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Finding the Iconic Barramundi

The mighty Barramundi is such an iconic fish that is often regarded as a once in lifetime fish to catch.  Sean Bekkers shares his experience catching the iconic barra. 

Taken of a good looking snag-article.jpg

The mighty Barramundi is such an iconic fish that is often regarded as a once in lifetime fish to catch. For many anglers this is requires years of planning and many hours traveling north in search of a trophy fish and I’m sure many anglers would agree that a huge trip up to north QLD and NT would definitely be a once in a life time trip, especially when balanced against family and other commitments.  Instead a lot of anglers opt to chase the mighty Barramundi in fresh water impoundments with the theory being they have to be in there somewhere but as I found out on my first real trip to find a Barramundi, just because they’re in there doesn’t mean you’ll get one.  Not being an expert Barra fisherman as such, I’ll step you through my experience on how I eventually tracked down a descent impoundment Barramundi.

I’ll step back to September 2020 and my first real mission to chase impoundment Barramundi. For years whilst working interstate I’d been dreaming of driving to Lake Awoonga in search of a Barra and when the family asked what I wanted to do for my birthday, this was the first thing that sprung to mind, over the next few days the accommodation and leave was booked in and a family / fishing trip was locked away “finally I’m going to have a crack at a big Barra”. I’d read countless articles and watched tones of videos for years on lake Awoonga, so there was no doubt in my mind that we could land some awesome fish.  We had planned our trip for the end of September and in the weeks leading up to the trip I organised all my tackle, download the social maps for my Lowrance TI2 unit and basically made sure the boat was ready to roll.  Finally holidays came and it was time to hit the road, anticipation got the better of me and my family found themselves been woken up at about 2 am and ushered into the car, I definitely lost brownie points for this one. Fast forward an entire raod trip and we were soon rolling down the hill towards a massive expanse of water (a little more water than I was expecting to be honest) that is Lake Awoonga.  Whilst getting settled into the accommodation and getting all the gear ready, I couldn’t help but think the weather was perfect as it was sunny and not a breath of wind.

Once setup myself and Kaitlin headed down to the boat ramp and took off in search of likely areas to target over the next few days, but almost as soon as I stepped into the boat a Westley whipped up and before we knew it there was a solid few feet of chop across lake.  This didn’t hold us back from heading out to mark some nice looking weed points and bays on my Elite TI 12, but made retrieving the boat rather sporting as the ramp face dead West. The next day we hit the water bright and early and headed over to our first mark, this particular weed point stretched out a long way under the water creating a very nice structure, in this situation my sounder definitely helped keeping us in the right area hovering back off the edge.

We worked our way around this weed point staying a cast distance away and ur plan was simple, throw Zman 6 inch Swimmerz, right into the weed edge and slow roll them back out, occasionally giving a pause and a hop, it didn’t take long until one of the casts found its mark, locked onto my first proper Barra and I remember thinking “gee these fish go hard” like I had almost under rated them, we got this one boat side and in true Barra form, it spat the hook.  Next up was Kaitlin, a well-placed cast saw her locked onto her first ever Barra which gave her a right working over,  after getting hooked up it ran straight for the weed bank burying itself  meters back into the weed, unfortunately for Kaitlin this fish wasn’t to be and for the rest of the morning we both hooked a few but landed none of them.  Short of giving you a blow by blow account of how well we didn’t go, I’ll just say for the remainder of our trip, it didn’t go our way, due to weather and what I believe to be an absolute schooling on impoundment Barramundi.  Over those few days though I found out I wasn’t the only one struggling to land a fish and I learnt a lot, with probably the most important trick being impoundment Barramundi almost act like a pelagic in the way of actively hunting down bait around the impoundment, with some people stating the can cover up to 100km a day.  This single point was something that surprised me the most.

Fast forward to earlier this year circa March / April and both myself and Kaitlin were still hungry for our first proper Barra, looking a little closer to home we stated working other Impoundments in search of a Barramundi.   We decide to do an importune session with our car topper, a 3 meter punt to be exact and it’s worth noting on this trip I didn’t have a sounder fitted, definitely something I rectified for my later missions though.   Remembering that a Barramundi is happy to cover a lot of ground, we intended to spend our day casting weed edges, points and structure that was likely to hold bait and basically areas that a Barra are likely to swim past on their search of a meal.  Once on the water we concentrated our attention on all the above mention structure that had wind pushing past it, throwing a Zman 5 inch Diezel Minnowz hard into the weed edges. I was right in the middle of telling Kaitlin “this might be a day of thousand casts” when I get interrupted with “Dad I’m on” and the sweet sweet sound of the line getting ripped off the spool, after a quick tussle and a few runs around the boat Kaitlin landed a very healthy 68cm Barramundi and at this point I think I was even been happier than her, it had taken 30 minutes for Kaitlin to nail her first Barra and this definitely a proud Dad moment.  

We kept working our way around the edges of the visible structure but struggled to get another hit, in fact we didn’t get one and this is also where a good quality sounder would have bettered our chances, as we could of very well have been traveling over good structure and fish. I found myself looking for a screen I didn’t have, hoping for a bit more insight as to what was going on around me.  Fast forwards another 3-4 hours and we found ourselves way up the back of the dam pushed right into a blind drain, the depth of water was approximately 1M (confirm on a later trip when I had my Lowrance Elite FS9 fitted),  I eventually found my Barra.  Slow rolling a white Zman 4 inch Diezel Minnowz on a TT Snakelockz jig head through the weed and got the very softest of taps, initially I thought it was a Bass but that got shut down almost as soon as I thought it.  A beautiful bronze Barra had climbed all over my lure and proceeded do give me all sorts of grief, trying its best to bust me off in every snag, heavy weed patch and basically anything it could find even the electric motor, thankfully it didn’t jump and the hook stayed in. Kaitlin was quick on the net and finally I had cracked a good size Barra. Once in the boat the brag mat came out as Kaitlin was keen to show me up and prove she has caught the bigger fish, but believe it or not but my fish came in measuring 68cm as well, a few quick pics and back in the water, from there we decided to head home calling a draw and we pencilled in rematch later this year.  Stay tuned for this one.

Over the last little bit of Autumn I had one or two trips planned and I was keen to scope out more ground and really try and make the most out of the last bit of warmer weather before winter, it was time to get the sounder fitted.  In the weeks leading up to my remaining trips I decided to get my Lowrance FS 9 unit fitted to the punt.  As the punt is a roof topper everything needs to be totally removable, this includes the electric motor, battery, sounder and transducer.   Prior to each of my trips I watch for the predominant wind direction leading up to the trip, then hatched a plan to hit a specific areas of the impoundment, based on the edges and bays the wind has been blowing.   Once on the water it’s all about the windblown edges and likely looking structure that is potentially holding bait, combinations of weed edges and timber, the lily pads are always a favourite as well.  When it comes to setting up my Elite FS I’m really interested in the side scan and not so much the down scan, as the majority of the time I’m casting towards structure, with this in mind I’ll set the Elite FS accordingly by having a bigger Side Scan screen at the bottom and just a smaller Down Scan strip across the top , this way I always have a good idea of what going on each side of the boat in terms of structure whilst keeping an eye on what happening underneath. For example a weed edge may extend out under water for another 20 meters from the visible edge, so being able to accurately roll your plastic across the top and then let it drop on the edge can often be the difference between getting a hit and not. When it comes to choosing a  colour palette I tend to choose one that contrasts the structure nicely and is easily visible from where I’m standing in the boat,  in the dams I prefer blue but it really comes down to your personal preference.  

Right O, the first trip I did on my own and I had an entire afternoon and the following morning to land a fish. After searching and searching scanning multiple edges and structure, I was unable to find a fish willing to eat, definitely frustrating but it happens.  So it really came down to the following morning, I got on the water nice and early and proceeded to head down to a section of the impoundment I had never really scoped out before, once again focussing my attention on the windblown edges and likely highways the fish would move through I had my fingers crossed for a fish. The morning itself was promising with a lot of bait actively flicking on the surface and lighting up on the Elite FS like a Christmas tree, it was safe to say I was feeling confident.  I spent probably a good 45minutes working the edges slow rolling and hopping a 5 inch Zman Diesel Minnowz rigged weedless right in amongst the edges but with nothing more to show than a few small taps from Bass or Bony Bream, I was pretty motivated to keep pushing up further in the hope of finding a hungrey.  On the way though I thought it would be a bad idea to troll a rather large diver that represented a bass or bony bream and with this in mind tied on a Bagley Monster shad, as I made my way around a corner and on what I later discovered to be the original creek bed edge my rod was just about got torn out of my hands as I pasted over some timber located on the bottom.   The unmistakable take of a big fish had just monstered my Monster Shad, chaos quickly followed as I struggled to put the boat in neutral, fight the fish, get the Go Pro rolling and stay on my feet and at one point I was fighting the fish from the floor of the punt, as I had lost me balance trying to chase it around the boat, let’s just say I would have won some comedy awards for this. All in all this Barra put great fight and once in the landing net a huge sense of achievement sunk in, I had finally caught a reasonable Barra and was very very stoked.  A few quick pics and it was on its way. 

Now that I had one on the troll, it was time to find one on the cast, from here I kept repeating the same thing placing my cast into likely look edges and snags.  To be honest for the next few hours I covered quite a bit of water in search of my next fish and spent a lot of time watching the sounder and rolling plastics on timber that showed up on the sounder, until I finally located my favourite combination, timber on the edge with lily pads and a bit of weed.  As I started working my way towards the snag I could see some small bait jumping around, it was at this point the heart rate jumped 20 beats in anticipation, my first two casts hit there mark and I worked them out tracking along what I believed to be the direction the timber was laying for result, as my 3rd cast was inbound I started thinking to myself I may have got this all wrong.  The 3rd cast was awesome if I do say so myself and with not even thinking I put the slightest of hops into the plastic and it got slammed, luckily this time though I was ready, Go Pro recording and I even managed to stay upright as the Barra went about pulling me all over the place, I finally got a glimpse of it and another nice chunk of silver slab was rising from the depths and eventually into my landing net.  Not quite as big as the first one, this one came in at 71cm but my stoke level was high, once again a few quick pic and then on its way.

Now depending on your point of view catching two fish may seem like a seem like a lot of work and believe me it was, when you think about all the planning and failed attempts I’ve had along the way in trying to catch one of these fish, but all those failed attempts washed away and I chalked this trip up as a successful mission, one on the troll and another on the cast, very stoked.   Later on the next month I went back again repeating the same technique and got good mate of mine Gavin onto his PB fish which went 86cm, he caught it within the first 10 minute of us hitting the water, let’s just say Gav not coming on the next trip LOL, just kidding mate.


Big take away from all of this is no amount of planning, reading articles, watching YouTube videos will guarantee you a Barra especially if you’ve never chased them before, but all the combined with time on the water and a good quality sounder like the Lowrance Elite FS will better your chances of getting locked onto the iconic Barramundi.  

I hope you’ve been finding some fish,

Thanks for reading Sean

Outcast Angler