Murray Cod Surface Assault

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Dawn & dusk are prime times to fish surface lures when targeting Murray cod.

When it comes to an assault on the angling senses it’s hard to ignore the explosive take that is surface fishing for Murray cod. It’s the ultimate freshwater rush where every fibre of being hangs in wait of that next detonation that tears the lure from the surface to the tune of a shotgun take. The sound unmistakable takes me back to a time where red finger thick crackers were biffed up the clay road pipes in order to flush rabbits. While the smell of burnt powder and paper is absent the sound is unmistakable.

Huge surface strikes

Imagine if you will, the plop-plop-plop as your lure works its way across the surface of the water. The sound is amplified by the stillness of night. Cast after cast explores the edges where weed beds and half submerged snags offer high expectations of a strike. As each cast returns full distance unscathed, your mind wanders into the midst of the darkness. For the umpteenth time, the lure struggles its way across the surface towards the rod tip. You marvel at its action, a popping struggle. Its creator must be proud. As you motion to lift the lure, an explosion of water as though a car battery has fallen from the heavens soaks you from head to toe. Heart in your mouth, you wonder at the size of the beast that has just engulfed a bucket of water yet managed to miss the lure. The thrill of surface fishing is about such encounters, where the prize that hovers just below your lure has the ability to quicken the heart and suck the breath from the staunchest of anglers. Imagine such a take if you will, on the ebb of a new moon when the night is inky black and visibility is rated to that of a welder’s dog. There are no shortage of lures available for surface fishing and those that exhibit a strong swimming action with plenty of sound work best. Paddling styled lures are designed to mimic small prey noisily struggling on the water’s surface. As we already know cod will eat almost anything so it is no surprise that they mistake the lure for any number of regular snacks that would include small birds, reptiles and their favourite top water prey; large ghost moths. The adult form of the bardie grub these large flying moths take to the wing with the autumn break hatching in large numbers along the Murray Darling Basin.

Introducing the ghost moth

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The large Ghost moth is most highly prized by surface feeding cod. Major hatches of these moths coincide with the Autumn break.

Of the entire insect kingdom the ghost moth is most worthy to emerge from its earthen chamber wearing a crash helmet, yet nature has provided this enormous moth the means to fly and neglected to install it with a radar. Its antics on the wing are traumatic at best as they ricochet from one obstacle to the next. Their flight while undeniably clumsy has seemingly no set direction other than bright light or the glowing embers of a riverside campfire. Their determination for self-destruction, while quite questionable is indeed serious business and part of a life and death struggle. These giant moths have but a few days to mate, breed and ensure the survival of the species, and at the rate they batter themselves about, you’ve got to wonder how they manage. Many end up on the water during the courting ritual and the strong flutter of struggling wings draws the most Wiley of cod to the surface to claim the prize. These fat laden packages are without doubt the number one surface snack for Murray cod.
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A monster, lure caught Murray cod.

Strikes to hook-up rates on Murray cod when surface fishing are not that great as the fish tries to inhale a vast amount of water and lure in one implosive gulp. Once the seal is broken the majority of the detonation implodes air making it hard to inhale the lure. The guns will tell you to throw the rod forward to create slack line on the strike. Now I’m not sure about you, but the last thing on my mind when a monster cod detonates on my lure point blank is to throw the rod forward. In fact it’s quite the opposite; chances are you’re more likely to find my rod hanging precariously from a nearby tree where it has been frightened from my grip. It’s about now you are wondering whether there is still a spare roll of crap paper under the seat of the ute. This season we landed a good number of cod over the metre mark on surfaces lures several of which we captured close quarters on film. The footage is fantastic and even when slowed to a fraction of real speed you have but the blink of an eye to see the take. After being smashed by several giant cod at close quarters a good mate now looks away during the last half of the retrieve. He reckons it improves the hook up rate and is far less taxing on the heart.

Move the water, attract the cod

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Several of the authors favourite surface lures that include the 170mm Koolabung Cod Cracker.

Lures for surface fishing are many, but those that create maximum water displacement at minimal speed are the best. Several models we have had good success with include the Koolabung cod walker these come in three different sizes 70, 100 and 120mm. Then theres the 120mm Muldoons Wee Whilly Popper, this is a jointed lure. Then the king of all surface presentations also jointed is the 170mm Koolabung cod cracker. Of course there are heaps more out there but for larger fish the bigger models work best.
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Buzzbaits like the larger models made by Bassman are also very effective surface lures for Murray cod.

Surface lures work best during periods of low light so dusk and dawn are prime times, as is the night between. For those who have never tried this technique there are a number of considerations: Surface fishing on evening is great fun and relatively easy right up until the moment the sun sets and you can’t see anything. For some anglers, this can be a daunting experience. Safety issues are paramount and these include correct boat lighting, torches and snag avoidance. Even from the bank, stumbling around in the dark is no easy feat so a good headlamp is essential. Avoid shining a light directly on the water, as this will spook the fish. Cast your lures towards structure, this can be any one of a number of things including weed, timber or rocks. You can retrieve the lure in a continual slow, steady pace; or break it with a stop, start routine. The latter sees you swim the lure across the top for a few metres before pausing for short intervals, then retrieving it again. A strike from a cod can come from the moment the lure splashes down until it leaves the water at your feet. Buzz baits are also very effective top water lures with excellent hook up rates. Instead of a cup styled bib, a buzzbait has a rotating propeller that creates a gurgling sound as the lure is retrieved across the surface. Buzzbaits need to be worked a little faster but the hanging hook ensures a better catch rate per strike. Surface fishing is a viable technique that will often draw a response when all else fails. We have witnessed cod strikes on the surface from the start of the season in December, right through until the close. Even in the dead of winter, cod will rise to the occasion.  
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Lure colour is of little importance when surface fishing, it’s more about sound. Glen Casey landed a couple of nice cod on this white Codwalker.

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A classic snag for Murray cod – a prime place to cast for the iconic Aussie species.

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The author, Rod MacKenzie, with his favourite species, the Murray cod.

 
Rod MacKenzie

About Rod MacKenzie

One of the most passionate anglers you will meet, Rod simply loves his fishing and is eager to share the wealth of knowledge and experience he has picked up over the years.

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