Delving into plastics - Peter Phelps - Part 1

Monday, August 31, 2015
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If you are looking to start tournament fishing, wanting to catch bass all year round or just hone your plastic fishing skills. Read on over this two part article as we discuss with some of the best in the business for getting bass to bite on plastics.

The question of “how do I catch bass on plastics?” is something I hear all too often with new comers to the sport of bass fishing. Most people have caught some fish in the salt but struggle to convert that to freshwater.

If you are looking to start tournament fishing, wanting to catch bass all year round or just hone your plastic fishing skills. Read on over this two part article as we discuss with some of the best in the business for getting bass to bite on plastics.

The question of “how do I catch bass on plastics?” is something I hear all too often with new comers to the sport of bass fishing. Most people have caught some fish in the salt but struggle to convert that to freshwater.

The biggest problem I have witnessed is not being committed to throw a plastic long enough to get the bites. Changing colours constantly, jig heads weights, lacking confidence with the bait they are using and the results will show. I was no different starting out many years ago, my first bass fishing experiences were on crank baits and top water lures in small creeks. I lacked the patience to put away “my reliable lures” that I had already grown to love. It wasn’t until I started chasing bass in impoundments and after many fishless trips that I realised I had to branch out past my dependable top water crank bait combination.

With thousands of styles available in different shapes, colours, scents and even plastic compositions, Australian bass will eat a wide variety. No matter what water way in Australia if I had only one lure to choose from it would be a plastic, I am 100% confident I could catch a bass 365 days of the year in any weather conditions and there is no reason why after reading this you won’t feel the same. The Bass tournament scene has three real reliable producers, a paddle tail, a grub and a stick bait plastic. I contacted some of B.A.S.S Nation Australia Pro Anglers who have recently shown their skills at the tournament level when it comes to bass on plastics.

Edge Paddle Tails

In a tournament dominated by paddle tail plastics cast toward an edge, Troy Danes came up triumphant, winning the inaugural B.A.S.S Australia Nation Championship held at Lake Glenbawn which earned him a spot fishing in the USA Championship. Danes currently living in the Blue Mountains at Blaxland NSW has a strong River fishing background. Growing up in the Kempsey area on the Mid North Coast, his local haunts were the beautiful Macleay River. Now living next to the gigantic tidal waterway that makes up the Hawkesbury River with all its tributaries, Troy knows how to catch bass when the water is moving. Not being too proud to jump straight into tournament fishing he spent some time understanding the different temperament that make up impoundment bass. Starting out as a Co-Angler Danes was hooked instantly. This drive to learn, coupled with the great friendships he had gained from fellow competitors, his fishing skills jumped leaps and bounds. Feeling confident enough to step up to a Pro two years ago, Danes has certainly shown he is a competitor to look out for.

Troy Danes with plastic caught Championship Bass.


When it comes to locations to fish an edge plastic Danes prefers Lake St Clair closely followed by Lake Glenbawn. The abundant weed that lines the boundaries of St Clair can produce a great bite. Mid spring is when Troy finds the most consistency, he feels the Smelt and Gudgeons are at their most active spawning at this time. When imitating these bait fish Troy uses a Keitech Swing Impact in the 3 inch size. He quotes “you can really feel the tail beating on the retrieve. If I can feel the tail of this plastic transmitting through the rod you can only imagine how much vibration it is sending through the water”.

Keitech plastics are very popular on edge bit lakes.


Danes said his favourite colour to use is Sahara Olive, he replied “it resembles the male Gudgeon especially in spring when the male bait takes on a Yellow/Orange hue to attract the ladies”. Water clarity and light can still influence his colour choice though. Early morning or late afternoon the colour is not as important, it is all about the silhouette cast by your lure he believes. If the water is dirty he will go with either darker or lighter colours, it will all depend on his judgement.  Danes specified clear skies and clear water he will go with natural colours. When it comes to a rigging technique, he likes to keep it as natural as possible.  He uses a standard TT jig head and has been painted by his partners or daughters nail polish, who sometimes don’t appreciate the mixing of colours to match his plastics. The back of the TT head is flat allowing him to cut plastics down and married them up nicely with the plastic. 1/8oz, 1/6oz or 1/4oz is Danes preferred weights, letting him adjust to where the fish are in the water column.

When it comes to finding the right areas Troy starts with the main easy to see features like points, backs of bays or trees. But his eye is always on the sounder, not only looking for fish but any structure or changes in depth that could be key to catching some fish. His weapon of choice is a Duffrods T Series 7.0’ T850KTI which gives Danes the touch to feel any subtle bites. He loads this with 6lb Sunline PE braid tipped with 6lb Sunline V Hard Fluorocarbon leader.

Greg Beattie fishing in the thick stuff at Lake Glenbawn.


Danes starts out with a basic slow roll when working an edge, focusing on his sounder and the position of the fish. This slow roll allows him to fish tight to the structure then work it out through fish that could be positioned wider. If fish are sitting on the bottom he will slow down or speed up if they are sitting higher up in the water column ensuring his plastic is always in front of the fish. Danes will start to mix things up if the slow roll is not producing, imparting small twitches and pauses looking for the bass to tell him what they want.

Lastly Danes talks about boat position, once he has a pattern going he will focus on that part of the water. If he is getting bitten in the first 5 feet from the weed he will position the boat to take advantage of that strike zone and keep his plastic in there as long as possible. Therefore alternating if they are coming wider, focusing on the depth the fish are active at. Most importantly for Danes is never switching off, taking note of what your plastic was doing to get bitten will help you repeat it and in turn put more fish in the boat.

Vertical Grubs

When the B.A.S.S Australia Nation event was named at Glenbawn in February the prediction was a deep bite. David Lane was pumped up at the opportunity to show his skills against a full field of anglers all doing a similar technique, using a vertical plastic grub presented to deep fish.

Deep water specialist Dave Lane with 2 solid Glenbawn bass.


Hailing from Rothbury NSW, Dave has been fishing for bass or perch as he used to call them almost his whole life. Chasing them around his local waterways the Williams River and Clarence Town as a child with surface lures whittled from timber with pocket knives. Lane started fishing tournaments 5 years ago, was lucky enough to win his first tournament entered at Lake St Clair and has loved every one since.

Lake St Clair is Dave’s local bass impoundment but he prefers Glenbawn for the vertical bite. The Dam has vast opportunities and areas to find schooled fish, with its snaggy environment and size of bass makes for some exciting fishing that Lane loves. Dave starts to find the fish schooling from February when the water warms up pushing the fish deeper all the way through to the winter. During this time Lane uses his go to plastic the Berkley Gulp 3 Inch Minnow Grub. Instead of the traditional method of rigging a grub Dave likes to put his own twist on things. Starting out by trimming the head just behind the eyes of the grub, to fit up against his ¼ oz Impact Tackle jig head. Then he cuts a small half-moon out shape of the tail wrist, this allows the tail to beat at a much slower speed. The next step he rigs the grub upside down (tail facing down). Dave feels this helps stop the plastic from spiralling on the drop preventing line twists and also presents a more natural action as they can get eaten on the drop. Lane gives credit to the likes of Greg Flett and Ben Pepperell for the invitation of adding a stinger hook to assist with hook ups on tentative bites and he follows suit.  Using a short piece of braid with a Gamakatsu Octopus Size 10 hook attached to one end, Lane aims to keep the length around 6.5cm long tied to the hook post.  Dave expressed this length is slightly shorter than a 36cm bass’s gill raker to the corner of its mouth, this stops the plastic and braid coming into contact with the sharp edges of a bass’s cheek causing break offs. He threads this stinger just through the tail wrist of the grub so it stays just in the tails action and hopefully catching those hesitant fish.

The black Berkley Gulp Minnow that catches everything at Lake Glenbawn in February.


Dave likes to use a rod specifically he had made for grub fishing by David Williamson.  It’s a Rain Shadow blank 6ft with a very light tip.  When the fish “load” they don’t feel any weight.  The short rod length allows Lane to get straight down the side of the transducer beam without standing back from the sounder.  This can lead to “80lb electric bites” but it does make it easier to see your plastic at all times. This rod is matched with a Daiwa Exist 1500 reel which Dave loves for its smooth drag. Attempting to keep the presentation as natural as possible Lane uses a 15 to 20 foot leader of 4lb Sunline FC rock. The long leader Dave believes does not spooks the fish as much, as the leader knot is not passing through suspended fish.

Dave sticks to two confidence colours, black in low light of the morning and evening including overcast conditions and Camo as soon as the sun hits the water. Dave added ‘’quite often the deep fish can be tentative until the sun is fully on the water.  Don’t give away your favourite spot too early in a tournament, be patient the bites will often come with the sun fully up”

When it comes to locating deep fish Lane prefers a greater depth than 35 feet with his preferred being between 40 and 50 feet. The slower the retrieve the better in Dave’s eyes giving the plastic plenty of time in the bass’s face. He likes to focus on the first 15 to 20 feet off the bottom, Dave slow rolls up to this depth then drops it back to the bottom even if a fish is following. Dave feels an interested fish will continue to follow it back down giving you a better chance of hooking the fish. Bringing the fish up too shallow could spook it from the boat, sun light or even water temperature change. Dave does not like to target massive schools of fish, preferring single or small groups of scattered fish. He feels these are generally larger bass than in big schools. If he catches a few bass he will move on to other spots so not to sting the fish too much and shut them down completely. Lane stated “that giving the fish 45 to 60 minutes rest will get them biting again when you come back. Having multiple spots that you can cycle through should hopefully see you catching all day long”


You can see some great pointers raised by Dave and Troy. I even found some new things I want to try out, that’s one thing I love about bass fishing as we all grow as anglers and the fish change from year to year you never stop learning in this sport.  Stay tuned as next we talk with Steve Kanowski on Deep Queensland tactics and cover stick baits to the edge.

Look out for part two, comming soon.