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Thursday, 7 June 2018

Copeton Dam Murray Cod - The Grind

Check the trip video >>>
Off they go - yeww!

My last trip to Copeton for the JJ's Plague Invitational Tournament was a great Murray Cod reality check.  Despite Copeton's stellar reputation as one of our best big cod impoundments, the inevitable occurred and I had a donut trip after three successful ones prior.  It's a long way to drive from Melbourne and back with no slime on your hands but hey, it's fishing and these are notoriously difficult fish at times.  That's an important thing to remember about Copeton or anywhere for that matter; Murray cod are cranky, moody and often not obliging and despite there being lots of fish in there, it doesn't mean they are going to eat your lure no matter how pretty it is or how well you fish it. (they sound a lot like a freshwater version of a mulloway come to think of it).
Trip opener for JC on Megabass Garuda
Regardless of a tough prior trip there is no way you are going to keep me away from the place for too long.   Contemplating the attraction of Copeton I have done the sums, the average length of cod I have caught there is 92.5 cm, and average 1 fish per day.  At an average of 14 hours a day on the water (how many casts is that??!!) it's still hard work, don't be fooled into thinking it's easy to go to Copeton and bang you have a couple of meteries under your belt; but for cod anglers those numbers work pretty well.  Its a grind, but we accept that.
The grind - it kicks in long after the light disappears!
This trip was with Cish - aka Christian Georgopolous (@fishwithcish on Instagram) and was pretty last minute, a bit over a weeks from decision to go to actual departure - "you wanna do a Copeton run?" is music to my ears.  Leaving Melbourne at 2.30 am on the Friday morning we rolled into Copeton after dark, the massive 16 hour trek behind us.  Anticipation was tempered on the Saturday morning as we launched in my favorite bay as I am always cautious of weekend crowds and unfortunately I was right, the lake was pretty busy and incredibly cold at that.
The Lowrance HDS9 lights up - really pleased with the Fish Reveal update.

I kinda looked at the Saturday morning as a chance to look around and suss out the lake level and find some bait hopefully, a fish would be a complete bonus.  I have not seen the lake at this level (29%) before.  It's fascinating to look at where you have pulled fish at higher levels and perhaps get a perspective of why they were there, it really is a chance to go to school on habitat and ambush points.  Every time I have gone to Copeton the lake level has been the major factor in determining where I will fish, it's never been the same each time I go.
A low lake means time to go to school
Straight up we did find bait, and fish but much deeper than I would hope to see, 12 to 20m was loaded, pretty difficult to target for how we like to cast. With fatigue from the drive a big factor it was time for the midday sleep (this is our normal pattern of two short sleeps a day).
The afternoon session was to a new area at the other end of the lake and we liked what we saw with a lot more bait in shallower (sub 8 meters) so we decided we could work with that.  At about 9 p.m. when most boats had exited the lake for the night we broke the ice so to speak, with an obese 91cm cod slamming Megabass Garuda.  Nothing quite like that first fish hitting the net is there!  Despite several hours more of grind put in that, was it for the night.  A beer, feed and probably most importantly a sleep was in order.
Cish on the board - Megabass Garuda again.
Sunday morning promised heaps but proved difficult.  Despite looking premium with bait flicking around the shallows we had only one bite, a solid single whack followed by a boil on Megabass Magdraft, but alas no hookup.  We had several hits like this on this trip, and have settled on a theory that the fish is simply killing the 'bait' and spitting it back out, perhaps then looking to eat it's prize head first second time round but our delayed strike has always pulled the lure far from it's reach, love to hear what you think happens with these bites but they are hard to convert with a sinking lure.
Cish with the oddly shaped mid 70.  Garuda on fire!
Sunday evening we were back in the zone and it was Cish's turn boating some great fish a couple of high 80 and a mid 70, all on Megabass Garuda.  The smaller fish was almost disfigured it was so fat, with golden perch like proportions with a small head and massive deep body.  Garuda was working well with a retrieve that incorporated a quick burn then a slower roll or pause (faster to get attention and slower to invite the bite), it worked well.  At about 11 p.m it was time to head in for some sleep again.
Not often you get to be part of a double hookup on solid cod!  Megabass Magdraft

Monday morning promised much with many campers exiting the dam and no doubt heading back to go to work, good news if you like a quiet waterway which I do.  The prime time came and went with Cish and I both having a 'kill' bite without hookup.  Bait was absolutely everywhere and it was hard to believe we had potentially missed when it looked so perfect.  With the sun now up the morning bite window was closing but that was the cue for Cish to hook up tight on what was the best fish of the trip, a 97 (not quite the meter!) that destroyed his DRT swimbait.  Having netted the fish, my attention was drawn to a large swirl next to an exposed rock in the middle of the bay we were in, leaving Cish to deal with his fish I was up casting right at the rock while Cish secured the net in the water to do the same but I beat him to it, hooking up on Magdraft on the third cast, got him!
Set the hook like he owes you money!  Megabass Destroyer TS 'Baccarat' in action
With now two fish to deal with, we headed to shore to measure and photograph which is a bit of a handful but having two nets onboard made the job much more manageable to look after the fish and keep them wet.  At 91 and 97cm's respectively, it was clear these fish were both working the bait in close proximity to each other, is it possible they were working in tandem?  Realising we had a bit of a unique situation on our hands I put up the drone to capture the release which is some pretty cool footage (keep an eye on the Ebb Tide Tackle YouTube account).  With the fish released to grow and fight another day and with man hugs complete we were done!  Breakfast beer, bacon and eggs in order!
First part of the magic double!  97cms on DRT Clone
The afternoon session was with a bit of a Copeton / New England legend, the very modest Adam Townsend who I met on my very first trip to Copeton.  Happily handing the Motor Guide remote to him, it was great to catch up and talk sh%t while Adam showed us around different parts of the lake some of which I have not explored at all to this point.   Zoning in on area the size of a couple footy fields, we had four bites in 45 minutes for one fish.  The 'kill and spit out' theory was alive and suited the big lures we were using.  The one fish boated by Cish was a beautiful high 80's.  We pushed this session until after midnight, I must admit the last hour so on autopilot, hungry, cold, weary and not really concentrating properly this is the 'grind' of cod fishing alright.  Back at the accommodation for a three hour sleep... haha the things we do; the grind alright.
The boys... Adam and Cish

The final morning was agreed would be a short one as we had to make tracks for home.  Luckily for me the third cast of the morning produced a mid 80's cod on Magdraft, happy days and promising much more that morning that did not eventuate, we were to finish with 7 fish between us from 12 bites.  Not too shabby from 3.5 days fishing, great time and great memories, time for the 1500km drive home.
Final fish for the trip, bonus on the 3rd cast - Megabass Magdraft.

What we thought worked well;
Pushing well into the evening (most bites were after dark)
Fishing sub surface swimbaits as slow as possible - mixed with short fast burns to attract attention.
Persisting.

I don't usually whine but I reckon a few things are warranting a mention on Copeton as the lake has become more popular over the last few years;

I never understand boats buzzing around at dawn (anywhere), surely we all know that this is probably THE best bite window and yet boats are still launching or moving from spot to spot?  I'd sooner persist at dawn even if I think i've made the wrong decision.
Spotlights! seriously once you have seen a boat there is no need to constantly illuminate it!
All lake users have equal rights to fish the lake how they like, but what is the etiquette with trolling while most others are casting?  To me, if someone is casting a bank, if you are trolling the same bank you should go around and 'give way' to the casters (or bait fishers for that matter), not cut inside them and running over the very water they were targeting - what's your views?

If you want to purchase the Megabass lures mentioned in this blog, please visit the Ebb Tide Tackle online store << here >>