Way back when I used to go down the local river with a rod and tin of corn kernels chasing carp, I always imagined catching a cod one day. Ten years on I’ve caught many, and regard them as the most prized fish I have ever caught. There is something about their nature, presence and appearance that make these fish such a beautiful yet challenging target. However, if done correctly, targeting these fish by walking along the bank of a freshwater river can lead to some of the most rewarding moments and angler can experience.
There are many areas that need to be assessed before you head out and tangle with these fish. I spent countless trips, walking numerous kilometers up and down the river before I managed to land my first cod. It is now expected that I’ll land a few cod, and the thought of that gets me excited. Location is important, although I am continually surprised by the areas these fish turn up in. Most rivers west of the Great Dividing Range that are part of the Murray Darling catchment will hold cod, and many in good numbers. Generally, the further you can get off ‘the beaten track’ or private access will result in the best fishing. Google earth is your friend here, spending time researching access routes, river terrain and structure will be beneficial in the end. Basically if I can find an access route to a remote section of river with visible rock or timber structure, then I will outlay the time to fish it.
Murray Cod are aggressive, and you will catch them on every lure you can think of, however, I have found (like most) the humble spinnerbait to be the most effective during the middle hours of the day. Over the past few seasons I have found myself tying on surface lures more and more often to the point where I’ll fish surface for a whole session. Hands down there is no other moment in fishing like when a cod explodes on the surface, it’s so great its scary and will leave you shaking at the knees every time. Low light hours are the most productive time for this type of fishing, though they are not afraid to detonate when the sun is beaming down. Walking style surface lures I’ve found to produce the most attention but I have had success on top water swim baits, fizzers and poppers. When it comes to choosing a spinnerbait I don’t believe colour matters that much, I concentrate more on blade combinations and weight. Willow blades will sink faster and run deeper, while Colorado’s will run slower and put out more vibration. Personally I like to run duel Colorado blades, and vary my head weight between 1/2 and 3/4 ounce depending on what depth or structure I am fishing. One very important aspect of fishing spinnerbaits is reeling them as slow as possible, cod are lazy and if you’re reefing in your spinner bait too quick, then they’re not going to expend their energy, that’s where rod selection plays a big part.
When fishing a sub surface lure, especially a reaction lure for cod e.g. spinner bait, lipless crank bait, it is important that you are in contact and know what your lure is doing under the water. That’s why quality graphite rods and braided lines are so essential. In the past I have used many ‘dull’ rods that give you no response to your lure. The benefit of a sensitive blank is you can feel what your lure is doing, you can feel the bottom and other structure you lure may come in contact with. For example, when fishing a spinnerbait, I want those blades pulsing at the slowest speed possible to increase my chance of a strike. As soon as I feel structure I can vary my retrieve speed and once I feel no response from my lure then it’s generally either fouled up or caught weed.
In recent times my rod of choice has been a Daiwa gen black ‘cranky’, its sensitivity is unreal and its weight and length make it the perfect rod for walking a river system with. Most low profile bait cast reels will do the job, however I choose the Daiwa tatula type R. It matches great with the Cranky rod, has great cast control, fits well in the palm and most of all has a solid drag which is crucial when fishing heavily snagged areas. I match these with 30b Jbraid which has been a real standout this season, its strength and cast ability make it the perfect line for this style of fishing. A rods length of 25-40lb leader depending on the area and you have a setup that is capable of catching Murray cod of any size.
When setting out for the day it is important to take a backpack with some essential items. I generally try to travel as light as possible, what I always take include a pair of lip grips, one tackle tray filled with any lures I believe I’ll need, a camera, a measuring device, head torch, snake bandage, pliers, spare leader and enough water to keep me going.
Well that’s as easy as cod fishing from the bank is. If you spend the time finding decent locations and use quality gear, then it really isn’t that hard. These cod are an Australian icon and their beauty is something else. It is always a special moment landing one of these guys and I feel it is even more special watching them swim away. In recent years it has been pleasing to see an increase of cod in our local rivers, this comes down to improved handling techniques employed by anglers and a strong increase in catch and release fishing. These spectacular creatures are too great to only catch once, that’s why its always a quick photo and back into the drink for me. The country this form of fishing takes you too is also something else, it’s an adventure, a journey that can produce the most amazing fishing, although when you’re in these pristine environments catching really is just a bonus.