Of bass, trailer tyres and new tents

IT was shaping up to be one of those trips. Five minutes from home the skies were dark and threatening. Ten minutes later rain sheeted down. The weather eventually eased as we’d made our way out of Sydney and onto the freeway towards Newcastle.

Not long after a coffee stop one of the boat trailer tyres came apart at 100km/h. It felt like I’d run over a brick as the tread let go and completely peeled off. Pulling over to inspect the damage revealed a still inflated tyre, albeit one that looked to have done service at the Summernats burnout pad. I opted to limp into nearby Cessnock on the steel belt. Luckily the helpful and friendly staff at tyre shop, Lifeguard Cessnock, had the trailer wearing new rubber in no time. While waiting for the repair my Webster Twinfisher’s Fishing World signage drew interest from a fellow customer who’d fished our destination – the Hunter Valley’s Lake St Clair – during the week and caught some nice bass on fly.

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We made the lake without further incident, although the lead grey skies threatened more rain. Hardly text book bass fishing conditions. On arrival at the Lake St Clair recreation park a lap around revealed a large contingent of ski and leisure boats parked around the lake’s edge. The cool weather conditions looked to have kept most of the skiers off the water and under tarps surveying the view.

After finding a suitable campsite close to the water and away from the crowd we got down to the main purpose of the trip: setting up our new “Christmas sale” tent. My wife Robbi had been keen to go camping for some time and buying a new tent was the first step. The salesman who’d sold it to us reckoned the tent could be thrown up in five minutes. Ever the optimist, I allotted the job 15 minutes just in case…

20 minutes in, the tent was roughly upright when the rain struck. It bucketed down for five minutes, thoroughly testing the new tent’s waterproofing, which came through with flying colours. My personal waterproofing didn’t rate as highly though. I was drenched.
With the tent finally up, we sat around and waited for the rain to stop. It did about an hour later and I readied the boat for action.

At full capacity Lake St Clair looked the best I’d ever seen it. The water had climbed its way up into lush green fields and snarls of weed met the surface at regular intervals along the edges. We motored into a quiet bay where several dead trees protruded skyward and water had inundated new ground. It looked decidedly fishy.

Deploying the bow-mount electric revealed another casualty of the journey. The 15-year-old Minn-Kota looked to have rid itself of some of its internal locking mechanism and the motor’s shaft was flopping around from side to side like a wet sock. Further inspection showed it wasn’t likely to get any worse, and it still ran ok, so it was put into service. Robbi and I then started to cast lures along a likely looking bass-holding stretch of bank for an unproductive hour. Intermittent rain showers dotted the bay.

Working a deeper stretch of bank my spinnerbait was slammed near the boat by a powerful fish that shot away for the bank. The baitcaster buzzed as the bass pulled away short lengths of line before I could turn it. The waiting net soon held a fat healthy 35cm+ bass that was clearly enjoying its paddock. After a few photos it swam strongly away, just as the rain started up again. A few more solid whacks and missed hookups on the spinnerbait had me cursing the lack of stinger hooks in my tackle box.

Robbi meanwhile was keen for dinner and a glass of wine so I dropped her and our pet shiba Oscar back at camp (Lake St Clair is a dog friendly recreation park). The rain stopped so I headed back out on the lake in the hope of some surface action on dusk. I soon scored a couple of missed strikes on a small Halco Nightwalker Nano. On dark I switched to an old favourite surface lure, a medium-sized Crazy Crawler. After a few walks back to the boat it was walloped by a twin of the spinnerbait eater.

Another rain shower and a fresh easterly put paid to any more surface action so I headed back to camp.

Early next morning the Crazy Crawler scored another similar sized bass which ate the lure in an exciting display of noise and spray. I shared the bay with a fisho atop a Hobie pedal ‘yak who’d been trolling up and down between a run of dead timber. As we passed each other he reported he’d caught eight bass for the morning and just been taken to the cleaners by a big one. The lure of choice had apparently been a small purple and black Feral Cat hard body.

After breakfast back at camp we packed up the tent, which proved a lot easier job than setting it up, and hit the road back to the big smoke. Bass mission accomplished!

For information on Lake St Clair go to:

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