Ben’s Top Tips For Shoalhaven Bass Fishing

  • Bass are migratory and move downstream to spawn over winter, returning to the upper river system in Spring. The Shoalhaven is a fairly large system and it’s important to have an understanding of the fish’s movements to avoid fishing where they’re not!
  • At the time of this interview the system had experienced a fair bit of rain and the water was flowing fast and was pretty dirty. Ben reckons it still fishes well if you know how to find and target bass.
  • Use Google Earth to look for river bends, back eddies, deeper holes and so on before you leave home. Land based fishing is good in this area, if fishing from a boat or kayak you’ll want to look for gaps in the vegetation. The areas below rapids often fish well despite fast flows and dirty water – fish sit in the slower water below and dart up to hit items above.
  • A rising barometer and overcast conditions make for the best bass fishing, but they can be caught at any time if you persevere.
  • If the fish are shut down you may need to finesse them with small curl tailed jigs on the lightest jig head you can get away with for the conditions.

Ben’s Bass Fishing Tackle

  • Ben uses a 3-5kg spin rod with a 1000 to 2500 size reel and 8-10 lb braid. A 10-12 lb fluorocarbon leader completes the outfit.

Ben’s Best Shoalhaven Bass Fishing Lures

  • The Rapala Shadow Rap is a great suspending jerkbait that dives to around 2m on the gear Ben uses and hangs motionless in the water when the retrieve is paused. When he needs to work the lure at maximum depth he’ll crank it hard for the first metre or so, causing the lure to dive fast, then he’ll slow roll the lure back, sometimes with pauses or twitches in the retrieve to mix it up. To work the lure shallower, simply be less aggressive with the initial cranking after the lure hits the water.
  • A 1/8 to 1/6 oz jig head with a beetle spin blade and a 2.5 to 3” soft plastic tail is a good combination for Shoalhaven bass and can be effective for catching fish right through the day. Ben likes the Keitech Easy Shiner, which has a large paddletail and creates maximum vibration when combined with the beetle spinner. Cast these out, let them sink to the required depth and then slow roll them back, sometimes with the occasional pause. These lures work best in the slower flowing, deeper parts of the river.
  • The Tiemco Soft Shell Cicada can be fished around dawn and dusk even when the river is flooding. On overcast days the surface bite window is extended and the cicada can be fished for a little longer – at times when the roar of cicadas is deafening it can even be fished through the day if cast under overhanging vegetation. Let the lure sit after it hits the water surface until the ripples dissipate, then twitch it couple of times. If it’s not hit immediately, slow roll it back across the surface and start again.
  • An Ecogear ZX 40 or Rapala Rap-V vibe is a good option when the fish are schooled up down deeper through the middle of the day. It can be dropped vertically in front of the fish and worked with short rod lifts or can be cast and retrieved, letting it sink to bottom and then ripping it back through weed beds in short, sharp hops.

Ben O'Brien Profile

Ben O’Brien

Fishing Journalist Sponsored Angler

Ben is a Sydney based sponsored angler and fishing journalist. A trained Marine Biologist, Ben focuses his fishing on the many species around the greater Sydney area, with occasional forays elsewhere. He regularly targets Australian bass in the Shoalhaven River and other systems south of Sydney.

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  1. ET

    G’day Ben,
    What colour(s) do you prefer for the the Easy Shiners, X-Rap and ZX40’s?

    • Ben

      Gday legend, for the keitech I use the swing impact 2.5 – 3 inch ones and I prefer the silver flash minnow or the sight flash

      For the xrap jack deeps I use the live roach and glassy gill colour. Matches the small herring, gudgeon and grayling they eat perfectly!

      For the ZX40s I go the dark night and yabby colours.

  2. Michael

    Hi Ben,
    My son goes to Uni at Wollongong. I’m in Dubbo and would like to know where the best spot to put a small boat in and go upstream would be to find some bass. Any help would be appreciated

    • Ben

      Hello mate, how good! The easiest one is the shoalhaven rive boat ramp. Heaps of parking and easy access if you’re not familiar with the area. It’s not a huge trip but you’ll
      Enjoy the scenery

  3. Xtremo

    Top stuff from Ben as usual.

    Which model & length of Rapala Shadow Rap are you using Ben? (Original / Shad / Jack Deep; 5cm / 7cm / 9cm / 11cm)

    I always thought the ‘original’ 2-hook 7cm & 9cm models were shallow divers (~1m) and varied from slow sink to slow rise depending on salinity. I’ve never attempted to get them down any where near 2m, so thanks for the tip about ripping it hard.

    I’m a bit surprised that the Ecogear ZX-40 (40mm/6.5g) can be fished in the same locations as the Rapala’s new Rap-V Blade (60mm/14g). Have you tried the new ZX-43 (43mm/8.8g)?

    Colour suggestions are always very welcome.

    • Ben

      Hey mate! I’m glad you like the podcasts appreciate the feedback.

      Re rapala shadow rap- it’s the jack deep in live roach or glassy gill in the 7cm range mate. They’re epic to just crank and they’ll dive down how I like to the depth I need super quick. The pause is critical here as they slowly rise and wobble

      Re the zx40’s and the Vblades this time of year when they’re schooling I’ve got them on the soft vibes too. Anything natural and dark coloured is a killer. I’ve got mates get them on swimbaits too! I got the dark night and yabby coloured zx40’s. Haven’t used the 43s plan to when I hit lake windamere shortly!

      • Xtremo

        Thanks Ben, I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my questions.

        I figured it must be the Jack Deep model which has quite a different shape, bib and dive depth to Rapala’s traditional minnow style lure, including others in the Shadow Rap range.

        Can’t find a Jack Deep in 7cm, but did managed to pick up a 5cm model in Live Roach (SDRJD-05 ROL). Looks a bit like a mini mullet to me so just the goods for the deeper pools in many a NSW far south coast estuary – especially now that they’ve had a good top up.

        Looking forward to hearing how the ZX-43 performed on Windamere. My guess is the little bit of extra weight & size will slot in nicely between a small metal blade and a larger hard or soft vibe.

        PS: I too like the Keitech Swing Impact, mainly because it’s more like a worm than a minnow or grub, but still has plenty of tail action. Good call on the colours too – keep it simple for natives: one light, one dark (plus one ‘match the hatch’ & one ‘in their face’). I’m told an Easy Shiner (3” & 4”) in Green Pumpkin Chartreuse on a 1/8-1/6oz jig head is a favourite of Glenbawn Bass (this is also a killer combo for South Coast flatties).

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