SA Bass - - Contents - >>John Baden­horst*

“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.

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