows along most lake edges and attracts barramundi for a few different reasons – the first being cover. The holes and gaps in the weedy vegetation create an excellent place for barra to hide and wait for food to pass by. The weed also attracts all types of baitfish which come to feed on the tiny plant organisms growing in the thick mess. The cover and warmth that weed provides also creates a suitable place for barramundi to rest as they digest their food.

Drop-offs: Drop-offs are basically just a distinct fall or rise in water depth. Barramundi just love these areas. They provide a comfortable place to both rest and feed. Also, if a barramundi is in shallow water and becomes spooked, a drop-off provides a fast escape route to deep water. In the past, these drop-offs were once creek and river channels but have flooded with the construction of the dam. Whether it’s a drop-off in shallow or deep water, these features definitely attract barra.

Horizontal timber: Another feature to look for in your quest to locate fish is horizontal or “laydown” timber. This is mainly caused by trees which have fallen down into the water. This type of cover is found more often in timbered type dams such as Peter Faust, Teemburra and Monduran. The horizontally lying branches give the fish cover, as they feel comfortable resting around the tangled mess of limbs.

Baitfish: This is an important but often overlooked ingredient of a productive spot. It usually requires a depth sounder as most baitfish schools tend to be down deeper and out of sight. Bony bream, barred grunter and garfish are the foremost baitfish species in the barra lakes and will often show up as a tiny cluster of arches on a sounder screen. The more baitfish you pick up on your sounder in a particular spot, the better it is.

Once you’ve located a good area with some of these features, it’s a great idea to mark the spot to a GPS. On our boat we use a Lowrance HDS unit which has both GPS and sonar. It’s connected to the Lowrance Structure Scan which is an amazing piece of technology. Unlike normal sonar, the Structure Scan “paints” a picture of what’s underneath the water. Not only does it scan straight down but also out to the left and right. This lets you see what’s out to the side of your boat without having to drive over it. This sort of setup is perfect for searching and locating new barramundi ground.

Once you’ve found a few areas and are keen to try them out, you should give the spots a bit of time before you fish them. If you’ve driven over the area a few times, it’s likely that some of the fish that were there have spooked away. By returning later on, this lets the area “replenish’”with barramundi.

How should I fish?
If you really want to succeed with catching barra in the lakes, patience and persistence will go a long way. The amount of effort you put in is usually equal to the amount of reward you get out. Impoundment barra aren’t the most active fish around and they will spend a lot of time being tough to tempt.

Therefore, to maximise your chances your presentation needs to be just right. When casting lures, the two main things to focus on are your retrieve style and lure speed. Many beginner anglers wind too fast. Remember to keep it slow. A lure that swims while hardly moving through the water works best, and a slow moving lure will often outfish a medium paced one.

However, at the other end of the scale, a very fast retrieve can be an excellent option. This retrieve is called “burning”. The fast motion of the lure kicking madly through the water creates a reaction strike, where the fish chases the lure out of instinct.

In terms of retrieve style, there are many different ways a lure can be swum to entice barramundi strikes. A lot of anglers make the mistake of simply “straight-winding” whenever they fish an impoundment. Although this retrieve works well at times, it’s a good idea to try a mixture of lure motions. Short, fast bursts of speed and small jiggles and jerks with pauses all boost barra bites. These movements make the lure more appealing to a barramundi as they find it harder to resist.

When your lure is swimming through the zone and gets eaten, it’s time to focus on getting a good hook-up and landing the fish – both of which can be quite tricky! As soon as you detect a bite, it’s time set the hook as fast as you can. A barramundi’s mouth is very hard so you have to strike as soon as you feel your braid tug.

Once you have the fish connected, it will often break the water surface with violent head shakes. At the same time it will usually make a series of long, powerful runs. After these runs, the fish will begin to tire out where you can then start putting pressure on. When the fish is near the net, try to lead its head in. This way, any tail kicks will propel the fish straight into the back of the net. The solid feeling of a barra bite, combined with a few explosive jumps and a fish landed, is an exciting experience and makes the effort worthwhile!

Remember to use a knotless net like an Environet as these prevent the fish’s fins from splitting and don’t remove the protective slime coating. After landing a fish, leave it in the net with water in its gills while someone gets a camera and measuring mat ready. You have to remember, it’s just used up a lot of energy and being held out of the water afterwards is like holding your breath after running a marathon. Once everything’s set, take a few shots and get it back into the water.

Barramundi in the freshwater lakes can be caught during all times of the day but, like most fish, will usually feed more on sunset, sunrise and during the night. Our best session we’ve ever experienced on a barra lake happened one night from about 7 to 10pm. The fish were feeding very aggressively and moving around a lot chasing baitfish. We were casting 110mm Squidgy Slick Rigs along a bank at Peter Faust Dam. From memory we landed about seven fish but it was the sizes that were so amazing. About three were around the 120cm mark and we had a double hook-up and a triple hook-up on metre-plus fish – an incredible session.

What equipment do I need?
In terms of rod and reel outfits, the best gear to use is a quality lightweight baitcast or spin setup. Which type you choose is up to you as both work equally well. The baitcast setups we like to use are Shimano Chronarch, Curado and Calcutta DC reels with Millerods Hi-Roller and Salty Barra rods. Our favourite spin outfit is a Shimano Stradic Ci4 2500 reel matched to a Shimano T-Curve Barra Flats rod. All outfits are spooled with 20lb Fins or Power Pro braided line for open water and 50lb for the timbered lakes. In terms of leader material, make sure you have some heavy 60lb to 80lb monofilament leader. Ensure you check your leader after catching a fish as it can become quite shredded and weak.

There are three main lure types for impoundment barra fishing – soft plastics, diving hard-bodies and topwaters. For soft plastics, our favourite is the 110mm and 130mm Squidgy Slick Rigs and 130mm Squidgy Fish rigged on ultra-sharp Tackle Tactics jigheads. For hard-bodies, we prefer the Rapala X-Rap Floating and Suspending models, and for topwater lures you can’t go past the Rapala X-Rap Walk 13.

A very handy piece of equipment to have in the impoundments is an electric motor. The beauty of having an electric on your boat is that you can slowly move around quietly while casting or trolling. Mounted on our boat is a Minn Kota Riptide with the new I-Pilot system. This is a GPS device which connects to Minn Kota electric motors and is a great tool for impoundment barra fishing. It has features such as Spot-Lock, which automatically holds your boat in the position you want while adjusting for wind and current flow. It also includes the Record-A-Track feature, which allows you to save a track where the electric will automatically follow if activated. This is all controlled by a wireless remote so you can operate it while you’re fishing from anywhere in the boat.

Another handy item to bring is some super glue for repairing damaged soft plastics. Barramundi have a strong and raspy set of jaws and will often tear up your favourite plastic bait. You may want to check out Mend-It glue which is designed for this purpose. It dries soft and clear, and unlike normal super glue, it won’t stick to your skin.

Now you know what gear you’ll need, the styles of retrieves to use, how to
hook barramundi and put them in your boat, you’re …

Ready to rock!
Impoundment barra are a truly rewarding fish. It’s a style of fishing that’s rarely a walk in the park and success doesn’t come easily. But if you’re patient, persistent
and put in the effort you will come out on top. Hopefully this information will provide you with a solid starting point and tempt you to plan a trip to one of the barra impoundments.

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