Fishing for me is still relatively new, having been on the water for not quite 12 months. The great thing about this is that almost every time out, you have some new experience and you are also meeting some great new people. Whether it is sighting a dolphin up close, seeing a mate catch a PB, getting your own first of species or PB, or having a lungfish breach feet away giving you a minor heart attack, your first few months will be a time ripe for new adventures.
This past 11 months I have really been able to cross a large number of species off my bucket list including some staple species such as bream and flathead (and placed in a flattie comp). I have also managed to land a Mangrove Jack which was all the more special as this was the maiden voyage on my new Old Town Topwater (15th of April, 2019 if anyone is wondering!) . My Jack was only 38cm but a first is still a first, and it is also a PB. I managed to land that while fishing for bream in Tally Creek on a ZMan 2" grub using a 1/60th jighead.
I also started freshwater fishing about six months into my journey. A good fishing buddy told me that I'd get addicted to freshwater and that is absolutely what has happened. It took me some time to crack the differences, but after a few donuts, I went back to the drawing board: watching videos, learning about their food, and tweaking my retrieve/fishing style. Learning what worked and what didn't, changing, adapting, and refining.
While I still have a few shockers, I haven't donuted in the fresh too often and feel pretty confident I have cracked the Bass-vinci Code!
I've got my rigs sorted out, know how to read a sounder to find the fish, and can even tell the difference between a few different species on the sounder. My tackle is spot on for my needs, and I have my favourite lures that I use for about 90% of my fishing.
Like new species, new waters come thick and fast in the first year or so, depending on how often you are getting out of course! I was fortunate enough to have some down time from work, followed by some long service leave, followed by some annual leave. This gave me plenty of opportunity to get out on the water with the guys I fish with, and to try some new waters that were a little further away than what I would usually travel for. These new grounds quickly became favourite freshwater spots and I was having some good luck with the bass there.
The second last time I was there with Khean and Corey they suggested we go "hunt some 'toga!" Hunt we did, but catch I did not! I hadn't targeted toga before and I really wasn't sure what I was doing. Surface fishing was still something I had to try seriously (cluelessly piffing lures at the shore doesn't count I have found), and I knew toga were mostly surface fish who hung around in the shallows. I also knew toga are notoriously hard to catch so I didn't rate my chances the first time out.
But I gave it a red hot go and that is what a lot of fishing is about, especially when starting out. While I didn't catch that day I sure learned a lot from watching the guys do their thing and I filed away all that useful information for what I was sure to be a next time.
Fast forward a few weeks and I found myself back on the same grounds chasing bass. Once again, I did alright on the bass, managing to land a few fish but wasn't quite able to crack the double digits. At any rate, I was with a couple of people I hadn't really fished with before and one that I had and for me being out on the water with some cracking people is really where it's at. A great day was had by all at the end of it. We even saw some toga getting around up there but no one really targeted them on this trip.
Fast forward a couple more weeks again and the draw of the dam had sucked me right in. I was back on the water with Khean, Corey, Damian, and Randy and we headed out from the ramp (after some plastics stealing shennanigans were had). It didn't take us long to get to the bass grounds and we found where they were schooling up. I started throwing my Gulps around the schools and dropped three fish pretty much straight up. They took the lure and ran they just dropped off. I found this frustrating but kept at it knowing it wouldn't be long before the conversion rate kicked in.
A couple of minutes later I felt the familiar taps on the Pure Custom 1-3kg rod with an Abu MGXTReme 1000 series reel fitted. I lifted the rod tip slightly to move the lure in the water hoping for the reaction bite and I wasn't disappointed! SMACK! Zzzzzzzzzz and the line started peeling out. Corey yelled out "he's getting smoked" and I cranked the drag down half a turn, then half a turn again. Working the rod, the reel, and the yak, I managed to bring the fish in and land it. It was a cracking bass going 46.5cm and after a quick pic was released. The bass bite kept going and I couldn't seem to step a foot wrong. I landed a couple more, dropped a couple more, then got railed and smoked by something big. No warning taps, just the drag singing out and whatever it was taking off at a great rate of knots. I locked down the drag a little, then a little more, and felt the familiar ping of the line. The rod returned to it's straight state and I immediately knew I had been busted off. Don't know what it was, but I would have loved to have seen it!
After a little while the weather had warmed up and Khean issued the "let's go hunt 'toga!" battle cry. We gathered the fleet though Damo was off to the right, and we headed up to the toga grounds.
I tried to remember the lessons of the previous trip: surface feeders, use poppers or shallow divers, cast long over their heads so they don't spook, and whatever else ran through my mind from the last trip. I asked "can you get toga on plastics?" I was curious to know whether what I had would work.
When I pulled into the first bay, I wasn't really thinking about poppers and had two lines rigged with plastucs, my go too bass lurea. One had a 4" grub in smoke colour and the other had a 3' grub in nuclear chicken. Looking at the side scan I saw a blob in among the sticks and without further thought about poppers threw my lure towards two trees. I smacked the zone I was aiming at and hopped the lure off the bank, remembering to slow roll rather than burn the lure through the water. The lure disappeared in the water and instantly I felt Bang! Bang! BOOOM! and my drag started peeling out. My lure was in about a metre of water when it was taken which defied what I thought I knew and I was using a plastic with 1/6th jig head. Not exactly surface gear or surface fishing!