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Secrets to Catching Australian Bass in Forster, NSW

Secrets to Catching Australian Bass in Forster, NSW

Secrets to Catching Australian Bass in Forster, NSW

by Matt Hagarty

Nestled within the Barrington Coast region, Forster, NSW, is a paradise for anglers. While the lake and estuaries of Forster are well known for some incredible saltwater estuary fishing for Bream, Flathead and Mulloway, not too many people realise that if you venture a bit further upstream, you’ll find some small, picturesque freshwater rivers that hold the mighty Australian Bass. Going from a wider, deeper, more open saltwater estuary system into tighter, shallower river systems with shady tree covered banks alive with singing cicadas, frogs, lizards and all manner of insects that provide favourite foods for the local Bass population. This guide delves into the world of angling for Australian Bass in this picturesque locale, blending traditional wisdom with specialised insights to elevate your fishing journey in Forster.

A very fit and clean Forster Australian Bass

What are Australian Bass?

Australian Bass (Macquaria novemaculeata), native to the east coast of Australia, are a testament to the diversity and richness of Australian freshwater ecosystems. Renowned for their robustness and adaptability, they thrive in both fresh and brackish waters. With a lifespan of up to 20 years, these fish are a mainstay in the rivers and estuaries of New South Wales, including Forster, offering both a challenge and reward to anglers.

Characterized by a dark green to olive back, transitioning to a silvery or white underbelly, Australian Bass embody the perfect blend of power and agility. Their streamlined body and broad tail are designed for sudden bursts of speed, making them formidable opponents on the line.

As ambush predators, Australian Bass exhibit a remarkable ability to blend into their surroundings, striking at prey with precision and agility. Their preference for structure and cover is a testament to their survival strategy, avoiding predators while remaining a stealthy predator themselves. Not only are they fierce predators, but they are also quite territorial and can actually be “annoyed” into a bite. By working a snag you know a bass is on over and over, it will eventually flip its lid and just hammer your lure.

Best Conditions to Catch Australian Bass - Day vs Night

Understanding the bass's daily routine is essential. During daylight, they seek shelter, seldom venturing into open shallows to avoid predators, including natural ones like river eagles. Hence, targeting them requires focusing on periods of low light—dawn, dusk, and night time—when they're most active. Luckily, with our local freshwater river systems, the further you go upstream, the skinnier the water gets and the more tree coverage there is, meaning you can catch them almost any hour of the day, as long as you find those nice shady areas that they’re going to be hiding.

Author's big bass from a tiny waterway.

Water Temperature and Depth, Barometric Pressure and Time of Year

Water temperature plays a pivotal role, with Australian Bass favouring temperatures between 14°C to 22°C. The depth of the water, especially in relation to its surroundings, influences bass behaviour. Deep pockets in shallow rivers are particularly significant, as bass find refuge and cooler temperatures here.

Fishing before a storm, when the barometric pressure falls, can be particularly productive. Personally, my absolute favourite time to chase bass in our local rivers is when that barometer is high and still rising, it seems to get them fired up and triggers a seriously hot surface bite too. The optimal months in Forster stretch from September to April, avoiding the spawning season closure. Size and Possession Limits for Australian Bass

Regulations in NSW dictate a minimum size of 30 cm for Australian Bass, with varying bag limits throughout the year. Adherence to these regulations ensures the sustainability of this prized species for future generations.

What is the Diet of Australian Bass?

Their diet, comprising small fish, crustaceans, insects and even small reptiles and frogs, reflects their adaptability. Anglers can mimic these prey items with an array of lures and baits to entice strikes. In our rivers I’d suggest Squidgies 65mm Prawn wriggler to mimic the prawns, the Shimano Pavlo Shad to substitue for the bait fish and Jackson Namazemi for some spectacular surface action when the fish are hitting cicadas.


Best technique is as follows.... Cast tight up against the bank, deep under the cover or ahead of the snag, so you’re bringing your lure back past the strike zone. With plastics, let the lure waft down through the water and then give it a few twitches before pausing and letting it sit in the strike zone a little longer. Hard bodies work the same, twitch that lure down and get it working, then a nice long pause before working it again.

With surface lures, I like to cast in deep and just let the lure sit in the strike zone for a little bit until the “rings” from the lure landing have dissipated, then work the lure just a little bit and let it sit again. The longer you can leave that lure in the zone, the better. Bass will sometimes investigate their food, so if you pull it out too quick, sometimes you won’t get the hit.

Gear for Australian Bass

Bass aggressively eat lures

Choosing the right gear—medium-light to medium rods, 2500 to 3000 size reels, and 8-12 lb braided line—is crucial for sensitivity and strength. A fluorocarbon leader enhances invisibility and resistance against abrasions. Matt’s favourite bass outfit consists of a Shimano Rack Raider 2-5kg 6’8” rod paired to a Shimano Nasci 2500 reel loaded with Varivas High Grade PE X8 in PE 0.8. Add to this some quality 10 or 12lb nylon leader for surface fishing to get the best possible action from my lure, or switch to fluorocarbon leader when using plastics or divers.

Advanced Tactics for Australian Bass

  • Targeting Structure
    Focusing on structure is paramount. Bass use structure for ambush hunting, so lures that mimic prey and can be presented near structures without snagging are key. Deep water structures and submerged rocks are prime spots, with lures like spinnerbaits and diving minnows being highly effective when used correctly. Tree overhangs that provide shade and cover to hide in, or big cut-ins along the dirt bank are both prime Bass hideouts.

  • Lure Selection and Retrieval Techniques
    The choice of lure is influenced by the depth and type of structure. In shallow waters, opt for lightweight lures to avoid spooking the fish. Spinnerbaits and soft plastics are versatile, allowing for depth control through retrieval speed and rod angle adjustments. In contrast, shallow diving hardbodies excel among timber, with their ability to navigate through snags. Matt’s favourite lures are Jackson Namazemi, Luckycraft Sammy 65 and Jackall Clone Frog

Jackson Namazemi more info
Video & Article

  • Fishing in Various Conditions
    Exploring different habitats—eddies in fast flows, weed beds, and shaded areas—can yield impressive catches. Night fishing with black surface lures offers the chance to catch larger bass, emphasizing the importance of stealth and patience.

Best spots to try your luck:

  1. Wallamba River
  2. Coolongolook River
  3. Wang Wauk River

Closed Season for Australian Bass

Australian Bass and Estuary Perch closure commences 1st of May. The zero-bag limit over this four-month period helps protect the native fish species while they spawn.

During winter, bass form large schools and migrate to parts of estuaries with the right salinity to trigger spawning. It's important that anglers abide by this closure from 1 May through to 31 August, as the spawning period is key for the survival of these fish.

Australian Bass and Estuary Perch are a commercially protected species and as such commercial fishers are prohibited from retaining or selling Australian Bass and Estuary Perch.

The zero-bag limit does not apply to Australian Bass and Estuary Perch caught in freshwater dams or in rivers above impoundments, as the fish do not breed in these areas. Winter fishing in dams can be very productive as the bass still have urges to congregate in large schools often near the outflow of the dam.

The Barrington Coast region, with Forster as its jewel, provides a dynamic backdrop for the pursuit of Australian Bass. This guide, enriched with specialized insights and local knowledge, aims to enhance your angling adventures in this stunning locale. By embracing the strategies outlined, from understanding bass behaviour to selecting the appropriate gear and lures, anglers can significantly elevate their success rates. The essence of bass fishing lies not just in the challenge but in the sustainable enjoyment of this magnificent species amidst the unparalleled beauty of Forster, NSW. Happy fishing!

For more information on bass fishing or fishing Forster, contact Matt and the team at Barclay's Tackle World Forster.

Barclay's Tackle World Forster
129 Lakes Way Forster NSW 2428
Ph: (02) 6554 5866



nestled in the New South Wales north coast, is a dream destination for those looking to combine the thrill of angling with the serenity of a beach retreat. Read More

NSW size & possession limits

NSW fishing license - Online

Or call NSW DPI on 1300 369 365