How toTips & Techniques

Inflatable Bassing

HAVING recently moved and not being familiar with the area, I found myself in the off-season searching Google Maps, focusing on the upper reaches of nearby river systems for my freshwater fishing fix.

Upon locating a few promising locations, I undertook a few “reccies”, going on bushwalks to assess the viability of fishing. While there was certainly potential, challenges presented in the form of steep terrain and uneven (and almost non-existent) bush tracks. It seemed near impossible to transport and launch a traditional kayak or canoe. Also, land-based fishing and access along the banks was very limited.

But having seen the fishing potential, adopting a different approach seemed worthwhile.

I purchased an inflatable kayak – being smaller and lighter it allowed me to carry it through the bush along with the most basic of fishing equipment. Then it was a matter of finding an appropriate site for access, inflating the kayak, and launching into the river.


During the warmer months bass migrate upstream and the key when locating fishable locations is establishing where the tidal influence ceases and then following the river, and any tributary creeks, upstream as far as possible. I am often surprised how far bass travel in the upper reaches of river systems. It is not unheard of to pull skinny water bass out of small pools barely the size of a bathtub! Having said that, it is important to remain downstream of any barriers to migration, including damns, weirs and causeways. Keep in mind that some of these structures are passable by bass during higher waters and some even have fish ladders. Google Maps in satellite view is a useful basic tool when undertaking preliminary research, although current river levels may not reflect those shown in Google Maps.

In terms of fish holding locations in shallow and skinny water, I concentrate my efforts on weed beds, rock walls, sunken/fallen timber, submerged rocks, overhanging trees and pockets of shade. In very shallow running creeks and rivers, even slightly deeper sections and holes also hold fish.


Early morning from first light and later in the afternoon (even after sunset) are prime times to target bass. Low light conditions are conducive to the surface bite, whereas bass tend to seek cover once direct sun hits the water.

Bite activity can really turn on during hot, humid, stormy afternoons and evenings during summer when insect activity is at its highest.

While less productive, other times during the day will still produce fish with efforts concentrated on deeper water, pockets of shade, and overhanging trees above undercut banks or steep rock walls.


An inflatable kayak allows access to remote stretches of creeks and rivers through the bush which are not possible with traditional kayaks and canoes. Being lighter and compact means, it is possible to carry them to the launch site and, makes it easier to drag the kayak upstream to the next pool – over rocks, cascades, and small waterfalls.

While there are expensive inflatable kayaks specifically for fishing, basic inflatable kayaks are fit for purpose. They generally have two separate inflatable compartments, in the floor and sides of the kayak. So, if you suffer a puncture the remaining compartment keeps you afloat (as I recently discovered out in the bush – it certainly made for a nervous paddle back!). I have been alternating between two different inflatable kayaks (both purchased online for less than $150 each) – the Sevylor Quikpak K1 is a sit on top kayak which folds into a backpack that makes hiking through the bush to those more remote spots achievable. The other is an Intex K1 Challenger – a sit in kayak which is slightly more comfortable to fish in but not as portable.

Inflatables track reasonably well and are nearly as stable on the water as a traditional kayak. The drawbacks being the limited gear that can be carried, and not being as robust as a solid kayak.

Rod and reels

A light outfit is best suited and most fun – a 1-3kg rated rod of around 6’6 (any longer and it is difficult to handle in the kayak), paired with a 1,000 size reel. I favour 8lb braid and flouro leader. Fishing in shallow and clear water generally lends itself to very light line. However, these bass fight dirty, diving back into structure and 8lb line allows you to “muscle” the bass if required.

It is almost inevitable that at some stage the rod will go over the side. Consequently, a rod float (like a small pool noodle wrapped around the rod) is worthwhile. If it is narrow, line slapping impacting on casting distance should not be an issue, and it allows more freedom than tethering your rod to the kayak.

My preference is a basic assortment of surface, hard bodied, spinner baits, and soft plastic lures. Given the nature of the skinny water environment, the fish tend to be flightier and spook easily, so I carry smaller lures and cast up ahead in the direction I am travelling.


Surface lures

It is difficult to go past cicada lures. Cast them near structure and fallen timber, wait for long as you can, then twitch, pause until those ripples disappear, twitch again (keeping the lure in the strike zone as long as possible), followed by a slow retrieve. The hit will often come when the lure is stationary.

I generally carry a black jitterbug for low light scenarios. Small poppers and stick baits (with a walk the dog retrieve) are also effective.

Hard body lures

A StumpJumper in fruit salad is my current go-to. They have interchangeable bibs, but I find the shallow bib suits skinny water fishing. Crank baits of around 40mm can also be effective.


From my experience spinners are the most productive. The simpler the better, and I prefer a Celta or Mepps Aglia spinner. They have a single blade without the skirt of other spinnerbaits, so are less likely to catch snags and weed in unfamiliar territory.

Soft plastics

A soft plastic grub with a light jighead is a versatile option and the retrieve can be varied in terms of depth, twitching, and pausing.

Tools and accessories

Packing light is recommended, with braid scissors, pliers, rag, life vest, and small landing net. A pair of water shoes with a decent sole is important to exit the kayak and drag it over rocks.

Putting it into practice

On a recent excursion, I walked through the bush at first light, carrying my gear down the steep and rutted track down to the river. Mist enveloped the deep gully and blanketed the river. The sun peered over the steep hills but was yet to hit the river. There were reminders of the recent heavy rains and flooding, with fallen trees and debris above the current river level. While the river remained a little higher than usual, water clarity had improved, and fishing conditions appeared reasonable.

I launched the kayak and paddled upstream, throwing surface cicada lures at likely looking structure, but it was soon apparent there was little surface bite or insect activity.

I switched to a spinner and sent my first cast beneath an overhanging tree on an undercut bank. It produced a hit straight away and a healthy 32 cm bass. A few casts later and a more substantial 35cm bass struck. As the water was relatively clear and the spinner just below the surface, I saw the fish rise from below. The drag squealed and the fish instinctively darted back towards the safety of the snags. After a spirited fight, I landed it.

Paddling further upstream, the scenery was spectacular – abundant bird life with the cockatoos’ squawks exaggerated in the natural ampitheatre of the valley. Water dragons leapt off rocks and swum across the river as I passed by. A few fish were spooked as I paddled, but no further luck.

The river narrowed and pinched at a small waterfall cascading down about three steps. The water ran relatively fast, but after a quick calculation, I exited the kayak on the adjacent bank and dragged the kayak up the side.

Whereas the river below the waterfall was narrow and shallow, the pool above was a small lagoon, perhaps the size of half a football field. There was a steep undercut bank one side, and shallower with reed beds along the opposite bank.

More casts with the soft plastic grub along the reed beds – a hit, but no hookup. A switch to the opposite bank, and I employed a StumpJumper. A cast below the overhanging bushes was immediately rewarded with a vigorous 30cm specimen. Not long after, a similar result with another lively bass. This time, the lure got caught in the landing net, and I concentrated on untangling while drifting towards the trees on the bank.

Something in the corner of my eye suddenly grabbed my attention. I looked up and was face to face (no more than a metre away) with a snake coiled up in a tree. It was a nonvenomous diamond python, but nevertheless, I hastily engaged reverse gear as the snake craned towards me to make an assessment. I suppose a benefit of fishing these stretches is the encounters with the wildlife!

Rather than push my luck any further I decided to call it a day, paddled back downstream where I launched, deflated the kayak, and commenced the hike back up through the bush.


With some planning, sense of adventure, and assistance from Google Maps, secluded and pristine stretches of river become viable fishing options (possibly closer to home than you might think). Consider undertaking a little research, enjoy some bushwalks, and maybe discover potential for skinny water bass. The landscape, scenery, vistas, and wildlife are as rewarding as the fishing!

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