“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.
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