How to catch big Murray Cod on the Surface at Lake Eildon
I’ve become rather addicted to chasing big Murray cod on topwater lures. Every year is different. Some years every state has fishable water and in other years, you have to be willing to drive to find fish. So one the most reliable place for a southern angler to search for a big cod with a topwater lure is Lake Eildon. I think a lot of anglers have a love-hate relationship with Lake Eildon. It’s a truly massive piece of water, incredibly deep and the water is crystal clear. All these factors add up to a very unique fishery and luckily one that remains pretty constant year in and year out.
Process Brings The Results
I’ll say this now. Catching big Murray cod on a topwater lure from a very clear lake during the day is not an easy thing to do. It will take many casts, lots of persistence and a little bit of luck. I will also say this though, catching a giant topwater cod in a crystal clear lake during daylight hours is one of the coolest things that can happen in fishing! What I like about Lake Eildon is the fact that it does remain steady. You can plan your fishing and if you go through the right process you can create an opportunity and get a shot at a really big fish. In fact, I think Lake Eildon is probably home to some of the biggest Murray cod in the country now. During my trips there, you could expect to get one shot a day at a good fish. Some days we had three, some days we had none but on average I would say if you worked hard and efficiently you would get a shot at some point during the day. What I found most important was having a plan and a process to achieve the desired result and sticking with it. I’ve always found fishing for big cod that chopping and changing from one technique to another never goes all that well. Remember, you are after one big bite for a day worth of casting. That one big bite comes from just one cast out of serval hundred you’ll make each day. The more that you change, the more you’ll take that one cast away that’s going to get eaten. If I have it in my head that I’m going to catch a big one on topwater, I won’t take a topwater lure off until it gets eaten. You just need to keep putting it in the right spots until something happens.
With all the extra water around the place, the lakes are at a higher level than ever. Yes, this means more water to cover but it also opened up new areas to fish and ones that are particularly suited to topwater lure fishing. Newly flooded trees, some with the leaves still on them make up the majority of the visible structure in many of the bays in Lake Eildon now. This is the perfect topwater scenario. Spindly trees, as we call them, provide cover and food for many of the smaller baitfish and crustaceans. These two ingredients also make for the perfect hunting ground for big cod to search around for an easy meal. When fishing lakes as opposed to rivers, you are looking for areas that a big fish will go and hunt around, more so than an area where a fish will be sitting as you would in a river.
Gear To Get It Done
Getting set up for this style of fishing you need to keep a couple of things in the forefront of your mind. Lure selection is simple. I like a Balista Lures Tremor. This large paddler bait casts well, and consistently. There is simply nothing worse than a lure that tangles on the cast. Like I said, you only need one cast to get eaten to make the trip and I cannot think of another large paddler that casts as far and consistently as the Tremor without fouling. It is a weapon! The Tremor has a great crawling action at different retrieve speeds and is also easy to change a bib quickly. While it is not something you’d consider when buying a paddler lure, the fact that you can change a broken bib quickly will mean much more fishing time. I prefer plastic bibs over aluminium ones because I have found in the past that aluminium bibs don’t kick into gear as smoothly as a plastic bib because they hang slightly lower in the water at rest. The Balista Tremor is without a doubt the quickest lure on the market to replace a bib. Colours are irrelevant but choose one that you like the look of because you will fish it more confidently. I’ve caught big cod at Eildon on the Murray cod pattern, Lizard Pattern and Galah to name a few starting colours for you. Hooks are also hugely important when topwater fishing. They need to be sticky sharp and this is something that needs to be regularly checked. If you have a fish that smashes a topwater but only touches one hook on a treble you want that hook point to find its mark. The hooks that come standard on the Tremor are perfectly suited to the job. I’ve gone through using several different rigging methods as far as extra split rings go. I’ve tried two extras, one extra but have gone back to just one on the lure as I find this has less movement and drives a hook in better than multiples.
It is going to be cold, and potentially wet and the days are going to be long. So getting comfortable and staying that way is a big part of success. It might seem weird to say that a pair of gloves or a good jacket is as important as your fishing rods but the truth is if you get cold, you’re not going to fish well and make good decisions. For Eildon, I wear a Simms ProDry bib and jacket which is perfect for keeping me dry and warm. I can layer up underneath this depending on what time of day or what the weather is doing. I always take two pairs of snow gloves with me so that my hands stay dry and warm. The reason for having two pairs is that if one becomes wet from casting or for some other reason you have a dry pair ready to go. However you like to do it, you need to stay comfortable so you can cast all day. The rod and reel I like to use is an Okuma Komodo swimbait combo. The 801H rod and 364 reel make casting a large topwater lure for long periods day in and day out much easier. Instead of having to put loads of effort into the cast, you can simply swing the rod and with the right timing, your casts will go further with less effort. The reel is loaded with 24kg Australian-made Platypus Bionic braid and I like to fish a 45kg Platypus Hard Armour Supple leader. The reason for the heavy leader is the fact there is no reason not to use a heavy leader. The great thing about the Komodo rods is that the guides are large and will pass a 45kg leader through with ease if you use an FG knot. When you get a giant that eats in a gnarly piece of timber you’ll be glad you went heavier and because the leader is not on the water it doesn’t out the fish off in any way.
So you’re warm and comfortable, and you’ve got a Tremor with a paddler bib tied on an outfit that’s easy to cast. Now it’s time to get to work. Lake Eildon being so clear means that you can guarantee the fish can see your lure. So with that in mind, you can cover water fairly quickly to find the angry cod. Like I said before, you need to pick an area that the fish will be hunting, so when you pass the lure over the right fish the reaction will be instant. I’m yet to get a bite from peppering one spot over and over with consecutive casts. All of my big topwater bites have come from the first cast into a likely spot. So with that in mind, I like to work a bank with casts in five to ten-metre increments. One cast in each spot is enough. Retrieve speed is an interesting one and I think a lot of it comes down to personal preference. It’s really whatever you feel more confident in. For me, I like a bit faster retrieve because I think it gives the fish less of a chance to decide if they are going to eat the lure before it gets away from them. This gives me more confidence in a clear water fishery such as Eildon than winding slow where they have lots of time to inspect the lure. A bit more pace in the retrieve also means I can cover more water.
Time Of Day
For topwater fishing in Lake Eildon, the two prime times are dawn and dusk. With that said, it can happen at any time. I’ve even had bites when the sun is out during the middle of the day. Basically, if it feels like something could happen, just keep casting until it does. If the weather is overcast, I will cast the surface everywhere all day and not change. If it is going to be sunny in the middle of the day, I will plan my day so that I can fish banks that are in the shade. This might mean you have to work out a plan in the morning and hit particular areas and then move so that you can end up in the shade again. With the terrain that Eildon has surrounding it, it is possible to fish almost the entire day in areas that have some form of shade. This is where keeping on task is so important, as it is pretty easy to let the grind get to you. I distinctly remember one trip this year where the going had been slow since first light but we had made a good plan to keep ourselves in the right water. We would work an area and then motor to the next likely one as the sun got higher in the sky. It wasn’t until lunchtime down a particular bay that a metre plus fish exploded on the topwater. This just confirmed that if you keep your lure in the zone you should be able to create an opportunity.
A quality sounder is hugely beneficial but not absolutely necessary for targeting topwater cod in Lake Eildon. One of the biggest benefits is being able to log tracks into particular bays so that during low light periods you can find your way around. This will mean you can use your time more efficiently and travel the lake far more safely. Forward-facing sonar will also give you the added information as far as what’s under the water in front of you and also a good indication if there is bait in the area you are fishing. I’m still stuck in my old-school cod ways and am still quite happy to search with my lure and not the sounder, but that’s just me. I think everyone gets different things out of fishing and I still quite enjoy working the water with a lure. That said, I still much prefer having the forward-facing sonar as the information it gives you is invaluable, particularly in areas I have not been to before.
The Angling Mecca
It is very exciting that Lake Eildon is continuing to get better and better. The cod that are coming out of the lake now is amazing and they will only continue to grow in the coming years. It’s a very accessible lake with great facilities which can cater for all anglers that want to have a shot at a trophy cod. While there are many ways to tempt them, there is nothing quite like seeing the water open up as a huge fish detonates on a Tremor paddling across the surface. It is these moments in fishing that stay with you for a lifetime!