What do Barramundi and Murray Cod have in common?James Dainton
Barramundi and Murray Cod are legendary Australian Sportsfish, they both grow well over a metre, and both are implosion feeders. Rather than opening their mouths and biting into something like we would do with a big chocolate donut they open their mouths so quickly that they suck down that donut with a single slurp quicker than you can say ‘on’.
Lure fishing for implosion feeders – An implosion strike can be quite inaccurate given that the fish has to suck a potential target into its mouth rather than biting directly onto a bait, that means even if the implosion strike is slightly off the potential meal could hit the side of its mouth or miss it completely. On a trip to Queensland earlier in the year a friend of mine took me out fishing for the day to chase a few Barra. I’m born and bred in Victoria, my bread butter species is Murray Cod, I’ve been chasing Cod my whole life. Having said that I’ve spent many a trip targeting Barramundi, I’m no expert just a highly curious fisherman always looking to pick up a new trick or two. On this fishing trip earlier in the year I hooked up to 15 Barra for the day, but only landed 3 fish. I thought seriously this is ridiculous that sort of hookup rate isn’t right. The fella I fished with landed more than I did but he also missed a lot of fish as well. Whilst fishing I had an interesting scenario where I felt a big bump on the lure, I said ‘Oh I just got hit’, I retrieved the lure and flung it back in. The next cast I received an identical hit on my lure this time the Barra hooked up, upon landing the fish and seeing the lure scoffed right down its gob I realized the previous hit the lure had been sucked in and spat out in a split second. The reflex action that is required to feel that hit and set the hook is bloody quick, too quick for me given that I only get to fish for Barra around 6 days a year.
A couple of days after that trip I called in to have a beer with a friend Ryan Moody a Barra guide in Cardwell. I mentioned to him my predicament with the hookup rates, I told him the retrieve I had been running with which was a rip rip pause, rip rip pause motion of my suspending minnow back to the boat. He explained to me that I didn’t need to go crazy with working the lure and pausing, he said a slow roll is quite often more than sufficient to get a strike from a Barra. The best part about a slow roll is that its easy for a Barra to line up the lure and strike the lure accurately, Ryan was saying from his experience the hook up rates on a slow roll are significantly higher than retrieving in an erratic fashion. That statement resonated with me, in my years of chasing Murray Cod once I had hooked a Cod, very few fish ever got off. When I’m chasing Cod it entails casting lures at timber in freshwater rivers, a slow roll is all that is required to get a Murray Cod to strike. As my hookup rates on Murray Cod have never been a problem I had never given much thought to the slow roll retrieve on an implosion feeder.
Ryan said the reason why Barra hook up so well from a slow retrieve is the momentum, if a lure is stationary suspending on a paused retrieve, a Barra can suck that lure in and spit it out insanely quick, if you compare this to hitting a moving lure it’s a completely different result. If a Barra hits a lure that has momentum either on a slow roll retrieve or on the troll they hook up a hell of a lot better. How many times has a Barra not hooked up as its struck you just as you’ve twitched the lure, or hit you on the pause and spat you out quicker than you could hook him. I’m sure Barra anglers that are fishing all of the time are on top of this, for the every day angler like myself its important for me to make the most of my limited strikes!
I had just arrived in Townsville to exhibit at a local fishing show for the weekend. I can’t come all this way from Victoria and not tie in at least a little Barra fishing. I’ve been curious for months since my last trip to Queensland about how this slow roll technique might work on Barra. This time I was going to put Ryan’s theory on the slow roll to the test and see what happens. I was taken out for a fish around Townsville fishing drop offs on a run in tide. We were fishing in about 15 foot of water, Graham had sounded up the fish all we needed to do was get them onto our line. Graham was fishing a plastic and I was fishing a lipless crankbait. My technique was a long cast and letting the crankbait sink to the bottom then very slowly retrieving the lure across the bottom. I had 3 strikes and hooked up to 3 fish, the first fish was a well conditioned 70cm Saltwater Barra. Everytime I come up Barra fishing I forget how hard on gear Barra are, the next fish absolutely dusted me. I lost that fish from a combination of using a much stickier drag than I was used to and the trebles on the lure were a little too light. After upgrading the trebles I got hit again and landed a 76cm Barramundi. 3 out of 3 fish hooked up, it was due to angler error that it wasn’t 3 fish landed. Graham was hopping his plastic across the bottom and had 4 opportunities, missing all 4 of them. I’m convinced that the slow roll whilst simple is a highly effective retrieve for implosion feeders, I will continue to put this theory to the test on future Barra trips.
Barramundi vs Murray Cod – Both fish can grow to gigantic proportions, the biggest Murray Cod ever recorded is 113 kilograms and over 180cm in length. I believe the biggest Barramundi landed is over 140cm long, also an enormous fish. A notable difference is the growth rates, on average it takes Barramundi 5 years to reach a metre in length, for a Murray Cod it takes an average of 30 years to reach the very same length. Fisheries in Victoria estimate that the Murray Cod fishery is approximately 20% of the fishery that it was 70 years ago. This occurred from anglers catching large numbers of gigantic Murray Cod and killing them. Just imagine if it was Murray Cod that went over the wall at Awoonga, it would take at least 20 years for that fishery to get back to a respectable level. I don’t know what the stocking efforts have been since Lake Awoonga spilt over the large numbers of Barra. Assuming the common 30cm stock Barra were put back into the lake it would take only 5 years for the lake to get back into a reasonable fishery.
Australian anglers love chasing both of these fish lures, they are both hard hitting fish yet have many different attributes. If you can fish for Murray Cod then that doesn’t mean that you can fish for Barramundi, it doesn’t directly correlate. I see a lot of Cod anglers head up North thinking they’ll come up and catch plenty of Barramundi, they find out it doesn’t work like that, and it’s the same vice versa. Pound for pound Barramundi are a tougher fish to land especially with the aerial acrobatics they are so well known for. Large Murray Cod are deadly on the strike, they devour their prey, if you can survive the first 5 seconds of the fight then you’re in with a good chance to land the fish. Also Murray Cod are highly elusive, it takes years of pursuit to be able to consistently find larger fish even then you can spend 4 days chasing a metre fish and not be rewarded, its part and parcel with Cod fishing more so than my experience with Barra.
Conclusion – Sometimes the simple way is the best way, the slow roll makes sense for implosion feeders like our iconic Barramundi and Murray Cod. No doubt there are times when extra effort is required to generate a strike out of a Barra in regards to a retrieve, so many times a simple slow roll will suffice. If the slow roll isn’t part of your arsenal next time your fishing for Barramundi give the old slow roll a go and see how you find the hook up rates for yourself.