“Backyard Bassin – Witbank Dam” Witbank Dam, situated on the outskirts of the town of Witbank in Mpumalanga, is a very popular bass angling destination for many. For the residents of the town of Witbank, this is truly backyard bassin’ and for those coming from Johannesburg or Pretoria, it’s a quick one and a half hour drive to the dam – John Badenhorst
Witbank Dam, situated on the outskirts of the town of Witbank in Mpumalanga, is a very popular bass angling destination for many. For the residents of the town of Witbank, this is truly backyard bassin’ and for those coming from Johannesburg or Pretoria, it’s a quick one and a half hour drive to the dam. For some though, it has earned the nickname of Witblank Dam due to its moods and more importantly, the temperamental nature of its resident bass.
Witbank Dam can be daunting to fish if you head out there for the first time. With a very long river section and a large main dam area, finding the fish is not really a problem, finding quality fish seems to be the challenge at this venue.
Over this past year, I’ve personally fished this dam as often as once a week with good results to show for my efforts. Myself and a few friends started fishing this venue during the winter months and even though the water at times was as low as 11.2ºC, we still managed to get some solid fish. During tournaments held at the venue over the last year, the average winning bag has been in the 6 to 8kg class, which is a respectable bag for five fish. In the not too distant past, some truly big fish have been caught here with a fish pulling the scales down past the 7kg mark. The dam has various types of structure for all facets of our sport including brush piles, weedbeds, rock beds and piles, jetties and fence lines.
Whether you’re a finesse angler like me or maybe you enjoy power fishing and burning cranks or spinnerbaits along the top of weedbeds for an explosive reaction, this venue caters for all styles of angling and even drop-shot enthusiasts can and do their magic here. Bank anglers also have great results and on the day that we went to the venue for this article, a young guy walking the bank got a couple of good fish just casting from the shore.
Saturday evening, I shot some baits to use for our adventure and early the next morning myself, Kevin Holm, Raf Scremin and his brother Rick set out before sunrise for another day on Witbank Dam. Since there are so many places that are affordable to launch along the shores, we did on this occasion arrange with the manager of the Witbank Yacht Club to use their facilities. Most of the other spots to launch happen to be up the river and through the gorge and as we wanted to fish the main dam, we opted to launch where our travelling time would not interfere with actual fishing.
While Kevin was pushing the amazingly light Crackleback 360 Lite into the water, I made a quick couple of casts right there next to the launch and landed two fish of around 500g. Rigged, launched and ready, we started up the Yamaha 15hp outboard supplied by Yamaha South Africa and headed into a section that some anglers know as Goose Bay. The bay itself splits down to two arms extending left and right with a rock pile situated around 120m from the shore at the junction where the split takes place. Kevin and myself decided to fish the left side of the bay while Raf and Rick opted for the edge of the weedbeds running down the right hand side.
With water clarity looking good and average temperature around 24ºC, we started working the left bank and soon both of us had a double-up with two fish coming to the boat of around 750g. A 9cm Junebug Seboko did the damage here and this would pretty much be the pattern for most of the day ahead. Although the dam has a serious amount of weedbeds, we found that as on previous occasions, a light Mojo rig does the job very well and sometimes, just letting the bait sit dead on the bottom got some surprising results. During the course of the morning we landed many fish of between 400 and 700g. To try out the reaction bite, I threw a suspending crank- and spinnerbait, but with no big bites and went back to the finesse option. On
two rock piles we put our entry level drop-shot skills to the test and quickly boated another couple of fish.
Meanwhile, Raf and Rick were getting some good fish casting their baits right into the thick of the bankside vegetation. We then used the same method and in some spots casting lures into nothing more than one foot of water, ended up with bigger fish for our efforts.
Coming back into the main dam, we worked the left bank down towards the corner near a small inlet and picked up another couple of good fish. Getting to the bottom of this left bank, we fished a section absolutely thick with weed and algae but the action was fast and crazy with Kevin throwing a topwater frog and the resulting hit being so violent that the rod snapped.
As it usually happens when you’re having a good day out on the water, it was soon time to head back home and between four anglers on two boats, we ended up on over 100 fish for the day. Admittedly, many small fish abound but with persistence, the bigger fish are there and will bite. Our two biggest fish for the day came in at 1.202kg and 1.620kg. Both caught on an 9cm ATG Seboko. Believe me when I write this, Witbank on the right day has an incredible topwater bite and here we’ve thrown the Savage Gear 3D Duck and the smaller floating soft body Fruck with some massive blow-ups.
Witbank Dam takes a bit of time to figure out since it is big but, spend a bit of time here and soon you will figure out a pattern to go by.
In our own experience, Junebug, Green Pumpkin Gold, Watermelon Gold, Watermelon Red and the new ATG colours have produced our best results. Local brand Culprit Baits also supplied us with their Culprit Floozy in Watermelon Copper which we fished along the weeds on a Mojo rig and weightless. At the dam wall we used the Culprit Worm in black with a blue flake, Texas rigged.
The dam is not overcrowded with weekend warriors and skiers and even on a busy day, there is plenty of space to fish without being bothered by passing water craft. As the gorge links the main dam and the river section up to Stan’s place, fishing here could be a challenge when boat traffic picks up but the results are always good in this section. Witbank offers good bass fishing only a short distance from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and wouldn’t cost you a trip to the bank manager to afford going there either. In my opinion, a very nice venue indeed.
*John Badenhorst is the editor of SA BASS magazine and a keen angler himself. He is also a custom lure maker for Wolf Lures, Flies & Feathers.