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Saturday, 24 March 2018

Megabass Vatalion - a new big player in the Murray Cod Swimbait Scene

I have had the pleasure of using the Megabass Vatalion for about 6 months or so now (since September 2017) and have given it a fair bit of use in a variety of conditions in high country rivers, the Murray River, Lake Eildon, Copeton Dam and Lake Mulwala targeting Murray cod.  My initial reaction when I first saw it on the Viva Fishing stand at AFTA was wow, very impressive and sexy looking lure! Since becoming extremely familiar with it it has become one of my favorite lures to use.  With a limited supply of Vatalion becoming available in Australia for our market, I thought it was a great time for a brief review and introduction to the Aussie native fishing scene.

So what is it - the Megabass Vatalion is a single jointed floating swimbait designed for largemouth bass crafted by master lure designer, Yuki Ito.  At 4.5 inches (115mm) long and 39grams, its profile is said to perfectly match that of a small bluegill or panfish, or in the case of Australia, a small redfin, carp or host of other small regional baitfish.

Yes it looks good, like all Megabass lures do.  Downward looking 3D eyes, highly realistic 3D gill plates, custom holographic paint that reflect multiple colors at different angles it's certainly attractive and ticks the box of attracting the fisherman.

The actual construction of the lure is interesting, the jointed design suggests it will swim well, the deep body and tow point positioning suggests it will vibe, it poses the obvious question just what will or can it do?  The Vatalion is not meant to be worked with rod action. Instead the crank of the reel handle is what drives the Vatalion’s action. Tuned for all retrieve speeds, it is designed to stop on a dime and slide out to the left or right when the retrieve is suddenly paused. With a slow stop start retrieve the Vatalion exhibits sharp, quick turns (this is where I believe it excels for cod in particular). A constant faster retrieve will deliver a hard-hitting, high-pitched rolling / vibe action similar. Designed to swim up to a meter below the surface (at a faster retrieve), the Vatalion also slowly floats up when paused.

The stock hooks and rings quite are ok and certainly sharp but I strongly recommend upgrading trebles as is the case for so many lures intended for bass when used for Murray cod - we have found that size #2 Shout! Curve Point 21's do the trick nicely and an increase to 1/0 still works well but begins to impact buoyancy more towards a neutral float while going up in hook gauge to 1/0 Shout Curve Point 31's (a more heavy duty hook) may result in a slow sink with minor loss in responsive action.  This could be a great option in some scenarios, like where you want your Vatalion to dredge a little.

Made from high impact plastic the lure is quite tough, however you should be careful to store Vatalion out of direct sunlight and avoid hitting hard object like rocks, I have one Vatalion that I have retired after one too many rock impacts and it started to take on water and sink, but this was after a lot of abuse.

The Megabass vatalion is not a massive lure, it can comfortably be thrown on most 'traditional' cod tackle and doesn't necessarily requite a specialist swimbait outfit.  I cannot wait for the chance to throw vatalion at barra.

Check the Megabass swim video -  
Shop for Vatalion here

Nice Eildon fish in horrible conditions

This WAS  a good one, can't win them all

Lovely clear water cod for Jason Taylor

Murray River Vatalion eater

Please note - the author is a Megabass field tester.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Copeton Cod - Foreign Raiders

Copeton Dam's reputation for big Murray Cod, especially on top water casting lures certainly has gotten around, all the way to the Isle of Wight in England.  I have fished with Stewart Newnham - or 'uncle' as we call him several times in Southern Oman and Komodo Indonesia chasing the mighty giant trevally.  Stu contacted me some months ago with a desire to catch a Murray Cod - could we make that happen?  Organising the right time was tricky, but we managed to find a small window of opportunity before Stu was due to step on a live-aboard charter out of Bundaberg Queensland, it just meant he would need to leave England a week or so early.  The timing was not idea for this trip, the Murray Cod closed season meant that there were only two options; Lake Eildon and Copeton Dam, but Copeton has not let us down yet, Eildon on the other hand can be temperamental so the drive north was in order.

Setting off with a crew of 4 anglers (Stu, Shaun Bowdler - Mudeye Lures, Andy Smith - Ebb Tide Tackle, and myself, the drive through the night was brutal but we were keen to get there and get a look at the lake in daylight.  Dropping the boats in by late afternoon a couple of immediate observations became apparent; the lake had risen a lot since our last visit in May, but was currently dropping fast (in demand to cotton irrigation needs downstream of the dam).  This had created the exposure of a nasty green slime / sludge along most banks and hanging off every snag and drifting into any backwater area.  This bloom was worse the further up the river arm you went to the point there was a minor fish kill right up in the gorge.  Some of the banks we planned on hitting (and had been very productive in May) were now off the cards as you could not fish them without badly fouling most casts.  No matter how good any waterways reputation is, you must adapt each and every time you return, especially when there is a significant time gap between opportunities.  Last year when I visited these exact same dates the Gwydir river was in flood (as was most of NSW), every time is different.  Using our time wisely to conduct a thorough reconnaissance, we managed to find some clearer water especially in the main basin and applying our usual thought of find the bait, find the fish we were now in with a chance.  We set to work over the next few days concentrating on change of light and just sleeping when we could.

The fishing was far from easy.  The bite windows were very short for us and opportunities pretty scarce however we worked hard and raised fish most days and converted a bit better than half of our chances which is not bad going as we fished almost exclusively top water, what was pleasing is that when we raised a fish they appeared to be intent to actually eat.  One thing I have learnt with cod casting is that while you are still casting you are in the game and while you might have fishless sessions or days keep presenting and the bite will surely come.  That is not always a snap to do when you are still on the water at midnight freezing and hungry, but it's true.    

Prior to the trip I had one goal - to get Stu a cod, top water would be a bonus, a metery the icing on the cake.  Personally, I also had a number in mind for myself, a meter 20.  My chance came first on the evening of day 2.  Some annoying breeze was really affecting our drift and putting chop on the water so I went with the noisiest lure in my bag - a Mudeye Triple Paddler.  This paid off with an explosive take in some snaggy territory with white water going everywhere.  With fish in the net the brag mat stretched out to almost 116cm's - a new PB and a great way to get my first fish on my new heavy outfit; a Megabass Black Jungle F11 rod and Monoblock reel, a delight to use with the biggest of lures.  The following morning was full of action for all the guys except me.  Shaun and Andy enjoyed a hot little session in the river arm with multiple hits and misses on some trophy fish before boating one each, a healthy fat scrapper for Shaun and a very nice 90 for Andy - both falling to Mudeye Snake and Mudeye Rattlesnake respectively.  At about the same time up in the main basin it came together for Stu, a cast deep into the wattle (right where a big mob of ducks had been disturbed from) was met with a loud boof on his Mudeye Rattlesnake and he came up tight.  Leaving nothing to chance the fish was in the net pronto and 95cm's of Copeton green back was his!  Mission accomplished.  No further fish were raised that morning but it's interesting to note that the barometer really spiked, probably explaining the bite.

The remaining day and a half did not raise anymore fish for us, the slime was getting a bit worse and one or two sluggish bites failed to hook up, one fish each would have to do, but as usual for Copeton the average size was very high, can't wait to go back, wait for the YouTube clip - subscribe here for when it drops. 

Take home lessons:
Always have a good look around - check the surroundings and conditions when you return to a location after an absence.
Persistence should get you an opportunity even in a tough bite,
Fish the prime times,
Being on a full moon phase, concentrate on the dark corners and shadows
Adapt to the conditions!
Top water can still work when the bite is tough!

Lures getting bites:
Mudeye Triple Paddler
Mudeye Rattlesnake
Mudeye Snake
Megabass Garuda
Megabass Magdraft

Gear list:
Megabass Black Jungle F11-710XBJ rod
Murasame Wake Bait 751h and 7101h rods
Lews Tournament Pro TPG1H reels
Lews Inshore Speed Spool LFS SSI1H reels
Megabass Monoblock ITO Gambler reel
Megabass Lauda 72 reels

A very cold Mr Mudeye Shaun with a copeton metery wannabe - Mudeye Snake

Great fish for Andy - Mudeye Rattlesnake getting boofed
Chicken or the egg - What's better, the capture or the release?
Copeton Waters locals
Smiles all round - PB for JC at 115cm's, zero match for the Megabass Black Jungle
Mudeye Triple Paddler a great choice with a lot of chop on the water
Pretty views up in the gorge end of the river arm
The fish Stu flew from England for - 95cm's of cherry popping Copeton Cod - Stu loves the rattlesnake now!
Bite time
So many good edges at Copeton Dam
That's a Rattlesnake all the way in there!
Copeton Bay
The paparazzi and lure builder in action

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Return to Copeton - unfinished business

Words by John Cahill, photos mostly by Josh Cheong - In Depth Angler

After my initial Copeton trip last September there was one certainty in that I would be back, just a matter of when.  Finding a date that synced with work and life was key, finding a quality crew would not be an issue.  Early May it was and the guys heading north with two boats in tow were myself, Andy Smith my fellow Ebb Tide owner, Sean Farmer (Cod tragic and Copeton old hand) and Josh Cheong - In Depth Angler photographer and angler extraordinaire.
I had just rolled back into Australia and after four days at work from a GT popping trip to the middle east so I was struggling with being ready and on the same time zone but I got there mentally just in time, in preparation terms I was 'lacking' shall we say.  The long trek from Melbourne to Copeton is a hassle but when it's filled with animated fish talk it's not too bad really.  Driving into Copeton Waters at 10.30 p.m. we were knackered, its a serious effort.  We rolled out the swags at our chosen camp and were a little perturbed at how many neighbors we had.  The word on Copeton as a big fish lake has spread far and wide over recent years; you do get that with social media exposure I guess.  Nonetheless we slept well, nothing beats sleeping in a swag on a fishing trip.   We came to Copeton with different goals other than 'having a good time'; mine were clear, I wanted to crack a 1.20m by any lure casting method and also keen on 1.00m off the top
Hilton under the stars - love a good swag

Checkout the milky way - great clear sky's at Copeton.

Rising at a ridiculous hour on Saturday morning we were met with a majorly heavy dew.  We quietly went about rigging and prepping for action in the dark and slipped the boats into the water.  Heading off in opposite directions in stealth mode we zoomed on electric motor to where we wanted to start casting.  Our goal was to make the most of being early on the water when hopefully fish were on the edges hunting.  Now unashamedly we were all tackle freaks on this trip and tackle choices were all designed around casting big swim / wakebaits and large plastics for big fish.  I was testing some prototype Murasame Swimbait rods in two weights while both Andrew and I were also using some Mars Keebow rods specific to task teamed up with Lews baitcasters and Toray Super Strong PE Connect.  Sean is an old hand at swimbaiting and casts some ridiculously big lures on some serious American built poles, more on rod choices later.

It wasn't long after we begun working our first bank in the darkness that the first boat activity begun and it only built from there.  Right through the prime bite window of dawn, boats were buzzing everywhere at full noise, it was like being at the outer artificial off Carrum in November!  Sean was particularly keen on working a stretch that was loaded with bait but boat traffic pretty much put paid to that unfortunately.  A second choice was to hit a deep bay but no less than seven boats were in there!  Ouch... In the desperation stakes in the couple of hours after dawn I had our only hit for the session working some deeper rocks and timber, unfortunately I missed the bite on an Entice Gotcha Swimbait so donuts for us.  Catching up with Andy and Josh they had at least managed some quieter water and scored one cod on a Mudeye Snake and missed a couple of other  bites.  Declaring the session over, Sean and I set about checking out the surroundings with the current water levels and traversing from the dam wall through to pretty much as far as we could go up river - we had a good scan.  Copeton is a good bit higher than when I fished it last year and had a hell of a lot more boat traffic, well that day anyway.  The evening session was as equally unspectacular also but we were a bit heartened by what seemed to be a lot of camps packing up and leaving.
Bit fresh - it's always seems coldest at dawn


We developed a plan to fish the next day based on these initial experiences and the crews remained the same.  What was joyous was how many people had left, the lake seemed to be a lot more peaceful albeit there were a few boats about, but it was a bit less frantic, was it a case that the weekend warriors had all gone home?  We were pretty much able to work the stretch we wanted without interference or boats dropping in which was awesome and a few fish came our way.  Sean and I opened in the pitch black with an explosive take on a Mudeye Snake - 103 cm's of greenback hit the deck and I had ticked off one of the goals - too easy it seemed!  Never underestimate the power of the cast into what you might think is a dead area is a motto to live by!  Heartened by that start, Sean managed two more wakebait eating fish tight to cover on first light that caused him disgust, he was only interested in one fish and the lures he casts are reflective of thinking big, not even photo worthy haha - he sets the bar high.  The morning was not without it's comedy, a mistake by me saw a rod in the water (Sean's) but thankfully it was recovered.  A warning to people who might fish with me, I do things like that.  It was great to see that the other guys had also enjoyed some success, well at least Andy... Josh was having a bit of a stinker and missing bites by the numbers.
Mudeye Snake boof's for JC - the Murasame handled it like a pro
Mudeye Snake also for Andy - great lure
Madness Japan Balam 300mm too much for this long lean local

Great markings

Much satisfaction seeing these fish return
For the evening session we swapped crews and had an equally unsuccessful event but we scoped out a good chunk of new water that we declared had great potential.  The following morning Andy and I returned to the same area as the previous two and set about the pattern which was now well established while Josh and Sean went back to the 'new' spot.  Andy and I were delighted that our area was now deserted of camps and boats and we had it to ourselves.  I worked a Mudeye Rattlesnake and missed several good bites that seemed like that they connected (but didn't) while Andy had one or two bites on a Madness Japan Balam 300 and again we struggled to find hooks.  It was only after dawn that I managed a solid bite, a feisty fish falling to a Megabass Magdraft which was very warmly welcomed onto the boat.  The other crew had managed two fish and missed others, we were slowly getting there I guess.

First one on Megabass Magdraft - smashed head first

This fella put up a good account - Magdraft for the win

A rare photo of the farmdog Sean - usually he's not fussed or eating apples

Josh is on the board... but comon let's upsize!
The afternoon session was a delight in warm conditions, probably not ideal fishing but enjoyable nonetheless.  Tempting a rock bar dweller on the Magdraft in full sunlight and a spectacular miss on dusk on Mudeye Rattlesnake the highlights for us.  Catching up with Andy and Sean on water they had a story of woe.  Whilst Andy had nailed a lovely fatty on a Finch Lures 180mm Carp Swimbait, Sean was filthy having straightened hooks on the fish he had come to catch; a true Copeton beast that was destined to return to his snag laden rock, you win some you lose some.
Now that is an eat!  Finch Lures 180mm Carp Swimbait monstered for Andy

Megabass Magdraft scoring in the bright sunlight - that's fun fishin!
Corner of the jaw hookups on the front treble the standard on the Magdraft
 All too soon the final morning was on us but confidence was high; we were on a mission.  Josh and I headed back to what I will call my honeyhole.  I had fished this area each morning but in reality it was a stretch that had been proven many times before by Sean so I am being cheeky, while the other boat went the other way.  Two hours of casting into the darkness was met with zip until the light just started to change and right on time Josh's Mudeye Snake was smashed by a small but aggressive fish but no hooks found the mark.  Within minutes my Megabass Magdraft in the 'fleshlight edition' color (our name - not Megabass's) was hammered next to the boat and we were away!  Edging up to the point I managed another on the Magdraft and my confidence was high but I could feel the Josh really needed a fish, he had one modest cod on the board and it was not going to cut the mustard for that long drive!  On cue on a seemingly unlikely cast back into water we had fished Josh's Gigantrel was demolished mid retrieve and I was delighted to net his 95cm new PB.  The monkey jumped off his back and the smile was wide.  After the obligatory photos, in junk time I managed a final fish for my trip again on the Magdraft - this lure has proven itself as a solid fish catcher when worked just a foot or two under the surface.  We were in a pretty light mood when we met up with Andy and Sean who had commandeered my boat and thankfully they had also had a cracker as well, boating three for the morning with two in two casts and Andy also topping out his PB by a small margin, Madness Japan Balam 300  and Finch Lures 180mm Carp Swimbait the stars.  With that our trip was done and the depressing process of packing and driving home lay ahead but at least we had finished on a high.  Josh stayed on a few more days and we were delighted when we heard he had nailed a 1.02 in the dying stages of his trip, well done mate and rewards for persistence!
The big Magdraft in on the action.
Number two for the morning and a much better fish - high 80's on Megabass
New PB for Josh and his game changer!  95cm's of solid fish.
JC's last for the trip - again Megabass Magdraft
Josh's 102 - yewww mate well done.
Josh with a Mudeye Rattlesnake eater.
Madness Japan Balam 300 - very popular with the locals.
New PB for Andy - creeping up one cm at a time!  Madness Balam 300 again.

We did pretty well with 18 fish for the trip (21 by the time Josh left) only lacking a true monster to make the trip complete but no one is complaining!
Learning points for us on this occasion are numerous and some that we keep personal but food for thought:
  • 90% of our bites came between the first hint of light change and before the sun hit the water.  Not a long bite window.
  • Most bites came from casts directed close (hard on) to the shore line.
  • Swimbaits and wakebaits dominated (yes we did fish other lures - but granted these were in the water at bite time).
  • Upgrade your splits and trebles if in any doubt - Shout Curve Point 31 and 21 are deadly and strong.
  • Modern wakebait / swimbait rods are essential for this style of fishing.  Not for fish fighting but for casting these big artificial presentations.  We were absolutely wrapped with our rod choices and they are now part of the permanent arsenal.  It's funny, picking up the old baitcaster it feels like a toy.  
  • Work your lures slow... get used to being ready for action but keep your hands soft, on topwater don't react to a bite, react to a rod loading up.
  • Try to avoid weekends if possible!
  • Get to know your swim / wake / glide bait in daylight and understand the retrieve that works so at night you know what to reproduce without visuals (really important as some give pretty much no feel through the rod)
  • A message for all it to perhaps consider your fellow anglers and not fly by at full noise, just sayin' 
  • Best lures - Mudeye Rattlesnake, Mudeye Snake, Megabass Magdraft, Madness Japan Balam 300, Finch Lures 180mm Carp Swimbait, Timberflash Noisy Dach, Jackall Gigantrel.
Great trip and fantastic committed crew....Till next time Copeton, we are not finished with you.