Venue: Mokolo Dam
Date: 25 to 27 November 2016
So, after planning to fish Heyshope Dam for the past few weeks, arranging accommodation and double-checking our tackle to ensure we are ready to fish this new venue…our plans once again changed, with only three days to go.
The weather forecast looked terrible for Heyshope on this particular weekend and therefore we decided to look for alternatives. The plan was to leave on Friday morning and return on Sunday afternoon. With our time being limited, we decided to look for a venue that had good weather forecasted for the weekend, didn’t have sudden changes in its water level (had some rain the past few weeks) and wasn’t too far away from Pretoria. After doing our research we narrowed down our options to Mokolo Dam or Barberspan, but Barberspan had strong winds forecasted, so we ended up choosing Mokolo. This dam is 270 km from Pretoria North; three hours’ drive.
Northern’s Bass had a Divisional at this venue the weekend before our trip and we saw on Facebook that a few good size bass came out on their comp. I did some asking around and it seemed that the dam had many rats available, but few good size fish. I have fished this dam, probably more than 10 years ago, with some fond memories of our previous visit. Seems like the dam has changed a bit in recent years, much more bass around, monster canary kurpers to be caught and some big blue-, redbreast kurper and silver catfish available.
My dad and I would fish together for this trip and we were to be joined by Christo Muller and his good friend, Collin. The plan was to leave early on Friday morning, set up camp and spend almost a full day on the water. Christo and Collin would join us later that afternoon. Our plans changed drastically on the Friday morning as we had a family set-back to deal with, luckily for us, the problem was smaller than expected, and we left at about 11:00 and arrived at the dam at about 14:00. After setting up camp, we launched the boat for a short afternoon session. We decided to head straight towards the river to see what was happening there.
My father fished this dam in the winter and according to him, the dam’s level has dropped with more than a meter since his last visit. One could see that this dam was one of the many dams in South Africa which was in dire need of some good rainfall. I forget about all the cliffs surrounding this beautiful venue, not many dams have such characteristic cliffs surrounding them.
We drove up all the way in the river until we came across a very small stream flowing in to the dam. On the dried up sand banks of the river channel we saw small schools of fry (probably redbreast tilapia) which were being smashed by some predators. My dad made a few casts with a 2 cm Hornet while I was fishing with a lipless Salmo lure which I was testing for Salmo.
Spinning rig for yellowfish:
- 7 ft. Abu Garcia Veracity medium action spinning rod
- 2000 Penn Clash spinning reel
- 12 lbs. Berkley Nanofil line
- 2 cm Salmo Hornet Silver White Shad colour (sinking) for my dad and I was using the same rig with a 4 cm Salmo Zipper in Silver Blue Orange colour
My father went tight on the first and second cast and it turned out to be a small bass. Turned out that this was the first bass of many to be caught, almost every cast led to a few misses or resulted in a hook-up. All the bass we caught were relatively small, maybe max 600 g. After catching numerous rats we decided to leave them alone and commenced working in the open waters in search of kurper or silver catfish. Even working in the deeper water with our small cranks produced a few more rats, but no other species.
We soon left the inflow and stopped to work an area with some submerged trees and rocky points. I decided to put on a 3 cm Hornet in Hot Perch colour as this lure has a better chance of catching most kurper and whatever else wants to go for it. Once again I managed to catch a few small bass without too much effort. It was becoming clear that this dam have a huge population of small bass. As we worked down the bank, we drifted closer to a promising-looking laydown. I chucked my small Hornet over the laydown and started reeling it in. Just as it bumped against the wood I went tight with a good fish. The fight was different. When we landed it, I could barely believe my eyes! It was one huge canary kurper!
The biggest I have ever caught by far! We took a few snapshots, weighed it and then released it. It pulled the scale to 460 g (about double the size of my previous personal best for this species). My father swopped to the 3 cm Hornet in Gold Fluoro Perch colour after I landed this beaut and we continued working down the bank. I caught a few more small bass before I caught another big canary kurper of 420 g. Seems like this dam has a mutant-strain of canaries!
The bite went quiet, so we decided to work another spot. This time we were looking for shallow flats with some rocks around – the perfect place to catch big canaries! We made a few casts before my dad went tight and lifted a monster canary of 480 g!
His canary had bloodshot eyes and the most beautiful yellow colour to it with its dorsal fin having bright orange edges – a sight to behold! My dad was very satisfied with this quality catch! My dad managed to catch two more huge canaries on the spot and the both of us missed a few –they have the tendency to follow your lure to the boat and only hit you when you start taking your lure out of the water to make another cast. Both of us were very chuffed with our new PB’s.
I later on swapped to a 4 cm Hornet in Real Dace colour to see if I could tempt a bigger canary. My father decided to try his luck with the Salmo Sting jerkbait. We were working a big island. We ended the session with a few rats, but nothing special.
We went off the water to meet up with our friends and enjoy a lekker braai before hitting the hay.
We woke up bright and early to fish a full day. This time my father and I decided to work the cliffs next to the dam wall. I decided to try out the new Salmo 6.5 cm Rattlin’ Hornet on my cranking setup while my dad fished with the Salmo Sting jerkbait.
Cranking rig for bass:
- 4 ft. Halo Cranking series I medium heavy action casting rod
- Abu Garcia Orra Winch casting reel
- 16 lbs. Double X high abrasion monofilament line
- 5 cm Salmo Rattlin’ Hornet Yellow Holo Perch colour
We worked down the cliffs, but it was quite deep and I struggled to make contact with the bottom. Generally when working with bigger cranks for bass, I try to work in areas where I regularly hit the bottom, as this leads to more hook-ups. We then witnessed how another bass boat came cruising past us; it then stopped and started fishing the same bank which we were working down. We were only two boats on the water at this time, so we had the whole dam to fish. Yet, this oke decided it would be a good idea to push in and fish our spot – so much for having some manners on the water! We moved on to another spot as we were blocked off by this “considerate” angler.
The area we moved to consisted of a bay with cliffs on both sides of it. We decided to start on the outside of the bay and work down the cliffs that lead into the bay (a.k.a the mouth of the bay). I continued working with my cranking setup. The bank consisted of cliffs with a 45 degree drop which had a few lay downs on boulders close to the shore. This was the ideal bank to work with my 6.5 cm Rattlin’ Hornet in Yellow Holo Perch colour (good imitation of redbreast kurper) as I could make long cast parallel with the bank and retrieve my crank in 2 to 3 meter deep waters where it constantly connected with the structure on the bottom (most bass hit deep-running cranks as they reflect of structure = reaction bite). Soon enough I went tight with a decent bass, my first bass on this crank.
The bass gave a very good fight; strong fish! When we landed it we noticed that it has a big head and mouth, but it was extremely skinny. We took a few snaps and released the fish. On my very next cast, I went tight again and this time it was a solid fish! The fish gave a very good pull before we netted it. Again, this fish had a huge head, but it was extremely skinny. We didn’t weigh any of these fish, but I would imagine that they would be very valuable in a comp – good sizes for the dam.
We noticed on this trip that many of the bigger bass were very skinny with big heads, my father and I personally believe this can be the result of the dam having too many bass. My gut-feeling is that controlled culling would lead to healthier fish as there are just too many rats in the dam. We saw schools of small redbreast kurper, river sardine and silver robbers on several spots all over the dam; therefore we don’t believe that there is a shortage of prey. But, almost everywhere we saw small bass hitting fry. We also didn’t see any schools of small kurper which is weird, especially seeing that it is so late in the season. We only saw big kurper and juveniles, but nothing in between.
This day proved to be much more difficult than the previous day. We worked hard on several promising looking flats and banks for any species of kurper, but we only caught on 300 g + canary and one pan-size redbreast kurper taken with a spinner on a nest.
We fished in the river section again and I managed to catch some decent size bass on the 4.5 cm Rattlin’ Hornet in Green Tiger colour. This lure was extremely potent in the stained water of the river and it produced not only plenty of fish, but also a few good ones. The Green Tiger colour caught much more fish in the river than the Hot Perch colour of the same lure, seems like colour made a difference in this stretch.
We met up with Christo and Collin who got on the water a bit later. Christo managed to catch his new PB bass on the cliffs in the river on a Zarra Spook, it was a nice 2.4 kg specimen. Both of them had a feast as they came across a school of silver catfish which they nailed on the 4.5 cm Rattlin’ Hornets and Effzett spoons. They caught more than 30 each ranging between 300 and 500 g before they decided to move on. Collin also managed to catch a small catfish on a Sensation crank while they were casting for kurper.
After trying hard for kurper with very little success and talking with our friends, we decided to head back to the river to look for those schools of silver catfish. We once again nailed the bass in the river on the 4.5 cm Rattlin’ Hornet in Green Tiger and I managed to catch a big canary kurper while looking for silver catfish on trolling. Yet, we had no luck of finding the silver catfish. That afternoon we worked down the banks with cranks for bass while we kept an eye on the storm that was beginning to build. We tried several different spots, but the fish went off the bite.
The storm hit us and we decided to call it a day.
We headed out early on Sunday morning for a half-day session. Our first stop was once again at the river where we spent almost two hours in search of silver catfish. I managed to catch one of them while spinning with a 4.5 cm Salmo Rattlin’ Hornet in Green Tiger colour; a nice healthy specimen, but we had no luck finding the school.
We caught plenty of small bass again at the top end of the river where a small stream was flowing into the dam. After having limited success in the river, we decided to move up in the dam. We came across a few submerged boulders on a flat which looked like promising bass structure. I decided to continue working with the 4.5 cm Rattlin’ Hornet on these boulders and went tight with a nice size keeper on the very first cast; this lure hit just the right depth as it runs between 1.5 to 1.8 m which is a good depth for working shallow submerged structure.
My dad managed to catch another solid canary kurper on a size 1 DAM Effzett spinner which he worked on a shallow rocky flat. We had a few knocks of other fish, but they didn’t want to commit. We tried small Hornets, different spinners and small grubs, but to no avail – the kurper were off the bite for some odd reason.
We went off the water at 12:00, packed up and left for home.
I look forward to visit these waters again.