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Paddling the Bass - Strait
There are few things more relaxing than canoeing for Aussie bass, especially in northern NSW
Words and Images by: AL MCGLASHAN

The great thing about canoe trips is that you have to slow right down and cruise along at the river’s pace, the only rushing is when you go through a set of rapids. Otherwise you’re soaking up the scenery and enjoying the wildlife, in this case, while flicking for bass.

All the east-flowing rivers in NSW contain bass in varying numbers but  my all-time favourite is the Nymboida River. Starting its life up in the Dorrigo Highlands, in northern New South Wales, the Nymboida tumbles down out of the mountain range to eventually team up with the Clarence River at the infamous Clarence River Gorge.

With no dams to restrict its flow and largely surrounded by mountains it is one  of the few rivers left in Australia that is still truly wild and unexploited. Famous for its whitewater rafting and kayaking the Nymboida is an adventurer’s playground, but also happens to offer some of the best bass fishing in the country.

The bass numbers aren’t prolific but there are some true stompers in there, right up past the magical 50cm range.

Accurate casting is essential for this style of fishing so choose an outfit that is light and comfortable for constant casting – small baitcasters or spin rods in the 3-6kg range set up for flicking light lures. When it comes to lures everyone has their favourites but a mix of Icon spinnerbaits, Tilsans and surface lures will cover all situations.

Apart from bass, the Clarence/ Nymboida system also happens to be a stronghold of the eastern cod. A close relative of the murray cod, the eastern cod has made a dramatic comeback in recent years, but is still classed an endangered so they must be released unharmed.


Access points are limited along the Nymboida but the best starting point is the Mann River Caravan Park, at Jackadgery. Not only is it a great park,  but these guys specialise in canoe trips; hiring out canoes and offering a drop-off and pick-up service making the logistics so much easier. While some of the river is bordered by farmland a large portion is insulated inside state and national parks this is what makes this river so perfect for canoeing.

Stretching for 165km there are lots of sections to choose from but the most productive areas are the deeper parts of the river. The longer and deeper the hole, the better the fishing, particularly if there is ample cover like boulders, drop-offs or drowned timber. Bass are ambush hunters that lie in wait and lash out at anything that passes by, so focus your efforts tight in against the structure. Don’t just make a few casts and then move on, really work it and then change lures and go back and fish it again.

The best way to find those perfect stretches of river is with maps or better still use Google Earth. To be able to see the river from a bird’s-eye-view makes it so easy to locate those perfect fishing holes. On top of this you can also plan your trip working out the right spots to camp at night as well as knowing where and how severe the rapids are.

The best lures for these rivers are either deep diving plugs like Tilsans and Scorpions or spinnerbaits. These lures are ideal for getting you right in tight in against the structure where the bass lurk. One hint I can give is to pay particular attention to the shady areas. Neither bass, nor cod like bright sunlight instead they prefer to hide in the shadows lashing out at prey as it passes by.

Another deadly style of fishing is surface lures. Catching bass on surface lures is about as exciting as it gets, but it works best at dawn and dusk or at night. Flicking small poppers like Halcos around in the shady pockets can also work during the day. When the bite comes, even if you are expecting it, still scares the hell out of you when a bass hammers it.


Travelling through remote country means you really have to put some thought into your proposed trip. The obvious starting point is your canoe. Large two-man Canadian style canoes are ideal for the job, particularly the heavy-duty plastic versions, which are virtually indestructible.

Watertight drums are essential. Tough and waterproof they are ideal and best of all fit perfectly into a two-man Canadian canoe. With a bit of careful packing you can fit an amazing amount of gear into them from clothes to fishing tackle. A tent isn’t essential in most cases, instead a cheap tarpaulin is all that is required during the summer. If you do still want the luxury of a tent spend a few bucks on a decent one that packs right down, or just take a tarp like I do.


Backcountry rivers like the Nymboida are fragile and it is imperative that we look after them. When it comes to the fish, catch and release is the standard, but it really is important to take it one step further and really take care of the fish. Use artificials only and press down the barbs to minimise damage to the fish and always take the time to revive them so they swim off to fight another day.

Tags: Fishing Fish Bass Bass Strait Australia Boat Sea Ocean Bait NSW New South Wales North Coast River Mann River Caravan Park
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Written: Sun 01 May 2016
Printed: May, 2016
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