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Weed Wackin’ – Bushy on Lures

Bushy on Lures

Getting into the weed means more than glazed eyes and an insatiable desire for junk food. Weed means fish – and some really big ones at that. An unweighted plastic cast into and around channels in weedbeds can produce some impressive fish.

FISH love weed. And why wouldn’t they? The green stuff offers them shelter, protection from predators, and a handy food supply whenever they get a bit peckish. Some of the fattest fish of all live in and around weedbeds so if you’re going to be a good lure fisho you’d better add a few weedy tricks to your bag.

Interestingly, just a few basic tricks seem to work well on most of the weed-dwelling species that we chase on lures. Bream, estuary perch, bass, trout, barra and golden perch are all suckers for similar techniques.

If you can find a weedbed with a metre or so of water over the top of it you can usually catch some fish with a lure that wobbles along slowly at just the right depth – that is, just above the weeds without catching up too much. Try to cast long with the breeze and use an electric motor if you have one. Many weedbeds are in shallow water and the fish that live in the shallows are often pretty flighty. Even with an electric, try to use minimum power and always think of fishing as quietly as possible. I don’t guarantee things very often but I will guarantee that if you employ these ultra stealth methods around weed your catch rate will sky-rocket. Anchoring and then working your lures around the weed is a good way to go but remember to use rope right down to any anchor. The noise of a chain rattling over the side of a tinny is not music to the
ears of a fish. Okay, I know fish don’t have ears but they definitely know about anchor chain, tackle boxes banging around in the boat, and boots stomping on the floor of the boat.

Apart from running your lures over the top of the weed you’ll generally be able to fish some sort of weed edge as water depth increases. Weed needs light to grow and depending on the clarity of the water the weed will just naturally stop growing at a certain depth. You might be able to see a defined weed edge or you might need to find it with your depth sounder. Well defined weed edges are great places for fish to feed and you can fish them in a number of ways. Casting plastics along the edge and hopping them back at the base of the weeds is a deadly technique for just about any weed dweller. You might have to adjust your tackle and the size of your plastic but the principle is the same for bass, bream and trout or even the biggest barra you could imagine.

Some weedbeds are really thick and you can only target the fish in small gutters and pockets. Soft plastics, either unweighted or fished on jig heads using clear resin rather than lead, are the way to go here. Soft plastics work well in confined spaces and single hooks pick up less weed than the trebles on hard-bodied lures. One thing I have noticed when
using plastics in heavy weed is that quite a few fish species, especially large impoundment barra, are very quick to suck in the lure but are also very quick to reject it. You have to be right on the ball and strike fast the moment you suspect a fish has grabbed your lure. On one weedy excursion to Awoonga, Chris Wright and myself just about caused our guide Jason Willhelm to hang himself from a tree because we were so hopeless at the quick strike when using Boof Frogs over the thick weed. It just doesn’t seem right that you have to strike on a hair trigger with a fish that has an explosive take and a mouth that would put a bucket to shame, but you have been warned!

One technique that you really need to master if you fish among the weeds is the “sit and rip”. This trick is often deadly and it works (sometimes!) on every species of fish that feeds in weed. Simply cast your lure into the weeds – let it sit there for a bit and then rip it free of the weed. I suppose the fish sees something hiding in the weeds – then a bit of a commotion with weed fragments all stirred up – and then something that looks good to eat just appears in the clean water. Fish often react to the sit and rip with a savage strike. Big old bream, lunker trout, and especially golden perch are suckers for this simple trick.

There are some challenges to fishing the weeds as well. Floating weed can be a real pain, especially if the wind blows it into thick mats. It isn’t fun to have your line and lures continually clogged up with weed but often the fish are concentrated in the worst affected areas and a bit of perseverance generally pays off. One thing you should really try and avoid is to become a “weed-wacker”. A weed-wacker lifts his weed-encrusted lure out of the water and then slams it onto the surface in frustration until it is free of the offending weed. This works well in getting rid of the weed but the explosive noise travels a long way through the water and it is super effective for putting every fish within casting range off the bite. Maybe weed-wackers have their place but it isn’t in my boat.

Landing fish in heavy weed is also a bit on the tricky side – I pull hard on the hook-up but if the fish buries in the weed a more gentle approach generally works. Keep light pressure on the fish until you can follow and de-weed your line. A calm disposition will ensure that most, but unfortunately not all, fish hooked around heavy weed can be landed.

Yep – fish love weeds, and fishermen who learn to love weeds as well catch some of the biggest, fattest fish around! See you on the water – and in the weeds!

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