SA Bass - - Contents -

“A Day on the Lake – De Hoop Dam” There’s been a lot of fish­ing pres­sure on pop­u­lar De Hoop Dam on the Steelpoort River, near Burg­ers­fort, Lim­popo and right­fully so as it has some ab­so­lutely won­der­ful fish­ing op­por­tu­nity for an­glers. – Roger Donaldson and Dud­ley Fourie

There’s been a lot of fish­ing pres­sure on pop­u­lar De Hoop Dam on the Steelpoort River, near Burg­ers­fort, Lim­popo and right­fully so as it has some ab­so­lutely won­der­ful fish­ing op­por­tu­nity for an­glers. The com­ple­tion of this dam in 2014 left fish­er­men with a tremen­dous amount of flooded trees, sub­merged rocky is­lands, ledges and river chan­nels to nav­i­gate and ex­plore. There the bass can seek abun­dant refuge and grow large, in­clud­ing for the fact that their prey will also have in­ex­haustible area to breed and thrive.

I’ve spent only one full day on De Hoop and since that time one year ago I’ve been imag­in­ing all the po­ten­tial hide­outs which could present some qual­ity fish. It was just two weeks ago how­ever, when I was con­nect­ing with my Face­book friends that I learned about my friend Dud­ley Fourie and his suc­cess on the dam. I caught up with Dud­ley and asked him if he would kindly share his ex­pe­ri­ence in light of res­cu­ing me from the sleep­less nights I’ve had dream­ing about the dam’s po­ten­tial. Here’s Dud­ley’s re­count of his re­cent event when I in­ter­viewed him af­ter fish­ing the South­ern Divi­sion third fish-off on De Hoop.

Roger: “Please give read­ers an idea of what depth of water you were fish­ing in?”

Dud­ley: “I’ve no­ticed that it’s one of your favourite ques­tions to start with, but right­fully so, as the water depth which bass are found in is con­stantly chang­ing. It can de­pend on nu­mer­ous fac­tors, in­clud­ing tem­per­a­ture, weather con­di­tions, sea­sons, water clar­ity. Keep in mind that bass are con­stantly on the look­out for food. By keep­ing you fo­cus on where the bait might be you will al­ready be

track­ing to­wards the bass. In this case I was pre­dom­i­nantly fo­cus­ing on depths of 3 to 8ft, but try­ing to find these ar­eas with deep water nearby was my ul­ti­mate chal­lenge.”

Roger: “Why did you choose that water depth and did tem­per­a­ture in­flu­ence your de­ci­sion?”

Dud­ley: “Dur­ing the prac­tice I wanted to con­firm my think­ing and fo­cus on con­firm­ing where the bait might be. Prac­tice con­sists of a lot of look­ing and not as much fish­ing. I started by search­ing the shal­low ar­eas hop­ing to spot a few bass or bait­fish. Es­sen­tial in this part of the strat­egy are a pair of po­larised sun­glasses which al­low me to see through the glare on the water sur­face. Al­most im­me­di­ately I spot­ted large num­bers of un­der­size (less than 30cm in length) bass and the odd ‘keeper’ (30cm and over) gorg­ing them­selves on very large schools (per­haps thou­sands) of bait fish in the shal­lows. This was a dead give­away that there should be larger bass in the vicin­ity.

Tem­per­a­ture can play a very big role too. Of­ten in the warmer months you will find a tremen­dous amount of water life in the shal­low depths in the early and late af­ter­noon. But as the months lean to­wards au­tumn and the tem­per­a­tures cool down the shal­low depths can be a pop­u­lar area for the most part of the day. The water tem­per­a­ture then was 62 to 68ºF (16 to 20ºC).”

Roger: “What was the water clar­ity on the dam at the time and how did this af­fect your choice of lure and fish­ing line?”

Dud­ley: “The river sec­tion was fairly stained with 1 to 2ft vis­i­bil­ity. How­ever, the main lake ar­eas cleaned up quite nicely - around 3 to 6ft vis­i­bil­ity. I chose my line to suit not only the water clar­ity, but the type of lures and rigs I was go­ing to fish too. On the day I opted to rig up with 12 and 14lb fluoro­car­bon line. I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate the pen­e­trat­ing sen­si­tiv­ity which this line pro­motes. When fish­ing in this De Hoop’s thick struc­ture you’ll also need to take ad­van­tage of a su­per tough, abra­sion re­sis­tant fish­ing line.”

Roger: “How did you make a de­ci­sion on what rig to use and how to you bait up?”

Dud­ley: “My pri­mary choice was a 1/8 and 1/16oz Mojo rigged with a 4” Senko. This was my fi­nesse ap­proach specif­i­cally down­sized to match the bait­fish size. My sec­ondary choice was a 3/16oz Texas rigged with a slightly larger 5” Senko, great for pitch­ing into the tim­ber and weed pock­ets as it will rarely get snagged up. Thirdly, I chose a 1/4oz spin­ner­bait with dou­ble wil­low leaf blades. The choice of blades tracked at the per­fect speed in the windy con­di­tions dur­ing the course of the day. The spin­ner­bait is deadly in these sit­u­a­tions and at­tracts any ‘re­ac­tion’ bite with its im­pres­sive bait­fish im­i­ta­tion. Lastly, I found nat­u­ral colours were cer­tainly the more de­cep­tive op­tion.”

Roger: “Was there any par­tic­u­lar type of struc­ture that were you tar­get­ing and does this dif­fer from sea­son to sea­son?”

Dud­ley: “In prac­tice I found a com­bi­na­tion of rock, tree and weeds was the key, and two of my main ar­eas had this con­cen­trated in the area. The fish seemed to re-load there much quicker than the ‘tra­di­tional’ ar­eas. Sea­son to sea­son def­i­nitely sees these fish lo­cat­ing to dif­fer­ent ar­eas and De Hoop is con­stantly evolv­ing. In­ter­est­ingly, when we first vis­ited the dam we would fish struc­tures in depths of 30 to 40ft with great suc­cess. Con­versely, this past week­end I didn’t go deeper that 12ft. Al­though I suc­ceeded in the event and lo­cated some great fish it was still con­clu­sive to say that they were very well fed and you had to work very hard to get them to bite!”

*Roger Donaldson is an ex­pe­ri­enced jour­nal­ist and knowl­edge­able bass an­gler who has en­joyed many en­light­en­ing hours with many of South Africa’s top, com­pet­i­tive bass fish­er­men. As a com­pet­i­tive an­gler him­self, he also en­joys shar­ing his ex­per­tise with fel­low bass fa­nat­ics in the hope that they find the same joy in this unique sport.

>> Roger Donaldson and Dud­ley Fourie

Fish­ing in the shal­low veg­e­ta­tion was cer­tainly a good pat­tern along with the com­bi­na­tion of tim­ber and rock

Another healthy fish from De Hoop Dam and an ex­am­ple of the water clar­ity on the day

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